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As Borges said, ‘You are not what you are for what you write, but for what you read’. When we read, we get sucked into the pages, lose ourselves amongst the words and even travel in time. Reading in Spanish will help you to widen your horizons, cross borders and get to know other cultures... However, taking that first step towards reading in Spanish doesn’t have to be complicated. In fact, reinforcing your reading skills can be a lot of fun and give your Spanish learning a real boost.
When reading in Spanish, you will come across many words you have never seen before as well as complicated sentence structures. Just remember to take your time and practise often. It’s not a race to get to the last page! Reading puts you firmly in control and gives you the opportunity to get carried away by the words and imagery. Don't forget to have fun and learning will be effortless.
Table of contents
1. Is it difficult to read in Spanish?
2. Different types of reading
3. Reading Comprehension Proficiency Levels
4. Why is it important to learn to read in Spanish?
5. What strategies does Lengalia recommend for reading in Spanish?
6. What techniques can I use to read in Spanish?
7. What resources does Lengalia offer for reading in Spanish?
8. Top tips for reading in Spanish
According to data from the Cervantes Institute, there are more than 580 million Spanish speakers worldwide. Among them, more than 480 million are native Spanish speakers. Spanish is also the official or co-official language in over 20 countries. The following is a list of the 3 languages that have influenced Spanish the most:
1. Although Latin has directly influenced Spanish, evident in its prefixes, suffixes and whole words, Ancient Greek and Arabic have also left their mark on the language. Approximately 60% of Spanish vocabulary is derived from Latin, leaving a further 40% that has its origins elsewhere.
2. Not many people know this but Arabic has had an enormous influence on the Spanish language.. In fact, it is one of the languages with the greatest influence on our lexicon, largely as a result of the Arab conquest of the Iberian Peninsula which left a strong cultural mark. The words that have been incorporated from Arabic are called Arabisms and include examples such as alcalde, guitarra and limón. It is said that about 8% of Spanish vocabulary comes from Arabic, some four thousand words.
3. Greek culture had such great influence that its language left a permanent mark on many of the world's major languages. Among the thousands of Greek words in Spanish are the first letters of the Greek alphabet: alfa, beta, gamma, delta, épsilon. Words such as biología, química and aritmética are also derived from Greek, as are mathematical symbols such as π (pi). Ancient Greek has also left its mark on everyday language, with prefixes such as mono-, di-, tri-... or oft-used words such as teatro, comedia, iglesia and plátano. Moreover, the Greek world was heavily influenced by politics so we also owe it words such as democracia and hemiciclo.
Spanish has also borrowed words from other languages such as French and Italian. As it is a Romance language, readers with existing knowledge of languages such as French, Italian, Portuguese or Romanian will find it easier to understand texts written in Spanish because of the shared lexicon. Students who have never studied Romance languages will find it a little more difficult to get used to reading in Spanish. However, we should highlight that it is not the vocabulary that learners tend to find most difficult.
Most people who start learning Spanish find it challenging to understand native speakers. One of the main reasons for this is the speed at which Spanish speakers talk. Many learners feel that native speakers communicate too quickly and, indeed, they are right. According to a study carried out at the University of Lyon, Spanish is one of the ‘fastest languages’ in the world. There are also many different accents, not only in Latin America but also within Spain itself. Listening to Spanish can be challenging for a beginner.
However, reading in Spanish is much less complicated than listening to Spanish. The first thing to remember when it comes to reading aloud is that Spanish is relatively easy to pronounce. Each letter of the alphabet has a corresponding sound that is almost always the same, unlike in English, for example, where letters can have different sounds depending on the adjacent letters or where they are in the word.
Different resources can be used to reinforce reading skills while at the same time making the process more fun and enjoyable. We would suggest subtitled music videos, news or inspirational talks, novels or stories. These should be selected according to your ability level. The most important thing about reading is that each student can go at their own pace.
To read efficiently in Spanish, it is important to use different reading techniques depending on your objective and the text in question. Regardless, however, it is essential to read with a clearly defined purpose. Ask yourself why you want to read a particular text. There are a number of different techniques we can employ to help us learn to read in Spanish, depending on the text we have in front of us. The main reading techniques are as follows:
This technique focuses on the reader acquiring the gist of a text and its main ideas. The reader might have a quick read of the contents, headings, blurb or introduction, or the opening sentences of each paragraph. This technique helps extract the most important information without going into too much detail.
