Best Books To Learn A New Language

My Dearest Mad-Readers,

Some of you may be thinking that this article will be about grammar, phonology or any other language skill you need to sharpen when learning a new language. As a quick disclaimer, I will merely say it will not be the case. I want this blog post to give you a few ideas of fiction books which you may enjoy reading from a beginner level to an advanced, or even proficient level. So, without further ado, let us dig in!

A Word Of Advice

When starting to learn a new language, it is important to create the habit of studying the target language on a daily basis for the amount of time which works best for you. In order to do so, one should progressively set goals. This means you should not do 5 hours one day, and zero the next. It is better to do 1 hour everyday, or you will quickly be exhausted.

It is exactly the same with books. It can be exhausting to read them in a foreign language, hence the importance of the notion of progressiveness. If you begin with an epic fantasy novel of 800 pages, you will not have finished it before months and hence will not get the positive effects (the satisfaction) of finishing said book before a long time.

This is why I would advise you to start slow. Learning a language is a marathon, remember ?

Beginners

Here is a list of what, in my humble opinion, is best for you :

  • Short stories and novellas
  • Graphic novels, manga, comics…
  • Newspapers (not books, I know)
  • Blog posts (not books, I know)
  • Children books (with pictures)
  • Book extracts
  • Bilingual editions of books

With all these formats, you will rapidly be finished and get the satisfaction of having done something rather difficult for your level. Do not be afraid of taking this one step. You did this when you were a child, and learning a language is quite the same as going back to childhood. You are back to square one and need to memorize all the words, the structure, the culture…

Some titles I would recommend when you get more comfortable:

* I added links to GoodReads, if you wish to know more about each book.

  • Harry Potter, J.K Rowling: It is a saga, so you have time to get used to the author’s writing style and vocabulary. Plus, it becomes harder with each book. The first is short and rather simple, then the difficulty slightly increases with the second, and so on…
  • The Little Prince, Saint-Exupéry : A short novel which should touch your heart.
  • Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, Mark Haddon : This is the very first novel I read in English, and I always tell anyone who asks that this is THE BEST book to begin with. So, you know what you have to do. Check it out 😉

Intermediate learners

To give you a concrete example, I am currently reading Twilight in Italian. Since I do not have much time to read, one could almost consider it a bad move on my part, because I cannot get the satisfaction of having read it as quickly as one may want to. In my defense, I do not mind and, since I have enough experience with language learning, this is not going to discourage me and make me quit.

In my opinion, Twilight remains an appropriate novel for intermediary learners such as me, since the writing is rather easy. It is a first-person narrative, the font height is quite big and it takes no time to finish a chapter. Plus, it gives you a nice overview of most grammatical tenses, since you can find : present simple, present perfect, past simple, past perfect, and several others which you would encounter in a normal conversation.

In my case, it allows me familiarize myself with the present, the passato remoto, the passato prossimo, the congiuntivo… but also vocabulary items which I seriously need in order to rise from B1 to B2 one day. I do not intend to remain B1 forever, and setting ambitious goals is the only way I know to become fluent and, later, proficient.

With an intermediary level, all the books I advised for beginners are still extremely relevant and should not be neglected. It is very likely you still have a lot to learn from a children book, even with a higher level. If you do not believe me, try out for yourself.

Some new titles :

Since I do regularly tell you to have a critical mind, I hope you will notice that these titles are mostly relevant for English learning. They work just fine for European languages as well, but I have little to no experience with Asian languages, so I can only tell you to make your own research.

Disclaimer

This article is especially relevant for people who learn languages with Latin, Greek, or German roots. My advice may also be less relevant to someone who has an Arabian or Asian background since they had to learn everything from scratch, even the alphabet. As a French native, I have always been more interested in languages close to mine such as English, Italian, Spanish, German… Despite our differences, our cultures and ways of thinking are still close. I am aware it is far harder to learn Japanese or Chinese as a European, like the other way around is just as true.

Advanced & Proficient Learners

I have kept for the golden bit. When you become more advanced and grow toward proficiency, your possibilities are endless. I expect most of you will not be interested, since I consider this the highest level you may reach when sharpening your reading skills.

Reading epic-fantasy :

I recommend reading The Hobbit first, since it is a single volume, instead of a long saga.

I could also advise you to read classics, such as Madame Bovary, by Flaubert. They would match your level, though you may not want to… well… if you do not see what I mean, just read more classics. Do not misunderstand, I do enjoy classics, it just depends on which one it is.

Some I would recommend (especially for English learners) :

Signing off & News

Have you ever learned a second, a third, a fourth, a Xth language ? Tell me in the comments below !

I will soon be able to shoot a new video about my experience on Gentoo and I will publish an article when I release said video. However I have some technical problems at the moment due to my recent install and I have to make everything work before that.

I also need to learn how to use OBS, but I am not yet sure whether or not my next video will be with OBS. Perhaps I will use ffmpeg one more time.

Thank you for taking the time to read this blog post. I hope it was entertaining enough! If you liked it, feel free to let me know via email, by subscribing, liking, and/or commenting. You may also check out some more of my work. I also have a Patreon page, a YouTube channel, if you wish to support me there, and a GoodReads account.

Take care of yourselves,

Phil.

11 thoughts on “Best Books To Learn A New Language

  1. My ancestors were French; on my father’s side, they were Norsmen with relatives in Alsace or whatever is across the Belgian border with Deutschland. On my mother’s side, they came from Le Plessis Marais somewhere in france; some place them in the Rhône Valley; others west of Paris. And I can’t speak French or Deutsch at all, but sort of understand Nederlandsch (Dutch) and Vlaams (Flemish) to some extent. I only ever studied Afrikaans and English.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. No, Sir, not after 12 strokes. I will do it if I really need it, but curiosity killed the cat. Sometimes, we need to know our limitations as well. A renowned author pushed himself to write after stroke; that earned him a wheelchair seat in the end. Then he kept pushing and died, at a relatively young age.

        Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.