Sometimes I Feel Dyslexic Reading Arabic has been transcribed from Steve’s YouTube channel. 



Hi there, Steve Kaufmann here. Today I want to talk about the power of reading and I’m going to explain why I’m on this subject.


First of all, today is December the 10th here in Vancouver. A week from now I will be in Fez, Morocco. Now, I know they don’t speak the same Arabic as I’ve been learning. They speak Moroccan Arabic and I’m not going to bother trying to learn it because I’m only going to be there six days, five days. I’m going to see if I can find taxi drivers or city guides who speak Fusha, who speak standard Arabic so that I can get a guide of the city or a tour to some of the outskirts or nearby sites with someone who speaks standard Arabic. In any case, I’m going to look for people or I might just find a tutor.


I want to learn Arabic. I’m going to read Arabic. Of course I’m going to be surrounded by people who speak quite a different form of Arabic, but it will be a comfort to me that I’ll be able to read, at least to some extent. I definitely feel that I’m turning the corner in my ability to read Arabic and I think reading is key and so important in language learning. Stephen Krashen always talks about extensive voluntary reading, extensive reading.


I remember I was at a presentation where teachers were talking about story listening as a strategy in the classroom and the goal was to get the students motivated so that they would read. Reading enables us to consume so much of the language inexpensively by borrowing books at the library or finding stuff on the internet.


Reading is a phenomenal way of learning languages. Reading is a phenomenal way of learning anything. If we look back in time, of course, before there was writing all we had was storytelling and storytellers in many cultures would simply repeat the stories to the next generation and the next generation and that’s how we have Homer’s Ulysses, The Odyssey, The Iliad and stuff like that and similar traditions in other cultures in Southeast Asia and elsewhere.


Writing began I think more to record stalks of grain. It was more like an accounting thing. That was true in Mesopotamia. It was even true when I was in 02:37.8 and I learned about the original writing system of the Incas, which were knots in a rope or things of that nature. Writing was a means of recording things that otherwise would have had to be maintained orally. If people had invented mp3 technology before writing maybe we would never have moved towards writing. I don’t know, but writing is a way of recording speech and so when we are reading we are ingesting words. We are ingesting, hopefully, interesting content.


Certainly, there’s a lot of work now being done to improve literacy even in developed countries because a significant percentage of the population in all developed countries doesn’t read very well and the better people read the better they do economically, academically. A high percentage of people in prison have low literacy. There are studies that show maybe a quarter of kids start school with a sort of reading gap that they will never ever catch up on because  their parents didn’t read to them or because the parents didn’t use a wide vocabulary at home or for any number of reasons.


Then there’s the problem of dyslexia. Someone commented to LingQ this week and they said I have never been able to read a book because I have severe dyslexia, but using LingQ, I think probably on a mobile device, and using the sentence mode so that he breaks down text into one sentence at a time and being able to hear the words (text to speech) any word that he has trouble reading, he has read five Russian novels in one year, this learner of ours. I thought to myself it’s true that LingQ helps you read because for me reading Arabic is a bit like being dyslexic.


Reading Arabic on LingQ makes things easier

To some extent, in English you can’t necessarily tell how a word is pronounced just by the way it’s spelled, but that’s much more of a problem in Arabic where in many of the texts the vowels are not indicated so you just have consonants and you don’t know whether it’s an o, an ooh or an e in between the consonants. Plus, I’m still getting used to these letters and I still confuse some of them.


So I might be like the dyslexic reader, but I am able to read by looking words up, by clicking on the text to speech and then hearing the natural voice and slowly, slowly, slowly this improves my ability to read to the point where now I can pick up a paper book. I had bought this Harabs Metro de Express for learning Arabic and the font is so small I couldn’t read it to save my life, but now I can read it. I think that the same could be true for people who suffer from dyslexia. At any rate, I would like to find out one day if what we do at LingQ and the functionality there would be helpful to people who are dyslexic or people who have trouble with literacy. In any case, reading is probably the most efficient, least cost way of acquiring information.


I should say too that reading is like listening without the audio, especially if it’s a foreign language. We are sub-vocalizing as we are reading and conversely when I hear a word the image that I have is the written word. So if it were English and I think of the word red I don’t see the color red, I see r-e-d. When I listen to Arabic now more and more I am able to visualize the written word that corresponds to that spoken word, if I know the word. If I don’t know the word I can’t do that. So I have that kind of a relationship to Arab words, I have to know them. I can’t necessarily read an unknown word and pronounce it correctly all by myself, but I am able to connect the sounds of certain words to the way those words are written.


All I’m getting at in all of this is people think they’re going to talk their way to fluency. As you know, I’m not a big fan of that. I think that you read and listen your way to a significant potential level in a language and then you go out and exposure yourself to as much opportunity to speak as possible, but you are at least starting from a position of strength because you have this vocabulary, this familiarity with the language, this ability to connect written words to spoken words and so forth so that your speaking skills grow quite quickly.


Again, my previous was about this 07:48.8 in Japan and someone said well, in Japan they need more practice at speaking because they can all read. I have not found that to be the case. When I speak to people who claim that they can read well, whether they be from Asia or anywhere, then I’ll say well, have you read any novels recently in English? Do you read? What do you read besides the odd newspaper article? They don’t read very much.


When I’m talking about reading I’m talking about, for example, my statistics in Russian where I read three million words, like lots of reading. Reading is a powerful way and an inexpensive way to improve your language skills. It’s also an extremely important skill for life and it was all inspired by this fellow who claimed that he had heavy dyslexia and had been able to read five Russian novels in a year and, of course, he’s a learner of Russian using the kind of functionality that we have at LingQ and that others may also have.


Thank you for listening, bye for now.