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Why is reading a foreign language so much harder than speaking it?


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Is there research to back that up? I actually have found it easier to read French than it was to speak it. It's been quite awhile since I've read or spoken more than just basic French, but if I see something written in French that's a little more complicated, I can take a pretty good guess about what it says. But if I had to speak that same thing, I would have a very hard time coming up with the vocabulary and the right sentence structure. But maybe that's just me :wink:

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Yeah, this seems dodgy. I find it much easier to read than speak foreign languages, and that seems to be the same with my aquaintances - we are often near fluent at reading and sometimes writing, not so much speaking and listening. Perhaps a specific age group was targetted in this study?

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I'm a speech-language pathologist so I have an understanding of language from that perspective. Maybe it depends on whether your receptive (understanding/comprehension) or expressive (use/formulation) language is stronger. I feel like my receptive language might be a bit stronger than my expressive language, though I have no testing to back that up. So it would make sense that reading a foreign language would be easier than speaking it. However, I do have a hard time understanding spoken French (the only foreign language I've studied), and find it harder to write in French also. So maybe my theory is completely wrong:) Perhaps it depends on which foreign language you're learning?

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I've found this to be true. I have a bunch of friends that speak Portuguese, they speak it way better than me. So, I'm focused on learning how to read and write it so I can improve. So when I show them my books and notes and try to get them to read Portuguese, they really struggle. It even happens with the English language, there are people who speak English amazingly well, but can't read it too good. You have to read it as frequent as you speak it to put the spelling of the word together with how it sounds.

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I had a hard time learning to read as a kid.  When I was just learning english on my own the first thing I started doing was reading, I did it before even attempting to speak the language with others.  Actually I used to read several phrases over and over... just to practice.  For some reason reading english seemed easier than speaking it, mostly because I had to just read one word after another.  Speaking a language seems harder because I need to build phrases on my own quite fast.

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I thought that maybe it was just me honestly. I definitely find it easier to have dialogue and think of the words to say versus reading the language. I think a big part of it for me is that within many languages there are silent letters or certain letters that receive more of an accent and etc. So therefore your brain has to think harder to put the puzzle pieces together so to speak.

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Maybe it depends on whether your receptive (understanding/comprehension) or expressive (use/formulation) language is stronger.

Relating to this, I think it depends on how the brain processes things.  Reading and comprehending a language is a lot different than speaking it aloud.  With reading, you can usually take your time.  With speaking, you're more often than not put on the spot and have to toss out a sentence right then.  It's a lot more difficult drawing out vocabulary in an instance than having a moment to work it out in your head.

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It is true that some people speak their second language better than they read or write it because they can use simpler word when they speak. Reading, on the other hand, is more complex because there are words they might not understand. They haven't learned the basis or the concept of the language, also they don't like to read or write, which is a good way to practice the language. Speaking, you can understand the overall meaning of what people say, which is different from deciphering from reading.

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For me, reading and writing a foreign language is actually easier than speaking it. I think this varies from person to person. Some people are really good at speaking while some excel in reading/writing.

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A main reason would be that when it comes to reading foreign languages, a completely new writing system and unfamiliar pronunciations would be involved.

Speaking is essentially mimicking the vocals and tones by using the mouth. Learning by hearing and talking is an archaic and primal talent we all have. Reading and writing on the other hand is learnt usually later than listening or speaking. Reading and writing an alien language is similar to deciphering an entirely new form of script - kind of like solving a puzzle game or secret code.

And if the person was reading a foreign language whose alphabet is nowhere related to the reader's mother tongue, then the reader has to tackle new characters and new forms of communications from scratch. Like a baby and learning the language again through baby steps.

Regards,

The Antiquarian.

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In my opinion, having more difficulty reading a foreign language than speaking it would be more associated with children.I find it much more easier to read than to speak, maybe because in reading I don't have to be perfect in my pronunciations and I don't have to use much effort to utilize the accent of that language. 

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I think it's because of the fact that you have to deal with the syntax and semantics of a language when you go to the reading part of it. You start to focus on the structure of that specific language which generally makes it harder to read because you try to correct your mistakes in your mind.

During speech, however, you're practicing by speaking openly to yourself and others who in turn immediately correct you so you have more reassurance and don't really care much of the semantics of the language.

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I find it much more difficult to speak a new language than read it or write it.  Seeing the words when I am writing helps me to piece together the puzzle easier.  When I am learning to speak it I am constantly translating back and forth in my mind and tend to miss the nuances of the language.

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