Reading is a crucial part of learning. It does not matter what subject you are studying or what object you are observing, reading opens the path towards gathering knowledge. It raises awareness of your learning faculties and has the potential to mak
e you a powerful person when you use the knowledge.
Unfortunately reading a written language cannot be done without being taught. Unlike speaking, which relies on your listening skills, basic reading requires a technique at matching a character with the sound it should make, which is known as character recognition. It can be frustrating if you can’t read.
Here are some basic skills at reading a new language:
1. Start with alphabets (abjad, huruf, han yu pin yin). Imagine yourself trying to make a necklace made of beads. The alphabets are the beads.
2. Learn to string alphabets together to form a new sound. Every language has its set rules, you therefore need to fully understand what happen to the sounds of the alphabets when they are mixed and blended with one another. For instance, ‘p’ and ‘h’ in English changes to ‘f’ when they are put together in ‘phone’.
3. Remembering phrases and words. Sometimes it is easier to remember how to read a word by learning phrases. Pick a small paragraph and try to find the same word that might appear in the sentences. Trust me, you will remember it easier the next time you see the word again in other reading material.
In the beginning, you will probably be taught how to read them in isolation. But I find that when I read words in isolation (like flashcards), it gets to a point where I cannot find them even if they are written in a phrase.
So as soon as I learn the word, I look for short and long sentences where the word can be used again. It may also be a short sentence like “I like the dog.”, “I want the dog.”, “I dislike the dog.”
4. Reading with meaning. Use pictures and the matching text to build your vocabulary. As soon as you are ready, learn the opposites or antonyms. This is also a good way to quickly learn the meaning of your reading material. For instance, the opposite of ‘in’ is ‘out’.
5. Create or read simple sentences using the same words you have studied. It is like a game; the more frequent you practise searching for the same word you are learning to read, the better your skill at recognising the word the next time it appears again elsewhere.
For instance, you have just learnt to read the word ‘girl’. Here are some sentences with the word ‘girl’ in it in different places.
“Where is the girl?”
“She is a girl.”
‘Why is the girl crying?”
“That girl is short.”
How about the Mandarin language (or Arabic, Hindi, Thai or Japanese) which does not alphabets?
It does not require Han Yu Pin Yin to read Mandarin. That is right. You do not need Han Yu Pin Yin. If someone told you this word 好 is read as ‘hao’, you would automatically connect the sound to the image. You only need Han Yu Pin Yin in case you forget how to read it the next time you come across the same character.
Han Yu Pin Yin helps you to understand intonation, read Mandarin characters more readily or refer to the dictionary. There are many references to help you read Han Yu Pin Yin. But reading Mandarin characters WITHOUT Han Yu Pin Yin is what you want to achieve.
Take a shot at confidence, start with step number 3. This means you do not need transliteration or Han Yu Pin Yin.
You may still continue to learn Han Yu Pin Yin (step 1 and 2) or use transliteration to understand how to read a new language.