Vocabulary and Grammar Development
Reading in Spanish is a terrific way to increase your vocabulary, practice grammar, and become more comfortable with the way Spanish is used in many contexts. You might start by choosing one or two topics you are inter ested in that you are likely to find articles about in English- and Spanish-language newspapers. If you focus on current events, it will be easy to find articles in Spanish and English about the same event. Many newspapers are available online, so you won't have a problem finding Spanish-language resources for this exercise. Each time you find an article about one of your topics in English, read it carefully. Then read an article about the same topic in Spanish. That way, you'll learn a lot of new vocabulary from context clues because you are already familiar with the news item in English.
If you read news articles about the same event in English and then Spanish, you will be able to understand more new vocabulary and turns of phrase in the Spanish article from context. The more you read, the easier it will get.
Print out the article in Spanish and underline a manageable number of new vocabulary words or phrases. Check the meaning of new vocabulary in a dictionary, and then use each word in a sentence to help you remember its meaning.
Another good technique for making the most of newspaper articles is to underline examples of particular grammar points in context. Since you are already familiar with the content of the news story in English, you'll likely be able to follow along fairly easily in Spanish. Don't be afraid to make intelligent guesses at meaning.
Practice What You Learn
After you've made a list of new vocabulary, and you've underlined important grammar structures, the next step is to summarize the article using as much of the new vocabulary and as many of the grammar models as you can. If you do this regularly, you will increase your vocabulary and refine your use of grammar considerably.
You can do the same thing by reading stories or novels in English and Spanish. If you have a favorite author, start there. Otherwise, you might choose one of the internationally known authors from Spain or Latin America whose work is readily available in translation. Fiction can be a bit more complex since language is often used figuratively, and narrative style can present challenges that straightforward journalistic writing does not. Nevertheless, you will learn a great deal by reading fiction in the same way, identifying new vocabulary and particular examples of grammar. You should break the narrative down into small chunks for summarizing. When you're done, use your notes to retell the story to a friend.
Poetry is probably the most challenging of the written forms. However, if you are a fan of poetry, don't let the challenge keep you from trying out this technique.
Collect Synonyms and Antonyms
For each new word you collect, try to learn at least one synonym and antonym for it as well, whenever appropriate. A good dictionary of Spanish synonyms and antonyms will be very helpful for this task. In addition to expanding your vocabulary, synonyms can help you avoid repetition, and you will sound much more eloquent when you use a word with a more precise meaning for what you want to express.
Circumlocution: Explain What You Mean
What if, for some inexplicable reason, you completely forget a word and all its synonyms? To avoid this potentially frustrating scenario, another very effective approach to vocabulary development is to learn the definitions of words in Spanish, and to practice explaining what you mean without using the exact word. This may sound like beating around the bush, but it's actually a well-documented communicative strategy called “circumlocution.”
Imagine, for example, that you have just gotten to your hotel room in Santiago, Chile. You're absolutely exhausted from the flight and want to take a restorative shower and nap before you unpack and hit the street. Unfortunately, you discover that there is no soap in the bathroom and no pillow upon which to rest your weary head. You're so frazzled that you can't remember how to say “soap” and “pillow” in Spanish, and your dictionary is buried somewhere in your luggage. Nevertheless, you bravely pick up the phone, call housekeeping, and say something like: