Sometimes, book reports are just, you know, same old same old. A plot summary, a (more or less) detailed character analysis, what you liked / disliked about the book… But it doesn’t have to be that way! Here are all the skills necessary to understand a novel in a foreign language – and five ideas to ramp up your presentation skills.
Step 1: Choose your novel
Choose your novel wisely! You want it to be interesting enough for you to keep on reading, but also adjusted to your level of English. Try to find ways to take a look into the novel first – you’ll be able to evaluate if the book is too hard or too easy for you.
Tip: There are sites that offer tests to evaluate your level of English. You can then also look for books that are especially written for your level: A1, A2, B1…
- If you want to spare some money and read a free ebook I highly recommend manybooks or openlibrary.
- Lots of eBook readers are quite inexpensive – and give you the chance to read whatever and wherever you want. They also give you the advantage of a built-in dictionary – and lots of “classics” of the English language for small prices!
- Schoolbook publishers usually offer some books to purchase as well. In Germany, the biggest companies are Klett, Cornelsen, Schöningh, Helbig, etc.
- You can of course also support your local bookstore or consult your public library. Books in English are nearly everywhere to be found!
Step 2: Read your novel
Sometimes, reading a novel in another language can be quite a daunting task. What actually helps is to read, to re-read – and then to read again. Here are some tips to get you started:
Get the gist of it!
If you read a passage for the first time, try not to get hung up looking up too many words – or even typing full phrases into Google Translate. I know, your smartphone is close, and you know good sites like Linguee or our trusty old Oxford to look up words. But stopping every three words in order to look up a new vocabulary can spoil the fun.
Instead, try to use the following strategies:
- Guess from the context.
- Skip words that you consider unnecessary.
- Only look up important words.
If you read a book that offers some visualizations, try to understand how they are connected to the text.
Go into detail!
In the second step, you are allowed to go into detail. Look up all the words you don’t know. Write them on flashcards and try to learn them. Think about all the synoyms you know.
Situate your knowledge!
Now, try to understand how what you have just read connects to the overall story and “connect the dots”. Make some notes on how the major characters develop – and guess how the story will go on. It can help to keep up your interest in the story.
Step 3: Evaluate your novel
Here are five ideas on how to present your novel in a modern and creative way:
Idea 1: Draw a graphic novel
Graphic novels are one of the coolest genres that exist. They make you think about the most relevant plot points, reconsider how you imagine the characters, and bring out your creative abilities.
Idea 2: Create a movie trailer
Movie trailers are a great way to summarize the action of a novel without giving away the ending. Create a product that tells us most of the content of the novel, insert some cool audio effects and music… The sky is the limit!
Idea 3: Craft a game
You can also turn your novel into a game. It can be a board game, card game, guessing game, or anything else. Write step-by-step directions and rules that are easy to follow. Don’t forget to try it out!
Idea 4: Write a guide
Does your novel play in a certain place, a historical period, or a fantasy world? Show your understanding of the setting by writing a guide to this world for people who have never been there.
Idea 5: Write a spin-off
In TV series, often a side character is so interesting that a whole new series is built around this character. Write one new chapter of that novel and imagine how this character is related to what is going on in the novel you’ve read.
Remember: Reading and presenting your novel to others should be fun and encourage others to read your novel as well. Create interesting products – and have fun doing so!