Basic reading comprehension is one of the easiest parts of a foreign language to master.
This is especially true of Spanish. If you’re a native English speaker, then you’ll find a whole host of cognates that the two languages share.
Cognates are words that share a similar stem, and they are what make it possible to understand some words in a Spanish text without having come across them before.
However, to take your reading comprehension from beginner to intermediate level, you’ll need to take a more active approach. It won’t be enough to just passively recognise a few words due to their similarity to English ones.
A high level of reading comprehension will help you produce better written Spanish, as well as increasing the likelihood that you retain new vocabulary you encounter.
Immerse Yourself In the Spanish Language
Before you worry about tracking down the best Spanish novels, newspapers, and magazines, there are a few simple things you can do to boost your reading comprehension.
These simple tricks will help you immerse yourself in the language, and should fast track your progress when it comes to reading.
Change Your Phone to Spanish
This is something you should do right now if you’re serious about improving your reading comprehension.
Take out your phone and switch the language to Spanish.
While initially you may just see a series of letters forming words you might not understand, in the long run you will get very familiar with them.
The best part about changing your phone to Spanish is that you should know the majority of the words and the position in English. That means the next time you go to adjust the brightness you’ll see the word ‘brillo’, and once you’ve done that a few times it should create a strong connection in your brain.
Before long, you’ll know how to say a lot of useful expressions like ‘turn on’, ‘switch off’, and ‘address book’ in Spanish.
You can also adjust the language on your computer to Spanish, although if you don’t know all of the settings already this might be quite challenging.
Browse Social Media
Yes, that’s right, I’m encouraging you to browse social media.
There’s a catch though, as you might have guessed.
You’re only allowed to read the posts of Spanish speakers, and Spanish accounts. To make sure you are more immersed and don’t have to switch between reading English and Spanish posts, you can make a Spanish-only account.
This can be a great way to get extra writing practice too, if you interact with the posts that you see through this account in Spanish.
Spend some time curating accounts you’d like to follow.
If you enjoy reading about sports for example, then look up the best Spanish sports accounts on your preferred social media platform.
Seek Out Interesting Reading Material
The next step in your journey to better reading comprehension should be to seek out interesting reading material.
Reading the occasional tweet or Instagram post can be useful, but sooner or later you’ll need to start reading longer posts and articles.
To avoid this becoming a chore, look for reading material that you would take a look at if it was in your native language.
A common mistake many people make when trying to improve their reading comprehension in a language is seeking out difficult material to accelerate progress. While the theory behind this is sound, if you aren’t interested in world politics in your own language, then you probably won’t enjoy reading it in another language either.
There are a variety of interesting ways to get your reading practice in.
Magazines & Online Articles
Magazines are usually less formal than newspapers, and tend to focus on hobbies and interests. This makes them a great place to start for boosting your reading comprehension while having a good time.
Chances are whatever your hobby or interest is, there’s a magazine for that. If you’re lucky enough to visit or even live in a Spanish speaking country then head to a local store and browse to your heart’s content.
If not, don’t worry, most magazines are available online these days.
A lot of English magazines have Spanish versions too, so if you really enjoy reading GQ, Men’s Health or Cosmopolitan you can check them out in Spanish.
You can also combine this with your new social media habit by following your favourite Spanish magazine’s social media accounts.
Newspapers can be challenging to read if you’re just starting out with the language, but there are ways to consume the news without having to navigate through complex language.
One way is to find Spanish newspapers that are designed specifically for language learners.
A good example of this is the website holaquepasa.com which posts news articles with translations of words and phrases below.
If you have more experience though, it’s worth trying out one of the big Spanish newspapers like ‘El País’ or ‘El Diario’ since you can see how Spanish is usually written in a more formal context.
In fact, it isn’t a bad idea to subscribe to an email newsletter to get free Spanish reading comprehension sent to your inbox.
El País offers email newsletters in a variety of categories including sport and technology, so you can sign up to those which sound most interesting to you.
Books can be one of the more difficult ways of practicing your reading, but also one of the most rewarding.
To start out with, you could try a Spanish book that’s written for your level of comprehension.
You can find these by searching for Spanish books at A1 or A2 level, or beginner/intermediate Spanish reading comprehension books.
These will equip you with all the skills you need to go on to read more challenging material.
Once you get to an intermediate level, you can think about reading books in your favourite genre.
A popular choice for many language learners is the Spanish translations of the Harry Potter book series.
While it can be challenging, you probably already know the story and may have read the book in English, so you will be able to follow along even when you come across words you don’t understand.
Watch and Listen
Whatever skill you’re trying to develop in a language, be it reading, listening, speaking, or writing, you can use the other elements to help.
For example, by reading a lot you will pick up more vocabulary to use in your writing.
By listening to a lot of native speakers you can pick up on the nuances of pronunciation to help with your speaking fluency.
As for reading, you can both listen and watch to accelerate your comprehension.
Listen Your Way to Reading Comprehension
Beelingual is an app that can act as both a form of listening practise and a way to improve reading comprehension at the same time.
Through the app you’ll have access to a broad selection of texts that are also available as audiobooks.
That means you can listen to a story while reading the Spanish text, and then check the English translation to make sure you understood what was said.
Another way listening can help your reading is through music.
LyricsTraining is a website that allows you to listen to your favourite songs and fill in the missing words and phrases.
This is a resource used by many ESL teachers to help teach English vocabulary, but you can use it to practise your Spanish reading and writing skills as you listen.
Watch Everything With Subtitles
What better way to enjoy yourself as you learn Spanish than by watching TV shows and films?
If you watch videos in Spanish with subtitles then you can boost your reading comprehension as you wind down for the evening.
Set them to Spanish if you want to practise your reading, and English if you’d prefer to better understand spoken Spanish.
What’s great about this is you aren’t limited by what you can watch. It could be a popular YouTube vlogger, a hit Netflix show, or a funny compilation video.
In fact, right now is probably one of the best times you could watch Spanish TV and film on Netflix.
Due to increasing investment in creating shows for the popular streaming platform, Spain has recently produced a whole host of TV series that have gone on to become global hits.
Does ‘La Casa de Papel’ ring a bell?
Known as ‘Money Heist’ in English, this show has taken the world by storm and is just one of many Spanish shows that have achieved huge success.
Cable girls, or ‘las chicas del cable’ as it’s known in Spain is another big budget drama series to check out.
If you like the American show Riverdale, then you’ll love the murder mystery show called ‘Elite’.
If you enjoy the humour of shows like the US Office, then give ‘Paquita Salas’ a go.
If you enjoy shows like Narcos and Breaking Bad, then it’s worth giving ‘Fariña’ a go, a gritty show which covers the region of Galicia’s shady past with drug trade.