Reading Journal

All REES MA students are required to achieve at least intermediate level in oral proficiency and research-level proficiency in reading comprehension in their target foreign language. It is, however, the responsibility of REES MA students to develop their language skills to the highest possible levels in all four areas (speaking, reading, listening, writing) over the course of their MA studies. CREES MA students should take advantage of formal classroom instruction, study abroad, extra-curricular activities with the language, focused independent work and consultations with native speakers and language faculty to make regular progress in their target language. Incoming REES MA students should contact the appropriate language instructor(s) for placement testing and consultation about appropriate levels of coursework.  At this meeting, the student and the language faculty member will make an initial plan for how the student will reach the language level needed to satisfy the REES MA graduation requirements. 


All REES MA students will need to keep a Reading Journal throughout their MA program. The students will use the Reading Journal to document their ongoing development of their reading skills, both on topics of general interest and topics related to their CREES coursework and, in due course, capstone paper. The final entries in a student’s Reading Journal should show the highest level of reading skill they have achieved in the target language. The completed reading journal should be added to the MA student’s portfolio on Blackboard during the 13th week of the ultimate semester. 


Students may use a variety of applications in compiling Reading Journals. A simple Word document may be used, or a physical journal may be scanned into a PDF.  Evernote, a free application that allows one to access notes from many different platforms, is suggested as a program that seams ideally suited for this purpose.


Prior to Semester 1 of the MA Program

1. The MA student contacts the appropriate FL instructor in order to:

            a. be placed in the appropriate level of FL study

b. discuss with the instructor topics of interest to the student, and to work out a plan for the student’s initial reading journal entries.

Semester 1 of the MA Program

1. The student takes REES 898, the REES area studies methodology seminar, determines research interests and/or the topic for his/her MA capstone and works with the FL instructor and/or academic advisor to find sources in the FL to work on reading in that area of interest. Students will be introduced to strategies of searching for sources in foreign language in REES 898.

2. Independently, the student starts the Reading Journal and begins making entries.


Semesters 2-4

With regular oversight from and in consultation with the FL instructor and/or academic advisor, the student continues to develop and refine topic-oriented reading skills and to document this process in the Reading Journal.


Final semester

The student makes the final Reading Journal entries directly related to the topic of the MA capstone paper, demonstrating command of sources in the target language that relate to the subject.  The student deposits his/her Reading Journal in the MA portfolio on Blackboard. The total number of entries for the Reading Journal should be determined together with the FL instructor and/or academic advisor.


What should a Reading Journal entry look like?

A good reading journal entry might feature a text of a few hundred words on a topic related to the student’s research paper. The text could be from an electronic or paper source (although the student might scan the paper source into electronic version). 

The student can start a fresh Word document, writing in the source for the text (and copying the URL if electronic). The student creates a table with two columns, copying the original text into the left-hand column. In the right-hand column the student can summarize information from the article in English; translate specific passages of interest as needed. The summary should give as much information from the original as possible. Following the summary section, the student should:

1) write a short overview of what the student learned from the reading and what the article contributes to the student’s knowledge on the topic. The student should consider the type of article and its context within the publication, and indicate what from the article might be relevant to the student’s research paper. The student should note the author’s point of view on the topic, and what turn(s) of phrase in the text mark those facts. 

2) The student should identify key words used in the original text that they want to add to their active vocabulary, copying the words/phrases out and glossing them with English equivalents.

3) The student should copy out or highlight the passages or expressions in the original text that they did not understand or that were hard to understand for linguistic or cultural-knowledge reasons.  On these points they should consult their language advisor.

See sample text in the appendix.


At the end of his/her course of study the entries in the reading journal might represent parts of a longer article or book that the student is reading for the MA capstone paper.


At earlier stages of the program, and at early stages of language learning, the entries can be appropriately scaled down in terms of length and complexity of the original writing, the level of detail in the English summary, and might include some additional operations on the text (i.e., underlining the key topic sentence of a paragraph; putting arrows from subjects to verbs in languages where word order is variable; circling words that show point of view).


Some genres that should be easier for students at the early levels of language learning might be encyclopedia entries or biographical sketches of key political/cultural figures connected with the student’s area of interest.


