Language is basically learning new words, and then learning how to put them together and use them. So learning new vocabulary makes up a large percent of the task of learning Spanish. When you’re studying Spanish in a class setting, it makes sense to sit down and make flash cards of all the words your professor tells you to learn for the next test. But what if you don’t have a professor? What if you’re trying to learn on your own? How do you know what words you need to learn? Besides immersion, or talking with Spanish-speaking friends, how can you improve your Spanish? I think half of the answer to that question is STORIES!
Find Easily Accessible Stories for On-the-Go
I’m always poking around on the internet looking for Spanish resources, and I happened on a few Kindle books that would be GREAT for adults trying to learn Spanish on their own. And if you have Kindle Unlimited, you can read the books now for free! If you don’t have Kindle unlimited, you can try it free for a month to see what you think. (Disclosure: All the Amazon links I post on this site are affiliate links.) Even if you don’t have Kindle Unlimited, the books below are fairly inexpensive!
You Know the Spanish Basics, Now What?
Spanish Short Stories for Beginners
In these books, you have 10 stories, each a few chapters long, with geared for adults. In other words, the stories don’t seem too juvenile, but are written for a beginner’s level (present tense, simple sentences). The book also introduces the vocabulary from each chapter, and each paragraph of the story has an English translation under it. Chapters even come with a few questions to test your comprehension of the story.
What makes stories so great is that they give your brain context, so the meanings and uses of words become cemented in your mind with phrases and ideas. When we learn isolated words on flashcards (not saying that’s bad, it’s actually a GOOD first step) that doesn’t help much if we want to use those words in sentences. That’s why reading stories is KEY to progress in learning Spanish.
I found it a little confusing that these books have the same title. They have similar formats–10 short stories accompanied by English translations, with vocabulary and comprehension questions at the end. But they are by different authors and the stories are indeed different (you can click through to Amazon and peek inside each of these books to read some of the stories and see the formats).
The great part about this book by Claudia Orea is the audio component. If you buy the Kindle version you can download an MP3 audio file (I’m assuming to your computer). Or you can also buy the audio book version and listen to it on Audible. This collection has three volumes so far.
It Really Works
I’m not kidding. If you do the work to memorize the vocabulary listed with each story, and then listen to these stories or read them aloud to yourself a few times until you understand the entire story, you will be making huge strides in your Spanish learning progress.
Pro Tip: When you read Spanish stories or articles, make sure to read them aloud. One of my Spanish professors told me to do this and it really helps not only with pronunciation practice, but also develops your Spanish listening skills.
Other Places to Get Stories
If you buy these books and find out stories are your jam, here are a few more places to find good Spanish stories for adult beginners, when you’ve exhausted the ones above.
I love the podcast Español Automático. While she doesn’t necessarily tell stories (well sometimes she does), she speaks in a conversational way about different topics that are current and relevant. You can download a transcript for every episode if I’m not mistaken.
If you don’t have an iPhone/iTunes, just download a podcast app like Stitcher or Overcast and find the podcast in there!
Duolingo you might have heard of because of their popular language-learning apps. They also recently released a podcast, where each week they feature a story from the life of a Spanish-speaking person. The host narrates the story in English, which is interspersed with clips of the person telling their story in Spanish first-hand. I give them five stars. It’s a very high-quality, well-produced podcast.
Se Habla Español Podcast
News in Slow Spanish
I subscribe to the Latino version of this podcast. Admittedly, I don’t listen often because, well news isn’t my favorite. However, if you love staying current with current events this would be the perfect podcast for you! Especially because you will probably already know the subject matter, which will help with comprehension.
Where else do you get Spanish practice with stories?! Please share any tips or ideas in the comments below.