Can Reading Spanish Literature Really Help Improve Your Spanish?

Can Reading Spanish Literature Really Help Improve Your Spanish?

Depending on who you ask, there’s nothing more relaxing than settling down and grabbing a good book. This is especially true if you’re learning a new language!

Just think about it. When you’re studying Spanish from a text book, you’re only getting a formal look at the language and it’s not being used in an everyday sense – meaning Spanish literature is going to be much different than if you were having a conversation with a friend.

How Can Spanish Literature Improve My Spanish?

We know what you’re thinking, “How can reading Spanish help me speak Spanish better?” Sure, the lessons in the text books may teach you vocabulary, grammar, and syntax, but it isn’t going to teach you the finer nuances of the language.

Man Carrying Books In Hand

By reading work from Spanish writers, you can see the language being used in a non-formal, perhaps even enjoyable, manner. As you read in another language, you have the chance to see the language written out, which gives you a different experience over just hearing it being spoken.

Why, you ask? When you see words written down (be it in your own language or a language you are learning), you can memorize how the word is written and recall it easier later.

Also, with text, you can reread the sentence over and over if you’re having a hard time trying to understand the meaning. This isn’t something you can do if you’re listening to a conversation between friends, or even in a classroom with a teacher.

What Are The Best Spanish Books To Learn From?

We know what you’re thinking, Spanish literature means Pride and Prejudice and other novels that are as lengthy and complex as that.

That’s not the case at all! In fact, if you’re a beginner, children’s books written by Spanish writers is an excellent place to start! Some of our favorite Spanish children’s books include:

  • La Cenicienta by Gabriela Mistral – A retelling of the classic Cinderella
  • Frida by Jonah Winter – A look into the life of Mexican painter, Frida Kahlo
  • Amigos by Alma Flor Ada – A book that teaches about shapes, colors, sizes and how to appreciate diversity

If you’re beyond the beginner’s level, and you want something a little more challenging, some great mid-level books include:

  • Las Edades de Lulú by Almudena Grandes – A book about a young woman’s sexual growth
  • Mandrágora by Laura Gallego – A book about a young woman who goes to work for a king and some unexplained events start to happen
  • Soldados de Salamina by Javier Cercas – This book follows the events that took place at end of the Spanish Civil War where 50 high ranking Nationalist prisoners are executed at the hands of a firing squad and one man can escape

When you’ve moved past the mid-level reads and are ready to tackle some of the more difficult tomes in Spanish literature, we recommend:

  • El Entenado by Juan José Saer – A young protagonist sets off to explore a new world
  • Short Stories by Ruben Dario – Short stories are a great way to read without sitting through a whole novel
  • La vida de Lazarillo de Tormes by an unknown author – This book was written during the 16th century and takes on the form of a long letter which details the life of the main character
El Entenado by Juan José Saer

How To Choose The Best Spanish Books To Learn From

If you’re interested in incorporating Spanish literature into your studies, then you’ll want to know how to choose the best Spanish book for you to start with. The perfect starter book for you should be:

About Your Skill Level

The book you choose to read should coincide with your skill level. Graded readers are invaluable tools for people learning Spanish because they have vocabulary that you should understand at that level. As a rule, you should be able to understand at least 70% of the words on the page.

You can test this by reading the first page of the book, or even the back of the book. Or, just check the library and borrow the book for free (or even read it right there).

A Good Length

When you’re choosing your book, you should reach for the stars right off the bat. Work your way up to literary classics like Don Quijote gradually. We recommend that you start with a book that you can comfortably read in English, and then cut it in half. For example, you can comfortably read a 200-page book. Cut that in half and search for a 100-page book.

Interesting Storyline

The book you choose should be interesting! You wouldn’t pick up a book in English if the story didn’t interest you, so use that same principle with your Spanish book. After all, when you’re interested in the story, you’ll be more likely to finish it to the end.

Final Thoughts

Using Spanish literature to help learn the language is a great technique that’ll give you a better understanding of the language, as well as grow your vocabulary. Not only can reading works from Spanish writers work to help improve your grasp of the language, but we also recommend incorporating Spanish music, television, and even movies into your study routine as your skills progress.

Glasses On Books

We do want to point out that if you are reading Spanish books, don’t expect to get through the novel as quickly as you would if you were reading in your native language. It is going to take some time, but the more you practice, the easier it will come.

If you haven’t already tried it, get a Spanish translation of your favorite book and try to read it side by side with the original version. Leave us a comment below and tell us what you thought! Was it difficult? Did you have trouble understanding the words? We’d love to know!


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