How to Find Level-Appropriate Language Material

Reading at Sacré Coeur

Reading at Sacré Coeur

A while back, I wrote about how I was momentarily abandoning my progress on 狼图腾,a novel in Chinese, in favor of reading the Mandarin translation of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. It’s now been about two weeks since I got the Harry Potter book from the library, and I’ve read over forty pages. I find myself picking it up even when I’m tired, and I just want to relax. I still need to consult my dictionary – more often than I would like to admit – but nonetheless, it is fun.

I would say that the Harry Potter translation is appropriate for my level in Chinese. When you’re learning a language, level-appropriate material is crucial. It can also be hard to find.

Why is Level-Appropriate Material so Crucial?

At the very beginning, don’t expect language learning to be extremely fun. When you’re just starting out, everything will be difficult; you’ll spend time memorizing and looking up verb conjugations, and it won’t be the kind of activity you do in the fifteen minutes before going to sleep.

You need to start making language-learning fun as soon as possible. That means finding material that fits into the sweet spot of being challenging but not extremely mentally taxing. It also means having the self-awareness to realize you’re not going to be able to jump into complex non-fiction books immediately.

How to Find Level-Appropriate Material

What is best for you is going to depend on your level, obviously.

Beginner:
Language textbooks
Graded readers
Children’s books – no fairy tales!!

Intermediate:
Graded readers
Young adult fiction / non-fiction
Mass market fiction, such as romance novels
Short newspaper or magazine articles

Advanced:
Congratulations, you can probably tackle just about anything!