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ESL Article: How I read Irving''s Novel

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It wasn''t until I started to use English at work, that I realized I had reached a dead end as a learner of the English language. Do you know this feeling? You can understand people speaking English. You can even communicate quite well.

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Then you suddenly discover that your vocabulary is limited to a certain number of words which you use all the time even to describe other words you might have read but now don''t remember.

It''s just as if you have a blockage in your head that doesn''t allow you to remember and apply new words and structures. Believe me, this can make you feel very embarrassed in social as well as professional situations!

There were many reasons why I could neither go abroad nor sign up for a language course to improve my English. I thus decided to get back to reading books in English which I used to do occasionally a long time ago.

My first step seemd obvious -- I had to choose an author I liked so if I stopped reading the book I could have used the excuse that it had been boring. So I chose John Irving''s novel "A Widow for One Year" which I hadn''t read before -- neither in Polish nor in any other language.

What was the book like? Very challenging! Especially at the beginning when I had to stop thinking in Polish about what I was reading. Not to mention giving up translating every single sentence in my mind. Moreover, first it seemed to be quite impossible to read and understand without using a dictionary but then I imperceptibly began to get it! And that was the moment when the real adventure and fun began. Suddenly I was so much taken over by the fascinating characters and the surprising plot of the novel that I completely forgot about the language I was reading the book in.

As far as my progress in learning English is concerned I must admit that even reading this one novel was very beneficial for me. First all and to my surprise I found Irving''s way of writing very clear and easy to read. This fact made me feel really satisfied and motivated to read more books (not only by Irving).

Secondly, I discovered that when you read a book in English you reach the stage where you stop thinking in Your mother tongue. It''s just as if you were there inside the story, among the characters who speak English with you.

Furthermore, reading Irving''s novel gave me the opportunity to be exposed to a large number of new words and expressions which the author uses in different contexts. I highlighted some phrases I found particularly interesting and even wrote them down. This helped me memorize the new vocabulary.

Let me just tell you that after I had read this book I finally stopped confusing four very simliar sounding words: "conceive", "concede", "conceal" and "convince". So, for this achievement alone my efforts were worthwhile.

"A Widow for One Year" is a great book and I can indeed recommend it.

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Author: Aneta Bukowska (edited by Alan Townend)

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