‘I’m reading this novel’, says my student waving a French paperback in front of the computer camera, ‘and I’ve just bought this one’, he continues, pointing to a hardback and adding that he cannot wait to get started.
Needless to say, I was beaming and immediately asked him two questions. First, would he have believed me if I’d told him some two years ago – when we started our lessons – that he would be reading a novel in French one day? To which he quickly answered no.
I then asked him if he’d realised that this was a milestone, that he could now walk into any French bookshop and choose a book, the way he would in any bookshop in the UK. And he hadn’t! Not fully, that is…
Progress in language learning is tangible, visible, but only if you stop moving the goalposts.
I can tell that my student is reading on a regular basis by how good his French is becoming. Every week, he sounds more fluent, more confident and he uses more complex sentences, which he doesn’t always see!
As you read, your brain absorbs the language you’ve studied in context and will use it naturally the next time you speak. It often feels magical when it happens, but it isn't. Still, as a fiction writer myself, I can't help but think that reading is a superpower in many more ways than one!