How To Start Reading In A Foreign Language

Two of my Spanish teachers have come to the same conclusion: there’s one determining factor which divides the mediocre student from the outstanding one, and it’s whether they read books or not.

This may not strike anyone as an earth-shattering insight. I’m sure we can all agree that reading is the best way to expand one’s vocabulary.

However, as I’ve discovered through years of trial and error, it’s not a matter of “just read whatever comes to hand” – a pernicious piece of advice that just refuses to die.

I believe that the choice of reading material can make or break someone’s motivation. Picking up a foreign language book with the best of intentions, only to throw in the towel after ten, thirty, fifty laborious pages is a pretty common experience. Not only is it disheartening, but it can dissuade some people from ever having another go.

So, I thought I’d share a handful of my homespun “rules” meant to minimise frustration and maximise endurance, so to speak. A wedge of cake,  a slab of chocolate or similar armaments have also known to aid in the endeavour.

1. Stay away from The Classics

If you’re passionate about reading, you’ll probably have ploughed through a quantity of highbrow literature in your native language. And you may even have enjoyed it. There are many good reasons why some works come to be regarded as “classics”: The language is beautiful, the insights are profound, the plot is enthralling, the characters are vivid and the author probably transgressed the social taboos of their time.

It’s hardly a surprise that those of us who love to read are itching to access the unadulterated literary riches of any other languages we are trying to learn.

Unfortunately, choosing a classic as your reading initiation is just about the worst possible strategy. I mean… poetic turns of phrase that fell out of use when automobiles had to be jump-started by rolling up your sleeves and cranking a big screw? Long-winded descriptions of items of clothing that you’ll only ever encounter in a period drama? Words so ancient that Google Translate starts to spit out runes?

C’mon. Get real. If your level of comprehension is below that of the average five-year-old native speaker, wrestling with a worthy tome is much like hobbling along an eight-lane highway on a pair of rickety crutches. You are going to run aground on the hard shoulder way before you even see the first signpost that reads “pretentious git”.

Sure, your ultimate goal may well be to enjoy the same kinds of books in your new language as you do in your native language, and maybe even to delve deeply into classic literature, but you’ll have to get on your tricycle first. With an extra pair stabilisers, if need be.

2. Build your reading muscle

Reading a book in a new language, even a fairly short one, is like embarking on a marathon. And it needs to be tackled in the same way. Before you even think about taking a “proper” book to bed with you, you should be capable of reading things like news items, magazine articles, blog posts, etc.

It doesn’t matter if you don’t always understand everything. The point is to try, to get through it and to glean as much as you can on the way. In any case, you should be at the higher end of the intermediate level before you have a serious go at a novel or a biography.

If you’re not quite there yet, start with books aimed at young children. Also, there are bilingual books, which give the text in two languages on facing pages – these can be an excellent way of easing yourself in.

3. Start with short stories

I’m just over two thirds through my first book in Portuguese. (And I’ve been at it for three months – how embarrassing is that?!) It’s a book of short stories, some of them just a couple of pages long. At this stage, I don’t get the point of each and every one of them. But that’s OK. I do understand most of the sentences, and I helps me consolidate grammar structures and vocab. By the time frustration makes me want to eat my socks, I’ve already reached the last paragraph of the tale.

The trick is to counterbalance the growing aggravation caused by wobbly comprehension with the satisfaction of having got to the end of the story. And if you get to the end of enough stories, you’ll eventually get to the end of the book.

Spanish Short Stories

My first book of Spanish short stories. It may look like highlighter pen, but it’s all blood, sweat and tears, believe me!

4. Read what’s useful to you right now.

When I first started to read books in Spanish, I picked a well-researched historical novel by a reputable author, because historical fiction is one of the genres I absolutely love to lose myself in. After all, whatever you read, it’s got to hold your interest, right?

Big mistake.

I had only recently moved to Spain, and what I actually needed at that stage was the appropriate words to dissect assorted family problems with a friend over coffee and complain about water leaks to my landlady, etc, not vocab denoting the constituent parts of ox carts used in 14th century southern Spain. What the hell was I thinking?!

