Reading in English: Ilya Frank method

It would be nice to learn English without putting any effort into it at all! You do something interesting and enjoyable, and the language is studied by itself. Do you think this does not happen? There are options.

Today we will look at the method of reading in a foreign language that was invented by Ilya Frank. Adapted concurrent reading, as it is also called. When a text in a foreign language is interrupted by translation and commentary.

Is it really as effective as they say?

What is the method of Ilya Frank?

Frank’s method is based on reading. But not simple, but with a catch. Next to the original text are translations of sentences, phrases and single words, as well as linguistic comments that reveal some of the features of grammar, vocabulary or spelling.

In practice, this is as follows. Take an excerpt from Lewis Carroll’s book, Alice in Wonderland.

After each sentence or part of the sentence, a general translation of the phrase and the meaning of the keywords is given in parentheses.

In fact, reading takes place simultaneously in two languages, alternately. A person reads the phrase in English, and after that – its translation and main points in Russian.

According to Ilya Frank himself, the author of the method, there are 3 main reasons why he is such a reading effective:

  1. Simple passive training. You just read the book, and all these grammatical nuances, word forms, structural features of sentences are remembered by themselves. Sort of. The brain does not strain, which is why information is remembered easier and faster.
  2. Increasing active vocabulary through repeatability. If the phrase “by the way” appears in the text about forty times with a clarification (by the way, by the way), you want it or not, but it will be remembered. Similar common phrases and words are repeated in books dozens and hundreds of times. And after reading the first book, they will be remembered by the student forever.
  3. The rapid expansion of passive vocabulary. The project website has a pathos phrase that when reading 2 hours a day, a student will be able to remember at least 1000 new words per month.

The method has really become very popular in Russian-speaking countries. Now in almost any bookstore in the department of foreign literature, you can find colorful books with a postscript “according to the method of Ilya Frank”.

Our experts tried to figure out whether this method is really as effective as the creator paints it.

We analyze the method of Ilya Frank

Let’s immediately clarify that we consider the method of Ilya Frank only as an additional and auxiliary tool for learning English. It cannot be considered as the main one in principle, because simple reading does not provide comprehensive knowledge of the language.

And in general, the author of the method does not promise that you will learn the language. He claims that in a year you will learn to read fluently in this language. And these are different things.

Let’s take an example from the story of Arthur Conan Doyle “The scandal in Bohemia.” We will analyze it in detail.

This is how the whole book goes. Essentially, reading consists of three distinct steps:

  1. A paragraph in English in which each individual phrase is immediately translated next to the brackets. In order not to distract attention from the text itself, phrases stand out in some not very catchy color or in italics. The parentheses must indicate the translation of the phrase in the context of the sentence, as well as the translation of individual phrases or words with different meanings.
  2. A separate paragraph with transcriptions of words. New words or words with a difficult pronunciation must be given below with full transcription. There are several options here. Either the transcription is presented in the “correct” form, or in a simplified form using Russian letters and sounds.
  3. The proposal is repeated in the original format – only in English and without additional clarifications. To reinforce reading comprehension.

The main “feature” of the method is the use of two languages ​​in conjunction. You read the phrase in English and immediately after that its translation into Russian.

Formally, it acts like learning words and phrases using a dictionary. But there are differences.

Phrases are translated anyway, and not just when you need it. If the phrase is repeated forty times in the text, then all forty times it will be translated in full. And it does not matter that you managed to remember it already on the fifth.

Therefore, there is a double edged sword. On the one hand, when you do not know the meaning of a phrase or phrase, it really helps to remember. But after you have learned it, it begins to distract.

Despite the fact that the refinements were submitted in a less catchy color, you have to “scroll” with their eyes.

The following problem comes up from here. Closer to the middle of the book, the eye is blurred and the brain begins to automatically skip explanations. Even at those points in which they should be read. Explanations begin to be perceived as visual noise.

And because of this, it turns out that reading the text is still inconvenient, and the explanations do not give the usefulness that was originally intended.

Placing transcriptions of words in print format is generally a dubious idea. You must still be able to read the “correct” transcription, written in accordance with all the rules of phonetics. Unfortunately, for beginners with an English level to intermediate, this is a filkin letter. On-line publications like these have functionality for reproducing words – which is really convenient, but on paper the usefulness of transcriptions is doubtful. In an extreme case, it’s more convenient and understandable to see the transcription of the word in the application on the smartphone, and not to read through the eyes of the incomprehensible crocus.

