Reading aloud to improve fluency

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Beli Tsar
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Re: Reading aloud to improve fluency

Postby Beli Tsar » Mon Jan 18, 2021 7:43 pm

Not only is it useful, but it's perhaps even more useful in languages where you don't speak much. I don't exactly chat often in Ancient Greek, so reading out loud has been absolutely crucial in helping me process clearly and simply in real time. So many readers of ancient languages never get beyond slowly decoding and parsing, and reading aloud is so helpful here.

I read Greek regularly in a group with a four others, and the most recent learner (who has far less training than the other two, and is completely self-taught) is making incredibly rapid progress. The only real difference between them is that he is reading aloud: they might know more technical stuff, but he's able to read with a fluency they cannot match.
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Re: Reading aloud to improve fluency

Postby s_allard » Tue Jan 19, 2021 3:34 am

I get the impression that nearly everybody here finds reading aloud useful. I do a lot of reading with my tutors to not only practice the pronunciation but also as way to start a discussion. In the middle of a paragraph I might ask a question of grammar or just start talking about a related topic. We can discuss that for a while and then come back to the text.

Reading aloud is particularly important for developing the ability to monitor one's pronunciation relative to the desired form. It's sort of like being able to shadow a recording all in your head. This works particularly well if you have a recording of what you are reading. I sometimes ask my tutor to read a paragraph first so I can get a sense of the rhythm and the melodic contour of the text before I read. It works wonders.
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Re: Reading aloud to improve fluency

Postby Flickserve » Fri Jan 22, 2021 9:55 am

When you read out loud on your own, how do you ascertain that your pronunciation is correct?
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Beli Tsar
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Re: Reading aloud to improve fluency

Postby Beli Tsar » Fri Jan 22, 2021 1:25 pm

Flickserve wrote:When you read out loud on your own, how do you ascertain that your pronunciation is correct?

Maybe others have a better answer, but mine would be that you don't. When you read aloud you often have enough to work on that you already know about, so you are already correcting things as you go. And if you are doing it regularly enough, it makes you more aware of your own pronunciation so that you can pick up your own errors as you listen.
Of course pairing listening and reading here helps.
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Re: Reading aloud to improve fluency

Postby Cainntear » Fri Jan 22, 2021 5:22 pm

Flickserve wrote:When you read out loud on your own, how do you ascertain that your pronunciation is correct?

You don't, but you might notice that you're not sure about something. As nobody's waiting for you, you can stop and look it up. In free speech, you can tend to avoid things you're not sure about, but you're not able to note down a reminder to yourself to come back to it later, so it isn't a learning opportunity in the same way.
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Re: Reading aloud to improve fluency

Postby s_allard » Tue Jan 26, 2021 3:24 pm

Flickserve wrote:When you read out loud on your own, how do you ascertain that your pronunciation is correct?


As others have pointed out, you don't really know, especially in the beginning, if your pronunciation is correct. And remember that when we speak of pronunciation, we are speaking of many things such as: the articulations of individual sounds, the blending of these sounds in continuous speech, rhythm, melodic contour and pitch. Plus keep in mind that your native language will often interfere in how sounds are produced and often how the letters on the page are interpreted.

That's a lot to work on but that's what learning to speak a language is all about. The interesting part is that as you hear the language more and more and preferably with help of tutors, you will develop an awareness of the sounds that are difficult, i.e. the sounds that are not in your native language. That's what you have to work on.

The really interesting part is that when you listen and practice a lot to the point where you can say whole phrases smoothly, you will start to remember how things sound. It's like learning a song. Then when you speak you will have a kind of sonic image in your head to which you can refer when you speak. By the way, this also applies to grammar. You have to develop the ability to "see" what you are about to say and thereby avoid that dreadful stuttering or hesitation syndrome as you are searching for words.

All this is not easy of course and it takes time but it does mean that soon you'll be able to detect your own mistakes and speak in a fluid manner.
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Re: Reading aloud to improve fluency

Postby tomos1729 » Wed Jan 27, 2021 12:59 am

I've always assumed reading aloud is clearly better and that everyone knows this:D I thought it's clear that it makes the actual "physical part of speaking" a non-problem which could otherwise interfere when actually speaking. Just a similar thing to "muscle memory" really - you practice the notes so much that you do it automatically and so can concentrate on interpretation - you practice the sounds so much that you can concentrate on actually putting the words together.

