Do you think reading is boring? Are you looking for a way to make reading more interesting, do more of it, and improve your English?
You are going to love immersion reading!
We acquire a language by reading and listening, not by learning grammar rules and memorizing vocabulary. We can speak a language because of what we have heard and read, not because we have successfully remembered the correct grammar rules.
You need to read a lot and listen to a lot of English, as much as possible. That’s how you learn new words and sentences. That’s how you learn to understand written and spoken English.
The English that you read and listen to needs to be easy to understand, however, and that’s a problem, because it’s hard to find things to read and listen to that are at your level AND that are interesting to you. You’re not going to learn anything if you are reading a book that is far beyond your level and you have to look up a new word in every sentence.
There is a way that you can make reading a little bit easier: by reading a book and listening to someone read the book at the same time. That’s called immersion reading.
The word immersion means being completely involved and interested in something. When you are learning a language, immersion means being completely surrounded by the language. In other words, it means hearing, seeing, reading, and thinking about the language all the time.
Immersion reading is something you can do anywhere, not just with books. There’s nothing wrong with watching an English TV show or movie with subtitles, or listening to a podcast while reading the transcript. These are very effective ways to learn English.
In this lesson you’ll learn 5 reasons why immersion reading is so powerful and why you should be doing it, and you’ll also learn how you can do it using your phone, tablet, or computer!
1. You don’t have to guess how to say a new word.
When you’re reading something and you see a new word, how do you know how to say the word? Do you try to guess how to say the new word? That’s a bad idea. Do you try to remember any pronunciation “rules” you’ve learned?
You don’t have to guess how to say a new word in English. You don’t need to remember lots of rules. You need to hear a native speaker say the word and repeat what you hear many times.
When you listen and read at the same time, you can match sounds to words. You will know how to pronounce a new word correctly the first time you see it. This is important because if you practice the wrong pronunciation of a word, you will become very good at saying the word incorrectly. Even worse, if it becomes natural and automatic for you to say a word incorrectly, it becomes very difficult to change your pronunciation.
2. You’ll learn how to say entire sentences and not just individual words.
There’s no point in learning a new word if you don’t know how to use it in a sentence.
It’s even more difficult to use a new word in a sentence if you have never seen it used in a sentence.
You don’t have to guess how to use a word in a sentence, and you shouldn’t try to use a new word in your own sentence.
When you learn a new word, learn the words that go with it. Learn the patterns and sentence structures that it is used with.
Learn English in chunks, or large pieces, instead of individual words. Focus on learning collocations, patterns, and sentence structures.
This is one of the benefits of reading. You can learn without having to memorize “rules.”
When you read and listen at the same time, you learn how to say collocations, phrases, and sentences. Spoken English is stressed, contracted, reduced and linked. Individual words may sound different when they are part of a sentence.
Learn more: What are collocations?
3. It’s interesting, so you can do more of it.
You need to do a lot of reading and listening.
It’s very difficult to learn and memorize a word that you have only seen once. It is easier to learn a new word, collocation, or sentence when you see it many times.
You are not in an English class anymore. You can read and listen to whatever you want! You can choose your own books. You can read and listen to things that are interesting to you, like you do in your native language.
You will remember words and phrases more easily if they are part of a story that you enjoy.
Listen to the same thing over and over. It’s OK if you don’t know all the words right away. It’s OK if you don’t understand everything right away.
And it’s OK if you do understand everything. It’s OK if you only hear or see one or two words you didn’t know. That doesn’t mean that what you’re reading or listening to is too easy. You are still learning something. You are still learning correct collocations, word patterns, and sentences.
Learn more: What is core vocabulary?
4. You can practice your own pronunciation by shadowing and imitating the sounds that you hear.
You don’t learn how to speak by memorizing pronunciation “rules.” You learn pronunciation with your ears, not your eyes.
And you can’t improve your own pronunciation if you don’t know what you sound like.