At the very beginning stages of language learning, an entry might consist of a screen shot of a target-language web-newspaper, where the student identifies headlines and other key information, drawing on their background knowledge of what is in the news for that day. At the earliest stages students might also work with prepared materials for doing this kind of extensive reading. Selections at this level should be made in consultation with the language advisor.


For some languages, lower-level students who might use a targeted reading program such as The Defense Language Institute’s GLOSS system (


Reading Advice for MA Students

The type and extent of reading work that we are advocating in these Reading Journals is known as “extensive reading” in a foreign language pedagogy. The research base on extensive reading suggests that an intermediate student reading target-language texts thirty minutes each day can improve their reading abilities significantly over time.  Extensive reading works best if the student varies broad reading for general comprehension with regular work on learning high-frequency recurring vocabulary and close reading of specific shorter passages.


There are technology tools that you can exploit in your extensive reading work. 

Set your web browser to always open to a main news page for your target language/country and spend a few minutes skimming the news headlines; click on one article and read it a bit more closely.  If you come across a key word that seems unknown, try to guess what it could mean, and then check it out in something like Google Translate or another online dictionary.  Compare the translator/dictionary results with the original context to see if it makes sense.  Online translators do very badly with words that have multiple meanings (think about all the possible meanings of the word “run” in English [run a race, a run in one’s stockings, bat in a run, a run in a card game, etc.]) so be certain to check the suggestion against the context, and consult an expert human reader where necessary.


For some languages, there are many existing published “readers” that contain pedagogically-adapted readings as well as tools for dealing with unknown vocabulary.  Use them to help yourself develop basic skills for reading closely and in detail.  Work with the instructor to pick texts strategically. If one reading introduced you to a lot of new words on a topic, follow up by reading a second (or third) text on that same specific topic so that you get a chance to recycle the vocabulary you met in the first one.  If a text was too challenging, consult with your instructor for something more level appropriate. 


Specialists in reading English as a second language believe that a person needs to know about 5,000-8,000 high-frequency word families to read academic passages in English easily and accurately.  Find out from your language advisor if a list of the most common words used in your target language, listed in frequency order, is available.  See how many words in the first 1000 most high frequency words you already know.  Start working on learning those that you don’t know.  If there are words in the top 200 that you don’t know yet, make it a priority to learn them.  Consult with your language advisor so that you are aware of potential homonyms (i.e., think of all the meanings of the word “run” in English) and false friends (i.e., the Russian магазин means “store” and not “magazine”).  Make bilingual flashcards (on paper or online with an app like with the key words for your work or words that you have seen frequently; and review them until you know them well.  Check your vocabulary learning against your language’s word frequency list once per semester.


At the earliest level of language study, you will get the most bang for your buck by going to a reference grammar for your language (an online set is available at: and learning the meaning of the 100 most basic prepositions, conjunctions, and other function words used in your target language.  If you learn to recognize them (even if you don’t yet know the grammar that goes with them), you’ll be able to frame out many sentences (e.g., under X there is some Y-ish Z, which someone somethinged.)


Reading Strategies

For a start, learn to skim the whole text, focusing on the title, any related graphics, and repeating vocabulary words.  Formulate some hypotheses about the text’s contents.

Read the text and see if the predicted elements are present;

Identify the topic sentence in each paragraph.

Look up some key words, and re-read the text again. With this vocabulary support, summarize or translate the sentences expressing the text’s main point or argument. At this stage pay close attention to grammar, and push yourself to be accurate with subjects (who is doing the action) and objects (paying attention to word order, negation, what words adjectives and participles agree with, etc.)

Consult with your language advisor on questions about difficult passages.


Learning to read in a FL is not something that you can do with just one text.  Extensive reading (regular reading, skimming, scanning), regular intensive reading of some pieces, and vocabulary learning is the best approach to develop reading skills.


Appendix 1

Original story at:


Title:  Следователи подтвердили перевод экипажа «Арктик Санрайз» в Петербург


Следственный комитет РФ на своем сайте подтвердил перевод арестованных членов экипажа «Арктик Санрайз» из Мурманска в Санкт-Петербург. Как говорится в сообщении, все 30 фигурантов дела о нападении на платформу «Приразломная» будут этапированы, поскольку «инкриминируемые [им] деяния не относятся к юрисдикции судов Мурманской области», а следственная бригада располагается в Петербурге.