Although I do sometimes think it's good to read almost "deliberately fast and loosely", I'm not sure why but I feel somewhere our brains think this variation is good. But (being obviously much less "work" than actual careful reading) I try only to do it occasionally, and only then after a more careful reading session.


Cainntear wrote:I think reading is useful because it activates all the language structures if you do it quickly and in the right order, and if you're reading something that is too complicated for you to produce independently but composed of elements that you know then your brain gets to "rehearse" putting them together. Reading aloud not only makes that rehearsal more concrete, but it stops you cheating.
Cheating how? By reading out-of-order:
What that does mean?
If you're a fluent English speaker, your brain probably managed to correct that question without too much bother, rejigging the word order to make sense of it. That's great... but when reading a foreign language, that ability can trip you up. Your brain can "fix" the word order of a foreign sentence by reading it in English order. Reading aloud forces your brain to do everything in the correct order.


Excellent post!
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Re: Reading aloud to improve fluency

Postby Steve » Wed Jan 27, 2021 11:20 pm

I mix reading aloud with reading along with audio as well as intensive and extensive forms of each at various points. I use some text I have interest in and don't mind seeing over and over. At first, I choose materials with parallel or interlinear texts available.

My starting point is intensive reading along (similar to chorusing or shadowing) using Audacity (audio editing software) to be able to loop audio materials at a phrase or sentence level until they are familiar. The goal being for the sounds to start becoming familiar. After a time, I find can "hear" the words in my head (whether or not I comprehend them) rather than "see" them on a page. Also, perhaps because I'm a musician, I find I sense dissonance as I speak along incorrectly. It feels similar to singing along and knowing I am out of tune. Over time, I find I adjust my pronunciation, prosody, and tone to better match what I'm hearing over complete phrases and sentences. Also, over time, the meaning starts to just be there when I hear, see, or say a word or phrase. The big thing pronunciation-wise is that my mouth slowly develops a new "default" position for that language that more naturally produces the sounds.

I find that mentally this works well for me since written words are reminding me of the oral pronunciation rather than me trying to piece together a best guess pronunciation of words and having my brain remember my guesses. I am trying to mentally treat the audio I am hearing as the "real" language and what I am seeing on a page as a visual "recording" of the audio. It works best when the narrator has a voice similar to mine.

Once several minutes of audio and text seem familiar, I'll strike out on my own reading that aloud (or silently) independent of audio. I find that I'm not so much sounding out words from letters but rather the words are triggering memories of the sounds. As I become comfortable with that, I'll start trying text I'm not as familiar with or have not read before in that language. As I encounter new words and phrases, internalized patterns from words and phrases that are familiar provide much of the base for pronunciation. Usually, this is in the context of working through a book.

I mix combinations of reading along or aloud and intensively or extensively as I get bored or am frustrated with plateaued skills. I try to make sure what I am doing is enjoyable (so I keep wanting to do it) and effective (so I'll keep making progress). One side effect of this is that I end up essentially memorizing various passages of text. I've found this provides a good base when studying grammar because I've got real samples of the language drilled into my brain as examples to build from.

In context, I'm a hobbyist at language learning. It's more about picking up enough skills as efficiently as possible to have some enjoyment using the language in daily life. I enjoy being able to pick up a book or something and being able to comprehend what I'm reading or to watch a movie or TV or the news. I'm applying a power law approach (aka Pareto principle or 90/10 or 80/20 rule) of getting the most gain in skills I can for the time I put in. For me, this means focusing on practicing the most common aspects of a language first in the context of actual use. Reading along and aloud and silently in both intensive and extensive forms is a big part of that for me.
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Re: Reading aloud to improve fluency

Postby PeterMollenburg » Thu Jan 28, 2021 12:37 am

Steve wrote:Also, perhaps because I'm a musician, I find I sense dissonance as I speak along incorrectly. It feels similar to singing along and knowing I am out of tune.


Hi Steve,
I have the same experience. And although I used to be obsessed with listening to music, I'm not musical.

