Why Reading is Important to Write Better

Hello loverly English language learners. It’s Morksensei. Welcome back to my channel. What is reading in English so important? Most people who are learning English as a second or foreign language soon learn to speak English well enough to communicate about everyday topics. They do this mostly by listening and talking to people – native English speakers if they live in English-speaking regions – or by listening and talking to teachers or people who are good at English if they live in countries where English is not the main language. 

Learning to write English is not the same. It’s much more difficult, and this is true of writing in any language. In my case, it’s always my weakest skill when learning another language. Although spoken and written English are closely related, written English tends to be more more complex, more correct in its grammatical structures, and less colloquial – less casual – than spoken English. Also, most of the writing required at post-secondary educational institutions like colleges, universities, vocational schools, CEGEPs, etc. require a broader and more sophisticated vocabulary than we use in our everyday speech.  

It’s difficult to become a proficient (or good enough) writer of English just from listening to the spoken language. What you need to do, is set aside (or create) some regular reading time if you want to be able to write English fluently. Why is this? Let’s find out.

Most people do not make use of the types of varied and complex sentence structures that are typical of the writing you can find newspapers, magazines, and books. Also, most written English makes use of a much larger vocabulary than does spoken English. So, it’s difficult to get the exposure to the language you need to write just by listening. Its mostly through reading that sentence structure is learned and a person’s vocabulary is increased.

As you can guess, reading more can also increase your level of spoken English as well. You might not use the language you’re learning every day, but you will if you have to give more formal academic or business presentations or have conversations about more challenging topics.  

Reading is also necessary because it is difficult for someone whose first language is not English to hear the sounds of English well enough to be able to reproduce them correctly in writing. A good example is the past tense of most verbs in English. In writing, it is correct to write, “They learned to play the piano well in just six months.” But English learners, especially people whose first language does not have a past tense, write, “They learn to play the piano well in just six months.” The problem here is that the “d” used to indicate (or show) the past tense can be difficult to hear. What they actually hear is learn and, as a result, they write learn instead of learned.

If you want to improve your written English, it is essential (or very, very important) that you spend some time reading something written in English every day. I recommend you spend at least 30 minutes each day reading something that interests you – the news, an article, a book – whatever. If you read fast and easy materials, you will be improving your reading speed, or fluency. (See post on extensive reading). But try something more difficult if improving your writing is your goal. This is intensive reading. The more you read, the better you’ll get at reading attentively (or the more you will pay attention when you read). And the more you read well-written material, the faster your written English will improve.  

Sitting in a quiet place, concentrating on what you are reading is a great habit to create, but there are also other strategies that will, if used regularly, help you improve both your writing and speaking skills. More on that in my next post.

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