Some Spanish learners are naturally better speakers and listeners, but when it comes to reading and writing in Spanish they face challenges.
You might be able to relate. You may be feeling overwhelmed and struggling with Spanish literacy.
There are some strategies you can use to get better at these two skills.
Do you want to know these strategies?
Why is reading in Spanish so important?
Reinforcing your knowledge is always critical. If you learn something once and never revisit it, you’re unlikely to remember it.
This is why reading in Spanish is so important.
Reading in Spanish is the best way to learn new Spanish idioms, how you should use the subjunctive mood, pick up vocabulary that native speakers use every day, understand past, future, conditional, imperative and present tense verbs, and take note of irregular verbs.
When you read in Spanish, you also grow accustomed to seeing the Spanish accent marks floating on top of the vowels that require them.
This is one of the tricky things to master and, even though there are rules that can help you understand it, you’ll find it easier to remember those rules when you read in Spanish.
Why is writing in Spanish so important?
Communicating in the Spanish language is not only limited to verbal communication.
You’ll find yourself sending emails to colleagues, using slang or colloquial expressions when communicating with friends, and even communicating online.
Using accent marks correctly and spelling words correctly is important for formal writing, as is using the right register for the right audience. For example, if you’re writing an email to your boss, you should avoid using colloquial expressions.
For this reason, practising how to write in Spanish is vital.
You’ll find that reading and writing in Spanish are two skills that you can master when you practice them alongside each other.
So, the more you read, the more you’ll know how to confidently spell complex words like otorrinolaringólogo.
How to read in Spanish
Let’s now look at some handy tips for learning how to read in Spanish and grow accustomed to learning more vocabulary as you do so.
1. Begin by reading English works in the Spanish language
When you already recognise a story in English, this can make it easier to follow the narrative in Spanish and remain entertained.
It’s the first secret to staying motivated when you’re finding your feet in a new language like Spanish.
Just by reading English works in the Spanish language, you’ll find yourself deducing the meaning of new verbs as your brain recalls the story that you’ve previously read.
You’ll notice that the vocabulary might make more sense when you already have the context of the story in your mind, so look at works that you have already read in English.
2. Complete comprehension tasks based on the Spanish books you read
Selecting Spanish books that have a comprehension task section at the end of the book is a great way to test what you have understood when you read in Spanish.
As you answer the questions, revisit the passages indicated in the comprehension task and try to evaluate whether you fully understand the meaning of the text.
3. Pay attention to Spanish grammar
If you’re reading a book and studying a Spanish course, now is the perfect time to assess whether you fully understood the grammatical rules of your course.
It’s also a time to test how much you understand when reading the text.
Take note of any verb conjugations that you didn’t understand and go to your Spanish notes to refresh your memory. Then go back and read the passage in the book again.
You can open your eyes to new, clarified meanings by accompanying your Spanish course with a book and vice versa: You can understand what you study in a Spanish course thanks to what you read outside of the course, so make the most of it.
4. Use a dictionary to clarify the meaning of vocabulary you don’t recognise
Not even native Spanish speakers know the meaning of every single word in the Spanish language, so don’t feel like you’ve failed if you find yourself reaching for a dictionary.
Pat yourself on the back when you learn the meaning of a new word and can begin to understand the passage more fully with it when reading in Spanish.
5. Use verb conjugation tools to help you understand irregular verb conjugations
Paying attention to Spanish grammar is a step in the right direction, now you must take part in active learning and start using your conjugation tools to remember irregular verb conjugations as much as possible.
When you see the irregular verb again, you will then recognise who the subject of the sentence is.
You’ll understand the meaning of the text and find it less difficult to understand what is happening in the passage.
6. Avoid choosing a book that is too advanced
It can be discouraging to select an advanced book such as Cien Años de Soledad by Gabriel García Márquez and find that you don’t understand anything that is happening in the book when you read in Spanish.
If you’re reading at an A2 level, books for kids might be the best option for you, and there’s nothing to be ashamed of if you’re starting at this level. We all have to begin at the beginning.
Some fairy tale stories can be a great way to begin reading in Spanish and feel like you’re making progress. In fact, Caperucita Roja (Little Red Riding Hood) is often taught in A2 Spanish courses to help students understand the past tense.
It’s always better to make small steps in the right direction than jump straight into the deep end, so choose books that you can understand and adjust the reading difficulty as you make progress.
7. Keep note on your novels
Keeping notes can help you become an active reader, as opposed to noticing that you don’t understand a word and continuing reading (hoping that the meaning will reveal itself).
You can also highlight words in the text that made little sense to you. Highlighting words that you don’t recognise and then doing your own research on the word can help take your reading skills to the next level.
Make note-keeping a go-to practice and become an active reader.
