Introduction to Cultura: Los hispanos en los Estados Unidos

The Cultura sections offer an opportunity to learn about a variety of themes and topics in the Spanish-speaking world. You may find that the Cultura sections have vocabulary or structures you don’t know yet. If that’s the case, don’t worry! The point of these sections is to practice inferring meaning from context.

As Janet Swaffar and Katherine Arens point out:

Reading experts assert that only about half of what people understand when they read in any language has to do with knowing that language’s vocabulary and its grammar. The other half involves factors such as:

• background knowledge about the topic or the medium (e.g. what kind of a hero Batman is, and what an action movie looks like)
• knowledge of a genre (e.g. what information is in a movie review and what importance is attached to who writes the review and where it’s published)
• strategies for guessing and working with uncertainty (“I don’t know this term, but it has been mentioned twice so it’s probably important and I’ll continue reading to see if I can figure it out.”)
• strategies for identifying cognates and other textual clues (illustrations, subtitles, etc.).

Whether in your native language or in a language you’re just learning, reading is as much about context as it is about content. So the first time you read through the Cultura text (or any text in Spanish), try to note the words and phrases you already understand. Once you’ve read it through once this way, consider which words or phrases you would need to look up in order to understand the text more thoroughly. Look up these words and see how this knowledge changes your understanding of the text. Finally, think about whether there are any formulations or structures you still don’t understand. Ask your teacher (or a native speaker) to explain what’s going on in these passages.


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