You’ve been devouring textbooks, absorbing flashcards and writing Spanish as best you can.
Now it’s time to put away the grammar books for a little while and delve into some sensational short stories.
Stories that take you away from the classroom and study sessions.
Tales that terrify, excite and sadden you.
Sagas of legends and myths.
All are awaiting your interest, and once you start there’ll be no stopping you. Your confidence will increase as you familiarize yourself with Spanish reading. Soon you’ll be taking the leap into novels and longer, more complex narratives.
Why Short Stories Are Excellent for Your Spanish Learning
- Length. You don’t get overwhelmed with 800 pages of new words, sayings and phrases. Instead, you know that the end is near, the reading is brief yet engaging, and if you’re a Spanish beginner you can set realistic goals that’ll motivate you to expand your reading abilities.
- Anytime, Anywhere. Short stories equal smaller books which are easy to take anywhere, anytime. Studying means having to read and carry heavy textbooks, but short stories are light and can slip into your bag without weighing you down. You also won’t need to devote a massive amount of time and concentration to these. You can easily digest a short story quickly whenever you have a few spare moments to read.
- Every word counts: Short stories are… short! The author has a limited amount of time to tell their story, so they’re usually quick to jump right into the tale. This means you don’t have to read page after page of text-heavy informational overload before settling into your reading.
- Anthologies. Many short stories come in a collection of similar stories. Reading more stories in one book means that you get a wide variety of themes and tales, not to mention a broad selection of authors. The short stories in an anthology may have common threads that highlight one element, theme or genre, but not necessarily. Enjoying a short story book usually means that there’s a tale for every type of reader.
6 Strategies for Reading a Short Story
- Guess the word. After taking notes or underlining a new, unknown word you just found, take a guess at its meaning before checking the dictionary. You may find that you can interpret more words when you put them into context within the sentence.
- Put it into practice. At the end of each chapter, pause, review your new words and try to use them in a sentence. Familiarizing yourself with new words through use will allow you to harness the power of word association, making each word easier to remember the next time you come across it.
- Alternative vocabulary. For each new word, try to think of a related word, a similar word or a synonym to use.
- Be a grammar genius. At the end of each chapter, pick three or four verbs that have been used many times throughout those pages. Write them down in a notebook, then list their tenses and various conjugations next to them, for example starting with subjunctive, past tense and future.
- Online book forums: Discuss the books in online chat forums. You’ll meet fellow Spanish speakers to converse with, and you’ll expose yourself to conversational slang in an environment that won’t put you on the spot because you’ll have time to write your answer and review it before sending.
- Write a review: When you’ve finished the anthology or short story, write a review on amazon or Goodreads. You can write one review in English and one review in Spanish. If you find that the story is unclear because you couldn’t follow it, then return to it for a reread. Each time you read, you’ll become more aware of the general storyline. When you can write a review of the story, then you’ll know that you were able to comprehend the tale.
7 Sensationally Short Spanish Stories That Are Easy to Read
If you enjoy the short bursts of learning you get from the stories below, you’ll love the more visual method of authentic learning, FluentU!
1. “Spanish Short Stories For Beginners: 8 Unconventional Short Stories to Grow Your Vocabulary and Learn Spanish the Fun Way!” by Olly Richards
Not only does Olly Richards offer sound and helpful advice on how to effectively read in Spanish, he has also built learning aids into each tale.
Difficult words are in bold and their definitions are given at the end of each chapter, while he also includes plot summaries to help you follow the story.
For readers who want to test themselves or set goals, there are also comprehension questions for each individual story to test your knowledge and interpretation of the plot. This is a great reading start for Spanish students who want to wade into the waters of Spanish reading instead of diving straight in.
After all, when it comes to learning Spanish, Olly Richards really knows his stuff. That’s why he cooked up the popular Fluent Spanish Academy program. This guides you and supports you through the intermediate stages of Spanish and boosts you right up to full Spanish fluency—and it uses short stories along with live coaching, monthly challenges and goals to get you there!
If this sounds like what you need, you can also check out the Grammar Hero (all about the building blocks), Conversations (for fast fluency) or the Spanish Uncovered course.
2. “El Aleph” by Jorge Luis Borges
“El Aleph” is a book of 17 short stories that takes you on a surreal journey through many different genres with unexpected twists and turns.
Exploring space and existence through the concepts of mazes, mirrors and mortality, this work proves that Borges had an amazingly vivid imagination. This book is great for upper-beginner and intermediate Spanish readers who are looking for meatier tales to sink their teeth into.
3. “Vidas escritas” by Javier Marías
This non-fiction anthology covers the short biographies of 20 famous writers.
From Oscar Wilde to Emily Bronte, William Faulkner to Arthur Miller, Marías recounts their tales through anecdotes that’ll make you laugh and please the gossiper within, while at other times his words will charmingly move you.
The quirks of these writers are told in such an interesting, entertaining way that you’ll soon forget you’re reading in Spanish, and the vignettes are only four to five pages long which motivates you to continue reading chapter after chapter.
4. “Negocios” by Junot Díaz
This modern collection of ten short stories centers on the theme of immigration and the experiences of young Dominican Republic immigrants in New York, New Jersey and the Dominican Republic.
With a focus on the effects of machismo, the need to fit into a new place, connections to loved ones and establishing new connections to strangers in a strange land, Diaz has painted a cultural picture of resilient characters in a powerful, witty and edgy way for readers to captivate themselves with.
5. “El arroyo de la Llorona y otros cuentos” by Sandra Cisneros
With 22 stories to keep you eagerly reading through the night and improving your Spanish, Cisneros takes her readers on an adventure through the lives and journeys of Hispanic women on both sides of the US/Mexican border.
Known for her rich cultural writing, this book is vibrant, feisty and folkloric. Much like Junot Diaz’s “Negocios,” it will allow you a glimpse into not only the Spanish language in its everyday form, but also into one of the cultures where the language is spoken.
6. “Bestiario” by Julio Cortázar
A great read for suspenseful horror fans, Argentinian writer Cortázar writes fantastically about magical realism and the dualities of life.
These stories range far and wide, starting with one about a young girl who goes to visit her family in the country for a summer. A normal coming of age tale you might think, except for the fact that a tiger roams the premises, and the family and servants constantly report where it is.
In another story, the influence of Edgar Allen Poe can be seen as we follow a wealthy South American woman who becomes obsessed with visions of a homeless woman living in Budapest—and has headaches likened to mythical creatures named mancuspias. Like Borges’s “El Aleph,“ these stories will follow you long after you’ve finished reading them.
7. “Inquieta compañía” by Carlos Fuentes
This is a supernatural book filled with six stories about ghosts, demons, witches, vampires and even Vlad the Impaler in Mexico City.
This book is filled with a dark humor that’ll keep you engaged with its mystifying sense of foreboding. At other times throughout the tales, your heartstrings will be tugged by the theme of loss and the personal moments that define who we are.
Then, just as you start to get relaxed with the words and plots, you’ll be stunned by a horror that you never saw coming.
Whether you have time to read 5 pages or 50, reading a Spanish short story won’t only offer you variety, but also the chance to break away from the textbooks to really engage in Spanish reading.
As you reach the end of each tale recommended here, your motivation at having finished a full story will see you continuing forward.
Soon, reading a Spanish novel—and enjoying every bit of it—will be completely within your grasp.
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