Adapted transcriptions in Russian not only do not give any benefit, but they are also damn harmful for learning. The student remembers the crooked pronunciation with the wildest Russian accent, and retraining it is many times more difficult than learning right right away.

As for the repetition of the text in the original, everything is clear and logical here. It is necessary to consolidate the understanding of the phrase by repeating it. But here psychology intervenes. 4 out of 5 students simply skip the replay without reading it. They immediately move on to the next adapted piece of text. Because of what, the effectiveness of such work is reduced significantly.

The real effectiveness of the method of Ilya Frank

We emphasize right away that the method of reading Ilya Frank is relatively effective. It was created according to understandable rules and pursues completely understandable goals that are designed to simplify working with the language.

But the effectiveness of this method is very variable and depends on the level of the student’s language and how he works with the method itself.

Important! The author himself notes that the method will be useful for students with a level of knowledge from elementary to intermediate. We think a little differently.

For intermediate and above

The method is intended for students who do not yet know how to think in English, but use “mental translation”. That is, when they read the phrase in English, they translate it into Russian in the mind, and only after that it turns into a set of understandable images.

Teachers of the EnglishDom online school of English try to teach students to think and perceive information in English already at the intermediate level. So that English words are instantly converted into images, and not translated first into Russian.

For intermediate and higher, the method will be useless and even harmful. It will not allow to develop the skill of understanding the language, but only strengthen the scheme “English – translation into Russian – understanding of the phrase.”

And the deeper such a scheme takes root in the student’s mind, the more difficult it will be to reach a free level of language proficiency.

Already for students with an intermediate level, it is much preferable to take books completely in English. You just need to pick up literature with simple vocabulary and grammar. And gradually complicate it.

For elementary

For beginners with an elementary level, the method will be completely useless. To read fiction, even if adapted in this way, you need to at least have a superficial understanding of the main aspects of grammar and the construction of sentences.

That is, you need to understand how all 12 tenses look in a sentence (or at least 9 without Perfect Continuous), passive and impersonal sentences, verb forms and their conjugation with nouns, the use of various prepositions – in general, to have the necessary basis for grammar knowledge, which will make it possible to understand how sentences in English are created in general.

Elementary learn from the simplest examples and sentences. To give beginners without a normal vocabulary and knowledge of grammar to read a full-fledged book, even the simplest one, is a rather dubious event.

For pre-intermediate

This is just what pre-intermediate method really will be useful for. Well, really.

Students with this level of knowledge still do not know how to think in English – for this there is not enough vocabulary and practical skills in understanding the language. But at the same time, they already have a basic understanding of the grammar of the language.

That is, students with this level of knowledge will already understand what the sentence in English carries. A lack of knowledge of vocabulary or certain nuances of grammar will help compensate for the translation and explanation nearby.

But for adapted reading to be at least somewhat effective, you should work with it correctly:

  • Read the adapted text in full without missing explanations in Russian, even if you know them.
  • Be sure to read the original text, which is repeated after adapted. Yes, this slightly affects the enjoyment of reading, but it consolidates the knowledge gained – vocabulary is remembered faster.

The method is really working. In narrow conditions, but it performs its functions.

But in practice, it turns out that students outgrow it too quickly. They successfully remember common phrases and words after reading one or two small books.

When a student already has a vocabulary of 700-1000 words, 80% of the book for him turns into information noise. He spies only unknown phrases and words, and skips the rest of the refinement.

With the same success, you can read children’s books in English, but without adaptation. It is enough to just keep a smartphone with an open dictionary with you to check the meaning of unknown words and phrases.


Formally, the reading method of Ilya Frank is working. Although in rather limited conditions, it really helps to learn foreign languages.

It is suitable only for the pre-intermediate level – for them it will benefit. For students with an intermediate level and above, it will even be harmful, because they need to learn to think in English and perceive the language without Russian mediation. And the adapted reading method will interfere with this very much.

It is important to understand that the method of Ilya Frank can only be used as an additional tool for studying. Without classical classes and trainings, it will not help at all and may even worsen the perception of the language.

And already the method is definitely not able to help learn up to 1000 new words per month, and to teach the student to read English fluently in a year. This is a commonplace ploy by marketers to secure book sales.

The assets of modern teachers are much more effective and efficient methods of learning English.

If you want to read the book using the Frank method, please. But by the middle of the story, you yourself will understand all the shortcomings of such a technique from your own experience.

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