In her fascinating TED Talk, Lýdia Machová discusses her findings on what successful polyglots have in common.
It turns out, people who have learned to speak multiple languages are more common than we think.
And, it seems, they don’t possess some sort of superpower the rest of us don’t.
So how did they do it? How did these people become fluent in a second language, then go on to fluently speak multiple languages?
After talking with many such people, Lýdia realized that everyone’s process was different. However, they did have one thing in common:
They made language learning fun.
And that’s exactly what needs to happen if you want to learn Spanish reading.
You’ll need to turn the learning process into, as Lýdia puts it, “a pleasant activity which you don’t mind doing every day.”
With that in mind, I’m going to give you some tips and resources to help you enjoy the process of learning to read in Spanish.
Even if one site or program doesn’t appeal to you, you’re sure to find something that takes the fun factor up a notch!
5 Tips to Learn Spanish Reading Through Active Participation
Reading is no spectator sport! Considering that we read on a daily basis, we might not be consciously aware of all the strategies we use that have become so ingrained after years of practice.
Here are some quick tips to help you get as much out of a text as possible:
- Make predictions before you read. Look at the title and get an idea of what the text is about. What words might you see? For example, if you’re reading a poem or text about Valentine’s Day, predict what Spanish terms & phrases for this holiday you’ll get from the text.
- Don’t try to understand every word. Try to “get the gist” of the text. Stop after reading 10 sentences or so and summarize what you’ve read so far. Bonus points for summarizing in Spanish!
- Don’t be passive. Interact with the text by writing questions as you go or making connections (i.e. “this reminds me of…,” “this makes me think of…”).
- After finishing a text, summarize it. Write down two or three words you weren’t able to understand with context clues. Use a site like WordReference.com or Linguee.com to find the definitions.
- Confirm or clarify your understanding. Reread the text or a portion of the text and compare it to your original ideas. Was your original prediction correct? Did your questions get answered? Is there anything you should add or change about your summary?
Learn Spanish Reading with 19 Fun Ideas and Resources
The best way to get better at a skill is to do it over and over again. However, reading can become a chore if you don’t find something engaging.
Here are some ideas that will lead you to a resource that’s just right for you.
Use Resources That Give Immediate Feedback
Duolingo is a program that capitalizes on our current gamification frenzy. Be one of the millions of Spanish learners who use the platform to access “bite-size lessons.” After signing up, beginners start at the introduction while advanced learners can take a placement test to see their current level.
So how does it help your reading comprehension? Duolingo has lots of activities to bolster your Spanish reading skills. Some of the activities include translating sentences into English or Spanish. Duolingo will let you know immediately if your answer’s correct.
You can also read original stories. The stories come with an audio component that’s read slowly enough for you to digest the information and truly gauge how much you understand.
FluentU is another platform that rewards you when you make daily progress and lets you know quickly if you’re on the right track. This program has tons of real-world videos in Spanish like music videos, movie trailers, news, inspiring talks and more.
It gives you a chance to try your hand at Spanish reading with interactive subtitles, transcripts and quizzes that test your comprehension.
The best part is that FluentU keeps track of the vocabulary that you’re learning and recommends examples and videos based on the words you’ve already learned. Every learner has a truly personalized experience, even if they’re watching the same video.
Videos are organized by skill level and category, so you’re sure you to find something that appeals to you regardless of your level or interests.
You can take FluentU in your browser or take it on the go with the Android and iOS apps.
This website boasts Spanish texts that help beginners improve their reading comprehension. It has approximately 25 texts for students in the A1 to B2 levels, as defined by the Common European Framework of Reference.
Each text ranges from two to three paragraphs in length with a few questions following the reading. You get an immediate response after answering each question, as well as your overall score.
Not happy with the result? Take the test again to see if you score better! You can also print the readings out in PDF format and take your time working through the text.
Beginners might be intimidated by this page at first glance since it’s completely in Spanish. However, don’t let that dissuade you! I was impressed by all the material learners could access for free.
They have tons of articles in the Artículos section and interactive exercises in the section below that. I even got a little caught up in the adivinanzas (riddles) before reluctantly pulling away to look for more reading opportunities (but I’ll be back).
I really want to draw your attention to the sections titled lectura de pequeños (stories for young learners), lectura de mayores (stories for adults) and cuentos infantiles (children’s stories). Each of these sections boasts 40 stories, with a few questions that you answer afterward.
Read Books, Articles and Short Stories
I don’t know about you, but sometimes I prefer Spanish poems and stories originally written in Spanish. So this particular page, with poems written by the great Pablo Neruda, really spoke to me.
Choose any of the 20 love poems and see the verses written in Spanish and English side by side.
Enhance your experience by listening to the available recordings as you read. Try to keep your eyes focused on the Spanish text. (However, I won’t hold it against you if your eyes stray to the English side from time to time.)
You can find other poems and short stories in Spanish by other great authors on this site, but the Pablo Neruda poems were the only parallel texts, making them particularly useful for beginner and intermediate learners.
If you just can’t get enough poetry, then this is the site for you. Navigating to the poemas (poems) page, you’ll find users’ 100 favorite poems about various topics. 50 of those poems are by celebrated authors like Victor Hugo and Gabriel García Márquez and the other 50 are submitted by the users.
Finding something you like isn’t hard on this site since there are a number of categories to choose from.
For example, clicking on alegría will take you to 16 poems about happiness. Some of the poems are short, while others are lengthy. But all of those in this section are sure to put a smile on your face.
Love Sherlock Holmes? Adore Oscar Wilde? How about short stories that will maximize your Spanish reading abilities in a short span of time?
