30-Day Challenge: Day #9 – Abraham Lincoln’s reading method can boost your memory and confidence in a foreign language

Inspiration: Abraham Lincoln

Source: arolemodel.com
Source: arolemodel.com

Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865), the 16th US President, had an interesting method for studying and remembering the important news of the day. Lord Charnwood writes of this in his biography on the President:

His method of study was as odd as anything else about him; he could read hard and commit things to memory in the midst of bustle and noise; on the other hand, since reading aloud was his chosen way of impressing what he read on his own mind, he would do it at all sorts of times to the sore distraction of his partner.
— copyright 1917, page 104

Peter W. Schramm gives further insight into Lincoln’s reading method in an editorial published for Ashland University:

He was capable of great concentration and when he wished to read, he did so, ignoring everything and everyone around him. Almost everything he read he read aloud. When asked why, he said: “When I read aloud, two senses catch the idea: first, I see what I read; second, I hear it, and therefore I can remember it better.”

So why is reading aloud good for second language learning?

Reading, just by itself, not even aloud, is already good for second language learning :

  1. You can learn new vocabulary words by guessing them based on context.
  2. You can see and become familiar with the flow of the language.
  3. You will begin to pick up on grammar structures that you’ve studied in real-world use.
  4. Your eyes get training for recognizing the alphabet or characters in real-life situations.

But, reading aloud adds an entirely new (and useful) aspect to language learning:

  1. You will recognize more vocabulary words by actually working through the pronunciations out loud.
  2. You can hear and become familiar with the flow of the language.
  3. You can train your voice to speak with the same rhythm and pronunciation you’ve heard used by natives.
  4. Your tongue gets training for the sometimes difficult and tricky pronunciation of the way certain words flow together.

Overall, think of reading aloud in a second language as much more than simple “reading practice.” This is:

  1. Reading practice
  2. Vocabulary and grammar practice
  3. Pronunciation practice
  4. Listening practice
  5. Fluency practice

Not only will reading aloud increase your memory of words, phrases, and grammar you see-and-speak, but it will also increase your confidence in using the language because the more spoken practice you have (even if it’s at home, alone), the more confidence you’ll have in your pronunciation and sentence forming.

How can you get the most benefit from reading aloud?

First, there are a few basic requirements to begin receiving the benefits from reading aloud in a foreign language:

  1. Know the alphabet
  2. Know the proper pronunciation of the symbols and sounds
  3. Know the proper pronunciation for words that flow together (for example, in Korean “한국말” is actually pronounced like “한궁말” and “발음” is pronounced like “바름”)
  4. Know how the language is supposed to sound – it’s own innate flow an rhythm

If you aren’t familiar with the above, then reading aloud will be more difficult and less enjoyable than it should be. You should probably spend more time watching TV or listening to native speakers to hear the way the language regularly sounds before jumping into reading aloud in that language.

But, if you’re confident in your ability in the above, here are 7 strategies to increase the effectiveness of reading aloud in a foreign language:

  1. Choose something at an appropriate level (nothing like the Bible on day one).
  2. Read through the whole thing aloud once to work out the tricky pronunciations.
  3. Go back through the reading and look up any unknown vocabulary words.
  4. Make sure you can understand the basic story or the flow of the ideas.
  5. Re-read the whole thing aloud again, focusing this time on matching your pronunciation and oral fluency to what you know of the natural flow of the language.
  6. If you can, have a real native speaker re-read the story aloud for you to hear and correct any of your pronunciation errors.
  7. Re-read the whole thing aloud a third time working on matching your fluency and rhythm with that of the native speaker’s.

If you do all of the above, you will have at least 3-times the memory and 3-times the confidence with this story and these words and phrases (since you saw, spoke, and heard it all 3 times) that another second-language learner would have if they merely read through the story mentally (like most people read).

Challenge

Today’s Challenge is all about reading aloud to practice the 5 skills listed above (reading, vocab & grammar, pronunciation, listening, fluency):

#9: Choose a book to do the above exercise with and record a video of your 3 oral readings. Also include a video of the native speaker’s reading if possible.

The book you choose can be the same as the one you studied at the beginning of this week (mine is) or it can be something new. You can also choose a short paragraph or story from a textbook you are studying.

Hashtags today are:

#k2k309 #readlikeLincoln

Resources

If you lack reading material, here are some good places to look:

  1. A local children’s library (도서관, 어린이 도서관)
  2. Naver Junior Study (Kindergarten level)
  3. Naver Junior Study (animated kids books)
  4. Naver Webtoons (Beginner – Intermediate level)
  5. Chosun Ilbo Kids (Intermediate level)
  6. Naver News Stand (Intermediate – Advanced level)

If you lack native speakers to help with your reading and pronunciation, here are some ideas:

  1. Come to Korean Kafe with us on Fridays (or visit Winning Story Cafe anytime and ask for help)
  2. Make a Language-Exchange Partner (you can ask on places like Jeonju’s Facebook Group)
  3. Verbling.com is an online language exchange site to connect you with native speakers
  4. LiveMocha.com is another language exchange site
  5. Busuu.com is another language exchange site (no Korean yet though)

How is your reading going? Do you like reading or find it too distracting and difficult to look up new words?

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