8 Ways to Practice Reading Spanish Without Opening a Textbook

Textbooks are big, heavy and a real pain to lug around with you on the subway (or anywhere).

It’s time to lighten the load.

Textbooks are certainly useful, but let’s be honest: Sometimes we need to break free from formal learning.

But still, books are basically maps to language learning success. You’ve got to get in some Spanish reading practice. What to do?

Outside of the traditional textbook, what other options are available to practice reading Spanish? Spanish is all around you, so the options are far wider and more varied than you’ve probably imagined.

You can use these resources as practice or just for entertainment. Either way, you’ll learn a lot by exposing yourself to the language.

To maximize your learning, you might even try using some of the skills you would use when using Spanish readers or some intermediate reading tips. But there’s nothing wrong with just relaxing and enjoying your reading, either!

Therefore, why not try these easy, unobtrusive ways to practice reading Spanish wherever you may go?

8 Ways to Practice Reading Spanish Without Opening a Textbook

The next eight sections will give you alternative to textbooks, but what if I told you there’s an alternative to all kinds of books altogether? That alternative is no other than FluentU.

FluentU takes authentic videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.

You can try FluentU for free for 2 weeks. Click here to check out the website or download the iOS app or Android app.

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With FluentU, you’ll learn Spanish in a fun and immersive way without having to use books. However, if you still feel like reading, you can always make use of the amazing interactive subtitles included in each video. Give FluentU a free try and discover your new favorite way of learning languages!

1. Read a Book

  • How? Picking the right book is key. Consider your reading level. If you are a beginner, you might want to choose simpler options, like children’s books. However, once you’re more advanced the sky is the limit. Once you’ve selected your book, all you have to do is start reading. You know what to do. To make it easier on yourself, you might just read through the book and guess the meaning of words you don’t know based on context clues. Otherwise, you can look them up in a dictionary to ensure you understand everything along the way.
  • Why? Whether you start out with easy-to-read novels, delve into an intermediate novel or boldly attempt to read an advanced novel, your reading skills will improve greatly. Books are helpful because the right book will have a grabbing plot that pulls you in to keep reading more, making it an easy way to get yourself to practice reading each day. You’ll be practicing Spanish because you just can’t put that book down!
  • Resources: You can access free Spanish books at Project Gutenberg. These are mostly older books and classics, but it’s many a language learner’s dream to read classic literature in its original language. This will allow you to understand the true genius of the work. Just imagine being able to read “Don Quixote” in the original Spanish. From Project Gutenberg, you can read online or download to your Kindle. If you prefer more current literature, however, you can also purchase the book of your choice online or at major book stores.

You can also access a learner-friendly library of authentic materials, including e-books, when you get the web version of MosaLingua. In addition, MosaLingua makes it easy for you to look up definitions and create flashcards to review later as you read.

2. Read a Newspaper

  • How? Both news stories and the variety of the Spanish being used will vary by region, so it’s helpful to select topics you prefer to read for this activity. If you select news stories that you’re familiar with, you may be able to determine the meanings of unknown words based on what would make sense in the story.
  • Why? Reading Spanish-language newspapers will improve your knowledge of both the language and culture. Learning words is important (and newspapers will certainly help you with this), but learning the culture is also an important part of any language education. Staying abreast of what’s happening in the Spanish-speaking world is a big step towards this.

3. Read Poetry

  • How? Selecting the right Spanish poems can be hard. Sometimes, certain poems just won’t appeal to you. There’s nothing wrong with that. Try another. Eventually, you’ll find a poem you really like. Try memorizing it. Then, go ahead and look up other poems by the same poet. Chances are good that you’ll enjoy them too.
  • Why? Poems are really helpful, particularly if you can memorize a few. It’s easy to remember the meaning of a word once you have it memorized in the context of a poem. Plus, you never know when you’ll randomly need to recite a few verses by Amado Nervo.

4. Read a Magazine

  • How? First, you’ll want to take into consideration which Spanish magazine you’d like to read. You can read for entertainment and choose whatever topic you prefer, but it’s important to remember that the nature of the words used will be influenced by the type of magazine. So, for instance, if you are hoping to learn more terms that you can use in the business world, reading a celebrity gossip magazine probably won’t be your best bet.
  • Why? Magazine articles tend to be less intimidating than books or newspaper articles. They are often written in a more conversational tone, and this could help you familiarize yourself with general written Spanish. You’ll also certainly pick up plenty of new vocabulary along the way.
  • Resources: If you have a Nook, Barnes & Noble offers inexpensive magazine downloads and lots of options. If you prefer paper copies, you can subscribe to a few through Amazon. You might also visit the magazine homepages to read selected articles for free online.

5. Read Comics or Comic Books

  • How? Whenever you have a spare moment, you can fill it by reading a comic strip or comic book. You can use a dictionary to help you out, or just look to the images for context clues.
  • Why? If you don’t want to look anything up in a dictionary, comic strips and comic books are a great choice. When you can’t figure out what’s happening, the images will often provide helpful clues. Additionally, they’re quick to read and very fun. Plus, who doesn’t want to enjoy “Garfield” and “Calvin and Hobbes” all while learning?

6. Read a Manual

  • How? Pick up any electronic gadget, assemble yourself some furniture or start installing some new software. Chances are, it has an instruction manual with countless languages in it. Try reading the Spanish text. This works better if you’re familiar with the instructions or if you’re an advanced reader. A good alternative for less advanced readers is to seek out household products with Spanish written on the packaging, which are very common in certain countries (including the U.S.).
  • Why? This will help you learn technical terms. Additionally, if you’re already an advanced reader and manage to use the Spanish in the manual to help you use the product, this will improve your ability to learn in Spanish rather than merely translating in your head. You’ll also have context (looking at images, touching the actual objects and working with your hands) to create a more memorable vocabulary learning experience.
  • Resources: You’ll find them all over your home. Otherwise, look for manuals on your computer. Most software you’ve installed probably also installed a Spanish manual on your computer.

7. Read a Travel Brochure or Website

  • How? Occasionally, you may get travel brochures in the mail or see them up for the taking at tourist offices. To use them, just open them up and start reading. In some countries and regions, these are commonly found in multiple languages, including Spanish.
  • Why? The combination of pictures and words should make them relatively easy to follow. Having map locations and images in front of you will make the vocabulary easier to memorize. Additionally, if you’re actually considering a vacation, this will help you plan your vacation, prepare you for your vacation by improving your language skills, and motivate you to keep learning more for your trip.
  • Resources: You can find tourism websites in Spanish for most Spanish speaking countries. However, a few key tourist destinations include Spain, Mexico and Peru.

8. Read an Atlas

  • How? Atlases are just big maps. All you have to do is look them over quickly and you can start learning new phrases.
  • Why? Atlases are very helpful for learning place names and geography. You can see place names at a glance. Soon, you’ll know where everything is and what everything is called in Spanish.


With all these resources at your fingertips, why not set down the textbook and practice your reading the fun way?

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