Miguel de Cervantes. Jorge Luis Borges. Gabriel García Márquez.
These are just a few of the big names in literature from the Spanish-speaking world.
As a Spanish learner, your bucket list may include reading one of these author’s pivotal works in the original Spanish.
Or maybe classic literature doesn’t interest you at all.
Either way, jumping into a major written work in another language can be intimidating and even discouraging if you try it before you’re ready.
But that doesn’t mean you should give up on reading in Spanish.
On the contrary, you should ramp it up.
There are many ways to incorporate Spanish into your studies without cracking open a book that’s as thick as a brick—or even any book at all!
In this post, we’re going to explore resources that make Spanish reading manageable, regardless of your level.
Why You Should Read in Spanish
Even if you don’t think reading is your thing, it’s an important part of the process of learning Spanish.
Reading at any level will increase your vocabulary and therefore improve your comprehension of spoken Spanish. As you advance in your studies, it’s a great way to learn more technical or specialized vocabulary that might not come up often in everyday conversation.
Reading will also help you write in Spanish, allowing you to learn things like spelling and accent marks in a way that just hearing the language won’t. It’s a surefire way to impress people with your skills.
Tips for Reading in Spanish (at Any Level)
There are a few things to keep in mind as you start reading in Spanish.
- Some of the sites listed below include built-in definitions or translations for any words you don’t know. For the ones that don’t, be sure to have a dictionary on hand, whether that’s in book form or the online variety.
- Keep a list of new vocabulary—whether it’s in a notebook, on your phone or wherever is most convenient.
- But don’t feel like you need to stop and look up every new word. Use context to help you figure out the meanings even when you don’t know all the words, and take note of the words that will likely be the most useful as you try to use Spanish in the future.
- Lastly, use the resources around you and get creative about what you read. You don’t have to make a major commitment to add reading to your language learning techniques.
Below, we’ll look at some interesting resources and ideas for working Spanish reading into your day.
Dig In! 25 Learning Resources for Bite-sized Spanish Reading
Short Passages and Conversations
The internet has great resources for beginners who want to practice their reading skills.
- Readlang.com has everything from fiction stories to song lyrics to Bible passages, ranked by level from beginner to master. You can choose the category and level and get started. Once you start reading, all you have to do is click on a word and the definition will pop up—you don’t even need your own dictionary. The site also has a browser extension that will help you do the same with any website.
- Another option is 123teachme.com. Look under “Reading Comprehension” to find everything from short signs to multi-paragraph passages, along with questions to gauge your understanding. You can also sign up for a word-of-the-day email with example sentences.
Apps and Learning Programs
Apps probably aren’t the first thing you think of when it comes to reading practice. However, some apps and programs offer unique opportunities to hack the Spanish-language internet and make reading authentic material in Spanish that already interests you easier, faster and better. Some apps can also be a convenient resource for structuring and consolidating your reading material.
- FluentU provides you with the exciting experience of reading along with the language in real-world videos. It turns authentic visual content from the web, like music videos and movie trailers, into guided reading practice that will also work all your other language skills (probably without you even noticing!). You can easily and automatically pause any video, as well as hover over any Spanish word or phrase to get a quick definition, which makes reading an interactive and fully supported experience for all levels.
- Mosalingua offers a basic all-around learning app for Spanish, but if you upgrade to Mosalingua Web, you’ll gain access to learning with real-world reading resources like news sites along with helpful tools. You can even make your own flashcards for the words and phrases you’re learning in context!
- LingQ is another app that allows you to create a supported DIY reading experience with your own content. You can import any content you find online and use it to practice your Spanish reading, and you also get access to a robust online library. Learn to read with content that’s meaningful to you!
Children’s stories are another great way to jump into reading, and many are available online. These simple stories are great for beginners, and since they’re for children they even include pictures, which is helpful for using visual clues to guess the meaning of new words.
- The International Children’s Digital Library has online children’s books available in many languages. From the home page click on “Read Books” on the left-hand side. Then select Spanish from the drop-down menu on the Simple Search page. You can then choose the length of the book you want to read if you want to narrow your search further.
