The Twenty-Page Rule

“After six weeks of Swedish, I was reading Swedish classics at sight. I had made a discovery: If anybody takes the trouble to look up and memorize every word and to understand every detail of the grammar in the first twenty pages of any book, he can read the rest of the book with scarcely any need of a dictionary. This is so because each author has his own style and mode of expression, which for the most part unfold in any twenty-page sampling of his writing. … That I could do this with Swedish inspired me with confidence that I could duplicate the experience with other languages as well. One summer I decided to learn French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, and Dano-Norwegian by myself, through studying each one of them one hour per day during the three-month vacation. … I took sight-reading examinations in the autumn at the University of Pennsylvania and was awarded sight-reading certificates in all of them.”

From Forgotten Scripts, by Cyrus H. Gordon (London, 1968), p. 137


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