There are two effective ways that you can learn how to speak like a native speaker.
Imitate the sounds that you hear.
Have you ever made fun of someone with an accent in your language? Have you ever made fun of someone by trying to talk the same way that they talk? That’s called imitation. When you imitate someone, you do the same thing that they do. You copy someone else.
When you listen to a native speaker, imitate the sounds that you hear. When you are reading and listening to something, don’t try to see the pronunciation by looking at the word. Listen to the pronunciation of the word and repeat what you hear.
Shadow the speaker.
The verb shadow means follow and watch someone so you can learn what they’re doing.
You can shadow someone speaking by repeating the sounds that you hear immediately after someone says them.
This is easy to do when you are immersion reading. You can see the words and hear the words at the same time, so you can immediately repeat what you hear. You can read the book out loud along with the speaker or narrator.
You can also record yourself reading the book at the same time as the person you’re listening to, and then compare how you sound to how the other person sounds.
Learn more: How to record yourself speaking English
5. It helps you improve your English faster
There is no fast and easy way to learn English. There is no magic secret that will make you instantly fluent in English.
You can do things that will speed up how you learn, so you will feel like you are learning faster.
Learning doesn’t need to be difficult.
We don’t acquire language skills by learning grammar rules, memorizing vocabulary, and then trying to speak. That’s not how it works. That’s not how you learned your native language.
You don’t need a long list of words as proof that you learned something from a book. You will never remember all those words.
When you read and listen, you acquire language without even realizing that it is happening. You absorb words, collocations, and sentences naturally, just like you did with your native language.
One day, you’ll watch something or hear something and realize that you understand it.
Learn more: 4 Truths about Learning English
How can you listen and read at the same time?
It is so easy now to read and listen to something at the same time. It’s as easy as turning on your phone and opening some apps.
Immersion reading generally means reading a book while listening to the audiobook, but there are so many more opportunities to read and listen to English at the same time.
1. Watch English TV shows and movies with English subtitles.
If you live in an English-speaking country, subtitles are called “closed captions.”
Don’t listen to anyone who tells you not to watch English TV shows and movies without subtitles. Tell him or her that it’s one of the best things you can do to improve your English skills.
Here are some good resources:
- Netflix, Amazon Prime, iTunes or other streaming service with English TV shows and movies – All of these services have English closed captions or subtitles. While you are watching something, look for the keyboard icon. Tap this icon and turn on English subtitles.
- TED Talks – Interesting speeches that you can watch with English subtitles or subtitles in your native language, or an English transcript or a transcript in your native language.
2. Listen to English podcasts that provide transcripts.
Obviously, I think my podcast is excellent!
3. Use Amazon’s Whispersync for Voice service.
This is genius. You can read an ebook and listen to the audiobook at the same time on your Kindle device or in the Kindle app.
Amazon sells both Kindle ebooks and Audible audiobooks. You can buy a Kindle ebook, add the audiobook, and use the immersion reading feature. The text is highlighted in the ebook (on your Kindle device or in the Kindle app) for you while you listen to the audiobook.
Even better, the Kindle app remembers where you stopped listening & reading. When you want to read and listen again, you just go back to the ebook and start at the same spot where you stopped.
Currently there are 60,000+ in the Kindle ebooks with Audible Narration store on Amazon. (Narration means someone telling a story, or in this case reading a story.)
I have an Apple iPhone, and because of a disagreement between Amazon and Apple, I can’t buy audiobooks from Amazon on my phone. I can only add the book to my Wish List and then buy the audiobooks on my desktop computer.
This is what it looks in the Kindle iPhone app. Go to the main menu and look for “Reading and Listening.” If the audiobook is available, you can buy it or put in on your shopping list or wish list to buy later. W like when you listen and read a book at the same time. I have the audiobook for another book in my Kindle library, which you can see at the bottom of the app. Press play and the gray text will appear in the ebook to show you which part you are listening to.