First of all I’d like to say: bookworms, you are awesome! And it’s not just a random statement. There is no doubt that certain books can have an enormous influence on our mind and make us smarter. Apart from making you seem educated, reading a lot of books also teaches you to think differently. After all, any written work is the author’s mind on paper, and while reading we absorb his way of thinking, directly and without any intermediaries. If anything, reading is a closest thing to telepathy we’ve witnessed yet.
In my childhood I read many books. They were my teachers, they showed me how to act in certain situations and provided me with priceless knowledge on different matters. They’ve also taught me many fancy words and expressions that a child of my age normally wouldn’t be familiar with. At school it really helped me to get the highest marks for essays. When I became a bit older, my teacher suggested I started reading books in English. To be honest, I didn’t really want to. I had a good grasp on spoken English and I knew my grammar. If I were, let us say, traveling abroad, I would have enough language proficiency to ask for directions and maybe buy a meal at the local cafe. Did I really need more? If I wanted to read a book, I could always find one with Russian translation. I thought there would be too many new words and it would discourage me from reading. However, it was quite the opposite. Reading in English was a challenge, but it was never impossible. To my surprise, I soon realized that I could read in English rather effortlessly. As a bonus, my mental vocabulary got updated with a few hundreds new words, which I remembered effortlessly, no ROTE learning needed.
My point is – you should really try it, it’s worth it! Take it easy, though. Don’t start with a thick volume of Shakespeare or Tolstoy’s “War and Peace”, unless you are pretty confident. I suggest something light and entertaining at first, so that the story keeps you tuned in even if you’re meeting plenty of new words on every page. Reading should always be a pleasure, not a labour. Some people like to keep a glossary and it can be very helpful, but it’s not mandatory. Once you’ve encountered a new word in your story and looked up its meaning, your memory will obligingly present it to you next time you see it in the text. It’s much easier to remember something when you have an emotional connection with it. For example, take the word “убить” – which means “to kill” in Russian. It’s unlikely you will remember it if I just told it to you. Your memory will disperse of it, since it’s not particularly useful, unless killing is your true passion. Now imagine you’re reading a book, and your favourite character is about to get a final death blow! “Убить его!” orders the bad guy to his henchmen. Uh oh, our hero is in a great trouble! Let’s hope he survives. So, next time you stumble upon this word it will again create some turmoil in your emotional state and you will know exactly what it means. Creepy, right? But very effective!
So, if you haven’t done it yet, grab a book in your target language and plunge yourself into this new and exciting world. I double dare you!
In the next post I’ll give you a list of Russian books suited to different levels.