Sometimes a long text with too many unknown words can frustrate us at the beginning of our learning journey. That’s where the short stories on this page come in.
There are over 100 stories here by celebrated authors. Have your dictionary handy and settle in for a story that can be completed during a commercial break.
I know it can be frustrating to sign up for a site just to see if it’s something you can commit to long term. However, I promise you this one’s worth it. Once you register, you have access to hundreds of virtual books.
Texts are divided into levels, and some even come with a video! If you’re having trouble choosing a title, put it in your library to read later or check out how many votes each book has received to help you decide. Or you can even upload your own text to read.
Readlang translates any word or phrase at the click of a button. Even better, by using the Readlang browser extension, you can visit any Spanish website and get instant definitions of unknown words.
Though I can definitely appreciate novels by celebrated and long-dead authors, young adult (YA) books are really my cup of tea. After spending the day knee-deep in academic and nonfiction texts, my brain needs a break.
So bring on the series about vampires and other-worldly creatures, teen angst and coming of age.
Penguin Random House has put together a list of teen and young adult Spanish language books just for people like me. Since they’re written with a younger audience in mind, they use simpler language and are meant to be engaging and entertaining.
With this list of 172 titles, you’re sure to find something you can bring with you on your next beach vacation.
Maybe you like to read, but you’d like to kill two birds with one stone and get your fix of the daily news at the same time. This Puerto Rican news publication will help you bolster your Spanish reading skills while also digesting the current information in the world of fashion, politics, technology and more.
Groove (and Read) Along with the Music
Can you learn Spanish reading by listening to music? Yes, please!
We know music and language learning is a winning combination. However, add a platform that tests your comprehension and you have a really powerful resource.
LyricsTraining allows you to choose a popular Spanish song, then listen and fill in the blanks with the correct word or phrase.
After making your song choice, you’ll get the chance to select a game mode: beginner, intermediate, advanced or expert. This’ll let you choose how much ofof lyrics you’ll be filling in. For example, in beginner mode, you’ll only be filling in 10% of the missing lyrics, while an expert will fill in all of them.
Read the lyrics as you’re listening, and make sure your answers make sense in the context of the sentence. While it could be said that there’s a great deal of listening comprehension involved with this activity, why not tune your ear to Spanish while also improving your reading skills?
Qlipo is similar to the program above since it involves Spanish music and lyrics. On their home page, you can either select “get started” or choose one of the top hits listed.
After making your selection, you’re immediately taken to a page where you see a video, as well as English and Spanish lyrics side-by-side.
As the song plays, choose “vocabulary” from the list of options and the lyrics will come up. Save unfamiliar words to test yourself on later.
Listen to and Read Spanish with Videos
TED Talks have become popular all over the world and are available in a variety of languages. Typically no longer than 20 minutes, these videos discuss interesting innovations and thought-provoking ideas and questions.
You’re sure to find a topic that you’ll enjoy. For instance, can home cooking change the world? Find out what Gastón Acurio has to say about that in his talk. If that doesn’t interest you, find discussions that pique your curiosity and add them to your list for later!
Each video comes with a transcript in your language of choice. You can either read the transcript as you watch or, if you pick an English TED Talk, read the Spanish transcript first then watch to see how much you understood.
This resource is pretty substantial and gives you lots of opportunities to practice your reading. Once you create an account and choose your level, you can choose a pathway (series of lessons) with podcasts and lessons that include listening and reading comprehension activities.
Get a small taste of what’s offered by watching the following 20-minute video of Mexican Spanish reading practice.
First, it asks you to look over a form and determine what information it’s seeking. It then gives you time to consider your response, presents multiple options and, finally, provides the answer.
What a great way to test your Spanish without the pressure of a native speaker staring at you!
Geared toward younger learners, this website offers videos with basics like introductions and answering the phone in Spanish.
The videos display the words as the dialogue is being read. If you’re a beginner, try to gain as much context as you can from the pictures. Attaching an image to a word will help you remember it better.
Most of the videos are short, so it’s not a problem to go back and watch them again (or several times).
Follow Social Media
Nowadays, we would be remiss not to mention social media in our lineup of opportunities to learn Spanish reading.
RAEinforma is a Twitter account from La Real Academia Española (The Royal Spanish Academy). We all have time to read a tweet!
These short snippets about Spanish words and their meanings and origins will help you get a lot of language in a little time. However, if you feel like something a little more extensive, you can always dive deeper into the rabbit hole and follow the links to the articles they share.
For example, I found this very informative link to frequently asked questions about the Spanish language.
As the name suggests, this is a Facebook account geared toward Spanish learners with informative & interesting posts in Spanish.
Most of us already spend a lot of time on Facebook, so why not make it a little more educational by following this account and squeezing in some Spanish knowledge while you’re at it?
Not only will you find short snippets of information in Spanish, but you’ll also discover links to different activities and other resources to help your español (Spanish).
Maybe you prefer your Spanish reading to end with a reward. Well, you’re sure to find one on this page!
I’d start with the Índice de recetas (recipe index) at the top of the page and head to the postres (desserts) for something sweet. Whatever you do, you’ll need a healthy dose of Spanish food vocabulary to get you started.
If you’re just starting out reading recipes in Spanish (or you’re like me and not the best cook), you’ll want to start with easy recipes, like desserts you can make in the microwave.
The videos that accompany the recipes will also help with comprehension. Follow along and you’ll be a cook in no time!
There you go! Whatever your interests are, there’s a resource out there that’ll help you learn Spanish reading in a fun and engaging way.
Pick your favorite and start reading now!
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn Spanish with real-world videos.