Language learning with bilingual books – the L-R Method
The L-R Method
As mentioned here, in order to learn a language, you don’t need much more than an interesting text, an easily identifiable suitable translation and an audiobook to learn a language.
Some people who use this method
In her book “How I Learn Languages”, Kató Lomp, a Hungarian translator and interpreter who was fluent in 16 languages, described how she quickly expanded her vocabulary by reading foreign-language texts. She didn’t even use bilingual editions but translated unfamiliar words using a dictionary.
Phi-Staszek, a Polish multilinguist, improved this method and in the forum “How Do I Learn Any Language” described how you can learn a foreign language within a very short amount of time by only using a bilingual text and an audio recording. He referred to this method as the “L-R method”. L-R stands for “Listening-Reading”.
The American linguist Stephen Krashen describes extensive reading as the most effective means of language acquisition and published many articles on the subject. Extensive reading means a lot of reading in a foreign language. With this method, it’s not important to understand every word, but to follow the story and find out what happens next. The enjoyment of reading is paramount.
The Oxford University Press ELT also published an article on this topic. It showed that EFL students (EFL= English as a Foreign Language) who read a lot do not only learn to read a foreign language fluently, but also improve their writing skills in the respective language. According to the study, extensive reading also led to improved listening skills and even to a better active vocabulary, meaning better speaking skills in the foreign language.
All good reasons for embracing extensive reading and the L-R method!
A practical approach to the L-R method
If an audiobook exists, extensive reading can be more effectively applied to learn a foreign language with the L-R method. Here is the approach for how to learn a great deal within as little time as possible:
- First, read the translation to familiarise yourself with the content of the text. Depending on previous knowledge, this can be one page or maybe even several pages.
- Next, listen to the book version and read it in the second language at the same time. Try to understand every word and read at the same time. If you can understand everything and read along easily, you can move on to point
- Listening without reading. Maybe even close your eyes. Can you still understand everything? If so, then you can move on to point 4. If not, briefly stop at the places you do not yet understand and look up the unfamiliar word.
- Now that you understand the text blindly, you can switch to passive listening. Take the audiobook and listen to it again and again. Set your MP3 player to “repeat indefinitely”. It won’t hurt to listen to the whole story over and over again. Then you have already prepared yourself for the next sections and will be faster at points 1 to 3. You will notice that you will soon know many sentences of the text by heart.
Why does the method work?
The layout of the text
By allocating the foreign language to the translation sentence by sentence, the meaning of unknown words can be grasped particularly quickly.
Here an example from the book “The Speckled Band – Bilingual English German”. In contrast to many other bilingual books the translation can be found directly neyt to the original. Most of the time a short glance to the orignial will suffice to find the translation.
The amount of text
By reading extensively, you will learn a vast amount of German vocabulary, a plethora of sentence constructions and also, indirectly, about grammar.
Here’s an example: Suppose you divide the book “The Red-Headed League” into 30 sections (one section accounts for about 1.5 pages or two minutes of the audiobook). The process of actively going through a part, i.e. the time you actually spend on working out the text with the help of book and audiobook (points 1 to 3 of the L-R method), will not take much longer than 20 minutes (this may take a little longer if there is little or no previous knowledge).
With the commitment of 20 minutes a day, you’ve worked your way through the entire vocabulary of the Sherlock Holmes story after 30 days, and that’s about 1800 different words! Reading can only be learned by reading and this also applies to reading a foreign language. The audiobook contributes to the improvement of listening comprehension and pronunciation.