Can you learn a new language with Harry Potter?

So you want to learn a new language but don’t want to spend hours conjugating verbs and reading about boring grammatical tenses.  If you like to read and have a favourite book or series then The “Harry Potter Method” might be your ticket to conversational fluency!

This system is a great way to learn any new language for a number of reasons we will outline below.  The method is best used when combined with other programs but it will no doubt be a fun and interesting way to boost your language learning whether you are a fan of Harry Potter or not.

Harry Potter

This is referred to as the Harry Potter method because of the availability and graduated nature of the series, however, if you aren’t a fan of the series or would prefer to read another genre or style the method and techniques can still be applied.  The Harry Potter series is a great place to start because they are widely available in nearly every major language (68 to be exact) and they are graduated in their complexity.  This means that the first few books are written for a younger audience and as such the grammar, vocabulary, and subject matter reflects that.  As the series progresses, so too does the complexity.  Thus, you will continually be challenged with different grammatical tenses and vocabulary as the age of the target audience increases across the series.  As mentioned above, if you aren’t a fan of the series there are a number of other children’s books that have been translated into many other languages and provide a good base for a beginning language learner including The Little Prince and many fairy tales or any book or series that you are familiar with in your native language.

What you will need to start: 

  • Harry Potter in your target language or another book of interest to you (preferably short and at a beginners level)
  • A pen (erasable if you have reservations about writing in your book)
  • A notebook to transcribe new vocabulary and phrases
  • A dictionary / computer / tablet to look-up new words

Once you have selected your book of choice it’s time to start learning!

The process:

  1. Select an easy relatively short book that interests you and find quiet comfortable spot that you will be able to read and write at.
  2. Begin reading a paragraph at a time and try to infer the meaning as best you can.  For now skip over the words you don’t know.
  3. Once you have completed the paragraph, go back and identify all of the words and phrases you don’t understand.
  4. On a computer, tablet, or smart phone – translate the words and phrases you were unfamiliar with – you can write them in the book right above the original word or keep a separate notebook with new vocabulary (This is essential for other techniques like the Goldlist method or Spaced Repetition programs)
  5. Go back and read the whole paragraph again with a new understanding for the words you had to look up
  6. Continue on through the book and watch your progress grow! Try to stick to reading a few pages a day which will help maintain focus and prevent burnout.

Why this works:

Each language only uses a certain amount of base words regularly.  By reading a simple story in your target language you will get exposure to the most commonly used words and phrases.  The more you read the same grammatical tense or phrase the quicker you will become familiar with how sentences are constructed and how the language is used.  The best part is this will happen passively without learning and studying grammar rules.   Additionally, as you read through the book and identify unknown vocabulary you will be left with a huge list of words that are troublesome for you.  You can use this pool of vocabulary and apply it other study methods to ensure that you commit these words to your long-term memory.

Another advantage to choosing Harry Potter or a book you are already familiar with is that you will be able to infer the meaning of words and concepts simple because you are already aware of what is going on in the story.  This will help your brain make lasting connections and ensure that words and phrases are more quickly moved to your long-term memory as you will be able to make stronger associations while learning them for the first time.

Lastly, choosing the Harry Potter series means you will have access to dubbed movies and audio books that will allow you to follow along while reading and improve your listening comprehension as well as getting a better sense for the natural flow and feel of your target language.

Whether you choose to use Harry Potter or another simple book that you are familiar with and interested in; you are sure to see quick progression especially with your vocabulary.  Practice reading aloud or following along with an audio book to improve your pronunciation as well as your comprehension and most of all, have fun!

One thought on “Can you learn a new language with Harry Potter?

  1. Pingback: Intensive Vs. Extensive: How to read effectively in your target language – Language for Life

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