- Read Conmigo also provides downloadable stories in both English and Spanish. Sponsored by an insurance company as a way to promote bilingual learning for children, it’s perfect for the less youthful (but maybe young at heart!) who want to improve their Spanish as well.
Here are a couple more sites that offer parallel texts, or texts for which the original and the translation are both included.
- Languages on the Web has stories with line-by-line equivalents in English. If you’re not sure what a sentence means, all you have to do is look right next to it for the English phrase. Some of the texts are rather complex, so this is best for intermediate to advanced learners.
- Dual Texts is an online bilingual magazine designed for advanced learners. There are articles on current events, culture, health and a wide variety of other topics side-by-side in both Spanish and English.
The news is another excellent way to increase your vocabulary. With news sites, you’ll be reading about everything from sequías (droughts) to fiscalías (district attorneys), and the web is full of such sites that keep you up-to-date on current events in español.
- Beginners should check out Hola qué pasa, a site that provides news articles about politics, sports, celebrity gossip and all manner of current events in basic Spanish, with definitions of vocabulary words that may be new.
More advanced learners can delve into international news with some of the big names in the industry.
- CNN en español has much of the coverage you’ve come to expect from this prominent news outlet, with regular coverage of the latest in U.S. politics and current events, as well as major international stories. There are also videos accompanying many of the stories, for those who’d like a multimedia approach.
- BBC Mundo offers a less U.S.-centric approach to the news (although they certainly don’t ignore U.S. news entirely). This version of the BBC’s coverage prioritizes international and Latin American news stories, rather than specifically British happenings.
- You can also look up major news outlets from specific Spanish-speaking countries to read about regional stories that might be missed in the international coverage. Try El Universal of Venezuela, El Faro of El Salvador or El País of Spain, just to name a few.
- Wikipedia, while perhaps not considered the best source by your college professors, has a wealth of information on virtually every topic under the sun. It’s a great resource for learning proper nouns as well. If you have a certain topic in mind and you’re not sure quite what it’s called in Spanish, you can look it up in English, then look on the left-hand side of the page to see if there’s an article on the same topic in Spanish—quickly learning that, for example, Memorial Day is Día de los Caídos in Spanish.
If you’re not searching for any subject in particular, take a look at the Artículo destacado (featured article) to learn something new each day.
Joke of the Day
Chistes.com will send a daily joke straight to your inbox. This one is definitely for more advanced learners. The jokes will (hopefully) make you laugh, but will also make you think, as many involve a play on words that can be a challenge for non-native speakers.
Food blogs are another way to add some flavor to your Spanish and are one way to increase your knowledge of a specialized vocabulary. Whether you actually want to make the recipes, or just daydream about the food, these will expose you to words related to food and cooking, as well as to rich culinary traditions from different parts of the world.
While the options are endless and depend on your food preferences, here are a few to try:
- Sazón Boricua features recipes from a Puerto Rican food blogger passionate about sharing the island’s culture with the world.
- Orielo’s Kitchen is a site full of lactose-free recipes posted by a chef based in Málaga, Spain.
- La cocina mexicana de Pily is a blog of Mexican recipes from a mom who wants to show the beauty of her country.
- Did you ever consider that your Facebook addiction can help you learn Spanish? Consider changing the settings of different social media websites to Spanish, so that you can learn how to compartir publicaciones (share posts) or actualizar tu foto de portada (update your cover photo).
- You can even change the language of your cell phone or computer—just make sure you know enough Spanish to get around, or at the very least change it back to English if you find it’s too technical to understand!
Everyday Objects & Signs
- Even everyday objects can be a source to read. Check out your favorite shirt to see if you’re supposed to lavar con prendas de color parecido (wash with similar colors).
- Depending where you live, next time you’re at Home Depot, look up and you may see aisle markers in both languages, showing you where to find ferretería (hardware) or plomería (plumbing).
- Some labels for food, cosmetics and other household items include information and instructions in Spanish. Pay attention to what’s around you and the world can be your book!
And breathe easy, because there’s very little chance this study technique will affect you in the same way it did the famous Don Quixote:
“Y así, del poco dormir y del mucho leer, se le secó el cerebro, de manera que vino a perder el juicio.”
(And so, from too little sleep and from too much reading, his brain dried up, causing him to lose his mind.)
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