How to learn English with Harry Potter - featured image

How to learn English with Harry Potter

Level B1; Genre: Fantasy

(You’ll find a short vocabulary list at the bottom of this article containing the underlined words. If there are any other words you don’t understand, don’t hesitate to ask).

Let’s add some magic to our English learning routine. Today I will look at how to learn English with Harry Potter.

I would like to answer the following questions that I often get about whether or not to read Harry Potter in English.

  • #1 Is Harry Potter the right book for learning English?
  • #2 Which book should I start with?
  • #3 Isn’t Harry Potter only for children?
  • #4 How do Harry and his friends help me improve my English?
  • #5 What do I need to improve my English skills with these truly magical books?
  • #6 Isn’t Harry Potter too magical for me to understand?
  • #7 Are The Film Versions Also Good For Learning English?

Now, let us wave our wand and fly on our brooms to question #1:

Harry Potter image to pin

Is Harry Potter The right Book For Learning English?

The clear answer is YES! Why? First of all, everyone (and I mean EVERYONE) has heard of Harry Potter. Maybe you have already even read it in your mother tongue. This is good, but even if you haven’t, at least you already have an idea of what the book is about. 
Joanne K. Rowling uses simple language, as it is aimed at children. For example, the first book “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone” is written for children around 10 to 11 years old. She uses simple grammar and vocabulary (apart from the magical words). 
As Harry Potter is so popular, you can also find lots of additional reading or videos, as well as different exercises, focused on the story. For teenagers, I can recommend the posts on the British Council Website.
Another big advantage is that there are lots of Harry Potter fans who you can talk to about Harry and his magical friends. Just ask your friends and I am sure at least one of them has read or even re-read all the books.

Which book should I start with?

I recommend you to start with the first book – the language of the books gets more difficult in the later books. The first book is for children age 10 to 11 while the last one is aimed at young adults. As Harry grows older, so does the target reader. With the growing age of the reader, the difficulty of the content as well as the language also advances.
Even if you are an advanced English learner I recommend you to start with the first book to get used to all the Harry Potter specific vocabulary. 
To give you an overview of what the first part of Harry Potter is about (in case you haven’t already read it in your mother tongue), here is the trailer of the eponymous film.

Isn’t Harry Potter only for Children?

It was originally aimed at teenagers and young adults. But does that mean others can’t read it? Definitely not!

In a study by the Statista Research Department in 2016, for example, 36% of over 65s read or watched Harry Potter. This shows that Harry Potter doesn’t have an age limit. While the main characters Harry, Hermione and Ron are 10 years old at the beginning of the series, there are also adult characters, such as Dumbledore, Hargrid, Snake and Voldemord. When I first read the books as a teenager, I could identify with characters like Harry and Hermione better than with than Dumbledore and Voldemord.

Let me give you a few good reasons why EVERY English learner should learn English with Harry Potter. 

  • Familiarity – everyone knows Harry Potter
  • Vocabulary – the books use a wide range of vocabulary from every day chatter between friends to abstract fantasy idioms.
  • Register – the book uses formal and informal language
  • Idioms – there a wide range of different idioms for all language levels
  • Sentence structure – sentences become more complicated in later books. This is perfect for higher-level learners

how do harry and his friends help me improve my english?

Let’s look at how you can actually learn English with Harry Potter. 
First of all, I have to warn you, you need patience. Have you ever held a Harry Potter book in your hand? Yes, I am sure you have. They are thick books. But don’t worry, once you start reading, you will become absorbed into the world of witches and wizards. The time will fly past much quicker than you think. But you have to know, that reading the book in English will definitely take longer than reading it in your native language. Let me give a you few tips on how to get started: 

  1. Read the summary of the book, to know what it is about
  2. Try to understand the meaning of new words from the sentence they appear in
  3. If needed, translate important words into your native language
  4. Write down new words or expressions with an example from the text.
  5. Read the books minimum once or twice a week so as you don’t forget about the content or context.
  6. Don’t read too much at once, as your brain needs breaks to rest
  7. Enjoy the book!

One English student told me on Facebook, “I prepared myself for my language exam with Harry Potter, it helped me a lot.”

Harry Potter pictures

What do I need to improve my English skills with these truly magical books?

All you need to learn English with Harry Potter is a Harry Potter book or e-book. 
However, I recommend you also have a dictionary or a dictionary app, as well as pen and paper at hand. As I mentioned above, you are likely to learn lots of new words. In my experience as a teacher, it is always good to write them down. You don’t have to translate every word you come across. However, if a word is important for understanding the context and you can’t figure out what it means, you should translate it. By writing your new word down, you already make the first step towards memorising the word. Depending on your favoured method of learning, you can add new words to your flashcards or a vocabulary list you might have. Another great idea is to write the new words on a bookmark and you always have them with you when the word is repeated.

What else can be useful? Maybe you would also like to purchase the audiobook. This way you can listen to the correct pronunciation as well. You will hear Oxford English, which is far easier to understand than dialect English.

Isn’t Harry Potter too magical for me to understand?

I know from some of my students’ experiences that they are worried about all the specific vocabulary. Are you worried too? I fully understand you. But now comes the part where I have to admit something to you: I didn’t understand every word of Harry Potter either! Or have you ever heard of “Wingardium Leviosa” before? But when you read the book these words all will be explained. Oh, and in case you don’t know, the spell “Wingardium Leviosa” makes objects fly. Very useful! Ok, you’ve got me there, it is not very useful for your everyday English, if you are not a wizard. Nevertheless, there is enough useful vocabulary that you can learn for everyday situations.

Are the film versions also good for learning English?

The answer to the question is: yes. If you don’t like reading a lot, or you would like to watch the films additionally, please go for it. There are many different ways to learn English. There are some ideas on how to learn a foreign language the best way in my blog post here.
The films will also help you to learn how to pronounce words correctly and the picture helps you to understand the story. But be aware, that the films don’t show all parts of the books and are slightly different, as it would be too long otherwise.

Now it’s your turn

To conclude, these magical books will change your English for a lot. You will feel enchanted by Harry’s adventures and your English will follow him on a magical journey.

Now, it’s your turn to read the books and tell me what you thought of them.

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    Vocabulary list

    vocabulary list for Harry Potter

    1 thought on “How to learn English with Harry Potter”

    1. Hi Tommy! I’m an English teacher too and I love Harry Potter so much. Glad I found this great page of yours. I will definitely integrate this one in my class. Looking forward to more exciting materials from you!

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