How to read a novel in second or third language

Reading Time: 3 minutes

The very simple way to proceed with a novel is to take it and continue reading till the end at a stretch! Of course it will not be possible for anyone to stay glued with a book for three or four days at a stretch! One need to eat, sleep and do other necessary and unnecessary works!

Yet the best way to read a novel is to read it at a stretch! Because there is a story, there are surprises, there are romances, and there are complexities, crises and mystery in a novel. One needs to get the full out of it. To do this there is only one alternative and this is to finish the book at a stretch!

Of course one can take pauses if necessary at the end of a chapter! You can take a break but remember to begin reading it soon and move forward till you come to the end. Otherwise you may forget what you have read earlier!

And the very basic problems one face in reading a novel is vocabulary, allusions, historical and philosophical context which might be unknown to a new reader.

It is commonly practised by most new readers that they carry a dictionary along with the novel. When the stuck on the way, get entangled in the myriad puzzles of word they start searching those words immediately in a dictionary. It is the grave fault in dealing with a novel. Because it takes a lot of time to find a word and the more words you search, the more time you waste to read a novel.  More pathetically it drains your interest in the novel and you got stuck and cannot proceed further.

A novel in regard to size is bigger of course. And regular pausing and searching words make it boring and journey tiresome. As a result reading hampered. Actually you cannot reach a destination if you make several pauses and forget where you will go. Searching words are like make you forget in what business you are in! You are to read a novel and get the story in it. You are not reading it to know all the words and their meaning! Keep those for 3rd, 5th or 10th reading. Or if you make any research on it!

So the things a reader should do or don’t do while reading a novel is as follows:

  1. Never pause for word: The first thing a reader shouldn’t forget that you cannot make a pause and search words in the dictionary. One need not know all the words in a novel to understand the story in it.
  2. Never panicked with the historical events or references in a novel: A writer writes staying in his historical and regional context. There will be mention of many historical events in a novel. A new reader might not know all those details and find it hard to proceed. But the solution is again the same. Don’t pause for it. Don’t stop to learn the true or certain events which mentioned in the novel, of course not in the first reading. You can do it in your second, third or fifth reading! Or when you will do research on it, do PhD on it! Until then it is not necessary to know all the historical contexts at the first reading.
  3. Ignore philosophy: There are many novels in world literature which are not merely stories but jam-packed with philosophical and psychological murmuring. A new or novice reader might go in mesh in going through those episodes. There is enough possibility of getting lost in the maze of philosophical and psychological rendering. If you stop and try to learn all those philosophical and psychological terminologies, it will take years when you will find that you haven’t read the novel for one’s!


So, at the first reading never give a pause for philosophy or psychology in a novel. Just move your train to the last tunnel.

Only one very necessary tool you can keep in your finger is a pencil. Whatever you find interesting, whatever complexities you met, any historical references you didn’t understood, any philosophical and psychological aspects you can’t penetrate..just go on reading and pencil through them! You can deal well with them later on.

Just never stop until you reached to the last line!

After you finished your first reading you will find you understand the novel quite well! Moreover, you did finish a novel at last! Understanding rate may vary. You can try to find out the meaning of the words which stood in front of your understanding of the novel in your second, third or fourth reading. To have a better grasp on it you can also try to have a better look on the historical context the novel set in and the philosophical and psychological complexities the novel flooded in your second, third or fourth reading.



(This article first appeared in the daily sun on March 13, 2014)

Sabidin Ibrahim

Central Coordinator, Bangladesh Study Forum (BDSF)


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