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The chief success determinant of EFL learners: To read or not to read

Besides facilitating knowledge enlargement, critical and analytical thinking skills advancement, creativity development, and entertainment, reading also provides EFL learners with meaningful inputs, opportunities to consolidate previously learned language components and skills, chances to improve vocabulary and writing skills, and access to the resourceful and most patient ‘friends, ‘counselor’ and ‘teachers’.

Reading has been acknowledged as an extremely important habit since the time immemorial. It is beneficial for everyone, including adults, students, and children. Adults and older people need to read to keep being up to date. By being well informed they will be more confident and able to make the right decisions. For older people, reading is advantageous because it, as recent research conducted in Rush University Medical Center, Chicago revealed, slows down the progress of (or possibly even prevent) Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. For children, reading nurtures curiosity which further stimulates them to read more and to study. Reading is an essential tool for all students regardless of their study field because it facilitates knowledge enlargement, critical and analytical thinking skills advancement, creativity development, and cheap but health entertainment. However, reading is exclusively more than just a learning tool for EFL learners due to several reasons. This essay discusses some major reasons why reading has an exclusive importance for EFL learners.

The first reason is that reading in English provides exposure to the language. Unlike students who learn English as a mother tongue and a second language, EFL learners study the target language in an environment where it is not used in daily life. This causes them to lack of English inputs and the opportunity to practice it in their daily interaction. Such an exposure gap could be best reduced by the provision of large quantities of English texts. Various studies revealed that authentic comprehensible English texts provide learners with valuable inputs. If students select texts interesting to them the language exposure will occur in a relaxed, tension-free learning atmosphere. Such a condition will make language acquisition very conducive. In most cases, this could be achieved by reading novels or short stories written by English native speakers. Such literary works are generally entertaining and so close to real-life that they provide the readers linguistic competence and cultural awareness which facilitate proficiency in an interesting way.

Secondly, reading can reinforce and recombine the previously learned language. Stories telling past events employ past tenses in natural contexts. Stories that tell present events use present tenses in context. Reading such texts enables students to see numerous examples of sentences of various tenses they might have studied in the classroom. Articles and essays are composed of various types of paragraphs. Reading such texts offers students the potential for reinforcing and recombining paragraph elements and skills they had learned in the classroom. Getting such reinforcement again and again through reading will help EFL students increase their mastery of the target language.

The third reason is that reading effectively increases vocabulary. Research has shown that getting students to spend time on silent reading of interesting books is much more effective to increase their vocabulary than asking them to learn words directly, like memorizing words in lists. That’s true that some words must be learned directly, but most vocabulary is learned indirectly. The more one reads, the more new word he/she comes across. Since most words are met repetitively in various contexts, the reader unconsciously learns their meanings and includes the words into his/her vocabulary repertoire. These new words become more stick in his/her mind when she/he meets them in the next readings. These words help him/her in listening, and they could be used in speaking and writing. 

Reading also improves writing skills. Most professional writers agree that writing is a skill that requires a lot of practice, ideas to share, and models to master. The best way to get good models and to enrich ideas for writing is through reading. Oscar Wilde, a famous Irish poet and playwright, said, "You are what you read". This is precisely true in the reading and writing connection. A person who loves reading poems tends to write poems. People who like reading short stories are inclined to write short stories. Those who work in academia will be apt to write in academic language. Reading also enlightens. It enlarges knowledge and broadens imagination. Reading, therefore, will feed directly into what – and how – you write. Stephen King, the famous American novelist and short-story writer accentuated, “If you don't have time to read, you don't have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.” The close connection of reading and writing is also confirmed by research revealing that students who loved reading before they entered college write much better than those who were not prolific readers in secondary school. Thus, if you want to write well, read a lot!

Last but not least, reading is ready to offer ideas, suggestions, guidelines, and tips you need to do unfamiliar tasks or to solve problems. Students assigned to conduct a survey but are not sure how to devise a proper instrument for collecting data will find reading books or articles describing how to develop a good questionnaire helpful. When you are in doubt about how to write a good argumentative paragraph or how to deliver an effective speech, consulting suitable texts will surely help you deal with the assignment. More interestingly, you can consult books any time you’d like to, and the books never judge you. They are also never impatient, get bored, or inattentive although you consult them again and again and again. Charles William Eliot, an American educator who served as the president of Harvard University for 40 years once said, “Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers.”

To conclude, reading is very essential for EFL learners. Besides the advantages students of all study fields can get from reading, EFL learners can get some exclusive advantages that empower them to succeed in their learning. The exclusive advantages include the provision of meaningful inputs, opportunities to consolidate previously learned language components and skills, vocabulary and writing skills improvement, and the provision of access to the resourceful and most patient ‘friends, ‘counselor’ and ‘teachers’. Realizing the immense power they can get from it, reading is certainly a great opportunity EFL learners must grab. Not seizing an opportunity that is right in one’s nose can be a life-long inconsolable regret. Dear EFL learners, how many pages have you read today?

Author : Parlindungan Pardede (


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