Many learners start learning the English Language with an enthusiastic heart, hoping to master the world's most widely used language. After some time, many find that they do not improve much and consequently, they are disappointed and start to lose heart. If that is what you are experiencing, do not despair for there is still hope. The reason why you do not show much improvement is very possibly because you seldom read.
To English learners, reading is like an all-purpose learning tool due to the following reasons:
1) Reading helps to expand your vocabulary. If you have a limited vocabulary, it is hard for you to express yourself appropriately. When you come across a new word while reading, you can ask your teacher or someone who is able to help you to explain its meaning. However, since help is not available all the time, a better alternative is to look up the new word in a dictionary. This way, you can widen you vocabulary conveniently and easily, and there is no limit to the number of new words you can learn.
2) Reading helps to improve your spelling. When you read, you look at English words over and over. This will undoubtedly give you a better idea of how words are spelt. This is one advantage that reading has over listening, which does not help at all when it comes to spelling. Looking a new word up in a dictionary also helps in your spelling, as when you do so, you tend to repeat its spelling over and over either verbally or mentally.
3) Reading gives you a better idea how the sentence structure of the English Language should be. Many learners find sentence structure a big headache. In fact, it is one of the most serious problems among English learners. Thankfully, this problem can be solved through plenty of reading. When you read, the correct sentence structure enters your mind again and again. It is wise to read extensively to expose yourselves to different types of sentence structures.
4) Reading improves your writing skills. When you master sentence structure, you will definitely improve your writing skills. Of course, there are other factors to consider if you wish to possess good writing skills or be a proficient writer, but the basic requirement is to master sentence structure first. Learning English is like constructing a tall building. Before building the higher levels, strong foundations have to be laid first.
5) Reading helps you to punctuate sentences correctly. The correct use of punctuation divides a piece of writing into phrases, clauses and sentences to clarify meaning. Thus, the correct use of punctuation is an important part of the English learning process.
6) Reading helps in your pronunciation, especially when you read aloud. When you practice often, you are bound to get the pronunciation right, since practice makes perfect. If you are unsure whether your pronunciation is accurate, you can request your teacher to listen to your pronunciation. You can also get an electronic dictionary which comes with real human voice pronunciation. Apart from that, CDs, DVDs, cassettes, etcetera that teach pronunciation are easily available to help you.
7) Reading helps you to speak fluently. As you gradually master pronunciation and sentence structure, you will be able to speak good English. There is no significant difference between sentence structures of spoken and written English. The main difference is that, in spoken English, more contractions and short replies are used. For example, we use "I'm fine" instead of 'I am fine'. When answering a question, short replies are usually given. For example, the answer to the question 'How do you go to work?' is simply 'By bus' instead of 'I go to work by bus'. As you can see here, if you are able to master sentence structure and pronunciation through reading, you will have no problem speaking fluently.
8) Reading helps you understand grammar rules better. When you read, you get a general idea of how the English Language is like. Therefore, you can understand grammar rules much easily than learners who rarely read.
Reading materials such as books, magazines and newspapers are plentiful. When choosing what to read, it is important to choose those that are suitable for your standard. For example, you can choose a book with only a few new words on each page. If you choose one that has too many new words, you may end up looking them up in a dictionary all day long. So, it is wise to select a book that you find suitable, a book that you do not have too many troubles understanding what is being said.
It is important to note that a lot of reading has to be done. I believe many learners are interested to know how much 'a lot of' is. How much reading is required actually depends on individual's intellect and learning ability. It is a good idea to read as much as you can. A good way to find out whether you have read enough is to see whether you are able to write error-free sentences, or sentences with correct structures. If you still make mistakes, it shows that you have not completely mastered sentence structure yet. Thus, more reading is required. It is logical to say that the more you read, the better you are.
If reading is not your hobby, it is advisable to cultivate it for the sake of mastering the English Language. Apart from improving your English skills, you are able to gain knowledge as well. You can start by choosing books that talk about topics which interest you. There are books about almost any topics you can think of.
As an English teacher, I find it interesting to note that students of mine who read a lot tend to do better in examinations. In other words, they are able to master the English Language more successfully, when compared to students who seldom read. In fact, I have never come across a student who rarely reads but is able to perform well in examinations. This further proves the fact that the more you read, the better you are.
Happy reading to everyone.