The investigative committee of the Russian Federation confirmed that the crew of the ship “Artic Sunrise” is being transferred from Murmansk to SPb.

The 30 people figuring in the affair of boarding the oil platform “Prirazlomnaya”are being transferred because the alleged actions don’t belong to the jurisdiction of the Murmansk regional courts.

Как сообщила правозащитница Оксана Челышева на своей странице Facebook, фигурантов дела отправили поездом, который отправился из Мурманска 11 ноября в 09:10 по местному времени. В Петербург состав по расписанию должен прибыть в 12:11 следующего дня.

Oksana Chelysheva (the human rights advocate) noted that the people were sent by train from Murmansk on 11 Nov. They should arrive in SPb 12:11 on the next day.

О переводе арестованных членов экипажа «Арктик Санрайз» в Санкт-Петербург в Greenpeace сообщили 1 ноября. Официально эту информацию тогда не подтверждали.

The transfer was announced 1 Nov., but officially this news has not been confirmed.

30 человек, находившихся на захваченном сотрудниками ФСБ судне Greenpeace «Арктик Санрайз», обвиняются в хулиганстве. Среди обвиняемых двое журналистов, в том числе работавший по заданию «Ленты.ру» фотограф Денис Синяков.

30 people are charged with hooliganism, including two journalists and a photographer working on assignment from

Пресс-секретарь СК РФ Владимир Маркин заявлял, что весь экипаж судна оказался под арестом, поскольку никто из его членов не стал сразу давать показания. «Если бы на первоначальном этапе расследования фотограф или повар просто стали давать показания, например, что я сидел возле своего котла и варил русский борщ для наших зарубежных гостей, тогда все было бы понятно. Или фотограф бы сказал, что он сидел на своем судне и фотографировал. Никто же этого не сказал. Поэтому нужно было в рамках расследования выяснить роль каждого», — сказал он. При этом Маркин отметил, что ничего не знает о редакционном задании Синякова, хотя оно было приложено к материалам дела при рассмотрении апелляции на арест.

The press-secretary for the Investigative committee Markin announced that the whole crew has been arrested because no one immediately came forth with testimony.

Long quotation from him suggesting frustration with lack of cooperation from the people aboard ship.

Markin commented that he knew nothing about Sinyakov’s editorial assignment, although it had been attached to the materials of the case at the time of reviewing the appeal of the arrest.

Активисты Greenpeace 18 сентября попытались закрепиться на нефтедобывающей платформе «Приразломная», которая принадлежит «Газпрому». Таким образом они протестовали против добычи нефти в Арктике. Попытку активистов Greenpeace пресекли пограничники. На следующий день, 19 сентября, сотрудники ФСБ захватили судно и отбуксировали его в Мурманск. Экипаж сначала обвинили в пиратстве, а затем поменяли статью на «Хулиганство». Нидерланды потребовали освобождения судна, которое ходило под флагом королевства, и команды через Международный трибунал по морскому праву. Трибунал вынесет решение 22 ноября.

Reviews the history of incident

18 Sept. try to board the oil platform

they were protesting against the extraction of oil in the Artic.

The border patrol put a stop to the activists’ attempt. Then the Security (FSB) forces took control of the ship.

The crew was first charged with piracy, then with hooliganism.  The Dutch have demanded the freeing of the ship (which flies under their flag) and the crew.

A tribunal will make its decision on Nov. 22



This article is more or less a straight reporting of the facts of the transfer, although the ironic comments from Markin in paragraph 5 (Если бы на первоначальном этапе расследования фотограф или повар просто стали давать показания, например, что я сидел возле своего котла и варил русский борщ для наших зарубежных гостей, тогда все было бы понятно. ) show some impatience and disdain for the Greenpeace activists.


Unclear who is the one who reminded Markin about Sinyakov’s editorial assignment for


Vocabulary for someone working on environmental concerns and the law

Нефтедобывающая платформа

Следственный комитет РФ

следственная бригада




Things to ask about // Words not to confuse:

судно (pl суда)– ship, vessel

суд (pl. суды; gen. pl. судов) – court


дело (note: used here in technical meaning) -- a legal case

перевод (note: used here not in meaning of (linguistic) translation but in literal meaning) – transfer


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