11 votes

I have trouble reading classic novels by myself as I spend most of my time looking for meaning of most of the words. Any tips on how I can speed up this process?

English is my third language. Although I can read, write and speak simple english without effort but when reading any novel from the past I find the need to keep a dictionary by my side and use it very often- almost 2 to 3 times per sentence. I know there's no shortcut other than learning those words but I was wondering if I can speed it up so I don't need to distract myself with a dictionary.

7 comments

  1. vakieh Link
    Ditch the paper book and dictionary and use ebooks with built-in dictionary features. I don't need this for general reading, but I do when I read academic papers outside my usual spaces. Kindle...

    Ditch the paper book and dictionary and use ebooks with built-in dictionary features.

    I don't need this for general reading, but I do when I read academic papers outside my usual spaces. Kindle offers a dictionary, Artha runs on Ubuntu, there's a bunch of others.

    You can also use your phone and a voice service to Google Translate if you want to translate back to your first language instead of just getting an English description.

    12 votes
  2. tildes_fl Link
    If you happen to use iPhone, just put it as or download/by an EPUB version and read it on the phone. The built in dicts are really good. You can always look it up in google if you don’t feel...

    If you happen to use iPhone, just put it as or download/by an EPUB version and read it on the phone. The built in dicts are really good. You can always look it up in google if you don’t feel satisfied.

    2 votes
  3. DonQuixote Link
    First of all, from someone who doesn't have even a second language, I'm in awe of your learning. Depending on the novel, sometimes you can build meaning from context. I have no idea if this works...

    First of all, from someone who doesn't have even a second language, I'm in awe of your learning. Depending on the novel, sometimes you can build meaning from context. I have no idea if this works for folks like you who are still learning English. I agree with others that the online or built in dictionaries for e-reading can be very convenient.

    Even though I've been reading a long time, I've lately found myself looking up words just to see if I ever really knew what something was. The latest one was pusillanimous. I've read it in stories before, but never knew that it specifically meant cowardly, craven, with an ignoble lack of courage.

    2 votes
  4. [3]
    loop Link
    Thank you all for your suggestions. I do own an e-reader with a built-in dictionary but I had bought paperback editions of classical novels way before and I feel they might get wasted if I don't...

    Thank you all for your suggestions. I do own an e-reader with a built-in dictionary but I had bought paperback editions of classical novels way before and I feel they might get wasted if I don't read them (a silly thing but I can't help it).

    2 votes
    1. Crespyl Link Parent
      Like other users, I got a lot of value out of my e-reader's dictionary when wading through Infinite Jest, but I'm sympathetic to the desire for the physical books. If it helps, in cases where you...

      Like other users, I got a lot of value out of my e-reader's dictionary when wading through Infinite Jest, but I'm sympathetic to the desire for the physical books.

      If it helps, in cases where you think you can get the gist of a word from the context, but want to learn the word for real without overly interrupting your reading, you might try just writing it down on a list as you go along. That way you can keep progressing, and come back to the list of words with a dictionary when you reach a good place to take a break.

      Obviously this doesn't help if a word is blocking your ability to understand the whole sentence, but it might be a way to find a middle ground between constantly interrupting yourself and feeling like you're missing something. (I also find that the physical action of writing something down helps tremendously with later recollection).

      2 votes
    2. tea_and_cats_please Link Parent
      If it's an old enough classic, you might be able to find an e-book version of it on Project Gutenpberg. https://www.gutenberg.org/ Or you can find a bunch of classic books there to read on an...

      If it's an old enough classic, you might be able to find an e-book version of it on Project Gutenpberg. https://www.gutenberg.org/

      Or you can find a bunch of classic books there to read on an e-reader with built-in dictionary, and thus beef up your English vocabulary to where you can tackle your paperback classics without needing a dictionary :)

      1 vote
  5. pew Link
    If you have a Kindle they have a feature called word wise, it's not available for all books and I guess you need to buy them through Amazon (the book store page will tell you if word wise is...

    If you have a Kindle they have a feature called word wise, it's not available for all books and I guess you need to buy them through Amazon (the book store page will tell you if word wise is available).

    Word wise is quite cool and shows the translation/hints for harder words directly under the word, so you don't need to open up the Kindle dictionary. This would actually speed up your reading. It's also configurable to show more or less words, like an easy, medium, hard setting while you're learning.

    2 votes