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This article takes a look at what we actually mean by reading and whether or not it can be taught or just practised. At the most basic level reading is the recognition of words. In English, as in many other languages, different combinations of the same letters can be used to form different words with completely different meanings.
Recognition of the actual word is not enough on its own to constitute reading. Understanding what we are reading is key and is certainly the main point of teaching reading in a class.
Why do we read? There are a number of reasons why we read, and this will often influence what we read and how we read it. We might read for pleasure. In this case it is most likely that we will be reading a book of some sort — maybe a novel, or perhaps a poem.
We could also be reading the lyrics to a song, so our reasons for reading it may be slightly more complex than simply for pleasure. Or perhaps our children are listening to it, but we are worried that some of the lyrics might not be suitable.
In other words, there are multiple reasons why someone might read a text. But working out the purpose is a key factor when it comes to teaching reading. Why we are reading something will make a difference to how we read it and in what depth. So, a mother checking whether the lyrics of a song are suitable for her children to hear will most likely be looking through the text for particular words or phrases she thinks are inappropriate.
On the other hand, someone trying to learn the lyrics by heart will probably read the same lines a number of times and may even read them out loud to try and reinforce the words.
But it is equally possible that the two have different purposes. The writer has a message they want to convey, and they encode this message in the words and style they choose.
The reader then tries to decode the message by reading the same words. Does reading in a foreign language differ from L1 reading? At first glance the question seems rather silly. The text might be written using a different alphabet or characters, it might be written from right to left, or bottom to top, but fundamentally the same processes are going on.
Well, at one level this is certainly true, but it may well be that we are not really conscious or aware of how we are reading in our own language. Reading was a skill we developed as we grew up and as we became acquainted with different types of text.
Once we start seeing these texts in a foreign language we are unable to decode the message.White Paper Excellence in Schools. [page 4] Lifting the morale and motivation of those who work in our schools, colleges and education authorities is as much about self-esteem and a belief that we really can succeed, as it is about anything that central government can do.
Reading in a Foreign Language, Vol. 5, No.
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