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  • 1. 1 Simply Read In the mid-nineties, two language researchers conducted an interesting experiment with a group of English language students in Japan. These students ware retaking compulsory English courses they had previously failed. On language 5 test, these students were far behind the regular university students. Since most of these students disliked studying English, few expected much improvement. The researchers put these students in a special class for the second semester of the English course. The class met for the same amount of time as regular English courses, but the instruction was very different. At the end of semester, the students10 took another language test and the results were surprising. In just one semester, the students in the special class improved so much that their scores on the new tests were almost as high as the regular English students. Not only they had their English ability improved greatly, but many of these students, who used to dread English study, enjoyed the class.15 Extensive reading What was this “secret method” the produced such dramatic results on these previously reluctant learners? The class was an extensive reading course. Extensive reading is simply reading a lot of English (reading almost every day) at a fairly easy level (being able to understand the text without needing a dictionary). The students20 in the course mentioned above spent almost all of their class time simply reading enjoyable books. In study after study, researchers are finding that extensive reading can play a big role in language learning success. In fact, one study investigating language- learning strategies found reading for pleasure and seeking opportunities to read in25 English as the two most strongly related factors to successful language learning. Reading and writing It should come as no surprise that extensive reading helps students improve reading skills. Several studies have shown that students doing extensive reading for more than one year were almost always better readers than student who did the30 usual “difficult” reading in the classroom. Extensive reading also allows student to improve reading speed much more quickly than by reading difficult texts. In short, people can learn to read well simply by reading a lot at an appropriate level. What is more surprising is how much extensive reading improves students’ writing skills. In one study on extensive reading, students in extensive reading programmes35 were evaluated as 2-3 times better in writing when compared with students who
  • 2. 2 did not read much yet actually practiced writing more! Many other researchers have come to similar conclusions. Students who just read a lot can make equal or better progress in writing skills than students who actually practice writing, at least in regards to beginner and intermediate students.40 Extensive reading and speaking skills Surprisingly, extensive reading can also help speaking skills, as well as listening skills to a lesser extent. One study one learning strategies found reading outside of the classroom to be the most significant predictor of oral communicative ability. Students who read a lot are more likely to speak well. Other research have found45 that students just reading graded readers (simplified books especially made for language students) improved in both fluency and accuracy of expression in their speaking, even though the students did very little speaking during the course of the study. TOEFL/TOEIC tests50 Do you want to have a good TOEFL or TOEIC score? Maybe you should start thinking about extensive reading. Researchers have found that students who often read in English in their free time tend to have high TOEFL scores, while those who do not, tend to have low scores. They found that reading was a better predictor of TOEFL performance than even the number of year studying English and living in55 English-speaking countries. Another study showed that students who only read enjoyable books made consistent gain on their TOEFL scores, averaging 3-4 points on the test each week. How is it that just reading alone can bring all of these benefits? Extensive reading allows students to see a lot of the language in context over and over again, giving60 them the exposure they need to understand, organize, remember, and use it. It builds and strengthens fundamental vocabulary, and grammar knowledge. In short, extensive reading provides a very strong foundation on which to build all language skills. Extensive reading is not the only way to learn a language. Most language scholars65 would agree that language students still need to spend a lot of time practicing speaking, listening, writing, and so on in order to become advanced in the language. However, adding extensive reading to your private study can certainly do some great things for your language ability. Not only is extensive reading effective, but it can be very enjoyable way to learn a new language. Give it a try and see what70 it will do for you! Source: Essential Reading Student Book 3