Several weeks ago, I started using a book that teaches Garifuna speakers how to read their language. There are example sentences with little pictures and some short, imaginative, and entertaining stories. For example, how a monkey tried to eat an iguana and fell out of a tree on his head; how a cat swallowed a toy rat and died; and how a proud fish laughed at other fish's funny eyes or whiskers. Reading these is becoming a daily addiction! =)
Last week in my graduate program we looked at reading comprehension strategies in classroom language instruction, which is easily applicable to my own language learning ventures, as well. Here are my not-always-helpful tendencies:
1. If I don't immediately recognize a word, feverishly hunt for it in the dictionary.
2. If I don't immediately understand why a suspicious suffix is attached to a word, call it an emergency and run to my favorite language helper.
3. Read through a story once and want to immediately move on to the next.
These are some more effective strategies I've been using since being further enlightened (or reminded of fairly straight-forward reading comprehension principles):
1. Look at the title of the story and illustrations and predict what I think the story is about, recalling basic and familiar words I know that relate to the topic.
2. Read the story through to see if I get the gist, identifying parts I'm not sure of, and making some guesses on vocab words.
3. Read the story a second time, this time looking up words I still don't recognize (interestingly, waiting to look them up helps me decipher words I really do know that are brilliantly disguised by affixes or variant forms). I take my time and imagine the story in my head - the visual images, sounds, smells, dyamics between characters, etc.
4. I think about concepts that come up repeatedly in stories that might convey cultural practices or values. I also note similar patterns from the spoken stories I've heard in Garifuna.
5. ***If I don't understand every word or or grammar structure, I don't worry about it; I store it in the "for future research" category in my brain.
6. I read the story a third and final time, usually out loud, so I can remember it later and practice pronunciation.
I am thinking about taking these stories to read to nieces and nephews next time I get to see them! Social interaction always makes a learning activity more fun and meaningful. =)