If you’re a bibliophile who’s learning Spanish, chances are you’ve already discovered the beauty of using Spanish literature for language practice.
Reading in Spanish can help you improve your grammar and sentence structure and it can introduce you to a wide variety of vocabulary words.
In other words, reading Spanish-language texts is a great way to fast-track your Spanish fluency.
But sometimes, picking up any old book in Spanish can present a series of problems, particularly for beginners: What do you do when you can’t figure out what’s going on in the story? How can you check your comprehension without the help of a teacher or language partner?
The resources in this article solve these problems. Here, you’ll find seven free websites with Spanish stories and books—that have built-in English translations. Each website has unique features and content that correspond to particular tastes and ability levels.
Read on to find which one’s right for you!
How Spanish Stories with English Translations Can Help You Read at Any Level
Some of the websites included here are better suited for particular Spanish ability levels. (For example, fairy tales and children’s stories are better for beginner learners, whereas classic novels will satisfy the needs of more advanced Spanish speakers.)
But there are also ways to alter your reading experience, regardless of which story you choose. Here are some ideas for each ability level:
- Beginner level: Absolute beginners might choose to read an entire story’s English translation before looking at the Spanish text at all, or reading one English paragraph at a time before reading its corresponding Spanish paragraph. This will help you work on your overall comprehension without getting bogged down by a ton of unfamiliar vocabulary.
When reading the Spanish version, try to seek out Spanish-English cognates and other familiar words, which will help you connect the Spanish version to the English one.
Alternatively, beginning learners might choose to open both the English and Spanish texts side-by-side, looking back and forth as much as they need to.
- Intermediate level: If you feel like you’ve moved past the beginner level, try to read one full paragraph in Spanish without glancing at the English text. If at the end of the paragraph you feel confident that you’ve understood the meaning, keep reading in Spanish. When you get completely lost, use the English translation to help you out.
This method will encourage you to use context clues and dig deep in your vocabulary memory to figure out the meaning.
- Advanced level: If you’re an advanced Spanish-speaker, challenge yourself to read an entire short story (or chapter of a book) without looking at the English text.
Before looking at the translation, write a few sentences about what happened in the text. (This can be in Spanish, too, for extra writing practice!) Then, skim the English version to make sure you’ve understood the text correctly.
It helps to also have good supportive learning tools while you’re reading, like FluentU.
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, 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.
Plus, 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 gives you extra practice with difficult words. It'll even remind you when it’s time to review what you’ve learned. Every learner has a truly personalized experience, even if they’re studying with the same video.
7 Places to Find Dozens of Spanish Stories with English Translations… for Free!
The Spanish Experiment
Have you ever heard of “Pollito Tito” or “Ricitos de Oro”? If not, then I can guarantee you’ve heard of their English counterparts: “Chicken Little” and “Goldilocks.”
On The Spanish Experiment, you can read Spanish-English versions of five children’s stories that you’ll definitely remember from your own childhood. Plus, through the website’s partnership with The Fable Cottage, they’ve recently added four additional stories, including classics like “Jack and the Beanstalk” and “Hansel and Gretel.”
What The Spanish Experiment lacks in breadth, it makes up in quality. Each of the stories is beautifully written and comes with a multitude of features so you can play around with your reading experience.
Each story is presented in Spanish. At the end of each short paragraph, you’ll see a “Translate” button. The translation of each paragraph remains hidden until you want to see it, which can be great for learners trying to flex their memorization and vocab muscles. Or, you can choose to “show all translations” at the beginning of the text, and read the English and Spanish versions side-by-side.
Some of the stories, such as “Jack and the Beanstalk,” provide two options: “Translate” and “Literal.” The “Translate” button will give you a literary English translation that captures the meaning of the whole paragraph. But the “Literal” button will provide word-by-word translations in case you’re struggling with a particular phrase.
The Spanish Experiment also offers high-quality audio to accompany each story and includes videos on a few of them. If you’re watching an accompanying video, use the closed captioning button in the bottom right corner to toggle between English, Spanish and no subtitles. Or, click on the subtitles to pull up a full interactive transcript of the story.
Due to the fact that most English speakers will be familiar with these fairy tales and fables, this website is especially well-suited to beginner learners.
Snappy Spanish is great for on-the-go learners who only have a few minutes each day to devote to language-learning. Each of their stories is meant to be read in five minutes or less.
Unlike The Spanish Experiment, Snappy Spanish doesn’t focus on Spanish-English retellings of popular fairy tales. Instead, these stories are more like what you might find in a Spanish textbook: short, original stories about a variety of topics.
While that means that these stories are less immediately accessible than more well-known stories, it also has some advantages. Original stories test a reader’s ability to follow an unfamiliar plot, relying only on their language skills. Plus, these stories touch upon a wider variety of vocabulary and include more verb tenses than you could expect to find in a typical fairy tale.
Snappy Spanish is broken down by level, and while they do have texts in the categories of “Upper Intermediate” and “Advanced,” the majority of their stories are labeled “Beginner,” “Elementary” and “Intermediate.” The stories are presented side-by-side, with the Spanish version on the left and a paragraph-by-paragraph English translation on the right. This makes it easy for readers to check themselves as they read.
According to their website, Snappy Spanish plans to release an app soon, which will include even more content and will allow readers to take their stories with them to-go. Stay tuned!