Scanning also involves reading a text quickly but specifically to locate precise information. When scanning a text the reader already has in mind what information they are looking for. It could be a particular term, figure or key expression that helps them understand the topic in more detail.
- Revision reading
This involves quickly reading material with which you are already familiar to confirm your knowledge and understanding.
- Close reading
Close reading allows readers to reflect critically on different aspects of the text. It is a detailed reading of the whole text or important sections of the text. When you are reading for pleasure or doing an exercise, you should opt for close reading. If you want to learn to read in Spanish, we recommend you use this technique.
To improve your reading skills in Spanish, we would also advise you to familiarise yourself with the different comprehension levels. Reading comprehension is the ability to process the information we have just read and extract its meaning. It is a complex process that involves multiple, interrelated skills. Put simply, it is the process that begins with the understanding of a word’s meaning and progresses to the understanding of a whole text’s overall meaning and intention.
There are five reading comprehension proficiency levels:
Proficiency level I: Superficial comprehension of simple texts
Students can understand simple texts with which they are familiar. The information needed for the reading task should be clearly recognisable within the text and there should be few competing elements which may distract from the relevant information. Only obvious links can be made between what is read and familiar, everyday knowledge.
Level II: Making simple connections
Students are able to make simple links between different parts of a text. They also have the ability to deduce the meaning of individual elements via simple conclusions. In this respect, the main idea of a relatively familiar text can be identified and a rough understanding of the text gained. Information read can be related to everyday knowledge and evaluated with reference to personal experiences.
Competence level III: Interpreting textual elements and conclusions
Students are able to identify the main idea of a text, understand a relationship or deduce the meaning of a word or phrase, even when different parts of the text need to be taken into consideration (interpretation of textual elements). Students are able to develop an accurate understanding of texts of medium complexity and use specific knowledge to evaluate what they have read.
Proficiency level IV: Detailed comprehension of complex texts
Students are able to cope with texts which are relatively unfamiliar to them. They are able to use the information within the text and organise it according to the demands of the task. Possible ambiguities or nuances of language can be largely overcome. Learners are able to achieve an accurate understanding of complex and relatively long texts and to evaluate them with recourse to external knowledge.
Proficiency level V: Flexible use of complex and unfamiliar texts
Students are proficient readers who can make flexible use of complex, unfamiliar and lengthy texts for a variety of purposes. They are able to comprehend such texts fully and in detail. This comprehension includes elements outside the main body of the text which strongly contradict their own expectations. The meaning of subtle linguistic nuances is interpreted appropriately. These students are able to integrate what they have read into their knowledge and critically evaluate the text on this basis.
Assessing your reading comprehension in Spanish will give you an idea of where you are in your learning process. To do this, you need to take into consideration the type of text you are reading, the context and the purpose of the reading.
According to Italian film director Fellini ‘a different language is a different vision of life’. Reading in Spanish is not only a good way to acquire knowledge and widen your horizons, there are other benefits as well. It will help you broaden your vocabulary and consolidate your knowledge of grammar, both of which are so important for effective and fluent communication with other Spanish speakers.
Reading and listening are closely related activities. These two skills should account for at least 65% of the time spent on language learning, especially in the early stages. This is the only way to develop a solid foundation on which to build the skills and knowledge necessary for using the language comfortably and naturally.
Reading in Spanish immerses you in the words and phrases you need to better understand the language and eventually communicate, both in writing and orally. Reading is not only of enormous importance in language learning, but also in life in general. Reading ability is the best predictor of professional success as it is the fastest way to acquire information. Many successful people (e.g. Bill Gates or Warren Buffet) admit to being prolific readers.
There are many reasons why you should start reading more in Spanish. Here are some of them:
- We believe the most important reason to read in Spanish is that it will greatly strengthen your language learning skills.
- You will expand your vocabulary. Not only will you learn new words, but you will be able to use them in future conversations.
- You will discover a lot of colloquial vocabulary. This means you will be able to recognise and put into practice more informal language that will make your conversations flow more naturally.
- You will become familiar with the most common words and grammatical structures. Reading in Spanish will help you focus on grammatical tenses so that, in the long run, you won’t have to keep asking about correct usage but will be more confident in your grammatical choices.
