German reading comprehension is one of the essential things you need to learn if you want to get fluent in the German language.
While speaking a new language might be your first focus, understanding written German is equally important based on my experience.
- If you’re committed to mastering German, then it’s critical to work on your reading comprehension.
- Search for ideas, words, and expressions that you could use when having conversations with others.
- Also, you should take down notes when reading German texts, which enables you to recall what you just read.
- Carrying this out allows you to expand your vocabulary every day.
- By reading the same text multiple times and taking new notes each time, you will eventually comprehend it better.
Topics in this article
Why improve reading comprehension? >>
Don’t concentrate on each word >>
Find the essential information in the text >>
Structuring the information systematically >>
Visualize the information >>
Use the context to understand >>
Try to reformulate in German >>
Identify certain keywords >>
Make assumptions >>
Use headlines to find orientation >>
Why is it essential to improve your German reading comprehension?
Whether you are an adult or a child, enhancing your understanding of German texts has many benefits. You will become a more efficient reader with just a few techniques, and your ability to understand and answer questions will improve significantly.
The following collection of nine tactics to enhance your understanding of German texts uncovers many reasons why this is important for your learning of German.
1. Don’t concentrate on each word, otherwise you lose the overview of the text
Reading a foreign language can be difficult, especially when learning a new language. One crucial piece of advice for you is to not concentrate on each word right from the beginning.
If you start looking up every word, you will soon lose the overview of the context of the text.
Understanding the context of a text is more important than getting every word right from the start. You can start deriving single words from the context as soon as you understand the context.
In the end, this would give you a better feeling of the sentence structure and meanings of specific words over time.
I often compare this with the time when it’s snowing and I’m driving. Especially in the dark. If you look at every snowflake, you will be distracted and you will not see the road anymore.
2. Find the essential information in the text to improve your reading comprehension
Finding the most important information in a text is another crucial element for improving your German reading understanding. But where should you start looking for it? That highly depends on the type of text you are reading.
If it’s a short story, the crucial information can be everywhere but more likely in the middle or closer to the end.
The best way to find important information is to learn how to scan text for specific words visually. The more you read in German, the more you will comprehend what a text is about.
Applying this technique will teach you to skip unimportant information and not try to understand every word.
After this step, you can look up the most crucial phrases you did not understand. The more information you add to the text, the better you will learn vocabulary you did not know before.
3. Structuring the information systematically will help you better understand the texts
This method will significantly enhance your ability to understand German texts in a short period. It will help if you take notes while reading a new story or text in German not only at the beginning of your learning journey.
It would be best if you tried to structure the information systematically, as this will help you understand the context of a given text.
Make sure you understand the main subject of the text and try to structure all additional information accordingly.
This concept is called “invisible translation” and was presented to the public by Abdolmhid Riazi, Ph.D., in 2022.
4. Close your eyes and visualize the information
Several different visualization strategies out there help you improve understanding written German. The most common one is to close your eyes and visualize the information of a foreign text.
But let me get more specific about it.
When reading a new story in German, try focusing on the movie playing in your head while reading.
- You may ask yourself:
- what the story’s setting looks like
- where it takes place
- how it smells
- the characters’ appearance
- what they are doing, etc.
Practicing this technique allows you to immerse yourself faster in a completely new story or text. You can better understand the authors’ intention and the context of the text in front of you.
5. Use the context to understand the meaning of unknown words
As mentioned above, it’s not crucial to understand every single word in an unfamiliar text. If you are reading a new text and understand the context, you will soon be able to derive unknown words from the overall meaning.
If you use this method, you will soon be able to gain a lot more experience with the German language, its sentence structure, and the use of vocabulary in a specific context.
6. Try to reformulate in German or your mother tongue what you understood
Improving your reading comprehension is also about reformulating the context in your own words. In the beginning, it does not matter whether you reformulate everything in your native language or German.
By practicing this technique, you can significantly improve your understanding of the German language.
As soon as you’ve progressed with that technique, you should start finding alternate German words to explain what a text is about.
7. Identify certain keywords
Identifying specific keywords might sound more complicated at the beginning than it is.
There are two methods that you can follow while reading a new text:
Reading passage by passage to find keywords
When you skim a passage, take a pen and start underlining keywords or words that you think are important for the context. Try to extract information from the passage, such as names, locations, facts, figures, or capitalized words that might be important.
After doing this for all the passages in a text, you can read through the whole text again and try to line up keywords in your head. That way, you can figure out what the entire text could be about.
Read the questions about the text first and try to find keywords
If your text or short story has specific questions, you can focus on them first.
Again, take a pen and find the paragraphs that might contain the content you need to answer those questions.
Underline the most important words like nouns, verbs, or groups of nouns without their articles because they don’t matter at that time.
8. Make assumptions
Making logical assumptions while reading a new text is something you might have to train for a while. Whether it’s a fictional or non-fictional text, you can familiarize yourself with “read between the lines” and guess.
When you learn how to make those assumptions, you will be able to not only understand the context of a text but also grasp the intention of the text. If you are unfamiliar with this methodology, I suggest you try it with a text in your native language first.
After you get used to it, it’s time to start practicing the same approach with German short stories.
If you develop this method over time, it will shorten the time you have to spend reading a text, as you will be able to grasp the true meaning of a text more quicker.
9. Use headlines to find orientation
Another way to improve your ability to understand written German is to work with headlines to find orientation in a text. This approach works expressly well with non-fictional texts that are more likely to be structured with headlines.
You can first read all the headlines to get a better understanding of the content of each paragraph. Approaching a new text like this also gives you a better understanding of the overall context before reading the sections.
Another way to work with headlines is to structure a content piece that does not have headlines in it with your headlines. Work through each paragraph and try to summarize it in your own words in a short but descriptive headline and write it above it.
In this post, I tried to put together the nine best tactics to improve your reading comprehension in German.
While I learned German, I found those very helpful. I recommend you spend enough time reading German short stories or other content like local newspapers.
From my experience, understanding written language is crucial to getting more familiar with German.
Over time, your skills will develop even faster.
Would you like to learn practical information about learning German?
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