Ready to go exploring?
We’re going to find adventure at the turn of every page.
For the avid bookworm, reading evokes images of relaxation, imagination and inspiration.
We delve into the pages, get lost in the words, travel through time and cross lands on a literary journey.
As a Spanish learner, you are fortunate to have the borders of your reading worlds expand to new frontiers.
You get double the choice, and the added bonus of achievement when you finish that first read in Spanish and realize that you’ve done it.
Taking that initial step towards reading in Spanish doesn’t have to be a large one. It can really be quite fun, and it can give your Spanish learning a motivational boost as you deepen your connection to learning the Spanish language.
To make it easy on you, we’ve got eight simple strategies so you can enjoy these benefits in no time.
How Reading Helps Your Spanish Language Skills
There are so many reasons why you should begin the process of reading in Spanish.
The most important reason to read in Spanish is that it will greatly strengthen your language-learning skills. Reading will allow you to:
- Go at your own pace. You decide what speed you want to read at without ever feeling like you’re lagging behind. There’s no one to compare to, no competition nor race. Reading is an individual activity where you control how fast or slow you want to go.
- Broaden your vocabulary horizons. Just think of all those mountainous undiscovered new words you’re not only going to learn, but get to use in future conversations.
- Learn colloquial phrases and sayings. No longer will you sound like you’re reciting a textbook. Now you’ll recognize and be able to implement slang that will make your conversations flow more naturally.
- Become familiar with repetitive words and grammar tenses. We’ve all experienced those pauses in conversation where we speak in question rather than actual conversation. “Ayer, fui…fui? Iba?…hmmm?” All the while we’re hoping that the person we’re speaking to will put us out of our misery and confirm which tense it is. Reading will help you focus on repetitive grammatical tenses so that over time, you won’t have to talk in question—you’ll be confident in your grammatical choices.
- Learn the structure of Spanish sentences. Spanish words don’t always flow within a sentence the way English words do. Reading allows you to naturally notice the correct arrangement so that in future, you can explain to someone that the cat was on the table, not the table cat on!
For even more practice reading, FluentU has you covered. FluentU takes real-world videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.
The annotated subtitles make it easy to follow along as you read, and any words you don’t know can go straight into your personal vocabulary list for later studies.
Now that we’ve looked at what you can gain from reading in Spanish, don’t let the reality of the task prevent you from starting. These eight simple strategies will help you keep calm and continue reading.
8 Powerful Strategies That Make Reading in Spanish Easy
1. Pick a Topic That Interests You
Simply put, pick a topic or subject matter that you are interested in. If you’re enthusiastic about what you’re reading, it will motivate you to continue when you reach a challenging section. Without that enjoyable interest, there’s no reason for you to break through the mental wall you’re confronted with.
Whether you’re drawn to sports, movies, cars or politics, your eagerness for the topic will remind you that reading is a leisurely activity when the going gets tough.
2. Start Small
In order to succeed, you need to acknowledge your Spanish abilities. If you’re a beginner, picking up an 800-page philosophy book is going to take a long time. You won’t understand the majority of the language, and the longer it takes, the more reading will seem like a chore.
Instead, start small with some of the following resources:
- A newspaper or magazine article: A great advantage to reading articles daily is that it allows you to stay knowledgeable in not just your Spanish, but also with current events. You also have the option of reading on-the-go by subscribing to newspapers for daily emails or reminders, with a smartphone app. You’ll be able to read anytime, anyplace!
- Blog posts: Subscribe to various blogs for more variety. You can even mix and merge your interests by including Spanish learning blogs and must-read blogs that will have you eagerly awaiting the next post.
- Children’s or young adult books: Not all children or YA books focus on the alphabet or nursery rhymes. There are many intriguing stories, like Isabel Allende’s “La Ciudad de las Bestias“ or Pam Munoz Ryan and Peter Sis’s “El Sonador” that captivate adults and children alike with their inspiring imagery.
- Poetry: Aside from its time-efficient length to read, poetry goes beyond the learning of words to teach us about culture and identity within the Spanish-speaking worlds. “Reversible Monuments: Contemporary Mexican Poetry” introduces us to the diverse faces of Mexico and its people, while “Spanish Contemporary Poetry: An Anthology” addresses not only the history of Spain, but how society has changed and continues to change over the years.
- Song lyrics: Short and sweet, song lyrics allow us to engage in advancing our Spanish in a fun and interactive way. By learning through listening and reading the music, we can compare our pronunciations with the actual songs after we’ve translated the words.