Well, I very quickly got off my ox cart and turned to the very stuff that I’d never touch with a barge pole in English (or German): Romance novels and inane chick lit, where people talk about relationships and domestic disasters in everyday language. Oh, but how useful that trash proved to be in real life conversations! In fact, I’ve discovered that I don’t much mind if the plot is stultifying, because it’s very much like being on a treasure hunt. As I comb through the dross, I keep stumbling across pearls of handy vocab and nifty expressions.

And just a couple more things – in the beginning, choose books that are no longer than 250 pages, and before you commit yourself to any book, sample at least a couple of pages of it. If it’s impenetrable, put it back on the shelf. It’ll keep.

*    *    *    *    *

Let me be clear: Starting to read books in a new language is not going to be a twirl across the village green on a dewy spring morning. The first few books, even if well-chosen, may well make you want to re-grout your bathroom tiling (or engage in any other activity that doesn’t involve looking up yet another unknown word) or turn you into a compulsive gobbler of cheese toasties. There is no way round that. Stretching yourself is always going to hurt a little.

As a rule of thumb (though this varies strongly from language to language), once you’ve heroically dragged your weary eyes (and your even wearier brain cells) through five books, the magical “joy of reading” factor should kick in. You’ve made it out of the swamp and into the open water. Now you just need to keep on reading to patch together your sails and you’ll be off to discover a whole new world.

[If you liked this, you might also enjoy Language Matters: Do You Sound Like Yourself?]

Advertisements

99 thoughts on “How To Start Reading In A Foreign Language

  1. somewonderland

    nice piece of advice. seems I’ve followed pretty much the same route with my English waaay back. My first English book was that of a contemporary author, but she used so much of slang in her work, that I struggled with every single passage. Luckily I really wanted to read that book and this self motivation was enough to keep me going, or else that could’ve been my one and last attempt at reading English books in English 🙂
    Oh, and reading classics is definitely not an easy task, I agree on that, but when one has put on sufficient reading muscle it can be so rewarding.

    Like

    Reply
    1. ladyofthecakes Post author

      Aw, I also had to give up on one not so long ago… it had tons of Mexican drug baron slang, and I couldn’t relate the lead character, who was female, but the author wasn’t, and he didn’t quite convince me.

      I think the secret is to know when to give up, and then pick up the next thing straight away 😉

      Like

      Reply
      1. Kim G

        Are you referring to La Reina del Sur? I totally enjoyed that one, though I suspect I’ve got the edge over you when it comes to Mexican drug slang.

        Like

  2. Wendy Kate

    Gah! It’s hard. I do buy magazines to read in Spanish, then I can look at the pictures….the trouble is, if I start a book, then I don’t know some of the words, when do I stop and look them up? I cannot get into the book properly and it sits by the bed as a sad reminder of how blinking useless I am at Spanish 😦

    Like

    Reply
  3. BerLinda

    Fantastically timely piece of advice 🙂 I’ve got German-English books on my Christmas list – get a move on Mammy O’Grady 😉 Do you know of any good blogs in German by the way? I know I’m not at the higher end of intermediate yet, but I think I could handle a few blog posts!

    One of my students read a lot of books in English. She’d just translate the first 10% of it. After that, she stopped. Her theory was that a lot of authors tend to repeat themselves, or use the same language over and over, so once you’d translated say 30 pages out of 300, you’d be able to understand the other 270…

    Like

    Reply
    1. ladyofthecakes Post author

      LOL, I like that student’s theory 😉

      It’s still very early days for you. I didn’t really get started on books until after my first year in Spain. If I come across any good German blogs, I’ll let you know.

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
      1. BerLinda

        Great, thanks! 🙂 I rocked my German class tonight – there were only 3 of us, and it was a new teacher. I’m pretty sure she was wondering why I wasn’t in the advanced class (ahem) 😉
        And now I have to go cos I need to translate stuff I saw on the U-bahn 🙂

        Like

      2. BerLinda

        Yep, but he wasn’t there tonight. He’s defending his thesis in Copenhagen – he told me what it was about but once he said ‘mechanical’, I tuned out 😉 The Croatians and the English guy haven’t been there for the last couple of lessons… They don’t even know we have a new teacher now 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      3. BerLinda

        I am 🙂 They want to go for drinks next week – sigh. For once, I really don’t have any interest! And if the weird Croatian comes, I might punch him 🙂

        Like

      4. BerLinda

        Ha ha, OK, das macht Sinn! 🙂 Yeah, the original sentence was “Wenn’s drauf ankommt, fehlen ihnen die Worte” so I thought I’d change it to make it about me – as I do 😉 Fail 🙂

        Like

  4. June

    I’ve been reading the IKEA catalog in Lithuanian for the past 6 months. It really does help with language, especially for basic items round the house. Think I’m ready for my first romance novel now!

