Books bring language to life.
That is, unless you’re struggling with reading in a foreign language.
Choosing the wrong Spanish language books and using the wrong reading strategies will leave you exhausted.
Perhaps you’ve been in love with reading since your first picture books.
Or, maybe you’re new to being a bookworm.
Either way, you’ve probably already discovered that reading in Spanish is the best way to see your grammar and vocabulary in action.
However, just reading passively doesn’t always do to trick.
And without the right guidance, reading could be detrimental to your progress and self-confidence.
Want to guarantee an improvement in all your Spanish skills?
Then you need to be reading right.
Why Intermediate Learners Need Reading Practice
Once you’re at an intermediate level, you’re smack dab in the middle of your Spanish learning journey.
Things could go either way at this point.
If you don’t keep practicing and making progress beyond those basic linguistic building blocks, you might find yourself going backwards and forgetting what you’ve already learned.
Of course, if you go the other way, you could find yourself quickly propelled to new heights of Spanish speaking rapture.
How do you make sure you head towards the latter? Well, you’ll need to practice listening, speaking and probably a bit of writing too, but reading could really be the thing that helps you jump your way up to the next level.
The best thing about reading? You can do it on your own at home or while on the move, whenever you get the time.
As if that wasn’t enough, reading is a fun, interesting activity that helps you to assimilate language you already know and is a great resource to discover and learn new words and phrases in context.
But how do you make the most of it? Pay attention to the following.
6 Game-changing Tips for Intermediate Spanish Reading
1. Reread beginners’ books in Spanish
Seriously, I’m talking about going right back to the very basics — picture books, magical adventures and cute little rhymes. Also included are longer narratives written for children ages 10-13. Don’t let your pride get in the way. Rereading these kind of books has tons of benefits for you as a language learner.
Reflect on what you know.
Reading a book that’s on the easy side can help you realize how much you’ve already learned. You’ll also get that warm, fuzzy feeling of satisfaction that comes from finishing a book cover to cover without throwing it at something first. This will help you check on your progress moving forward.
Get into the swing of things.
Reading easier books can also help to get you into the reading habit, and should result in you reading more quickly in Spanish. You may not even have to consult a dictionary once.
Without having to pause, think, translate and ponder the meaning of the text, you’ll be able to zip right along. This helps your brain grow accustomed to reading things in the new language. You’ll become more and more familiar with the sounds and rhythms of this language.
Review key language.
Beginners’ books are excellent for regular revision of basic vocabulary and structures. Sometimes things slip through the cracks when you’re learning a language. If you don’t take the time to step back and review the fundamentals, you might go years without ever knowing certain critical vocabulary or phrases.
Have a little fun!
Of course, can follow interesting storylines too. There’s always fun to be had in these easier readings. Since you don’t have to focus on the details of the language, you can finally unwind and let yourself get lost in the story itself. For a list of good books to get you started, see this handy list of Spanish title for beginners.
If you still need to brush up considerably on Spanish reading, you might want to read a book in Spanish that you’ve already read in English. That way, as you already know the story, you can just concentrate on all that juicy language.
2. Highlight newly learned language
While you’re reading in Spanish, you’re bound to encounter new words, phrases and grammar along the way. Sometimes you’ll need to break out the dictionary, but hopefully you’ll be able to work out most of them from context.
It’s easy to think that you’ll remember all this new language by virtue of having read it. In reality, you’ll be hard-pressed to move language from book to brain (and then again to mouth) unless you record it in some way.
Underline as you go.
Whatever you’re reading, make sure that you underline any new Spanish vocabulary, or any structures or sentences that you’re unsure of.
The easiest way to do this is to underline new words, verb structures and so on as you read.
From there, there are two major ways you can interact with that new language: (1) look them up as you go along or (2) look up a bunch of new language at the end of each chapter. A variation on the second method is to wait until the end of the entire book to look up new language. However, if you find that you’re underlining lots of things, then you’ll want to hold dictionary sessions more frequently.
Ideally, you shouldn’t just leave these new words sitting marked in your book. You should also transfer them somewhere else.
This will help you revise the new language and make you more likely to remember it. Writing words down really helps to get your brain working and triggers your memory far better than just underlining. Speaking the words out loud can help with this as well.
You might want to start a vocabulary list in your Spanish notebook. Group new language by which book you learn it in. Anything else you can provide for the new language to give it more color and make it more memorable, such as pictures, doodles and notes on content, can really help aid memory later.
All this is sadly no good unless you go back over the words until you’ve learnt them, and even then, it’s good to keep looking at your notes again to remind yourself of all the new words you now know. In summary, all you have to do is follow this mantra: read, record, repeat, and you’ll never forget a word you’ve read again!
3. Read and reread the same sections lots of times
Did we mention you should reread? Don’t feel disheartened if you have to read the same section more than once. In fact, you should actively try to do this. Remember that, even in your own language, you probably sometimes switch off and have to reread sentences or paragraphs, so of course you’ll need to do the same in Spanish.
Reading again even if you did get the general idea can really help you notice and learn unfamiliar language. Try reading the section once or twice to get the general gist of things, and then again to focus in particular on new language.
Whatever you do, don’t read against the clock. This won’t help you relax and enjoy the process and may make you feel unnecessarily stressed about reading. You definitely don’t want to turn reading in Spanish into something you end up dreading.
If you’re preparing for an exam where you’ll need to read under timed conditions, you should practice first without the clock and then slowly incorporate a time limit once you feel more confident.
4. Use a dictionary as you read
A decent dictionary is key to making the most out of your intermediate book.
Choose an online dictionary.
One good online dictionary that allows you to translate between Spanish and English is SpanishDict. The Collins and Cambridge Spanish dictionaries are also great choices. The Real Academia Española dictionary is a good monolingual dictionary (all in Spanish) and Wordreference can also be very useful as it also has forums where people may have already asked the question that’s on your mind.
This FluentU post rounds up the best Spanish dictionary apps very nicely.
But the best dictionary out there is undoubtedly FluentU‘s.
FluentU takes authentic videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.
If you’re reading on the Kindle, you should configure your Spanish dictionary to allow you to press on a word and see its meaning. This can really speed up the reading process as you don’t have to open a separate application, window or book in order to find the meaning of new words. You can also then highlight the word to make a handy list of all the new words you’ve learned without even putting pen to paper.
Good paper dictionaries include the Collins and Cambridge Spanish dictionaries which, in addition to being handy apps, are available in nice chunky paperback form.
5. Choose the right book
All of this reading and studying is useless if you’re not interested in what you’re reading. As you’re probably likely to abandon a book you find boring in your own language, it follows that a boring book in Spanish will soon be gathering dust on your bookshelf.
Pick a book you’re interested in and don’t be afraid to give up if after a couple of chapters you realize it’s not what you’d hoped for. Make sure you also ask your friends, acquaintances, classmates and your Spanish teacher for good book recommendations.
6. Talk about your book
Hopefully, your book will be so fantastic and life-changing that you won’t be able to wait to tell all your friends about it. Although it’s preferable to do this in Spanish, even telling your English speaking friends about the story can help you remember the plot and assimilate what you’ve learned. You can practice your speaking (and acting) skills too as you reenact the best parts.
To talk about your book more formally, why not try joining a Spanish book group, either online or in person? You could even try writing book reviews online.
So, now you know! It’s easy to make the most out of reading at intermediate level. If you follow these tips you’ll not only be reading, you’ll be reading right.
We’ll see you in advanced Spanish class in no time!