Dear SK Language: When I’m Reading I have to Translate Every Word

A reader of this blog was inspired to evaluate her reading skills because of my post “You Can Read Well, But But Can’t Speak?”  She emailed me and at the end of the email, she asked a question I had never thought of before.  Her email is below:

Dear SK Language:

So I looked up The Little Prince in French and read the dedication (below). 

Je demande pardon aux enfants d’avoir dédié ce livre à une grande personne. J’ai une excuse sérieuse : cette grande personne est le meilleur ami que j’ai au monde. J’ai une autre excuse : cette grande personne peut tout comprendre, même les livres pour enfants. J’ai une troisième excuse : cette grande personne habite la France où elle a faim et froid. Elle a besoin d’être consolée. Si toutes ces excuses ne suffisent pas, je veux bien dédier ce livre à l’enfant qu’a été autrefois cette grande personne. Toutes les grandes personnes ont d’abord été des enfants. (Mais peu d’entre elles s’en souviennent.) Je corrige donc ma dédicace :

I made it through to the last four sentences before I lost it pretty much completely.  Before that, even when I didn’t know every word, I was able to make good sense of the sentence.  That would not get me through a conversation with a French speaker, but it was OK for reading, I thought.
 
The second problem is that I was not reading it in French.  I was translating it into English as I read.  That won’t help me speak French better will it?  I have work to do. 
Signed,
Your Dedicated Reader 

My response:

Dear Reader:
Good work. Maybe at the end, you ran out of steam. It was tough for you.
We both have work to do to improve our reading skills.
.

You’re right; In conversation, you won’t have time to translate every word you hear and every word you want to say.  When we get fluent, the meaning of what our conversation partner has said will be apparent to us instantaneously, and phrases we want to say will pop into our minds in our target language.
If you keep reading, and you listen to the language, the translating will diminish naturally.  Reading will help you speak better because you’ll learn lots of phrases and vocabulary from reading.  Keep listening and reading.  Fluency will come.
Signed,
Let’s Get Fluent Together, SK Language
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