    Liked by 3 people

    Reply
  5. Debbie Smyth

    Finishing a book is a massive confidence giver. I quite like those bilingual texts – they are usually simplified versions of a decent book and it’s good to know help is at hand on the opposite page.
    And magazines are another favourite. I personally like Marie Claire and pick it up in UK, France and Spain. The key articles, especially interviews with celebrities, are used in all countries, not necessarily in the same month but if you read it often enough you’ll find your reading is aided by a previous reading in another language!
    But the biggest help is a tip you gave previously – use a Kindle or similar with appropriate dictionary loaded. Perhaps not for those first baby steps, but once you’re onto real books it is a boon. I was previously anti Kindle but know it’s my go-to choice if reading a foreign book of any complexity.

    Like

    Reply
    1. ladyofthecakes Post author

      Yes, the Kindle is such a boon! I’m now at the stage where an old-fasioned paper book no longer poses a problem, but the Kindle sure helped a lot in getting me there. I love it 🙂

      Thanks for chipping in!

      Like

      Reply
  6. bevchen

    Another tip I would give is read something you already know. Jan’s sister read “When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit” as her first book in Italian because she’d already read it in German and English so she knew the plot. It’s much easier to work out what new words might mean if you already know the story.

    The first books I read in German (outside the ones set for uni) were chldren’s books. Emil und die Detektive, Pippi Langstrumpf…

    Like

    Reply
  7. NancyTex

    I had to read a French menu during my day trip to Montreal last week. I thought my head was going to explode. 🙂

    I find I’m more of an audio learner. I am able to learn languages from listening to others speak it. The idea of reading an entire book in another language sounds about as appealing as stabbing myself in the eye with a fork. 🙂

    Like

    Reply
      1. NancyTex

        You hit the nail on the head. If you love reading AND feel the need to read in the other languages, then the payoff would be huge. I’m content reading in English only. 🙂

        Like

  8. Paulina

    Oh my God, I remember my first attempts at reading a Spanish newspaper. I used to buy El País on Sunday, and if I was very lucky I finished it till the next Sunday. Sometimes it took me two weeks. (Don Quijote is still sitting on my desk and giving me black looks…)

    Like

    Reply
  9. Kim in Fiji

    One word for my Spanish “literature” : CONDORITO ! (a South American comic book ). Love it so much I brought a copy along though I gave up on Spanish more than a decade ago. Very short bits. Very useful vocabulary. Very Something-I-Wouldln’t-Get-Caught-Reading in my first language. Wish I had more issues of it!

    Like

    Reply
  10. adri:)

    I remember reading my first book in English just about one year ago. The descriptions were a true pain (even though it was far from being a difficult read), because I came across a lot of new words that I had never seen before. But it really helped, I learned a lot of new words and I’ve noticed that every time I start a new book the reading comes always easier and more natural. Now I think it has come the time for me to start reading in German: some months ago I found a copy of “Der kleine Prinz” and I bought it, thinking it wouldn’t be too hard, since I have a copy in my native language… I haven’t finished it yet… But now I really have to start dedicating more time to it. 🙂

    Like

    Reply
  11. TheLastWord

    Aha!! Iterative! Immediate Value! Incremental upgrades! Watch words of the Agile software development world!

    Yes, it makes perfect sense to read everyday conversational pieces first and solidify everyday use first. Greatest immediate value.

    Pointless learning about the chapeu rouge of my tante…. because I don’t have an auntie who has a red hat and the sentence is useless when you want to catch a bus or buy a loaf of bread. ..

