7 Tips to Improve Your Spanish Reading and Writing

Ready to move onto the next phase with your second language? I have good news, once you’ve mastered the sounds of Spanish, spelling will be fairly easy! The accents and tildes may be new, but there are fewer vowel sounds than English. ¡Excelente!

With a notebook, masking tape, a permanent marker, a library card, a dictionary, and online access, you can improve your reading and writing and build vocabulary. Here are seven examples of inexpensive practice you can do at home:

  1. Daily Journal: Write a page in Spanish every day. For beginning Spanish, write the verbs of the actions for the day as a to-do list. Practicar español. Comprar comida… If you can write sentences in the present tense, you can journal that way. To challenge yourself once you have several classes under your belt, you can write in both past tenses, the present and future tense. Remember to use your Fake Flamenco lenses to focus on communication rather than on possible mistakes.
  2. Grocery List: Make your weekly grocery list in Spanish, on your phone or on IMG_4936paper. Look up words you don’t know. Illustrate the new Spanish food vocabulary words to stick on your fridge. Studies show that flashcards with the word in the target language (Spanish) and a picture help us remember the new word better than translating it into our first language (English).
  3. Food labels: Freezer foods and leftovers need labels, why not write them in Spanish? Look up the pertinent words and write them on masking tape with a permanent marker. The food and label serve as a flashcard! My husband used this method to learn food words before we traveled to Chile and it worked well. You can practice the date too, Spanish style (also European style): 19 mayo 2019.
  4. Dictations: Look up the lyrics to a favorite song in Spanish. Read them for a preview. Listen to the song and write down the words as you hear them without Screen Shot 2019-05-19 at 8.26.07 PMconsulting the lyrics. Stop the recording as often as you like and repeat a phrase. See how many words you recognized. No worries if it’s only a few, this activity can be challenging even for someone whose first language is Spanish. Remember, in Spanish, vowels can run together (elision). Está aquí will sound like Estaquí.
  5. Kids’ Books: Check out kids’ books in Spanish from the library; great jump start for your literacy in your second language! I recommend you go for a general
    Page from ¿Cómo se llaman las Niñas Flamencas? (2013)   by Susana Subirana and Montse Ganges

    understanding of the story rather than looking up every word. For intermediate to advanced language skills, click the link to see why I recommend Isabel Allende’s young adult series beginning with Ciudad de las Bestias (City of the Beasts). If you’re still getting up to speed with your reading, you might check out the book in Spanish and English to compare passages.

  6. Spanish Language Newspapers: Check your public library for newspapers in Spanish; a great way to keep informed and improve your Spanish reading skills. A large number of newspapers are published online, for an extensive list see the website Prensa escrita. El País is a key Spanish newspaper. For an alternative view of Chilean politics see The Clinic.
  7. Spanish Poems: A short poem is a great way to gain vocabulary and learn culture. I recommend beginners start with the translation then move to reading the original. Once you’ve captured the majority of the words, listen for the feeling the poem gives you. Read the poem aloud to yourself in Spanish to enjoy the rhythm. Chilean poets Pablo Neruda and Gabriela Mistral (click to see my post about her Nobel Prize in Literature) are world renowned and fabulous, check this site.

What kind of learner are you? How do you pick up new information? It’s great to realize if your ears, your eyes or your hands are the best way for you to learn. I am a visual and kinesthetic learner. I need to see things and be active to understand something. Drawing picture flash cards was great for me when I was learning Spanish. Playing charades to review verbs can be a fun way to improve vocabulary (visual and kinesthetic too). Find out which practice activity from the list makes you smile and you’re on your way.

What do you like to read in Spanish? Who’s your favorite poet in the Spanish-speaking Americas or Spain?

Gracias for reading Fake Flamenco. Olé! –Rebecca


Rebecca Cuningham

9 thoughts on “7 Tips to Improve Your Spanish Reading and Writing

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