THE ADVANTAGES OF IMPROVING READING SKILLS IN SPANISH
- Reading in Spanish will help you to better understand Spanish sentence structure
Spanish words do not always flow into a sentence: reading is a natural way for you to become familiar with correct sentence structure and to be able to use it effortlessly in any conversation. It is also an easy skill to incorporate into your daily routine.
- You can always go at your own pace
Decide how fast you want to read without feeling like you're falling behind. There is no one to compare yourself to, no competition, no race. Reading is an individual activity where you control how fast or slow you want to go.
- It is easy and can be done anywhere
There are mobile phone apps and e-book readers like Kindle. Of course, you can also print out the content or buy a hardcopy.
- You won't be afraid of making mistakes
When you read in Spanish, it is impossible to make mistakes! You might not understand something at all or your comprehension might be a little fuzzy at times but it doesn’t matter as this is part of the process. When you read in Spanish, your brain gradually becomes familiar with the language until everything becomes clearer.
- You can choose what you want to read
If the material is of interest to you, you will persevere even if there are a lot of unfamiliar words.
- It is cheap
You don't have to spend anything. You can go to the library or find content on the internet if you want to read in Spanish.
For learning to be effective, it is very important that the student is motivated, but also that they are disciplined and use their initiative. They should be curious about what they are learning and actively look for content of interest. As we have already mentioned, reading is an important part of learning a second language. For this reason, Lengalia recommends you approach reading with a positive attitude and make use of the following strategies:
- When reading in Spanish, you don’t need to understand all the words in a text. Nor do you need to look up the meaning of each and every word you don’t understand. It is much better to try to work it out from the context.
- Afterwards, use a dictionary to check whether you have understood some of the more challenging words. This technique will help you gain a better understanding of the meaning of the words rather than trying to learn them all off by heart.
- Read the text more than once, always bearing the main ideas in mind.
- Try reading aloud to improve your pronunciation.
- Always choose texts to read in Spanish that are suitable for your level and increase the difficulty progressively. This is important in order to avoid becoming frustrated during the learning process.
Most language learning methods put a lot of emphasis on reading and listening. Listening comprehension does need to be developed, of course, but reading in Spanish will give you a solid grounding in the language which in turn will help you when listening to Spanish. Reading is an independent process, so you can do it as and when suits you. There are also a wide range of online tools and techniques available to you.
When we think of reading in Spanish, printed materials such as documents or books come to mind. However, we can also improve our reading skills using engaging audio-visual media, such as subtitled music videos, films, reports and inspirational talks. Subtitles make it easy for you to follow along with the reading...
We also recommend you write down any words you don’t know on your personal vocabulary list (either digitally or in a notebook) for later study. This technique can be used when you read different materials of varying levels of difficulty, such as:
- Texts and dialogues
- Newspapers and magazines
- Materials that are available on the internet
- Literature for children or young people
TECHNIQUES AND EXERCISES TO IMPROVE READING COMPREHENSION IN SPANISH
To get the most out of your reading, you can also use different techniques that will help improve your reading comprehension in Spanish. You can start practising these techniques today - the more you practise, the better you will understand what you read!
- Ask questions
Asking who, what, where, when, why and how questions about what you are reading will help you to read more purposefully in Spanish and get you more involved in the text. This is a more active reading approach which can also broaden your overall understanding of the text, helping you explore themes, arguments and other components of the writing.
- Look for the main idea
When reading, pause every now and again to see if you can figure out the main idea of what you have just read. Then try to reformulate it without looking at the text.
- Write a summary
A good way to increase your knowledge of what you have read is to write a short summary. Decide what is important in the text and summarise it in your own words. This is an excellent technique to determine whether you have really understood and are able to remember what you have read.
- Concept mapping
This involves putting together a diagram showing the different concepts in the text. This diagram will not only help you better understand the text, but will also really help you work out the meaning of words you don't know. You can focus on the key phrases or ideas in a sentence and, in this way, deduce the main idea of a sentence or paragraph based on this information.
Most people have used this technique at school or college. When reading in Spanish, you can underline key passages to highlight the most important content in the text.
- Add headings to paragraphs
After reading a paragraph, try to think about how you would headline it and write it down. This is a very effective strategy for keeping your attention while reading.
- Use a self-assessment template
This is the best way to analyse what level you are at and how well you have understood the text. You can make your own template with questions and answer them after you have finished reading. What questions do we mean? For example, can I convey what the text says in my own words? Can I identify the main ideas in each paragraph? Can I draw conclusions from the reading? Remember to answer honestly. This will help you find out which aspects of learning you need to reinforce and deepen, as well as those you have already mastered.