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
  12. Marianne

    This is so helpful! I started reading my first book in French a few months ago… it’s a classic, but I think an easy to read classic – La petite prince! At least I’ve been able to understand it so far. I think reading short stories is a great idea! Then you don’t get too burnt out all at once.

    Like

    Reply
    1. ladyofthecakes Post author

      That’s a good one to start with. One of the few classics I’d recommend to a beginner. It helps that most people probably have a copy of it at home in their native language 😉

      Like

      Reply
    1. ladyofthecakes Post author

      For me, seeing the written language is essential. I mean, how else do you learn to spell properly?

      Also, consider this: Compare people who read lots of books to those who only ever watch movies. Who’s got the better vocab…?

      Like

      Reply
      1. linnetmoss

        Yes, I agree! Re the classics again, I think it depends on the particular student. In high school I loved French so much that I started reading classic dramas. They were over my head and I probably missed a lot of the vocabulary, but I can still remember the pleasure of “Cyrano de Bergerac.” It was well worth the effort and it didn’t put me off French.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. ladyofthecakes Post author

        I’m not suggesting reading is the only way to fluency. Far from it, in fact. Attaining all-round competency in a language involves multiple types of input (as well as output).

        Like

  13. joannesisco

    Very interesting … I understood reading children’s books (been there, done that) but I wouldn’t have thought of romance novels. In the end, I guess it should be a relatively ‘easy’ read to build confidence with the vocabulary and grammar.

    Like

    Reply
      1. ladyofthecakes Post author

        Yup. You make your choices, you expend the effort. Or not. …and spend the rest of your life wondering if you could have succeeded at something if only you’d tried…

        Like

  14. Karolyn Cooper

    I agree with every word.
    I can recommend, for adult Chinese learners, a comic book for kids with “Ma Ding” as a Calvin-and-Hobbes type character. The humour and the pictures helped.
    And in French, where I was more advanced, the pictures in my head from a movie helped me to read “Manon des Sources”.

    Like

    Reply
  15. Nerdator

    I can’t say I agree with the children’s book advice. It is pretty common, and there probably are adults who can tolerate the insipidity and brainlessness typical to the genre, but I personally have tried and failed. I’ve found adapted texts or texts specifically written for students to be far more rewarding (detective stories with Lola Lago (Spanish) and Carsten Tsara (German) certainly helped me a lot in the beginning).

    But, even when using simple texts, one must always be prepared that the step towards the ‘real’ literature will still be a steep one. So yes, choosing trashier (young adult) representatives of the popular genres is generally a good idea.

    Plus, it’s always good to actually put the words you don’t know while reading in a list, or to mark them – so that you can revise them before the next time you read (dict.cc has a great system for making and maintaining such lists, for example). Just checking up a word in the dictionary and then proceeding, never to return to it again might be useful to your vocabulary, but it’ll likely to be forgotten pretty quickly, and much, much faster than if you revise it at least once.

    Like

    Reply
    1. ladyofthecakes Post author

      Well, that makes at least two of us, then, who are bored to tears by children’s books 😉 (Except, perhaps, those written by Roald Dahl?)

      I’ve started making lists with new vocab gleaned from books, and I’ve got a dozen notebooks’ full of them, but I’m not sure that’s actually doing a great deal for me. I think I just need to read and read and come across the same vocab in different contexts before it seeps into my permanent memory banks. I’m looking up far fewer words now than I used to, so I’m relying on that process for now…

      Thanks for your thoughts!

      Like

      Reply
      1. Nerdator

        There are indeed pretty witty children’s books, they would be just as bad for you as ‘serious’ literature if you’re a beginner. 🙂

        I use lists to essentially control force-feeding myself with the vocabulary I encounter. Just reading and reading to expand your passive vocabulary does work (and I still rely on this when I read in Portuguese, for example), but it fails a lot, too, because it’s quite chaotic, and many words will just fade away before you encounter them again, and there will be persistent ones that won’t let you remember them even if they’re common.

        What I do with my reading in German (combining it with a little private research, which is added fun) is that I immediately put the words I check in the dictionary into a list. One list per reading session. Then, I re-read the list the next day – this means I look at the German words and try to remember the meaning, and look at the translation only if I can’t. Then, I repeat the same with this list 3 days later, then 7 days later and then over several more intervals increasing (or not) in size.

