A few months ago, I picked up a copy of 哈利波特:神秘的魔法石 (Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone) here in Taipei, thinking I’d start reading it then. I tried for about 5 minutes and realized it was beyond my level at the time, thinking it might be another few terms or even a year before I could read it.

Today, however, I picked it up and read the first page with few difficulties. Sure, there were a fair few words I didn’t know, but most of them were comprised of characters I already know and were pretty easy to figure out. A few I really couldn’t make a guess at, so I looked them up. But now, I can read the whole page. Tomorrow I’ll read the next page or two. Monday I’ll read more. Eventually I’ll hopefully get to the point that I can make it through several pages per day (I hope so, or this will take me a year to read).

So the main tools I’ll be using are Pleco (of course), 國語辭典 (and it’s little brother, 國語辭典簡編本), the English version of the book, and a pencil. Since the edition I have is the Taiwan edition, there are some Taiwan-specific words used. One I came across (in the first sentence, no less) was 託福. Apparently the mainland uses 托福, and none of my dictionaries had the Taiwan variant, so I had to use the 國語辭典 to find it. That probably won’t be too frequent an occurrence though. The pencil is to put a line next to words I don’t know so I can look them up, and the English version is to check when I’m not sure I’ve read something right.

Now, not every word I look up is going into my flash card deck. This is going to be difficult for me, because I have a habit of dumping everything into flash cards. It would just be too much to keep up with on top of class and everything else I’m studying. The point is to get used to reading extensively, rather than going through with a fine-toothed comb and learning every little word I come across. The upside of this is that I’ll probably learn a lot of vocab in passing, just by exposure and repetition.

So how great is that? I’ve been planning on wading through a bunch of dry textbooks before I could sit down with a book, but here I am, reading a book. They’re good textbooks, yes, but let’s be honest here. It’s much more interesting reading something like this than reading another lesson on 中國的地形與氣候. So I’m going to continue with the textbooks, but not at the expense of Harry, Ron, and Hermione. The way to get better at reading, as they say, is reading. The textbooks provide good information on grammar constructions and such, so they’re valuable, but no matter how many textbooks I study, I won’t be able to read a book until I read one. It will be slow and difficult at first, but it will get better, or so I’m told.