12 Powerful Strategies to Improve Reading in Spanish

Reading Strategies in SpanishOne of the best ways to progress in Spanish (or any foreign language) is to do more reading. By reading a variety of different materials in the target language you will not only learn more words and phrases but you will see how the language is used in different contexts.
As well as simply reading, there are certain methods you can use to maximise your reading time to make even more progress in Spanish.
The aim of this blog post is to give you a few tips as to how you can read in Spanish to help you improve the fastest.

1) Decide what to read carefully

* Read about something that you enjoy, something that interests you and that you care about. If you start reading something you aren’t really interested in, you will be much less likely to check what the words mean and learn anything from it. Reading something that interests you is the key to staying motivated.

* Think about your end goal. Why are you learning Spanish? If it is to do business you need to read more formal language. If it is to fully immerse yourself in the language you would try tackling a novel or a magazine.

* Academic resources:

Pros: The good things about these are that they teach the basics and they are good for focusing on specific vocabulary.
Cons: However the drawbacks are that they do not show how the language is used in real-life.

* Non-academic resources:

Pros: They show you how the language is used in real-life, they will teach
you colloquial phrases you wouldn’t find in a textbook and it’s easier to put
vocabulary in a context.
Cons: The drawback is they may use regional language which is not
representative of the general language.

2) Start small and simply

Start with shorter texts such as a blog post on a topic that interests you. For example, if you like travelling do a Google search for “blog viajes” which is “travel blogs” and you will find blogs in Spanish about travel such as this article in “El País” which lists 25 most read Spanish blogs about travel.
Or search for “blogs de la moda” to read about fashion. Or “blogs de cocina” to read about cooking.

* Buzzfeed:

– This is great for reading snippets of text with photos to help with understanding. All you have to do is click on “More” and change the version that you are using to “Español”. You will then see lots of short Spanish articles to flick through when you have a spare 5 minutes. This is easier on the brain and your eyes and means you don’t have to concentrate for long periods of time.

If you find Spanish websites too difficult at first, stick with language learners’ resources for a while. Just search in Google for “reading for Spanish beginners”.

* Here is a list of 89 websites that people learning Spanish are using:

Ultimate Guide to Spanish websites for beginners to practice reading.

3) Read before you read:

Here are some ‘Pre-learning strategies’ that you can use:

This helps to set a context for what you are about to read. Pre-learning activities you can do include:

– Brushing up on related vocabulary.
– Read related articles in English first.
– Read a synopsis of a novel in English first.
– Try skim reading at first. Look up any new words.

4) Read as you would do with your native language

– Studies show that if you can read one language, you should be able to read another.
– At first, focus on becoming familiar with the language, expanding your vocabulary and getting a feel for the grammar.

5) Deal with new vocabulary

Whilst skim reading as pre-learning exercises, look up key words that look important. You can use Wordreference.com which is a free online tool) or the Collins dictionary.
– Whilst reading underline other unfamiliar words to look up after reading.
– After reading the first time, then look up the words you underlined.

6) Google Translate Extension

The Google Translate Extension has a handy extension that allows you to turn any webpage in a foreign language into an interactive dictionary. All you do is click on a word that you don’t understand, and the translation will appear. There is also a speaker icon that if you click on it, you can hear the pronunciation.

How to install it

Make sure you are using Google Chrome as your browser. Type in Google for “Google Translate Extension” and you will see the page to download. There is a blue box in the top right saying “Add to chrome” which you need to click to install it. You can also highlight phrases rather than individual words.
You can go to “Extension options” to click on “Display icon that I can click to show pop up” to avoid it always being shown even when you are not reading a foreign webpage.

7) Alternate relaxed reading with focused reading

– Split your time: Once you can read more difficult texts, try to split your reading time between more complex, intensive learning of more difficult material with the more relaxed, enjoyable reading of easier texts, like a magazine.

– Apply the 80/20 rule: Make sure you spend most of your reading time enjoying it combined with a smaller proportion of the time reading more difficult texts and studying them. This way you are much more likely to continue reading and building your vocabulary rather than getting bored and frustrated trying to tackle difficult material all of the time.

8) Re-read several times

When reading more challenging texts for intensive study, read 4 times:

1st read – to get the bigger picture, to get the gist of the story or a feel for what is happening. You may need to look up the odd important word
2nd reading – read in more detail, look up more words.
3rd reading – Put all the new details together, try to understand exactly what you have read and what is happening overall after adding in the new information you have found out from looking up more words.
4th reading – Read again at a more normal speed trying to understand as you read this time.

9) Reading Aloud

This helps you put together reading and speaking which are connected as reading is just an extension of speaking. It is also good practice to improve your pronunciation.

10) Group reading

Reading on your own is fine but some people find it much more enjoyable in a group setting. If you know a few people who are also learning Spanish you could meet up once a week and take it in turns to read aloud while everyone follows the text. As well as being a very social activity this is good for your listening as well and if you discuss what you are reading, it can also be a great speaking activity.

11) Timed reading

The aim is to try to speed up your reading and processing of the language to a normal speed. You could time yourself reading a passage and work out your reading speed by words-per-minute to work on beating this each time.

12) Use context to guess word meaning

When reading it can get tedious having to keep stopping to look up words. What you can do is try to use the context to guess the meanings of the words you don’t understand. This turns the text into a puzzle and if you guess the word correctly it will stand out in your memory more easily. Being curious is good for learning a language.

The more you focus on and think about the new words, the more easily you will remember them. So every time you come across a new word, write it in your notebook or add it to a Word document or Excel spreadsheet or even your flashcard app like Anki.

Use the new words by thinking about when you would use them in real life or make up example sentences. You could draw and label a picture of a situation of when the new word would be used. This will help you memorise it much more quickly.

You may also like to read a previous blog post, “20+ Spanish Reading Resources” to give you a few ideas of resources to use.

Whatever you read in Spanish make sure you enjoy it, you do it regularly and you make sure you learn the new words you come across.

 
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