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"Conjugal Bliss. A trusted friend on the route to Spanish." –Nathalia Madera for Language Magazine,

"The Little Spanish Verb Book That Could"
–Steven Roll, t

"A 'safe haven' for the panicked student and a resource for teachers." –Jerry Curtis,

"A ready instructional reference; thoroughly 'user friendly'" The Midwest Book Review

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When Learning Spanish: Don't Forget Reading is The Glue That Makes it All Stick Together

Do you remember how you learned to read in English?

There are four skill areas of learning Spanish or any language: listening, speaking, reading, and writing. When we learn our native language, the order these skills are acquired is first through listening to our family speak the language, and then we learn to speak by modeling their speech patterns. We then go to school where we learn to read and write.

We enter kindergarten with basic communication skills in our native language, but we still need to learn the alphabet, the calendar, colors, and of course the social skills involved in communication (sharing information with others). By first grade, we learn how to spell words and read short sentences which then leads to developing our reading skills. These are the basics. Once the foundation is built, it's just a matter of time as our natural abilities and instincts grow and develop through elementary school.

I like to compare learning Spanish to how we learn our native language, but it isn't a typical experience to have our family model Spanish for us unless we grow up in a bilingual home. The sequence of acquiring the four skill areas in Spanish will be different, but if we want to master the Spanish language we can’t forget to leave any of them out. Reading tends to be the forgotten language skill in our race to learn to speak Spanish.

Are you learning how to read in Spanish?

You should ask yourself how you are incorporating each of the four skill areas in your current program for learning Spanish. Your advancement in any language depends on expanding your vocabulary through reading and writing. As a result, your listening comprehension skills and speaking abilities in Spanish will improve also. The four language skills are interdependent.

In a beginning level Spanish class there's a lot of basic vocabulary building going on with nouns, adjectives, and the kindergarten basics (numbers, letters, colors). And of course there is the complicated system of verb conjugation in Spanish. It’s all rather overwhelming.

The best way to put it all together and see how the puzzle pieces fit is through reading. And just like the elementary readers we started with in English (“See Dick and Jane run”), we need to start with elementary Spanish readers.

I know this important piece was missing in my Spanish education and I suffered for it. And I also know that it was very challenging to find resources for my high school Spanish classes that guided reading in Spanish for my students, and they suffered for it. It is a missing link in secondary foreign language classes as we push students through to meet their “2-year” college entrance requirement.

If you do continue with a foreign language in college, that‘s where you will feel the absence of your reading skills. Besides slowing down the process of learning Spanish, writing papers and reading literature in Spanish will be double the challenge.

How can you start learning to read in Spanish?

I remember trying to use children’s books in Spanish as a way to get started with reading, both for myself and my students, but they were often difficult to understand also. This was exactly the case when my daughters were starting to learn to read in English. I couldn’t just give them one of our children’s books and say, “Here, let’s read this.” They needed to start with books specifically written to help the first-time reader.

Readers will have basic vocabulary and use minimal verb tenses. The level of difficulty will gradually increase to build reading skills. And then the important reading comprehension questions develop writing skills. Once we acquire reading skills, reading material then serves to teach us about culture, history, and literature. What you’re reading becomes just as important as learning how to read it.

My recommendation for you: an ‘Easy Spanish Reader’

Recently I found a recommendation for a Spanish reader and I wanted to pass it along so you can get started reading in Spanish. It’s called “Easy Spanish Reader: A Three-Part Text for Beginning Students” by William T. Tardy, published by McGraw-Hill. It’s designed for beginners, and it starts out with very basic Spanish. By the end of the book it incorporates the past tenses.

There are three sections with activities and reading comprehension questions. The first section is about two high school students in the U.S. that are in a Spanish club. It helps to build confidence in reading. The second section is an overview of the history of Mexico featuring famous historical personalities. The third section is an adaptation of a well-known piece of Spanish literature.

This ‘Easy Spanish Reader’ accomplishes in one book what reading is meant to provide: culture, history, and literature. After I first heard of this reader on Facebook, I went to to learn more about it. There are a lot of wonderful reviews that endorse the book. I was impressed with one in particular that said this reader helped launch her skills in Spanish which eventually lead to a degree in Spanish and Portuguese.

To make it super easy for you, here is a direct link to and the 'Easy Spanish Reader':

I must say that The Spanish Verb Conjugator would be an excellent companion to the ‘Easy Spanish Reader’ especially for referencing the past tenses in the third section. As I remember in college, I needed a dictionary and verb reference when I came upon words I didn’t know. Like my verb guide, the ‘Easy Spanish Reader’ is designed to bridge the learning gap for beginners.

As you increase your reading skills in Spanish, which is inevitable if you continue to read, you will then be able to read newspapers, magazines, blogs, as well as important literature in Spanish. Reading ultimately takes us beyond our intellectual boundaries and contributes to the collective intelligence of all human beings. It’s pretty important stuff. That’s why you see promotional material encouraging young people to read more, our evolution depends on it.

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Reader Comments (2)

I am a Spanish teacher, I can help people to learn Spanish quickly in just 6 days.

January 4, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterGlen Hopkins

Learning through teachers and other people especially for something new is difficult to absorb. It takes a lot of time to know it very well. This post teaches how to maintain the learning through reading. As described, reading is a glue that can make the knowledge be retained. Thank you.

January 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterChildren books

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