At the outset, your primary goal for reading is to improve your speaking

Why is it so important that you begin to read more extensively? Adult learners of a foreign language don’t have the luxury of learning to speak the way babies do. To a great extent, we must absorb a foreign language via written texts. The linguist Ferdinand Saussure tells us that written language is merely the external representation of speech; the spoken language is the basis of the written language. Thus, for a student of a foreign language, who usually doesn’t have as much verbal linguistic input as a baby has, reading is a way of getting familiar with the nuts and bolts of the language, a shortcut to developing an intuitive “feeling for the language” (Sprachgefühl in German, or, in Chinese, yǔgǎn 语感). And this path is what has, up to now, been very difficult for Chinese learners.

David Moser making the case for reading as a means to improve your spoken language. In the past, beginning to read Chinese was an arduous process but with the abundance of digital tools now available it’s far less time consuming for the adult learner. From The new paperless revolution in Chinese reading.

Steve Kaufmann also shares similar views in a couple of videos: How I went about learning Mandarin & 学语言的7个原则


We often tend to see children as the best and fastest language learners, and attribute their success to a brain plasticity and flexibility that we adults no longer possess. One might quibble with the definition of “brain plasticity”, but a key factor in the learning process is often omitted: the way they acquire a foreign language is different from ours.

Children hear whole sentences. They don’t start with syllables. They simply hear chunks of a language and then identify the single components by themselves. As adults, we tend to think that we can figure out the structure of a language by analysing every single aspect of it, and we lose sight of the general, broader picture. As adults, we still have the capacity to hear, but we have partially lost our capacity to listen. A Polyglot Dream