As a beginner student of a foreign language, listening and keeping real conversations is, in most situations, frustrating. While you might be able to express your requests, needs or questions, answers from native speakers can be still too hard to decode. That’s why reading is, at this point, one of the best practices to push your language skills outside the classroom.
It’s very common, for beginner students of Spanish, to start reading books for kids. Well, let us tell you it might not be a great idea. It’s truth books for kids do have short and simple sentences. But it’s also truth they’re usually set in unreal or uncommon contexts. And that implies quite hard and also useless vocabulary. A forest inhabited by wild animals will not be of great help when you want to improve your language skills in order to do things in Spanish in a modern city…
In order to help you make a better selection, we’ve created this list of 5 books for beginner students of Spanish. We promise you don’t have to be restricted to boring, silly books for Spanish learners! As a beginner student of the language, you can still read books that are fun and useful. Take a look:
1. Your Lonely Planet
And by “Lonely Planet” we mean, of course, your favorite travel guide for the Spanish speaking destination you’re in or you plan to go. This type of guides always follow a very clear and repetitive structure, implying a great contextual help to understand what it’s talking about. Besides, they feature short sections, making them easier to read, and also less frustrating: if you don’t understand a paragraph, you’re just a few sentences away from a totally different subject. Just skip it and keep going!
On the other hand, travel guides do feature a type of vocabulary you’re very used to if you’re traveling, and which is super useful too. So you’ll already know a lot of words, and will learn tons of others that will skyrocket your language skills in traveling contexts.
As a bonus track: try TripAdvisor, Yelp and any other online platform you may use in Spanish too.
2. El Alquimista, by Paulo Coelho
Well, it’s not the best book you’ll read. And it’s not even originally in Spanish -although we’re not afraid to say its Spanish version is quite true to the original, as Portuguese and Spanish share so much. But El Alquimista is one of the world’s biggest best-sellers, and it’s simple.
3. Proyecto Cartele, by several authors
The number 3 of our 5 books for beginner students of Spanish isn’t a classic book. The thing is, as a beginner, you have to be creative to keep it simple but still fun. This book is actually a compilation of images. More specifically, boards and signs.
Proyecto Cartele is an Argentine project that collects images of funny, weird, non-sense, silly boards and signs in Spanish. This is why it’s so great for beginners. Texts are totally genuine but also short, they’re more than interesting and fun, and they’re visually contextualized, making them easier to decode. What is more, it’s not really an issue not to understand some of them, as you can just skip it and go straight to the next one. And if you have friends with a good level of Spanish, they’ll be more than pleased to help you understand the meaning of these hilarious carteles.
4. Mafalda, by Quino (several books)
If images and short, independent texts are a plus for beginners, then comics are just perfect. And Mafalda is not only a comic; it’s also a classic. Created by Quino, and published in Argentina between 1964 and 1973, Mafalda is now translated to more than 30 languages.
If you’re in Argentina, you can find a compilation of Mafalda stories in any book shop. Give it a try: it hasn’t grown old, and you’ll fall in love with its tender, wit characters and their political reflections. The number 4 of our 5 books for beginner students of Spanish is also a great source to learn about Argentine history and cultural idiosyncrasies.
5. “El hombre del bar”, by Jordi Suris y Rosa María Rialp (and other stories specially adapted by Instituto Cervantes)
Adapted short stories might not be the most interesting, nor the more genuine options to read. However, being specially designed for students, they can be a great practice. They’re challenging but not frustrating, and they’re planned for you to practice exactly what is best for you. What is more, they generally come with specific activities to do before, during and after reading. And they include a glossary.
“El hombre del bar” is a fragment of a suspense story. It takes place in Barcelona and is full of dialogues, making it easier to follow. You can find it here, and you can also check out these other adapted stories for beginner students of Spanish.