Wednesday, July 20, 2011

I’m Not A Reader's Digest Fan, But Selecciones Can Be A Good Way To Learn/Remember Espanol!

The Good: Generally simple diction, Good translations, Generally light on ads
The Bad: Generally fluffy articles/interviews, Nothing original
The Basics: Very average and as biased as Reader’s Digest, Selecciones is nothing more than the monthly Reader’s Digest translated into Spanish.

I’ve never been a fan of Reader’s Digest (reviewed here!), so it might surprise some that my review of Selecciones, the Spanish-language translation of Reader’s Digest rates the magazine as highly as it does. The reason for this is simple. The non-threatening and generally literal translation style of Reader’s Digest for Selecciones makes it an ideal tool for those utilizing high school Spanish-language skills. That includes me as I have recently become seriously bothered by how much Spanish I have forgotten. I studied it for eight years and now, over a decade since using it daily, I have forgotten most of what I learned. So, I turned to magazines to try to help me remember.

That is when I came upon Selecciones. Selecciones is Reader’s Digest in Spanish. That is all. It has the exact same flaws and selling points as the English-language version of the magazine. The only difference between the two magazines is Selecciones is in Spanish and Reader’s Digest is in English. As well, some of the advertisements are swapped out as products, notably collectible products, are frequently only available in the United States. Outside that, Selecciones IS Reader’s Digest in every way.

For those unfamiliar with the concept, Reader’s Digest is a physically small 100 page magazine which reprints selections from other publications each month so readers can get what the magazine feels is the “best of” American printing. The rather inoffensive concept runs into technical problems for objectivity when one views the content of what Reader’s Digest reprints. Reader’s Digest, and by extension Selecciones reprints inoffensive, socially conservative articles which have an inflated sense of Americana and a narrow view of social mores and patriotism. Selecciones reprints these same reprinted articles, translated into Spanish.

What readers can expect in Selecciones then are stories that generally make the reader feel good and stories of triumph over adversity, reinforcing the antiquated and unrealistic notions that good triumphs over evil and trust in authority are good things. The jokes are inoffensive and are the style one might expect from a kindly grandparent and the interviews are loaded with softball questions. So, for example, a recent interview of Michael J. Fox allowed Fox to plug his new book, discuss how he was bravely fighting Parkinson’s disease. The interview neglects the real struggles of day to day living for Fox and it certainly does not explore the pain and suffering of a person without Fox’s resources goes through while struggling with Parkinson’s.

“Selecciones” is a good translation of Reader’s Digest, though. The magazine does not take liberties with content and those looking to use it as an educational tool will find that the articles mirror the English equivalent. As a result, having students translate Selecciones into English leaves them with a perfect key for their translation works with the English equivalent of the magazine. Selecciones does not include regional articles about Spain or Mexico (or any other Spanish-speaking countries). As a result, it is very much “America for the Spanish Reader”. . . at least as the folks at Reader’s Digest would like it to be.

Ultimately, though, I don’t recommend Selecciones because I don’t think it’s good journalism. I loathe biased writing and Selecciones, because it is simply Reader’s Digest in Spanish includes the same slant and very limited viewpoint. It is inoffensive enough for students and those studying (or trying to remember) Spanish to use as a tool to experience basic Spanish grammar and sentence structure, but beyond that, I have no use for it.

For other magazines reviewed by me, please check out my take on:
Newsweek En Espanol
The Progressive


For other magazine reviews, please be sure to visit my index page by clicking here!

© 2011, 2010 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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