You probably know reading is essential to learning a foreign language. But do you know exactly what you want to read?
Some people don’t. Spanish learners show up at their local library, eagerly pick out a book from the Spanish section and, within a few weeks, find themselves getting frustrated or losing interest altogether.
Even if you’re a voracious reader, you may have found yourself struggling to finish a written work in Spanish at some point. Maybe the vocabulary was a bit out of your reach.
Maybe you had trouble keeping the plot straight over a long period of time, or you just didn’t feel like you were learning words and concepts that would be useful in everyday situations.
If you’re looking for a new approach to reading, put down that copy of “Cien Años de Soledad” (“One Hundred Years of Solitude”) and hear me out.
Have you considered magazines? They’re not just for waiting rooms anymore, and there’s a whole world of Spanish magazines out there—perfect for every taste and skill level and perfect for getting your daily dose of reading practice.
What Do Magazines Have That Books Don’t?
Now, don’t get me wrong. Reading books and short stories in Spanish can be fun and, assuming you pick something suited to your skill level, a good way to practice. But when it comes to language learning, the humble magazine has a leg up on books in a few key areas.
Magazines tend to be written in an informal, conversational style that’s close to the feel of everyday communication. It may not seem like a big thing, but just as you won’t learn to form sentences in Spanish by conjugating verbs all day, you won’t learn conversational Spanish if you don’t read it once in a while.
Second, magazines are designed for casual reading. Remember those waiting rooms? Magazines, more than almost any medium, are crafted with the express purpose of being picked up and read for a couple of minutes before you go about your day—which is how a lot of people like to practice their second language. Reading an article or two at a time is a great way to get that practice time in every day.
Another important thing to realize about magazines is that because they’re published and updated on the regular, they’re a great reflection of popular culture—what’s important and what’s being talked about at a given time.
With magazines, you’re not just reading words that are in Spanish; you’re reading about things Spanish speakers hoy en día (nowadays) are likely to find interesting.
We have one more recommendation for learning that’s great for authentic learning through pop culture and natural everyday language: FluentU!
FluentU takes real-world videos, like music videos, commercials, news and inspiring talks, and turns them into Spanish learning experiences.
Other sites use scripted content. FluentU uses a natural approach that helps you ease into the Spanish language and culture over time. You’ll learn Spanish as it’s actually spoken by real people.
FluentU has a wide variety of videos—topics like soccer, TV shows, business, movies and even magical realism, as you can see here:
FluentU brings native videos within reach with interactive transcripts. You can tap on any word to look it up instantly. Every definition has examples that have been written to help you understand how the word is used. If you see an interesting word you don’t know, you can add it to a vocab list.
Review a complete interactive transcript under the Dialogue tab, and find words and phrases listed under Vocab.
Learn all the vocabulary in any video with FluentU’s robust learning engine. Swipe left or right to see more examples of the word you’re on.
The best part is that FluentU keeps track of the vocabulary that you’re learning, and it recommends you examples and videos based on the words you’ve already learned. Every learner has a truly personalized experience, even if they’re learning the same video.
Start using FluentU on the website with your computer or tablet or, better yet, download the FluentU app from the iTunes or Google Play store for iOS and Android devices.
Spanish Magazines: Learning With a Pop Culture Twist
Before you go out and snatch up the first publication you see with the word revista (magazine) on the cover, know that there are a lot of magazines to choose from, so you should look for one that fits your unique interests.
Picking a topic you enjoy will make the experience that much more fun, which in turn will make keeping a regular schedule feel like less of a chore. Ask yourself, “What could I read about for a little while each day without getting bored?” The answer to that is going to be different for everyone, so it’s good to do a little soul-searching before you begin.
This is especially important if you’re thinking of putting down money on a subscription but you’re having some commitment issues. If you find something you enjoy reading and that helps you learn Spanish, I’d say it’s well worth the investment.
We’ve got a few selections to get you started!
If you love People magazine, you’ll love it en español (in Spanish). As surely as popular books and films get translated for a wider audience, well-known U.S. magazines are frequently adapted for Spanish speakers. And here’s the fun part: a lot of these aren’t just simple translations. Instead, the core concept of the magazine is fully adapted with unique content geared toward a Spanish-speaking audience.