How to write in Spanish
Now, let’s move on to how to write well in Spanish. Here are my tips for learning how to do this.
1. Use simple vocabulary and syntax first
There’s no point in using multiple clauses when you’re just starting to write in Spanish. Not only are there some syntactic rules that you have to know, but you may also lack the vocabulary if you’re just starting to learn Spanish.
Instead, begin with basic sentences and basic vocabulary.
Start with the easiest sentences that take the present tense, such as:
Llueve mucho hoy.
La niña estudia español.
Bebo mucha agua.
As you can see, these sentences all use the present tense and don’t have more than one clause.
When you get more confident, you can begin to add more vocabulary and conjunctions, such as:
Llueve mucho hoy, pero tengo un paraguas.
La niña estudia español, aunque no le gusta.
Bebo mucha agua, sin embargo, no como comida sana.
2. Learn about formal and informal writing
If you’re writing an email or letter, one of the crucial things your Spanish teacher will mention to you is “formal or informal” register.
When you write to people you know and love, use querido or querida to say (dear…). When you write to people you don’t know, or to your colleagues, use estimado or estimada. Note, the difference between querido/a and estimado/a is that querido is used for a male addressee and querida is used for a female addressee.
It’s also important to use the Spanish pronoun tú when addressing loved ones and friends, but usted when addressing people who you don’t know.
Finally, when you close your email or letter, only use besos or abrazos (hugs and kisses) when writing to a friend or family member, but atentamente (sincerely) when speaking to a client or a colleague you don’t know or haven’t met.
3. Study how to structure your writing
When you write in Spanish you need to structure your emails and letters well to convey your meaning, so try to study how to structure your writing.
Here’s a tip: Structure your emails into four main parts.
- First, you start with the greeting
- Then, you explain your motive for writing the email or letter
- Next, you give more detail in the body of the email or letter
- Finally, you close the email or letter
Even though the content of your writing may vary, try to follow this order to write your emails and letters.
4. Practice informal language and rules of texting and informal chat
If you have sent text messages in English, you will probably know that there are many rules to get accustomed to.
Not only can you omit letters from words, but you can also use abbreviations to shorten words.
In Spanish, this is the same.
Instead of porque, you can simply write pq. Instead of no pasa nada, you can write npn.
You’ll also notice that you can use numbers or symbols to shorten words. For example, instead of writing chicos y chicas, or niños y niñas, you can write chic@s or nin@s, where the @ symbol represents the a and o of niños and niñas.
Pretty cool, right? 😊
Just to get you started, here are seven key Spanish slang acronyms used for texting:
- tqm. Te quiero mucho
- ntp. No te preocupes
- mdi. Me da igual
- tqi. Tengo que irme
- cdt. Cuídate.
- fds. Fin de semana
- npn. No pasa nada
5. Learn the accent marks and how to type them
Remember that vowels in Spanish sometimes have an acute accent mark above them when you write in Spanish.
The acute mark helps you understand how to pronounce a word and how to distinguish two words that are otherwise spelled the same - like tu and tú
We use the diéresis mark to indicate that you should pronounce the letters u and i in particular circumstances, like in the words bilingüe and vergüenza, and we use the virgulilla to distinguish between the letters ene (letter n) and enye (letter ñ).
I have a whole guide on Spanish accent marks so check it out to learn how to use them.
6. Exclamation and question marks: Don’t forget about them
Exclamation and question marks are orthographically different to the English equivalent.
In Spanish, we have an upside-down exclamation mark at the beginning of the sentence and a closing right side up exclamation mark at the end of the sentence.
This is also true for question marks.
It’s something that you’ll have to get used to when you write in Spanish, but you’ll get it with practice.
7. Learn the order of sentence structures in Spanish
Do you know the order of sentence structures in Spanish?
Although it sometimes uses the same structure as English, which is subject, verb, object, (for instance Louisa está cocinando una receta) this can change.
It’s possible to omit the pronoun or subject of the sentence altogether in Spanish, meaning that the subject doesn’t always come first in the sentence structure. The main reason for this is that verb conjugations include the subject itself.
Another thing to watch out for when writing in Spanish is that nouns come before Spanish adjectives.
In English you would write “the black gloves”, in Spanish this becomes los guantes negros.
Keep practising to become an excellent reader and writer in Spanish
Learning how to read and write in Spanish might seem challenging at first, but by following the tips in this article you’ll know exactly what to watch out for.
Frequent practice is the best way to get better at reading and writing in Spanish. Try journaling in Spanish, writing letters, reading books and reading newspaper articles to improve.
Have fun reading and writing in Spanish.
Which else would you recommend to someone learning to read and write in Spanish?
Add your advice to the comments below!