Reading improves language and knowledge

Posted on January 26, 2019 · Posted in Blog, General, Personal


My Tunku Besar School, Tampin teacher made the following observation: “If you only learn to speak a language, you will eventually lose your proficiency with it, but if you can read and write that language, you will own it forever.”

Speaking a language is an auditory activity. Reading a language is a visual activity and in some ways an auditory activity. Writing a language is visual, auditory, and tactile, so I suppose the shortest explanation would be that it engages more of your brain. But I think there is another answer that your question is really asking about.

I grew up in a Malaysian government school system in the 80’s that didn’t teach grammar. Sure, it taught parts of speech and subject-verb agreement, but when I moved to Tampin during secondary school, it was obvious that I had some catching up to do. In fact, it wasn’t until my Junior year in college that I finally got my first formal instructions in grammar: diagramming sentences, using coordinating conjunctions, semicolon use, etc. (If I remembered anything about formal language skills, i.e. grammar, it was usually from something I’d heard on TV RTM Pendidikan, or stranger yet, had been exposed to in my studies of Malay.) I was always good in English class, and would go on to a degree with honors in English Literature, but up until then I had a very poor grasp of the terminology. It was only my reading proficiency that allowed me to tell when something was wrong with somebody’s usage. I couldn’t tell you what a participle was but I knew when something was dangling.

Let me summarize it like this—whenever I do copy-editing work for colleagues or aspiring fellow writers, there is one recommendation I know will fix 80% of their weaknesses with language: they should read more…usually lots more.

Why reading does this may be better answered by a neuro-scientist, but I know that reading is to language skills what core strength is to sports ability.


There was a lady in my graduating class of 540 students in Universiti Malaya who scored a perfect 100 on the proficiency of the English Language, and all anybody ever remembers about her was that she read all the time and did little else.

So never give up reading. -mk

Natural memory enhancer