I have found that if I use enough audio in the beginning and work my pronunciation aloud always with whatever content I'm using (Pimsleur is particularly good for this in the beginning stages), be that course materials, books, articles etc, that I then have the 'song' (in this case sounds of the language) embedded in my head. Then while reading aloud, like yourself, I can feel if I'm out of tune.

Sometimes, however, I think my embedded tune of the language might shift ever so slightly with certain sounds and this is where listening helps. If I watch a TV series for example I start to feel that I may have been pronouncing a phoneme insufficiently deep enough or even visually notice that my lips haven't been forming exactly the same shape as speakers in the series when producing a particular sound. For 'fine tuning', I guess we could might use the analogy of tuning an instrument that's been put aside for a bit and needs a bit of readjusting. Not being musical, forgive me if my analogy is a little off, but I think it's clear what I mean. Thus, I always try to remain open and not set in stone with forming ideas of how to pronounce all the phonemes in a language as well as the tone and prosody.

Reading aloud with the kids almost daily helps me a lot. It reinforces what I do know as well as helps me discover new words, but it also is time to practice my pronunciation. i think my daughter has picked up on my finicky nature with pronunciation, as occasionally when i'm tired I accidently mispronounce a word (perhaps it's late, and I've read several books already, or perhaps it's just a slip of the tongue), and she'll correct me with my pronunciation. That's great, I now have feedback from my children to keep me on guard! But as you can see, reading aloud also helps them with their listening skills all the while hearing interesting stories.

Of course, reading to myself I often will read aloud whenever possible (sometimes I can't due to my surroundings perhaps at work, other people around etc). This is something I did right from the beginning with courses through to reading of lengthy books. And if I don't know how to pronounce something - well, don't be lazy and skip over it, I look it up in a dictionary with IPA.

Steve wrote:I find that mentally this works well for me since written words are reminding me of the oral pronunciation rather than me trying to piece together a best guess pronunciation of words and having my brain remember my guesses. I am trying to mentally treat the audio I am hearing as the "real" language and what I am seeing on a page as a visual "recording" of the audio.


While this isn't exactly how I've viewed things myself in terms of visualisation, in practice it is very similar to what I do. Anything I read, I must know how to pronounce it correctly (not an approximation as this will lead to a more noticeable accent) and when I read it, even if I do it silently in my head, I'm pronouncing everthing either out loud or sounding it out in my head. Even now as I write, I cannot write without reading the words silently yet ironically aloud in my head. I generally never read English aloud unless it's requested, it's not a foreign language that I need to constantly focus on, it's my native tongue.

So, yes, reading aloud helps immensely!
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Re: Reading aloud to improve fluency

Postby leosmith » Mon Feb 01, 2021 3:17 am

lusan wrote:It should, I hope, at the very least, improve fluency.

I read out loud in all the languages I learn, all the time when there are no people around, and sometimes even when there are.

It’s great for speaking practice. I believe it improves the ease with which I speak. It’s nice to be able to speak for a long time without being interrupted. It’s nice to speak without the pressure that sometimes comes with actual conversation for a change. It’s nice to actually speak like a native – meaning with 100% correct grammar and word selection.

It’s great for pronunciation. When I read out loud I am able to avoid getting lazy and glazing over words; I take care to pronounce them correctly. How do I know I’m correct? I’m nowhere near native, but I’m pretty experienced, and I can usually tell by listening to myself. When in doubt, I am fortunate to be able to use the OPLingo reading tool for all my languages. There is TTS (text to speech) for all of them, except Swahili which is extremely easy to pronounce anyway. The TTS works for both words and phrases; whatever you select. Also, there are full recordings for most of what I read in case I doubt the TTS.

Regarding listing, hearing myself speak is definitely worth something, but I don’t equate that to “normal” listening practice. For that matter, I don’t equate the “voice in my head” when I read silently to normal listening either. By that I mean I wouldn’t reduce the amount of listening I do during my studies by the amount of time I have read out loud. I do equate listening to the full recording and TTS to normal listening though.

Other advantages were already mentioned, so I will end it here and say that it definitely improves fluency. Good luck!
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