VIDEO: “Improving Reading and Comprehension” (Polyglot Gathering 2014)

My main talk at this year’s Polyglot Gathering in Berlin was the one that I was most preoccupied with. I thought that delivering it just a week after I’d finished my exams would also provide a good opportunity to reflect on my past four years at Oxford, and the particular language learning skills that my time there had allowed me to develop. As a result, I based the content of this talk almost entirely on the methods I had adopted for keeping up my German and Russian, particularly in the last few months running up to my exams.

These methods are based on a loosely applied interpretation of the natural approach. Rather than learning from textbooks or grammar books, I tried to increase fluency in my two target languages by directly lifting phrases and vocabulary from real sources that I had available to me. These were primarily the written word, and the language that was used in the literature that I was studying for both languages, but I also used a number of podcasts and radio shows from each language to get used to hearing the words pronounced in a natural-sounding context, and to allow myself to absorb and reproduce these for my own oral and listening tests.

Reading Kafka in Berlin

In this presentation I talk through how to approach each different format and to extract vocabulary, but while remaining focused on the wider goal of understanding and enjoying the text in question. I give a brief reading from Franz Kafka‘s Die Verwandlung (Metamorphosis) and Pushkin‘s Медный всадник (Bronze Horseman), and also play a one minute extract from Deutschlandfunk‘s Essay und Diskurs podcast.

I would love to provide a copy of the powerpoint slide I used, but unfortuantely this is a story shrowded in mystery. Just as I was standing before the packed hall about to begin, it disappeared from my computer as I had typically forgotten to save it. With the help of IT genius and Esperanto king Chuck Smith we managed to recover it for the talk, but since then there has been no trace of it on my machine. I’m afraid you’ll have to maximise the screen and see what you can make out!

If you have any further questions or comments please leave them beneath this post and I will get back to you. If you’d like any of the links I mention then I will try to include them as well. And if you found this presentation useful, or know anyone who’s about to study languages at university who might, please feel free to like and share it :)

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