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Reading skills

Watch this to develop your reading skills for Higher French (and why reading is a luxury for all of us)

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Reading is one of life’s great pleasures. Being able to read and understand another person’s thoughts and opinions, is a luxury open to us all to enjoy.

But if I gave the same book to a hundred different people, they would interpret things in different ways. They would extract meaning and emphasis in their own unique way.

Well, what about if I gave them books in a different language? These differences would grow as inaccuracies and mistakes would creep in, as well as their different interpretations of the actual text.

So, understanding a written phrase in a foreign language needs a degree of tolerance in translation - we need to have fluidity in order to make sense of what we are reading and not be too rigid in our approach.

Let’s unpack this.

This is Thinkfour.

So, what do we need to do to make our reading of text in other languages as good as possible in a reading comprehension assessment?

First things first, read the whole passage, then pick out the key points. I often find using a highlighting pen is helpful for this.

Now read through the questions. Use the line numbers above each question to direct you to the correct part of the passage to find the answer.

Detailed answers are generally required, so pay particular attention to words like “quite”, “very”, ”too much”, “really” and negatives and do not forget to include them in your answers.

Highlight details like numbers, days and times. You don’t want to lose marks by misquoting these details.

The good news is, you get to use a dictionary in this part of the exam.

What can sometimes be difficult though, is when a word has more than one meaning. It is really easy to jump to the first definition in the dictionary, however, carefully reading through all the meanings, will help you choose the correct one, appropriate to the context of the passage. Often you will find the whole phrase you are looking for further down the entry.

I sometimes think that the hardest part is to avoid giving a word-for-word translation of the text as a response to the question. Not only is this time consuming, but can often leave you with an answer which is not in correct English.

The way around this is actually quite simple. The question will indicate the amount of information required by stating in bold eg “State TWO of them”

If the question says “give ANY TWO”, that means there are more than two possibilities, so choose the two you are happiest with and stick to them.

The second last question asks you to look at the passage as a whole.

It is important to start your answer with your opinion, then select pieces of the text to back this up.

Sometimes, people find the last question the most daunting, the dreaded translation, as this carries the most marks. This section is designed to test your grammatical accuracy.

A good solid knowledge of recognising the different tenses of the verbs is required here and you should translate accordingly.

It is so important to read back what you have written

If it sounds awkward in English, then you know your answer is not in the best version that it could be and this is where you have a degree of flexibility. Provided you do not change the tenses of the verbs, you may have to find a less awkward way of expressing yourself even though you may not have translated it word for word. Examples of this would be idiomatic phrases which cannot be translated literally.

It was the American novelist George Martin who famously said:

“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies…the man who never reads lives only one”.

Well, I agree with this. Reading is to go into someone else’s world – into someone else’s mind - and sometimes this takes a bit of care.

Translating the written word takes real precision and care. With a bit of work, you will always be far better than any automatic online translator.

So, sit back, relax and enjoy your book – in Spanish.

This was thinkfour; thanks for watching.

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