Learn Spanish with Bilingual Stories
Some people say that if you want to do something right, you have to do it yourself. This charmingly home-grown website is a labor of love by one enthusiastic linguist and translator.
The owner of the website has painstakingly matched Spanish and English translations of literary classics. You can find great works like “Dracula,” “Frankenstein” and “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.” In some cases, such as this Edgar Allen Poe short story, the website’s creator has even tracked down two alternative translations, so that readers can compare word choice and sentence structure.
This kind, anonymous soul has also taken the time to color-code each translation to make it easier to follow. Certain sentences, which are metaphorical, literary or otherwise tricky have been highlighted in color and matched with the same sentence in the translation. This is a godsend for readers who struggle with non-literal Spanish phrases.
Of course, the self-styled nature of the website has its drawbacks. Some works are incomplete. (For example, “Dracula” has only been translated through Part One.) Some texts have side-by-side translations, whereas others go sentence-by-sentence. And the website’s display can be a bit hard to read, though the website creator suggests that this can be made easier with a browser extension called Readlang.
That said, this is a great resource for learners looking to move beyond children’s stories and tackle longer, more difficult texts.
Grimms’ Fairy Tales
Ready for more children’s stories? This website offers a complete collection of the fables written by the Brothers Grimm. This means you can find famous fables you’ve definitely heard of (like “Rumpelstiltskin”) as well as some deep cuts (anyone ever heard of “King Thrushbeard”? I haven’t).
The website has English and Spanish versions (not to mention tons of other language options) for each fable. Since this isn’t technically a Spanish-learning website and these aren’t designed as parallel texts, the experience with Grimms’ Fairy Tales is a bit more DIY than the other offerings on this list.
To start, go to the complete list of Grimm fairy tales in English and in Spanish. You’ll notice that each fairy tale has a number from one to 200. The tales are in the same order on both lists, so simply pick a number and you’ll be able to easily find the Spanish and English versions. If you’re having trouble picking, you can always use the “Story at random”/“Cuento al azar” option to get a random story in Spanish or English, and then navigate to the translation yourself.
Reading the Spanish and English versions side-by-side, you’ll notice that they’re not literal word-by-word translations. However, each paragraph in the English version corresponds quite accurately to a paragraph in the Spanish version. These non-literal translations can help you, as a learner, break away from the instinct to translate word-by-word.
This resource provides a selection of over a dozen classic novels, translated into English and Spanish as well as many other languages. Don’t expect to find any fairy tales or Grimm fables here—this website is all about literature, featuring works by famous authors from around the world like Leo Tolstoy, Franz Kafka and Jane Austen.
When you arrive at the home page, indicate that you’re an English speaker who’d like to work on Spanish. Then, after you’ve picked a text, you can choose one of two ways to read by clicking the lines in the upper left corner: “Compact View” allows you to read the Spanish text, mousing over and clicking on the arrows to switch to the English translation paragraph-by-paragraph; “Split View” allows you to see both texts side-by-side.
This website does have a few quirks and bugs to watch out for. One of the available stories, “A Study in Scarlet,” offers a French/Spanish translation instead of English/Spanish. And every so often you’ll find a French phrase thrown into other stories!
Occasionally, when reading in compact mode, you’ll find that the translations don’t exactly align with the paragraph breaks in the original.
Finally, the mouse-over audio is all automatically generated, so don’t copy the pronunciation unless you want to sound like a Spanish-speaking robot with a very odd accent.
That said, these are small prices to pay for free access to several classic novels in Spanish and English, so if you can get used to these quirks, paralleltexts.io is well worth using.
bilinguis.com is very similar to paralleltext.io in that it offers a small but well-curated selection of classic literature, translated into multiple languages. In fact, most of the offerings are duplicated on both websites.
So, why turn to this site? Well, it avoids many of the paralleltext.io issues discussed above: There are fewer mistakes, no accidental French and no annoying computer-generated audio.
bilinguis.com only offers a split view, though, with no equivalent to the compact mode on paralleltext.io. But if you can give up the compact view with mouse-over translations, it may be worth it to choose bilinguis.com. Ultimately, the choice between the two websites depends on your own language-learning style and preferences.
Finally, we’ll circle back to children’s literature once more. (Hey, it’s really good for language learning, trust me!) Read Conmigo (“With Me”) is a free service whose mission is to “promote bilingual literacy, one family at a time.” Their online “library” was created to provide free resources for teachers and parents in bilingual environments, or those who want to raise bilingual children.
If that suits your needs, great! Read Conmigo is a perfect resource for families who are learning Spanish together. But even if you don’t have a child, this resource can still be a great source for parallel texts, particularly for beginning learners.
The website requires a totally free subscription (and you may have to tell a tiny white lie about having a grade-school-aged child to gain access). Once you have your membership info, you’ll have access to a digital bookshelf of illustrated picture books sorted by grade level and age. Each page of the picture books includes both Spanish and English text, and the stories are adorable.
Best of all, Read Conmigo has a mobile app and its stories can be read on phones, computers or even kindles, making this a great option for on-the-go practice.
Reading Spanish stories with English translations is a great way to improve your grammar skills and vocabulary recall. Plus, parallel texts make it easy to start reading in Spanish at any level.
So, whether you’d rather read a cute children’s story or revisit your favorite classic novel, it’s a fantastic idea to add reading to your language-learning routine.
Which story will you tackle first?
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