By Shirley.

When learning a second (third or fourth) language, one of the first problems is how to speak that language. How do you bring everything you have learned together in an instant, while talking to someone – you are thinking about what you want to say, at the same time trying to remember the vocabulary, grammar, pronunciation, etc. Of course, the more you exercise speaking that language, the better you will get at it. For that, participating in any IN group will help you immensely. But at some point, you might realize that just making yourself be understood is not quite enough, if your goal is to master the language. Here is where reading comes into place. You are still going to have to become a fluent speaker (there is no substitute for training your brain into thinking in a different language), but by reading in the language you want to master, you learn how the sentences are structured, new vocabulary, new phrases… The more you read, the more you can absorb the language – it is like entering someone’s head and figuring out how they used the language, how they thought. And, of course, if you enjoy what you are reading, you forget the “studying” part of the equation and will instead unconsciously acquire these tools while enjoying a romance or solving a murder. Reading prepares your brain for when you need to use your knowledge to speak.

IN offers many discussion and reading groups. Both kinds of groups are very similar in a way, the main difference being how much you are going to read and how much of the discussion will be based on what was read. I think both kinds of groups offer you very important tools to master the English language. But I can’t emphasize enough how much you are going to benefit from reading. It is still important to me even though I have been in the U.S. for 27 years!

This past winter, in an attempt to distract myself from the weather outside and the stories in the newspaper, I started reading a lot of mangas (Japanese graphic novels). Of course, as you know, there isn’t that much “reading” in graphic novels and comic books. Although very entertaining, it was a mistake on my part to just read mangas. By spring and summer, I could feel that I was having difficulty recalling some words. I kept asking my husband: “How do you say that? You know what I mean, THAT!” My poor, suffering husband has an uncanny gift to understand what I’m saying, but the world at large looks at me with raised eyebrows.

So, being fall, and a new beginning of year here at IN, I’m making a resolution to read more (not mangas, real books!). And here comes the shameless plug: I really enjoy reading mystery or detective novels. And what do you know, we have a Mystery Book Reading Group right here in IN. So, I invite you, Newcomer and Neighbor, to come enjoy a mystery book with Vesna and me, and a group of beautiful, Intelligent, funny, friendly and all around wonderful ladies. Let’s work our minds around the English language and around a way to solve murder mysteries, while sipping tea and eating pastries.


P.S.: When I first arrived here in the U.S., my international friends and I discussed what would be a good indicator that would demonstrate our English proficiency. We came up with the following “tests”: Can you understand the jokes and follow a show of a stand-up comedian? Do you dream in English?