Brief Description and Useful Recommendations

Each text is broken up into small excerpts. The adapted excerpt with inserted literal English translation and brief lexical comments comes first. The original text follows untranslated with no prompts.

Those who have just begun learning a foreign language can first read the text with the prompts and later on, the same text without any prompts. If they forget the meaning of some word but understand the text in general, it is unnecessary to look for a translation in the adapted excerpt. They will come across this word more than once in the future. The exact purpose of the untranslated passage is that for some amount of time, no matter how short, the reader is “swimming on his own”. When he has finished reading the original (unadapted) text, he should move on to the next adapted excerpt. And so on. There is no need to go back to review the material. One is just supposed to keep on reading.

Naturally, at first you will be overwhelmed by the torrent of unknown words and forms. Don’t be discouraged: no one is testing anyone here. As you read (it may happen in the middle of the book or as you’re approaching the end) everything will “fall right into place” and you’ll probably be surprised: “Why do they provide the translation and the dictionary form of the word again when it’s already clear!” When you reach the “underderstood without saying” level, it’s worth changing the order in which you read: the unadapted excerpt first and the translated part second. (The same recommendation may be made to those who do not start learning a foreign language from scratch).


Language, by nature, is a means, not a goal. That’s why it is best learned not when somebody sets a specific purpose of mastering it, but when it is being naturally used either in conversation or when a person becomes engrossed in reading something interesting. Then it is learned by itself, latently.

Our memory is closely related to what we are feeling at a particular moment; it depends on what condition our inner world is in, how “awake” we are right now (and not, for example, how many times we repeat a certain expression or how many exercises we do).

In order to remember we don’t need to be frantically memorizing something, while half-asleep, or polishing certain skills. What we need is novelty of impressions. Instead of pronouncing the same word several times, it would be better if we saw it in different collocations and various contexts of meaning. The largest part of the most frequently used vocabulary will be memorized naturally, if you utilize the suggested reading method, due to the frequency of words. That’s the reason why, having read the text, one doesn’t have to try to memorize the new words. The “I won’t move on until I’ve digested it” approach doesn’t work here. The more intense the reading, the faster the person races ahead, the better. In this case, the more superficial, the more relaxed the manner of reading is, the better, strange as it may seem. Then the very volume of material starts to work for you; quantity turns into quality. Thus, the only thing that’s required from a reader is reading not thinking about a foreign language as something that for some reason should be learned, but thinking about the content of the book.

If you read really intensively, the method should work. The biggest mistake anyone makes when studying a foreign language is that they do it little by little, not jumping into it head first. Language is not mathematics; one doesn’t need to learn it, one needs to get accustomed to it. It’s not about logic or memory; it’s about experience and skill. It rather resembles a sport that one should practice according to a certain schedule, because otherwise there’ll be no result. If you start reading in a foreign language at once and do it a lot, then fluency is only a matter of three or four months (for beginners). If you read little by little, it’s just agonizing and slow. Language, in this sense, is akin to an icy hill – you have got to move fast if you want to get to the top of it. As long as you can’t reach the top you’ll be sliding down each time. If a person attains fluency in reading, they will never lose that skill or forget the vocabulary, even if they don't use it for several years.

What is one supposed to do about the grammar? Actually, in order to understand a text that contains such prompts, one does not need grammar – all will be clear anyway. Soon one becomes used to certain forms and the grammar is also learned latently. It is very much like when people who had never studied grammar but were put in a language environment, managed to master the language. I’m not saying this so that you keep away from grammar (it is very interesting and useful). The only point is that you could begin reading such books without being an expert on grammar; rudimentary knowledge would do. This kind of reading can be recommended at the earliest stage. Such books will help you overcome a very crucial barrier: you’ll learn the vocabulary and get accustomed to the logic of the language while saving time and energy.

Ilya Frank