        It’s hard to evaluate the efficacy of this approach, as I don’t have a control specimen who would be exactly like me, but wouldn’t use this approach. 🙂 But my German reading has improved hugely over the 5 months I’ve used it (and it wasn’t bad when I started), and I have indeed been able to deal with some problems I typically encounter, like hard-to-remember words (‘schweifen’, ‘eingreifen’), or similarly-sounding ones (‘Keil’-‘Keule’).

        And I do have a little in a way of numbers, here’s a report from a list that I will soon abandon: 12-25-30-C 63.2 43.9 36.8 31.6 22.8 (57). It’s 57 words long, and ‘63.2 43.9 36.8 31.6 22.8’ are the space-separated percentages of errors I made after each interval. The decrease in error isn’t always as great, but this is still a fairly typical result.

        Like

      2. ladyofthecakes Post author

        Impressive! And I do get what you mean about forgetting vocab because you just don’t come across it again for a very long time since you first encountered it. I may have to think about this list thing…

        Like

      3. Nerdator

        That’s right, there is a moment when the word becomes a part of your long-term memory, and you’re not going to forget it. But after you see it 1–2 times it usually still has a timer ticking.

        I remember when I started reading non-adapted literature in Spanish a lot, and I didn’t do anything additional for the vocabulary, I had the feeling of ‘hey, this word looks familiar’ and having no idea what it means all the time.

        What I do is actually nothing new, and it is pretty well-established: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spaced_repetition

        Liked by 1 person

  16. freebutfun

    I know you specifically write ‘reading books’ but I still have to comment that when learning a new language and starting to read in it, I find the easiest way to get started and get the feeling of mastering something is to start by reading a comic (even easier if one you have in your native tongue too) or a magazine: In the comic you’ll typically get a fair amount of colloquial but useful sentences/ word, the picture will help you understand, and with some strips in daily papers you also find out what the current talk is about (downside is, of course, that at least I can’t be bothered to read a huge amount of comics…but it has worked to get started). In magazines you can choose one with a content that you are interested in, and the articles are often easier and shorter than even simple books. But then, I assume, your skills are far beyond this stage already 🙂

    Like

    Reply
    1. ladyofthecakes Post author

      Comics are definitely great for ‘building muscle’, before you get down to the “real” stuff. Having said that, you can probably learn something new from comics at fairly advanced stage, too. Whatever works, and variety is important 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
  17. roughseasinthemed

    I used linguaphone tapes for Spanish and Portuguese so that covered reading and writing and oral/audio as an introduction.

    Understanding and speaking Spanish was the hardest, (sooo fast), but, my TV had sub-titles so I got the bonus of reading the words and hearing the sounds. The best ones were soaps (Gata Salvaje – don’t know how long you’ve been here) and the classic news stations, I usually watched TVE1 and Canal Sur.

    I bought the newspapers, Sur and the Málaga one plus El Pais. At one point El Pais had an offer on some Spanish classics for a euro a book, so I bought quite a few. Great for reading on the bus as people wouldn’t start speaking to you in English. There were a couple of short ones that were eminently readable, mi tía something or other and the honeycomb (from memory).

    I think it depends what you like. I found magazines boring, news was fairly easy, and every bar has a daily newspaper you can ask to read, and short classics are pretty good. I think as with your native language, best go with what you enjoy.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
  18. Jackie Cangro

    Great tips! A while ago, when I was studying Italian, I’d picked up a book of stories with Italian on the left side of the page and English on the right side. The stories weren’t very good, but that book did help by lowering my frustration levels.
    What do you think about learning to read via newspaper articles? At first I thought it was helpful because I was able to infer some of the article by context.

    Like

    Reply
    1. ladyofthecakes Post author

      It’s all useful, of course, but a sole focus on newspaper articles has its pitfalls. It’s news speak rather than daily-life speak, and neither is it literary language, if that’s what you’re after. As a writer yourself, you’ll be well aware of the differences and of the potential limitations of each of these very different types of print mediums. Even with book genres, you have to choose carefully, depending on your objective.