At Lengalia we have a method for learning Spanish based on learning paths. These paths place a lot of importance on reading in Spanish as a means to acquire a solid base in the language while increasing the student's confidence. Our learning paths are adapted to each level, from a very basic level A1 to an advanced level C2. The complexity of the texts are based on the criteria defined in the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR).
Texts in Spanish with reading comprehension exercises
In our Spanish learning portal we offer thousands of exercises on different topics (general Spanish, Spanish for specific purposes such as travel and business, etc.) and levels (A1, A2, B1, B2, C1, C2), so that you can practise and improve your reading comprehension in Spanish. This helps you evaluate whether or not you have really understood the text. Each text includes exercises with questions to evaluate your comprehension. This will allow you to reinforce your vocabulary, improve your grammar and recognise Spanish expressions.
With Lengalia's method for reading in Spanish, you will be able to increase your vocabulary on a wide range of topics, while improving other areas of the language. You will also be supported by our virtual teacher tool to better understand the exercises and make further progress.
You will also find an spanish vocabulary trainer based on the psychological and educational insights of Hermann Ebbinghaus. He states that at first you should repeat the material at shorter intervals and then at longer intervals so that you do not forget what you have learned. Difficult words should be repeated more often than already learned words.
If you practise a little every day, you will not only learn to read in Spanish, but you will also improve your language competence in all areas. As we have already shown, our exercises are designed to adapt to your ability level and progress. If you want to learn Spanish or improve your language ability, these resources will be of great help to you.
In addition to the strategies above, the following tips can help you learn to read in Spanish, as well as make progress in other areas of the language:
- Choose a topic that interests you
If you are excited about what you are reading, it will motivate you to persevere when you come to a tricky section. If you are interested in sports, movies, cars or politics, your enthusiasm for the topic will help you keep going!
- Start simple
To get good results, you need to know your limits when it comes to your Spanish skills. Start with some of the following resources:
a. Short newspaper or magazine articles.
b. Blog posts. Subscribe to several blogs for variety.
c. Children's or young adult books and stories.
d. Poetry. As well as being quite short, poetry goes beyond learning the words to teach us about culture and identity within the Spanish-speaking worlds.
e. Song lyrics. By learning through music and reading lyrics, we can compare our own pronunciation to the actual songs.
f. Short subtitled videos on YouTube or film shorts.
- Read a familiar story
Why not try reading the Spanish version of your favourite book? Familiarity with the plot, characters and story development will give you that extra boost of motivation.
- Read parallel texts
If you have an English version of a book, read the Spanish version as well. Cross-referencing words or sentences will save you from having to look up each new word in a dictionary.
- Keep a word register
Although it is very helpful to write down all new words in a journal, we often get overwhelmed by the thought that we have to record every unfamiliar word when reading in Spanish. Instead, underline the words you don't understand so you can look them up later without having to interrupt your reading.
- Make reading practical
Read as often as possible and whenever you can. You have a lot of information at your fingertips that can often be overlooked, but if you continually seek out efficient opportunities to read in Spanish, you will find that reading in Spanish will become second nature to you.
- Take frequent breaks and and don't rush
Sometimes you’ll find yourself glossing over the words as your mind begins to wander. If this happens, it is best to take a slight pause and double check if you have understood what you have just read. Try to enjoy the text as much as possible!
- Read aloud
Many people find it helpful to read aloud in Spanish. It allows them to hear the words, become familiar with them and practise their spoken Spanish. This technique can help keep you engaged with what you are reading and keep you entertained.
- Read the news in the morning
When you wake up, get into the habit of reading an important news story first in your native language and then in Spanish. Once you are familiar with the content of the news, you will find it much easier to read a text with a similar focus in Spanish. This is one of the best practices for professional translators that we also recommend to our students, especially those who already have an upper-intermediate level of Spanish.
- Analyse the text you are reading
Ask questions as you read and try to reflect on the content of the text. This will help you to understand it better and remain focused.
You will find reading in Spanish gets easier and easier the more you do it. At Lengalia you will find a wide variety of resources to reinforce this skill. Remember that you are always in control of your reading choices. It is easy to get overwhelmed, but reading in Spanish should be a relaxing activity, an enjoyable experience. If you aren’t enjoying what you’re reading, change your book or take a break. Only then will you be able to get the most out of the activity.