A great example of this is People en Español, your go-to source for celebrity culture. The magazine includes profiles and entertainment news with an emphasis on Spanish-speaking celebrities with a presence here in the U.S. Many of them will be familiar to an English-speaking audience, so it’s fine if you’re not consuming a lot of Spanish media already (although you should probably get on that).
If you’re a fan of the English version or if you just like keeping up with our famous friends, People en Español might be a good fit. And if you’re into a different popular magazine, check and see if it has a Spanish version!
Long before we used social media to spend our days seeking out makeup tutorials and vegan recipes, the lifestyle magazine was there to give us fresh inspiration on how to look and feel our best.
Siempre Mujer fills this role admirably with a wide range of advice-type articles geared mainly toward women. This U.S. magazine is published by the people who brought you the Martha Stewart magazine and includes fashion and beauty tips, as well as health and wellness advice to address a woman’s physical and emotional well-being.
You’ll also find long-form articles, fun interviews with celebrities and a wide variety of lifestyle topics from relationships to recipes. If you want to know how Spanish-speaking women live their best lives, you should give this magazine a try.
A lot of people talk about wanting to be healthy, but maybe you take it a step further. You stay on top of the latest nutritional trends. You do yoga in the park. Or, hey, maybe you want to do these things but you don’t know where to start.
Well, guess what? It’s not just you. And it’s not just English-speaking Americans.
Like the name suggests, Cuerpomente (body/mind) is all about health and well-being. You’ll find articles, columns and advice on a variety of health-related topics like nutrition, exercise and natural therapy. The magazine also features inspirational stories and lessons on meditation and mindfulness for coping with day-to-day stress.
You can expect to learn which health trends are being talked about in Spain and which ones you may want to use to further your own cuerpo and mente.
If you’re always reading and sharing articles about the latest science factoids, this one is for you. Muy Interesante is chock-full of articles from pretty much every scientific discipline.
You’ll find natural wonders, history and prehistory and the latest scientific advancements. The writing’s clear and accessible, so you can expect to pick up some shiny new vocabulary without getting too overwhelmed.
Science is universal, but Muy Interesante does it with a Spanish-speaking flavor. The magazine publishes different versions in Spain and throughout Latin America, sometimes with content that’s distinctly relevant to each region (a look at pre-Colombian democracy in the Mexican version, for instance).
Try picking up a version from a region you’re interested in and get ready to learn more than just Spanish.
If National Geographic has taught us anything, it’s that no one is going to take you seriously as a magazine if you don’t have a kid version.
Like its parent, Muy Interesante Junior offers a wide array of fun-fact science and has a few regional variants. The articles are a little shorter, and the magazine also includes brain teasers (Spanish logic puzzles, anyone?) and kid-friendly lessons on staying healthy, taking care of the environment and so forth.
This magazine is ideal for younger language learners who are already reading at a high level. The topics are accessible to adults as well, so this is another one to check out if you want to read about science.
If home decor is your passion, if you’re always on the lookout for new ideas to freshen up your living space and if you’d like to know how they’re decorating their homes in Spain nowadays, El Mueble is the magazine for you. The magazine offers helpful inspiration for furniture and home accents as well as DIY projects (and yes, they actually say DIY in Spanish.)
You’ll also find glossy features on Spanish homes and their owners and a few miscellaneous topics, such as travel and cooking. Go on, give it a try—but don’t be surprised if you find yourself buying a new furniture set before you’re through.
The status of the telenovela (soap opera) in the Spanish-speaking culture is pretty legendary, and as surely as we have our Soap Opera Digest, Spanish speakers like to keep up with on-screen stories via print publications after the credits roll.
Whether you’re already immersed in one or more telenovelas or you’re thinking about watching a show for the first time, a magazine can be a good way to help you learn more.
One such publication is teleNOVELA, which hails from Spain and includes recaps and actor profiles from a slough of current TV series. It’s a great way to keep up with all the amor (love) and traición (betrayal) happening on the small screen.
Plus—who knows?—you may pick up a new addiction as part of the bargain.
If none of these topics interest you, that’s perfectly all right! Like I said, there are a lot of Spanish magazines out there. The most important thing is that you find one that interests you and that will help you learn.
So start looking—and once you’ve found your magazine, get ready to practice reading in a whole new way.
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn Spanish with real-world videos.