Getting faster at reading in-language
April 8, 2014 12:11 PM   Subscribe

I'm a fast reader in English. I want to get faster at reading in Russian (in which I am fluent, but rarely use at this point). How can I do this?
posted by aaanastasia to Writing & Language (9 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I would think the same way you got fast at reading in English - by reading.

Maybe if you read something in Russian that you were familiar with in an English version, it might help with comprehension and recognition of structural differences.
posted by Billiken at 12:23 PM on April 8, 2014

Best answer: If you're fluent, what are you reading and what's tripping you up? I'm also fluent in Russian (it's my mother tongue) but I read rather slowly because a) my vocabulary reserves are not great and b) I'm constantly getting tripped up by sentence structure. I'm much more used to English, with its relatively simple sentence structure. Switching to Russian means I have to re-read the a complex sentence a few times before I actually grasp the meaning.

If you're trying to dive into capital-L literarure, I can see how that can be a problem. One solution I've found is to pick something that has an English translation (or is translated from English) and read it in English first. That way, you'll have a much better idea of the context for words you don't know and can't figure out by breaking them down. If you stick to decent translations writers who write in a terse or minimal style -- Hemingway, for instance -- you can also avoid the problem of too-complex sentences.

But at the end of the day, if you're already fluent, it's really just as simple as practice, practice, practice.
posted by griphus at 12:26 PM on April 8, 2014

(Also if you want a personal recommendation for literature to switch in reading between English and Russian, I'd suggest Sherlock Holmes short stories.)
posted by griphus at 12:27 PM on April 8, 2014

I agree with just reading more, but it can feel like a slog, depending on how slow you are. Comic books? Also, try watching TV or a movie with (Russian-language) subtitles on. I find this helpful at a subconscious level for associating text with spoken language.
posted by chocotaco at 12:36 PM on April 8, 2014

Best answer: Reading Facebook updates from Russian-speaking friends helps because it's motivating (I want to know what's going on in their lives) and they're using a style more similar to spoken language, which is easier to understand than literary style.
posted by Bentobox Humperdinck at 12:38 PM on April 8, 2014

Best answer: Do you write in Russian at all? This might not be helpful if Russian is second language for you, but I grew up speaking Russian at home, could read at an elementary level and couldn't write at all really. The biggest improvement in my reading speed came from improving my writing, and in particular, declensions. While I could speak them correctly, I wasn't reading/recognizing them on the page, and so I was slowed down by either sounding them out or having to re-read the sentence to comprehend the relationships of the nouns. You'll still need to read a lot to train yourself to recognize words, but declensions are the key to untangling the sometimes complicated sentence structures.
posted by matildatakesovertheworld at 2:25 PM on April 8, 2014

Yeah, just read read read. I felt frustrated in the same way a few years ago, but I just kept reading Russian books and websites and one day, boom, I could read quickly and easily. You gotta put in your 10,000 hours.
posted by languagehat at 3:38 PM on April 8, 2014

For what it's worth, I found reading Harry Potter to be rather helpful in this regard. I'd read it a million and one times in English as a kid, so even when I didn't know certain words in the Chinese versions, I could gather their meaning from my knowledge of the English text.
posted by krakus at 4:30 PM on April 8, 2014

Response by poster: My goal is reading the news in Russian regularly.

I'm in a weird place because in theory Russian is my native language (moved to U.S. at age 5) and I also learned more grammar/etc in college, but I've never lived in a place where I was using it regularly.
posted by aaanastasia at 8:57 AM on April 9, 2014

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