My friend's spoken (speak/listen) English is very good, almost as a native English speaker.

However, she finds it very hard to read English (to the extent of taking 2-3 seconds to read simple words), as well as write it (having a hard time choosing the right vowel, even with everyday words).

What would be a good way to improve reading/writing skills?

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    There is no fancy magical way. She must work on these skills. She must read voraciously and write essays. – Cardinal Jun 19 '16 at 9:49
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    It was (and may still be) common practice at the elementary school level to have children write essays without concern for spelling. The important thing at the outset is to get them in the habit of writing. The same practice could benefit an adult. Your friend can always go back and spell-check afterwards. Another step would be to take sentences found "in the wild" and restate them in different words; or to keep them largely intact but treat them as malleable things, reordering their clauses, in order to increase syntax proficiency. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Jun 19 '16 at 10:56
  • I'm reminded of a famous quote that usually gets attributed to various famous golfers (yes, I know it didn't originate there) - it goes something like Golf is a game of luck - the more you practice, the luckier you get. Same with language - there's no quick fix – PerryW Jun 20 '16 at 0:06

My suggestions here are based on experience as an educator; I'm not a teacher of English.

We are trying to help build associations between heard/spoken words and words on a page. This is made more difficult by the irregularity of English, we cannot always predict how to pronounce a word from its spelling. Consider Loughborough: the ough has two different pronunciations in the same word!

Despite being a native English speaker I learned to read many words never having heard them pronounced, and hence as a child would mispronounce them.

In the end all such learning, the building of associations, will come with structured practice. Time and focused effort will be needed.

I would hope somewhere that there are good online courses for this but I'm afraid I don't know of any specific instances. However one idea that occurs to me to help with reading: get audio books and the physical book. Listen to the audio book and read the page at the same time. Then attempt to read the page outloud yourself. I think you will find that this is relatively painless way to practice reading.

Writing I think will be more difficult, I certainly found this when attempting to learn French and Spanish. English has so many words that are pronounced the same but spelled differently (their, there) that even native English speakers struggle. Again though, using recorded may be helpful. Listen to a short passage. Attempt to write it down. Compare with the text. I often want to prepare a lyric sheet for a song I'm trying to learn. I put on a track, listen to a line or two, then type it, refer back to the track again. Your friend could do this, but for songs that have a reference text online. You may need to be selective about this, literate song-writers who do not use too much slang may be best. (Examples: Al Stewart, Reg Meuross, Paul Simon). Even then, some additional work will be needed to focus on the homonyms; prepare lists of commonly used word variants. (tea, tee; their, there, they're; its, it's) and work to rote learn them.

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My guess is that the problem is not being able to covert written letters/syllables into audible equivalents.
For example, if you read "th", it makes a th sound. If listening to such sound is fine, then reading it should be OK.

First you should make sure that some condition such as dyslexia is not causing the problem.

Beyond that, I would look into Phonics. Start with very easy readers, that you can commonly find in used book stores. For example, in the first grade we started with the Dick and Jane books, which start out with very simple words and sentences and build from there. Such series of books have been carefully thought out and used in schools for decades.

And give it time. Even for small children it takes years, and as adults there are many distractions including conficts with one's native language.

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I would recommend a book called 'Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons'. I used it to teach reading to my 2 sons and helped a middle-aged woman become literate with the very same book.

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