Using Wikipedia for Extensive Reading

Wikipedia is a fantastic resource for the language learner. One of the great undiscovered benefits of it is that you can use Wikipedia for Extensive Reading. For many languages, you now have a practically unlimited set of reading materials on countless subjects. Best of all, using Wikipedia for extensive reading also means that you won’t have to pay a penny for all those wonderful texts.

There are several other benefits to using Wikipedia as an extensive reading source, however.

Benefits of Using Wikipedia as an Extensive Reading Source


  • It’s free.

Mentioned above, this needs no further explanation.

  • It has a wide range of subjects

This is good for several reasons. You won’t get bored. Also, there’ll be linguistic familiarity and cognates. For instance, if you read about computers in a foreign language, then words like “Microsoft” will always be the same in your target language, and most words if not the same are derivative. E.g. a ‘hard drive’ tends to be a ‘hard drive’ regardless of the language.

  • The words are nice.

Wikipedia is edited by common, modern-day folk. So the words that you need to learn are the words you’ll be learning. This is unlike some courses which teach you how to ask a question like a nineteen-fifties businessman looking for a train station.

How to Use Wikipedia as an Extensive Reading Tool

If you want to use Wikipedia in your target language, then you’re probably already at a level where you can use the left hand Languages list on the site and find the one you’re after. However, they aren’t in order. An easier way to find it would be to search out the two letter international code for the language, and then go to xx.wikipedia with xx’s being the two letters. For instance, en.wikipedia is the English Wikipedia, fr.wikipedia is the French Wikipedia and so on.

Once you’ve found it, you’ll want to look for a subject that will have a lot of cognates you are familiar with. Like I said above, I used programming as an example, because it has lots of technical terms that are the same across the languages. With this, you’ll use the familiar terms to piece together sentences out of the words you don’t recognize.

Wikipedia has a way of sucking you in, and you should let it. Click on other things you’re recognizing and interested in. The subject matter isn’t important, only that you go from familiarity to unfamiliarity.

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