Tomorrow marks the beginning of the August reading contest, which you can find out more about and join at ReadMOD. (That’s an abbreviation, but I just like the sound of it. I’m installing a readmod in my brain! anyway …) I’m prepared but I have no illusions of winning, since a lot of the other participants are pretty advanced compared to me. Nevertheless I’m going to give it a fair go. I still have goals on smart.fm in progress, and still have kanji reviewing to do, but none of that will take very long in a day. If you haven’t signed up yet do it now! The twitter hashtag we’ll be using is #tadoku.
The benefits of extensive reading as a means of language learning have been well documented. Whereas an SRS system repeats tidbits of information at scientifically optimized intervals, extensive reading provides what you might call a “random repetition system” – you’ll run into the same words and constructions over and over again, and eventually you’re certain to know them all. Of course you can mine sentences for your SRS as you go, which I do intend to do a bit of, but that becomes secondary.
For someone like myself whose aim is full literacy primarily, and speaking is not so much a focus, it seems no great stretch of logic that learning to do what I want to do by, well, doing it, ought to work well. It does in every other endeavor of life, why not here? But even for those who wish to converse primarily and never mind the rest so much, extensive reading is still a great benefit. Ryan Layman has documented nicely here and here what he terms the “four skills flow”. In short, reading is the primary skill, because you can’t output what has never been input, and reading provides the broadest, most accessible, and most involving input there is.
If you’re interesting in digging into why extensive reading works, have a sniff round the Extensive Reading Pages. And if you’re somewhat literate already but looking for material, there’s heaps of free texts at Aozora Bunko. They have an iPhone app too if you’d find such a thing useful.