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If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you may have noticed that we talk a lot about fluency in speaking your target language. There’s a good reason for this. Conversational practice is the fastest way of mastering another language.

But if you are working every day in your non-native language, there’s also another kind of fluency to think about: reading fluency.

What is reading fluency? It’s the ability not only to understand the words you are reading, but also to understand the larger meaning of the text. If you are stopping to look up the meaning of every unfamiliar word or phrase, you’re going to run out of mental energy pretty quickly, and you might miss the intended message entirely.

How to Improve Reading Fluency

If you want to improve your reading fluency, think first about the kinds of reading that you do as part of your job. Are you mostly reading and responding to emails that are written in a conversational, informal tone? Or do you need to read and understand complex documents about specialized subjects?

We recommend taking classes with a live instructor to improve your reading fluency. You might think that using apps and reading on your own are enough to acquire reading fluency. These activities are beneficial, and we recommend doing them.

But you’ll be able to read fluently much more quickly if you study with an instructor. Why? An instructor can customize your class time to focus on your specific needs. Every field has its own specialized vocabulary.

While your eventual goal might be general reading fluency — understanding everything from news articles to bestselling novels with ease — your instructor can help you start with the reading skills that are most crucial to you.

Reading Aloud for Fluency

As you work with an instructor on your reading fluency, they will probably ask you to do a lot of reading aloud. This might seem odd at first. After all, most of the reading you do at work and in your personal life is probably silent reading.

Researchers, however, have found that improving your ability to read aloud in your target language also makes it easier to read silently. The reading-instruction experts at the Five from Five project have a great article breaking down why this is the case.

To sum things up, when you read aloud, you learn how to pronounce words correctly. That helps you recognize the words more quickly when you’re reading silently.

If you have elementary school-age kids, you’ve probably heard the term “sight words.” That’s what we’re talking about here, too. When you recognize a word by sight (instead of sounding it orally or in your head), you can read with a lot more ease.

Reading aloud also helps you recognize phrases and clauses and discern meaning more quickly. For example, if you are reading the sentence “I went to the store on the bike that John let me borrow,” you automatically group the words together into meaningful units instead of seeing the words individually.

Don’t worry if reading in your target language takes lots of time and work right now. Reading fluency is just like conversational fluency in that both require lots of practice and repetition. The more you read, the faster you reach reading fluency.

What Does Reading Fluency Look Like?

So how do you know when you have attained reading fluency? Here are a few signs:

  • You can read and understand what you’re reading simultaneously.
  • Because of this understanding, you can read aloud with the appropriate tone and emphasis.
  • When you read aloud, you sound conversational instead of choppy.
  • You can read longer (silently or aloud) without getting tired or needing a break.

Have Questions About Your Reading Fluency?

At Fluency Corp, we pride ourselves on helping professionals build conversational and reading fluency so they can perform their jobs with more ease and success. If you’d like to learn more about how our classes work, contact us now.