Improving my Spanish is a big priority for me and was one of my main reasons for coming to Spain. Recently I have been neglecting “studying” Spanish because I get to speak it with my friends almost daily; however, back when I was more focused, one thing that really helped me improve quickly was reading – I found it to be a great way to consolidate the grammatical knowledge from my formal classes and expand my vocabulary.
Talking to friends for Spanish practice is great, but in social situations your friends don’t stop you every two sentences to correct your verb conjugation, and there are certain types of sentence structure that you just don’t use that much in speech. Reading is the perfect way to “revise” this kind of thing and choosing your own texts makes it a lot more interesting that just sticking with reading comprehension exercises in text books.
Last year, when I decided to take the big step and read an entire book in Spanish I choose to re-read the Harry Potter series. I am a massive Potterhead so I had already read the books in English and knew I’d enjoy re-reading them, but my logic behind choosing Harry Potter was that the series was originally written for children and the fans grew up with the books – that means the language starts out simple (and the book length starts short), but the books get more complex (and much longer!) as the series goes on.
I was at a level B1 (lower intermediate) in Spanish when I started reading Harry Potter and I found re-reading the series to be the perfect practice. Because I had read the books before, I had an idea of the gist of the story and I was able to guess a lot of works from context, however, I was still reading dictionary in-hand and I constantly looking up words (a wizard is “un mago” and a magic wand is “una varita magia” in case you’re interested. Quidditch is… still Quidditch!). The constant looking up words made things a bit slow going but I also found myself recognising things like when you use “se” to show reciprocity of actions, when you say “de que” rather than just “que”, and starting to get my head around the dreaded “subjuntivo” (the subjunctive mood, still my grammatical nemesis). Things were clicking into place and it was great. It was also great to rediscover the stories and realise just how much stuff they changed in the movies!!
I would definitely recommend finding something fun to read as a way to improve your Spanish (or whatever language you’re learning), and here are my top 3 tips to get the most benefit from it:
- Read something you have read before – knowing the gist helps with understanding vocabulary via context
- Read something simple – don’t be embarrassed to try a book for children or adolescents, indulge your inner child. It’s fun!
- Read a physical book – these days I read most things on a Kindle. But I read physical books in Spanish so that I can underline words I want to look up, and write down the translations/synonyms and other margin notes. (Normally I am not a book defacer but when it comes to studying I need to write stuff to remember it)
I finished Harry Potter a few months ago and I haven’t decided which book I am next going to read in Spanish as I’ve been a bit distracted. However last week I made my first I made my first Spanish magazine purchase – I was lured by the free diary they were giving away with Glamour (I am a stationery nerd!) so I am going to see how this more casual approach to reading works out.
How about you? Have you tried reading in a language you’re learning, and if so, any tips for getting the most from it?