Analyzing & Comprehending Spanish Texts

Instructor: Yolanda Reinoso Barzallo

Yolanda holds a CELTA Cambridge, a Juris Doctorate, and a Master of Public Administration. She is a published author of fiction in Spanish.

This lesson gives you two texts in Spanish along with comprehension questions so that you practice identifying and understanding the main idea, point of view, audience, and new vocabulary words. Comprehension questions are in Spanish and English.

Reading Skills: Main Ideas and New Words

Do you often need to read a Spanish text twice to make sure you understood the main idea? Do you sometimes find new words that you can understand because of the context? When you read in Spanish, the challenge is not only that it is a foreign language but also that some new words and points of view are part of the text. Read on for some tips to figuring out how to identify the main idea, point of view, audience, and new words.

Main Idea

As you are reading, ask yourself questions like: What is the main message the author conveys in the text?

Point of View

When we identify the punto de vista in a story, we basically answer the questions: From what point of view does the narrator write? What is the opinion the author or narrator has of a given idea?

Audience

Similarly, we can deduce the audience when we answer the question: For whom does the writer write?

New Words

Also, often you find new vocabulary when you read Spanish texts. You do not always need to look these words up in a dictionary. There are two reading strategies you can apply to understand the meaning of a word:

  • Identify cognates: Many Spanish words come from a Latin root and the same applies to their equivalent English words. Thus, the root looks similar to a word in English. This is what we call 'cognates.' However, you do want to be aware of 'false cognates,' which are words that look like an English word but aren't actually similar in meaning.
  • Deduce the meaning from the context that surrounds the word. It helps to ask yourself what part of speech the word is (e.g. verb? noun?).

Practice Spanish Texts

Now, you have some texts that relate to Spanish culture and are a good source for practicing reading skills.

Text One: Tango Argentino

Take your time to carefully read this text:

Una de las principales atracciones turísticas de la ciudad de Buenos Aires (Argentina) es el tango. Este baile incluye la unión de varias culturas presentes en la historia de Argentina. Esas culturas son la española, la africana, y la italiana, entre otras. Sin embargo, quizá el motivo por el cual los turistas sienten atracción por los espectáculos de tango, radica en que el tango es un baile muy sensual y elegante. En el tango, dos bailarines profesionales con mucho talento no solamente bailan al son de la música, sino que además despiertan en el público la sensualidad que toda pareja tiene.

First, here are some comprehension questions for you to answer:

  • ¿En qué ciudad de Argentina es el tango importante?
  • ¿Qué culturas diversas incluye el tango?
  • ¿Por qué el tango es una gran atracción turística?

Here are your answers to each question:

  • En Buenos Aires.
  • Las culturas española, africana, e italiana.
  • Porque es un baile sensual y elegante.

Now, let's move on to some additional questions:

  • What do you think the main idea in this text is?
  • What does incluye mean?
  • What about son - what does this mean?
  • What is the point of view?
  • Who is the audience?

And here is the next set of answers:

  • If you identified that the tango dance is certainly a touristic attraction in the Argentinean capital, you got the main idea.
  • If you guessed the meaning of incluye is 'includes,' you are right and you probably got it because these are cognates.
  • The text says the dancers perform as per the son of the music. If you guessed the word 'rhythm' or another synonym, you are right.
  • Ask yourself, who is writing this text? It is a third-person narrator, someone who is an expert on the topic. This person might be a professional tango dancer or someone who works in tourism in Buenos Aires.
  • Now think, who is the author talking to? The audience could be tourists going to Argentina or readers interested in learning more about tango or about Buenos Aires.

Text Two: Carlos

Let's read and analyze this fragment of a fiction story:

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