- Short stories: If the thought of picking up a story of any size makes you nervous, you can start with a dual-language short story like “Spanish Stories/Cuentos Españoles (A dual-language book)“ by Angel Flores. Then, when your confidence grows and you’re looking for something more adventurous that you can sink your teeth into “Hacerse el muerto” by Andres Neuman is an excellent venturesome starting point.
3. Read a Story That’s Familiar to You
We all have books that we return to again and again. The pages are dog-eared and the cover is worn, but it is still our go-to book. It’s the one we still and will in all likelihood, continue to read repeatedly in future. So why not try reading the Spanish version? If “To Kill a Mockingbird” is your go-to book, then you might enjoy reading “Matar un Ruisenor”
Your familiarity with the plot, the characters and the flow will decrease any intimidation you might have, not to mention, your enthusiasm for the original will give you that extra motivational boost. By incorporating this strategy, you already know what you’re going to get before you turn the first page.
4. Read Parallel Texts
If you have an English version of a book that’s sitting on your shelf waiting to be read, get the Spanish version too. Cross-referencing the words or sentences will stop you from having to time-consumingly search for every new word in a dictionary.
You won’t have to scramble to translate at every instance, thereby reinforcing your fluency development with the safety-net knowledge that the correct translation is always at hand.
5. Word Log After You Reach a Stopping Point
While it is extremely helpful to note all new words in a word journal, too often we get weighed down in the assumption that we need to log every unknown word as soon as we read it. This doesn’t have to be the case; you don’t need to pause at every single word. It takes up a lot of your reading time, and stops you from connecting with the story.
Instead, underline every word you don’t understand and make a choice to stop reading when you reach a specific point; be it the end of a paragraph, page or chapter. Then return to the underlined words when you reach your chosen point. This will ease your frustrations at having to constantly stop to make notes.
MosaLingua's web app can also help you cast aside these usual frustrations by allowing you to instantly get translations for words and phrases in the recommended content in their library. You can also create flashcards quickly and easily as you read, which you can then review later once you’ve finished reading.
6. Make Reading Practical
Read as often as possible, wherever possible. You have a constant stream of information at your fingertips that can often be overlooked, but if you continuously look for efficient opportunities to read in Spanish, it can make your reading experience so simple, and become subconsciously natural.
Try reading movie reviews or BuzzFeed in Spanish, or change the settings on your computer or phone to Spanish for a day. You can even incorporate social media sites like Facebook and Twitter as vital resources for Spanish reading, or use Google’s “Mind the Word” Chrome add-on, which randomly translates words into Spanish on webpages you browse. These small modifications will encourage you to broaden your reading abilities at a rate that feels comfortable, while advancing your word memory and increased vocabulary use.
7. Pause in Your Reading
Too often, people continue reading page after page without ever taking a break to ask themselves, “Do I understand what I am reading?” It’s easy to settle into the repetitive motion of moving your eyes over the lines while your mind starts planning what to eat for lunch, or how to spend your weekend.
Choose a point in your reading, be it a paragraph, page or chapter, where you’ll take a moment to evaluate. When you pause, ask yourself if you understand what you’ve just read. If you find it difficult to summarize or pinpoint where you are in the story, you have the option of returning to the last point of knowledge and recovering what you might have missed.
8. Read Aloud
Many people find it helpful to read aloud in Spanish in order to hear the words, familiarize themselves with them and to practice their spoken Spanish. Taking an interactive role like this can help maintain your engagement in what you’re reading, and also make it entertaining.
If you’re unsure about pronunciation or wondering whether you’re saying the words correctly, read aloud with the use of the audiobook version. Audible Latino has an extensive range of audiobooks and allows you to find the books that you love. If your budget is tight from buying textbooks, Alba Learning and Loyal Books have a list of free audiobooks at your fingertips.
Conquering your nerves of the Spanish book monster to become the bookworm you are destined to be is only a page away. Remember that you are always in control of your reading choices. It’s easy to get overwhelmed, but reading should always be a relaxing activity that should be enjoyed. If you’re not enjoying what you’re reading, find something else to read, or take a break.
There will be many words you won’t know, many words that will be daunting and sentence structures that will confuse you, but remember to steadily take your time. There’s no rush to the finish line of that last page. Reading allows you to be in control, to fall into the words and to visualize the images. Remember to enjoy it, and the learning will come effortlessly.
Karen Patchell has had a love for learning and experiencing foreign languages her entire life. Her Bachelor’s degree in Spanish and Anthropology, and Master’s degree in Anthropology have helped her fuel her passion for the wonderful world of cross-cultural communication.
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