Reading is often thought of as one of the easier of the skills when you’re learning a language and in Spanish this is no different, but this doesn’t mean that the skill can go ignored. Like every language skill, reading needs to be used and practised for it to flourish and for you to be reading like a Spanish native.
Let’s have a look at some materials you can use to improve your reading in Spanish and some handy tips that might make reading a bit easier for you.
Materials to read
If you’re looking to improve your Spanish reading, then here are some materials and resources that we think could be of use to you.
Use DELE reading comprehension texts
Many people only use DELE comprehension texts if they’re studying for the DELE exam, but they’re incredibly useful even if you’re not wanting to take the exam. This is because the DELE is broken down into six levels which correspond to the levels you may be at with your Spanish.
If you’re just starting out and you need simple exercises, then the A1 reading exercises would be perfect for you. Similarly if you’ve been learning for a while and you think you’re around an intermediate level then maybe you’d want to try B1 or B2 reading exercises.
These are great because the grammar and vocabulary are targeted exactly for those levels. And you can buy DELE reading practise textbooks or just find them online. They’re an incredibly useful way to improve your Spanish reading even if you don’t want to take the exam.
They’re also useful, because after you’ve read the text you can answer questions to check your comprehension. It’s always useful to have a measurable bench mark of where you’re up to.
If you want to learn more about the DELE exam, then have a look at our reasons why you might want to consider taking the DELE.
Read news sites like el pais etc.
A great and free way to improve your Spanish reading skills is to read news sites like el país or el mundo. These give you access to real life stories, real life Spanish and will often include grammar structures that you wouldn’t otherwise normally get a chance to practise, like the passive voice, of the subjunctive.
A downside of news sites, is that the Spanish can be quite difficult, and you don’t want to use your time translating every other word. So if you’re a beginner, maybe stick to reading the headlines in a Spanish. Or if your level is B2 + then try reading different articles. As news sites have the type of vocabulary that you study at that level, news sites would be the best way to practise your target vocabulary and topics in the most natural way.
Try graded readers
Graded readers are our favourite way to read books when we’re learning a foreign language. And this is because with children’s books the vocabulary might match your level, but the stories are often boring, and with adult books, the stories are great but the vocabulary or grammar are often a bit too difficult for the level you’re at.
Graded readers are the perfect way to combat this. Similarly to the DELE reading papers, graded readers have been written specifically for the level you’re currently at. They’re a great way to find interesting stories at your level, rather than having to compromise.
Have a look here at our collection of Spanish graded readers.
One of the downsides of graded readers is that less people want to write them. Writers often want to write children’s books or they want to write novels, meaning that they aren’t actually that many Spanish graded readers available, so if you’re a big reader, there’s a chance you’ll run out of graded readers at your level.
If you want to learn more about the benefits of graded readers and why you should be using them then take a look here.
Read children’s books
Reading Spanish children’s books can be a great way to get you started with your Spanish. Children’s books are of course, aimed at children and this means easier vocabulary, easier grammar, shorter sentences and pictures to give you context. Which are all things you need as a beginner getting started with Spanish reading.
The great thing about improving your reading with Children’s books is that there seems to be a never ending supply. Unlike graded readers, which aren’t as plentiful, there are always new Spanish children’s books being written. And as you progress in your Spanish, you can progress through the age ranges just like a Spanish child would, with an endless supply of books perfect for your Spanish level.
The only problem is the stories are designed for children, so even though the vocabulary and grammar might be closer to your level, the story probably isn’t going to grip you, and there’s only so many children’s books you can read before you get a bit bored.
Read familiar books
If you read what you already know, then you’ll be able to practise the skill of reading without it being too taxing. If you choose a book like Harry Potter where you may have read the story 10 times and you feel like you know it inside out, then you’re going to have a much easier time when you transition to reading in Spanish, than if you’d chosen a book you’ve never picked up before.
The only problem with this option, is that even though you’re familiar, if you just choose books you know and like, you may find that the Spanish level is higher than you’re ready to read at and even though you like and know the story, it still might be too difficult for you to read along and follow. Because even if you know the outline of the story, it’s not going to help you if you’re struggling to translate every sentence.
This technique is probably best used when your Spanish level is B1 or above so you would be able to follow most of what you were reading, and of course C1 and higher if you’re going for those really difficult books.
Technique’s to use while reading
If you want to get used to phonemes and the flow of the text, then reading out loud can be useful. Of course, reading in your head is useful, but remember when you were a child and the amount of times your parents would make you read out loud while you were reading together.
Articulating what you’re reading allows you to hear the words how they’re supposed to be said and to understand the flow of the text better. Reading out loud also helps you think about how sentences are structures and helps to make you better at writing in Spanish as well.
Try and do timed readings
Rather than poring over every single word, you could set yourself timed intervals in which you have to read an article or a story. This will help you start reading quicker and reading for understanding rather than to know every word.
Make this even more challenging for yourself by answering questions about the text at the end.
Read for gist
When you’re reading a book or text in Spanish, don’t try and read to understand every single word. If you want to improve your reading in Spanish, then one of the things you need to improve is how natural it feels. If you’re stopping at every other word checking the conjugation, or getting out your dictionary, then you’re not going to improve, it’s going to take a long time and quite frankly it’s going to be pretty boring.
Instead, read an article for the gist, see how much you can understand and often you can work out what new words mean from the context of the information around them. Afterwards you can go back and look up some words that you just can’t quite work out. But fi you don’t understand every single word it’s not a problem. You’re not reading to learn every Spanish word in existence, you’re reading Spanish to improve your reading skills and that means making it easier and more natural for you, but more importantly, making it fun for you.
And remember, Spanish and English actually share a lot of similar words, so if you are reading for gist, chances are you’ll be able to work out what a lot of words mean based on their similarity to English.
Remember: don’t worry if you can’t understand every word!
Aim to learn ten new words a page
This is partly linked to the point above about reading for the gist, but this should be used more to work out what reading level you’re at.
When you’re reading in Spanish, a good level to aim for would be reading material where there are perhaps ten new words for you per page. Of course this doesn’t need to be exact! It’s just a good way to make sure you’re challenging yourself, but also making sure that the material isn’t too difficult that you get bored or just can’t follow the text.
We hope you liked our tips on how to improve your reading in Spanish.
If there’s any useful resources that you think we’ve missed off then let us know in the comments below. We’re always looking for new tips and advice to pass onto our readers.
Also if you have any handy study tips that you think have improved your Spanish reading then please let us know. Tips and tricks can be just as useful as materials and resources.