When you’re in the process of learning a new language, foreign-language media can be a very useful tool. Immersing yourself in your new language by reading books, watching films, or listening to music and podcasts in that language is a great way to supplement your studies.
Our team of linguistists compiled a list of the best learning resources, based on the language you’re studying and your level of proficiency. Here are six Spanish-language books they recommend to give beginner and intermediate students an extra boost.
Celia, Lo Que Dice (Beginner)
This collection of short stories is the first in a series written by Spanish author Elena Fortún. The stories are told from the perspective of a 7-year-old girl named Celia who lives with her family in Madrid.
Celia, lo que dice is a great book for beginners. It’s written for children and in the voice of a child, meaning the words aren’t too complex. It will help you review vocabulary related to families, animals and hobbies. Once you’ve read all the books in the series, you can watch the TV show based on them here.
Manolito Gafotas (Beginner)
Also a children’s book, Manolito Gafotas tells the story of a little boy living in the suburbs of Madrid who uses big words he’s learned from the media and the adults around him to describe his world. The book, written by Spanish journalist and author Elvira Lindo, highlights the power of imagination and the magic of childhood.
This book helps reinforce basic phrases, colloquial expressions and vocab used in descriptions of family and surroundings. A film based on the book was released in 1999 (but it doesn’t have the best reviews).
Comic strips can provide an easy way to digest a foreign language in small doses. Mafalda is a comic strip by an Argentine cartoonist who goes by the name Quino. The comic, which ran in Argentina from 1964 to 1973, features a 6-year-old girl (Mafalda) who is known for her concern for the future of humanity, as well as for her hatred of soup.
Available as a compilation book, Mafalda can teach you many words and phrases regarding a number of topics, ranging from rock music to world peace to pet turtles. Get ready: plenty of laughs and social criticism are in store!
Sin Noticias De Gurb (Intermediate)
Moving up to the intermediate level, this satirical novel is about an alien (the narrator) who gets lost in Barcelona while searching for his friend Gurb. Oh, and the aliens are shapeshifters, so they take on the forms of various people, including the Spanish singer Marta Sánchez, and also Madonna. The narrator describes his observations of human life in the city as its residents prepare for the 1992 Olympics.
Sin noticias de gurb reinforces language related to city life and descriptions of people and settings. It can teach you a lot about Barcelona in the ‘90s, as well as the human condition in general.
Como Agua Para Chocolate (Intermediate)
This may be the first book on this list that you’ve heard of previously. Como agua para chocolate (Like Water For Chocolate) was written by Mexican author and screenwriter Laura Esquivel, and it was published in 1989. It tells the story of a girl named Tita, whose mother forbids her from getting married because it’s family tradition for the youngest daughter to remain single and only take care of her mother. Inevitably, she falls in love with a man named Pedro, but cannot act on her desires. Instead, she expresses herself through her cooking, which is featured directly in the form of a Mexican recipe at the beginning of each chapter.
The novel plays with the literary device of magical realism, which mixes the supernatural in with ordinary life. The recipes are a good way to immerse yourself in food vocabulary, in addition to language regarding family and marriage. There is also a popular film version released in 1992 that you can watch for further immersion.
La Casa De Los Espíritus (Intermediate)
La Casa de los Espíritus was the debut novel of acclaimed Chilean author Isabel Allende, to whom President Barack Obama awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2014. The novel spans three generations of the Trueba family during the turbulent history of a Latin American country, which is unnamed but assumed to be Chile. This book also incorporates magical realism, which happens to be Allende’s specialty.
In addition to providing a breathtaking reading experience, this novel will reinforce vocab related to family life, love, politics and more. The 1993 film based on the book is in English, but it could still be fun to watch when you’ve finished reading it. The movie has an all-star cast featuring Meryl Streep, Glenn Close, Antonio Banderas and Winona Ryder.