Until recently the many and diverse reading skills and strategies for use in every day situations have been largely subordinate to a narrower range of skills required for dealing with simplified readers (especially at the elementary and intermediate levels). Furthermore, on a few language courses, efficient reading skills have been pushed into the background in an attempt to develop oral fluency skills. Attempts at dealing with the many complex reading skills frequently come too late, at the tertiary level ( i. e. at university, technical college), when pupils/students suddenly find themselves confronted with professional and technical literature in the foreign language. There exist few comprehensive systematic programs which have been constructed from a detailed analysis of the skills required for efficient reading. Much test material is still limited to short reading extracts on which general comprehension questions are based.
Reading comprehension test material is very closely related to the type of practice material used by the teacher to develop the reading skills. Few language teachers would argue against the importance of reading: what is still urgently required in many classrooms tests is greater awareness of the actual processes involved in reading and the production of appropriate exercise and test materials to assist in the mastery of these processes. Before reading tests in the foreign language can be successfully constructed, the fist language reading skills of the pupils must be ascertained. Clearly there is often little purpose in testing in the foreign language those basic reading skills which the pupils have not yet developed in their own language.
However, the mere fact that a pupil has mastered some of the required reading skills in the first language is no guarantee at all that he or she will be able to transfer those skills to reading another language. Reading itself means reading and understanding. A foreign language learner who says that he or she can read the words but does not know what they mean, does not read in this sense. He or she is merely decoding – translating written symbols into corresponding sounds.
Reading is an exercise dominated by the eyes and the brain. Different aspects of nature of reading can be illustrated and clarified. Some assumptions about those are the following: 1. We need to perceive and decode letters in order to read words. 2. We need to understand all the words in order to understand the meaning of a text. 3. The more symbols (letters or words) there are in a text, the longer it will take to read it. 4. We gather meaning from what we read.