Reading – The Power of Advertisements

This blog post will discuss a reading strategy and the usefulness of reading advertisements in your target language.

Why are advertisements so useful?

Advertisements in the target language (the language that you’re learning) are quite helpful to pick up on good vocabulary and grammar. Advertisements are useful because they often contain all of the following:

  • Strong visual support
  • Contextualized and colorful (interesting) vocabulary
  • Interjections (Oh! Yeah! Woo! Hey! Ouch!)
  • Useful verb forms (plural command, informal you command, polite command, “let’s” command)
  • Economic terminology (money, number, prices…)

Additionally, advertisements are generally short, sweet, and to the point. Short advertisements are easier for novices to read because it’s not a lot of text input and it’s very focused.

How do I find advertisements in my language?

Another advantage to advertisements is that they are pretty easy to find on the Internet. Just use Google Images!

I try the following things to find these useful pictures:

  • just type “[Finnish] advertisements for [McDonald’s]”
  • Look up how to say “Finnish advertisements” in Finnish (suomen mainokset) and search with those words.
  • Look up how to say words like “food,” “car,” “mall,” and look for those terms as well with your searches.

How do I read and learn from advertisements?

Let’s take this advertisement in Finnish:


Here’s what I do with a picture like this:

  1. Read it out loud, to myself, slowly and in my best accent.
  2. Guess on what it could mean. Looking at the visuals, my guess is it will have something to do with a cheeseburger and eating it. I do see the word “ham” at the beginning of the second word – possibly alluding to a hamburger.
  3. What do I know already? I happen to know that “juusto” means “cheese” in Finnish.
  4. Look up the meaning using Google Translate or another useful dictionary. I look up “juustohampurilainen” and GT tells me it means: “cheeseburger.” I also see 1 Euro in the picture. How do you say “one” in the language that you’re learning? (yksi in Finnish)
  5. Now take apart the words/phrases. I take out “juusto,” and “hampurilainen” means “burger.” I happen to know that the ending “-lainen” means to come from somewhere, so I take off the “-lainen” ending and look up just “hampuri.” “Hampuri” means “Hamburg,” the supposed birthplace of the hamburger (although I don’t think this is true).

So from this ad, we’ve learned that “juusto” means cheese, “hampuri” is Hamburg, and “-lainen” we know already to come from somewhere.

Say the whole word again, out loud, in your best accent, with this new context and meaning in mind.


Reading – The Power of Children’s Books

This blog post will discuss how to utilize children’s books to learn languages.

Reading children’s books is a crucial staple in my language learning routine. My study sessions are often centered around reading these texts, learning the vocabulary, pronunciation, and associated grammar. Children’s books give you the opportunity to absorb just about every aspect of the language that you’re learning – and sometimes the culture.

Why are children’s books so helpful?

Children’s books are powerful in their ability to teach a foreign language because they often contain all of the following:

  • A simple story line – beginning, middle, and end. This aids in capturing our natural curiosity.
  • Highly-contextualized and simple vocabulary.
  • Repetition of phrases and ideas – sometimes rhyming.
  • Useful, simple, and high-frequent past tense verbs (said, got, was, were, went, thought, saw…).
  • Supporting visuals to aid comprehension.

Where can I find children’s books? 

There are a surprising number of children’s books available online for free or cheap. I’ve provided some links  to websites that I use below:

  • Children’s Library (use the top-right drop down list where it says “show [any language] books” to find your language.
  • Children’s Books Online
  • Children’s Books Forever (books available in Afrikaans, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Indonesian, Japanese, Norwegian, Spanish, Swedish)
  • Amazon! (search for the language you’re learning and “children’s book” and you’ll be surprised what will pop up. If you have a Kindle, you can buy them for 2 – 3 dollars usually!)

Which ones do I choose?

  • Choose short and simple
  • Lots of visuals
  • Something interesting to you. Look up the title and decide if it’s something you can read enjoyably.
  • Ideally, your book should be written by a native speaker for a native speaker (authentic resource). However, I use translations often and it’s not a big deal (some people might not agree with that). The important thing is that you’re reading, learning vocabulary and structure, and engaging the language. However, as you get more advanced, authentic resources will become more and more important.

OK, I have a children’s book. How do I learn with it?

So you’ve got your hands on a children’s book. Now what? Here’s what I do when I read a children’s book.

  1. Cold read first. I read the first page. I read it slowly, word for word, out loud in my best accent. I do not look up any words. I utilize the visuals in the story and my own prior knowledge.
  2. Re-read the first page – out loud, slowly, in your best accent. (Have fun with it!)
  3. Go back and look for what I know. Make meaning from the text and say what it’s saying in English.
  4. Look for nuances of the language – are endings changing? Is word order changing? What agreement (or lack of agreement) do we notice? Why do you think it’s happening?
  5. Guess the meaning of words – can you tell what some of them might be? Make a list on paper.
  6. Look up what you don’t know. Check your answers through translation. Google Translate works just fine for this – or an online translator. Some of you may hate me for saying that, but it works for our purposes here.
  7. Keep track of your new words/phrases on a piece of paper.
  8. Re-read the first page again – attaching meaning the new words using your new words. Act out what the story is saying as you read it out loud, visualize what is happening in your mind, say it loud and proud, and have fun!
  9. Read the second page. Repeat steps with each page.
  10. At the end, add new vocabulary to a vocabulary set on Quizlet and practice with that context in your mind. Quiz yourself the next day and see what you remember. I hope you’re as surprised as I am!

Do you see how much I take my time with it? You need to attach meaning to the story for it to be useful. Don’t rush – what’s the hurry? Enjoy it!

** A corresponding video featuring me going through this process will be posted in the near future. **