Reading Techniques: Tips for Reading
a lot of Material Quickly in your
Non-Dominant Language

The college experience includes a lot of reading. When reading in a language other than your dominant language, reading can be slower, have more vocabulary you don’t know, and be more difficult to comprehend longer phrases and complex concepts. In this case (and really for any reading), “pre-reading” may ease the comprehension load. Pre-reading focuses your attention on the most important information and makes it easier to move faster. Before you begin reading, try the following pre-reading steps: 

  1. Look at the name of the article and the author and ask your self some questions. Based on that information, do you know what the reading will be about? What do you already know about the topic? What do you want to find out? What do you think your professor wants you to learn from this reading?
  2. Look at the subheadings and any graphs, charts, photos or other graphic elements. Ask yourself again, what you know and what you want to know about the topic.
  3. Read the introduction. What point is the author trying to make? Are they making an argument or informing the reader about the topic? What information do you think you’ll find in the rest of the paper?
  4. Read the conclusion. You’ll often find a summary here, so notice what the author lists as the main points. What information do you think you’ll find in this article?
  5. Make a list of questions, details, and information that you want to find while reading. This will guide your focus. 
  6. Read the article and look for the answers to your questions. 
  7. Share the information. See if you can find someone to discuss what you’ve read. Explaining what you read processes the information at a deeper level.  

As you are reading, try not to stop and look up every word you don’t know. If you stop too often, you’ll lose the main idea of the reading and have to start over. If the word is interfering with understanding the main point, then look it up. Otherwise, just skip it, highlight it, or make a note to look it up later. You can also mark ideas, references, or concepts to look up after you finish and learn more about what you’re reading. 

The Office of Accessibility offers software that might increase your effectiveness and speed. For example, you’ll find software that will read a text aloud,  help focus your attention by highlighting the line you are reading, and allow you to dictate notes while you are reading. You can find more about these tools here: https://www.wesleyan.edu/accessibility/digital/assistive-tech.html

For more reading tips, try these websites:

Dartmouth Academic Skills Center: https://students.dartmouth.edu/academic-skills/learning-resources/learning-strategies/reading-techniques

Cornell College: Reading a Textbook for True Understanding: https://www.cornellcollege.edu/academic-support-and-advising/academic-support/study-tips/reading-textbooks.shtml

University of North Carolina: Taking Notes While Reading: https://www.cornellcollege.edu/academic-support-and-advising/academic-support/study-tips/reading-textbooks.shtml