Does the following sound familiar? You are learning a foreign language and are beginning to get a bit confident, when after a few weeks or months you come across a text, maybe a newspaper article, in that language ……… and you feel you don’t understand a single word you’re reading!
I was in London today for a seminar at the Austrian Cultural Forum and amongst other things we did an exercise in a foreign language. We were given a text in a language that none of us understood and we had to try and work out what the text was about. After the first read we were given some help as we were allowed to ask for a few words to be translated. Gradually we were able to read the whole text. I still don’t know every word, but enough to understand the gist of the text, and it felt good!
So, the next time you try to read something in a foreign language, especially one that you are currently learning, enjoy the words you do understand and don’t panic about the words you don’t understand! You don’t have to be able to translate everything (unless you are a translator, but then you should know the language!); getting the gist will be fine.
Honest answer please: Do you understand EVERY word in the newspapers or books you read (in your own language)? I bet you don’t, and yet that doesn’t stop you from reading the article (unless, of course, it’s a really boring text)!
How about an experiment? If you are learning German at the moment (or any other language), chose a difficult text and just check for words you already know. Every so often check again and look up one or two words until you know enough to understand what the text is about. Did you need to understand every word?