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
  19. Anna

    I’ll say, read what you know and what you love – like fashion magazines, celeb gossip, politics and Harry Potter for me. You will recognize the themes and many words, and will be able to spend the energy on learning new ones (rather than all), and on getting sentence structure down.

    Like

    Reply
  20. D K Powell

    Solid good advice – nice to seeing someone advocating using reading as a good means to develop prowess in a language. The considered wisdom of many is that speaking is more than enough and reading doesn’t help at all. As a visual learner, that’s a disaster to me! Reading has always been the key…

    Like

    Reply
    1. ladyofthecakes Post author

      I think it depends on your objectives… to achieve all round competence in a language, you’ve got to read. For those who don’t like reading anyway, well, they’re just not going to get down to it, are they? That post was meant for ‘us’ readers (and I know you are one!) 😉

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
  21. whichwaynow101

    A case in point – I downloaded Les Miserables onto my reader, in French as well as English. I thought I could compare the two. Ha! I found them both impenetrable. I’ll have to make do with the film, and first grade readers.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. ladyofthecakes Post author

      Classics are a killer… but there’s tons of French contemporary literature, you’ll just have to dig about a bit. Trawling the bookshops (when in France) will be a great way of discovering new (to you) authors 🙂

      Like

      Reply
  22. tobyo

    great tips! I haven’t gotten through a “real” book in Spanish. Unless you count “El Principito” 🙂 Hey, it counts!! I bought that one and another juvenile book while in Spain 4 years ago and still haven’t gotten through the other one….heavy sigh. too much to do, too little time. and I have other books in English i want to read. I do like to read but not as voraciously as perhaps you (or my teenage daughter. yowsa that girl reads a lot!! maybe I need a schedule. one night an English book, the next night a Spanish book? yea….tal vez….a ver…..

    Like

    Reply
    1. ladyofthecakes Post author

      I’ve always got several on the go, my only rule is that they can’t be in the same language 😉 Spanish books will be much easier for you on an e-reader, with an integrated dictionary. I love my Kindle for that reason.

      Like

      Reply
  23. Pingback: Friday Links 16th January - Charlotte Steggz

  24. Kim G

    Great post, Simone!

    I’ve always told people that Harry Potter was responsible for a good chunk of my Spanish. Since I had read the whole series in English, I figured I’d have a go in Spanish. The first 100 pages of the first book took forever, but then on a coast-to-coast flight I somehow managed to finish the remaining 200 or so on the six-hour flight as something in my brain just clicked. The remaining books were much easier. So my first point is echoing Bevchen. Read something in translation that you’ve read before in your original language.

    Second, it’s ok if you don’t understand every last word while reading. If you stop and look up every single word you don’t understand, the process will be so painful you’ll stop doing it. What I do is read past as many words as I can without understanding. After a while, one of two things will happen. The best thing is that I start to just figure out the mystery words via context. This, by the way, is how we’ve learned most of the words in our native language, so it’s not so ridiculous to try it in a second language. And if this doesn’t work, then I get to a place where I’ve completely lost the plot. Then I look up a group of words at once, then go back and re read. I find this way of reading, though it can seem sloppy, actually gets me through books and lets me learn more than if I had stopped and looked up each word as it came along.

    I also personally find the news helpful because I’ve already read it in English and so it’s almost like reading something in translation; I already have a leg up because I already know the plot.

    Finally, sometimes you’ll find a movie in your native language that has the dubbing script used as the subtitles. Again Harry Potter comes to the rescue. In the Harry Potter movies, originally filmed in English, if you switch the audio to Spanish AND use the subtitles, you’ll find that the subtitles are almost exactly word-for-word what the dubbing actors are speaking. This can help your audio comprehension tremendously.

    Saludos,

    Kim G
    Boston, MA
    Where we’ve found that we can sort of, almost read Portuguese just by knowing Spanish.

    Like

    Reply
    1. ladyofthecakes Post author

      Thanks for sharing your language learning experience with us, Kim! I know people will find this kind of stuff very useful and encouraging 🙂

      I love subtitles. I don’t need them anymore to follow what’s going on, but I use them purposely to identify words and phrases I’ve not come across yet. Slowly, slowly, it fills the gaps 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s