More Tips on Reading


In the last column we looking at some techniques to improve your reading speed. Today we will examine in more depth some further skills that can enable you to read more effectively and efficiently. Many readers of a second language will have a dictionary by their side and will use to check every unknown word that they encounter. However, this is not a recommended approach if you are planning to improve your reading speed. The key to speed reading is to either ignore the words you don’t understand or to practice guessing the meaning from the context. Look at the following paragraph:-

“Once upon a time, in a washington far, far away lived a little cantona named Daisy. She had a fandi called Soon. Daisy and Soon were moons, although strictly speaking Daisy was older as she was gankar 30 minutes before Soon. They were so veradmat! They both wanted lots and lots of agassis, but because of the economic graystock their jacksons had said they could have only one agassi each…..”

The words in bold are nonsense words, but you should be able to work out the meaning with several text attack skills. First, you should examine what the part of speech the word is. Let’s take the first example, Once upon a time in a washington far, far away. You can see that the word is clearly a noun since it follows an article (a) and the word ending –ton is a common ending for nouns. Since it follows in a the likely meaning is a place/position. In this case, it is a set phrase Once upon a time…… and the meaning is country.

Let’s take a look at one more example.

but because of the economic graystock……only have one……..

In terms, of parts of speech, it is again a noun since it follows the adjective economic. Looking at the context, we can see that surrounded with words only and but, it is likely to have a negative meaning. Common words that go together with economic are downturn, depression & slump. Try now and guess what the other words mean! You should use this technique of guessing from context when you encounter unknown words in your reading. The process will speed your reading. When you really can’t guess, then skip and wait until the end of the article to check in a dictionary. It shouldn’t interfere with your overall understanding of the article. Have a look now at the passage below:-

I cdnoult blveiee that I cluod aulacity uesdnatnrd waht I was rdanieg.

Even though the spelling is muddled, you should still be able to understand the meaning. In fact, according to researchers it doesn’t matter what order the spelling is, but rather the only important thing is that the first and last letters are in the correct place. So Hppay Redanig!!

Guy Perring is Director, Professional Development Unit (PDU), at the British Council Malaysia. The PDU offers a wide range of learning opportunities from management and communication skills training to developing English skills. Visit us at or email

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