English stories are a wonderful way to improve your English.
They can be interesting, educational or simply funny.
They can help teach new words, practice grammar, be the base of activities, and generally spark some life and interest into the learning process.
However, there is a right way to use them, and a wrong way to use them.
It’s helpful to have some new words in the story. The learner can check them up in a good dictionary and build up their vocabulary. That is a gradual journey up the “English mountain.”
On the other hand, having several new words on every single line can be exhausting! It simply tends to be too much.
Have a look at these two examples:
1. Lisa can be quite phlegmatic sometimes. Her mother, however, is not phlegmatic at all!” (Phlegmatic = calm and not easily upset.)
2. Lisa used to be so ebullient, but with all the kerfuffle happening lately, she has become quite sanctimonious. (Challenging, isn’t it?;)
(Here are the definitions: Ebullient = very happy and excited. Kerfuffle = unnecessary noise and activity. Sanctimonious = acting as if you are morally better than others.)
As you can see, the second line is a good way to overwhelm somebody! Obviously, I’ve exaggerated a little with these super rare English words, but for a learner even the more common words are new and unknown.
Therefore, it is important for you to find stories in your own level of English. If you are a beginner, don’t start with Charles dickens;) Find something easy and (preferably) entertaining. Move up as your vocabulary grows.
Another important tip is not to try to “guess” what new words mean. Instead, look them up in a good dictionary. That will give you the true meaning of the word. You will be surprised to find out how many mistakes this one tip will save you.
Also, if you are a beginner, try to find stories without much complex grammar inside. For example, stories in the simple present tense tend to work better than stories with more advanced tenses, such as the present perfect, the future progressive, etc.
Check out the following example. The first sentence uses some more advances grammar: “Lisa was feeling sad because she had broken the vase her mother had bought her.”
And compare it to this one: “Lisa’s mother buys her a vase. Lisa breaks the vase. Now she is very sad.”
While the second sentence is definitely no Shakespeare, it can help the beginner concentrate on the new words, rather than on the new grammar.
In summary, when used properly, English stories are a wonderful tool to use and should definitely be part of your learning experience.