Review: Easy Spanish Reader

In my quest to learn Spanish, I’ve gone through quite a few materials. I’ll be reviewing individual courses and books to let  you know what I thought of them and, more importantly, how well they worked for me.

I don’t want to waste your time, so I’m going to follow a template (which you’ll see below) that cuts to the chase.

Review: Easy Spanish Reader, by William T. Tardy

What is it?
Easy Spanish Reader is a 218-page book of short passages and stories written in Spanish. Some words are defined in English in the sidebar and then glossed at the back of the book.

It’s separated into three sections:

  • Enrique and María – A collection of narratives describing the everyday lives of two high school students who live in a small town in the United States.
  • Historia de México – 22 nonfiction stories discussing the history of Mexico, from Pre-Hispanic times until today.
  • Lazarillo de Tormes – A retelling of a classic Spanish story of a poor Spanish pícaro (rogue, or rascal) who is trying to survive in a cruel world.

Some versions of the book also come with an audio CD that contains audio recordings of the passages. (For some reason, the Historia de México section was not recorded.) I only had the book at first, but later bought a second copy of it to get the audio recordings.

Who is it for?
Beginning Spanish students, or intermediate Spanish students needing a refresher or fluency exercise. I think it was written with high school students in mind, but really anyone studying Spanish can benefit from it.

What makes it unique?
The stories are told using simple grammar and sentence construction, so that even brand new Spanish students can follow along. For at least the first third of the book, I think anyone could use the defined words and intuition to get the gist of the stories. And I think most students will be able to translate sentences word for word.

By the end of the book, the grammar becomes a little trickier, but still manageable.

Did the book improve my Spanish?
Yes. I had completed most of Pimsleur Spanish, levels one through three, as well as some other studying. So I was probably at a solid A1 level when I started with this book. However, I discovered that even though I breezed through a lot of the text, I was still challenged by some of it too.

I think the book helped me in two ways:

  • It built my vocab. I discovered that there was a surprising amount of “easy” vocabulary I hadn’t learned, and the book gave me a significant bump in that department.
  • It improved my reading fluency. I went from reading slowly to reading quicker, and by the end I had become much more comfortable with Spanish text.

Earlier, I had bought a Spanish woman’s magazine – Mujer – and had significant difficulty understanding it. When I was finished with Easy Spanish Reader, I was able to read that same magazine a lot easier.

Any cons?
A couple. The very first stories were maybe too easy and felt a little like “See Spot Run.” Admittedly, though, this might be just right for some students starting out.

Also, some of the vocabulary in the Lazarillo de Tormes section was…interesting. Some of the words were necessary for the story, which was set in olden times, but might not be very relevant for people trying to focus on the demands of communicating in the modern world.

Do I recommend it?
Yes. It improved my Spanish significantly–not just my reading, but my global language skills. It was well put together. And here’s the best part:

Compared to many courses and software programs, it was very inexpensive.

When I bought the book, it cost $11.95, and the book with the audio CD was $19.00. Yeah, that’s not free. But when you compare this to $150 software programs or expensive classes or tutoring hours, your return on investment is insanely high.

Is this book alone going to teach you Spanish? No, no single book can do that. But it is a good tool in your toolbox and will help you make that leap from beginner to intermediate.