Tag Archives: libros

Easy Spanish Reader/¡Así leemos!

A nice break in homework this week allowed me to finally finish ¡Así leemos!, which I first wrote about back in November (!). By the way, McGraw-Hill has updated the book since my copy was purchased, and it is now called Easy Spanish Reader—not really a title that inspires much passion from this dilettante, but as I said recently, publishers don’t always make the most interesting choices in life.

Whatever name you want to call it by, the book is a three-part graded Spanish reader that is pretty good for exercising your reading skills. Though I should probably say again that the first section of the book, “Enrique y María,” is rather dreadful unless you’re a preteen, a very low-level beginner, or someone with a preternatural interest in teenagers and high-school Spanish clubs. The second section, which is a short history of Mexico, and the third section, an abridged version of Lazarillo de Tormes, are much more worth your time.

One of the nice things about the book for a self-learner or someone using the text as a compliment to coursework is that it is broken up into very digestible chunks of text—usually only one page with a large font—and each chunk has a series of questions that do a decent job of testing comprehension. While the ¡Así leemos! version of the book that I have doesn’t contain any kind of answer key, McGraw-Hill promises that Easy Spanish Reader does. I also see that the edition sold on Amazon contains some kind of CD-ROM. Either way, it’s a nice addition to your language library if you fall somewhere between beginning Spanish speaker and lower intermediate learner. It gets you reading and introduces some good vocabulary into your lexicon. But if you have a decent grasp of core Spanish grammar, the book will probably bore you a bit.

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Read Me a Rhyme in Spanish and English

I found Rose Zertuche Treviño’s Read Me a Rhyme in Spanish and English/Léame una rima en español e inglés mixed in with a stack of books at the library recently. Immediately curious, I flipped the book open and landed on a song called “Hola, Bebé.”

(Sung to the tune of Frere Jacques)

Hola, bebé. Hola, bebé
¿Cómo estás? ¿Cómo estás?
Muy bien, gracias.
Muy bien, gracias.
¿Y usted? ¿Y usted?

Not exactly pure lyrical gold or anything, but I got that darn song stick in my head right quick. So I decided to cart the book home and have a look through it.

In my Spanish class last year I had a middle-aged woman for a classmate who had adopted a baby girl from Guatemala and wanted to learn Spanish so she could teach her daughter the language as well. I had assumed at first glance that this book was aimed at a reader like her—one of the countless folks in the US who has a child adopted from Latin America or has a child with a Latino partner…or who just wants to teach their kid Spanish. But once I sat down with it, I quickly found out that this book is intended for librarians putting together reading programs for children from Spanish-speaking households. Neat!

Each chapter is set up as a program for a specific age group: babies, toddlers, preschoolers, and school-age children. The programs have songs, activities, games, and lots of recommendations for further reading. But for this particular reader, I was mostly interested in trying to mine the book for vocabulary. Unfortunately, there was nothing too interesting or new for me in the end, but my inner dork enjoyed singing the book’s songs nonetheless.

I don’t know if the book has much value for your average Spanish student, but if you’re thinking of going into library science or working with young children in a bilingual environment, I think it would certainly come in handy. As well, the folks I had originally thought were the intended audience would do well to seek this book out. It would be a really easy way to pick up some Spanish while having fun with your kid.

Stories from Mexico/Historias de México : Genevieve Barlow and William N. Stivers

McGraw-Hill’s three collections of Spanish-language folk readings for beginning and intermediate learners have been around for a while: Stories from Mexico, Stories from Latin America, and Stories from Spain. I’ve had my eye on all of them for a couple of months now, but I didn’t actually sit down with any of them until this week…because I received the collection of Mexican tales as a present! I would highly recommend it to anyone looking for short, interesting writings that entertain while boosting your vocabulary.

The collection has sixteen Mexican legends that span almost 1,500 years of that country’s history. Included are stories from the pre-Columbian era through Spanish colonialism and beyond. Most are written using the present, preterite, and imperfect tenses, though an occasional subjunctive mood or complex tense sneaks in here and there. But I don’t think any of them are too difficult or will trip up a beginning reader that much. And like many of this type of book, the English translation is given on the facing page.

There are two things that I particularly like about the collection, which has me excited to read the other two volumes in the series. First off, more difficult or unusual vocabulary is generally mixed in with a load of common words. So instead of reaching for the dictionary every other sentence, I’ve found that I only need to look up about four per page. That leads to a much smoother reading experience, and it helps one more easily piece together meanings from context. The other thing I like is that the stories are all short; they usually run only about two or three pages. So I’ve been able to read a piece a night in bed just before going to sleep. It’s really nice to begin and end a story in one sitting. It makes me more willing to go back and reread again and again later. And the stories are certainly interesting and fun. The first selection, for instance, is about how the moon came to acquire its pockmark-like crater formations…they’re actually rabbit tracks!

Found Gem : Spanish Pronunciation Illustrated

Poking around the stacks in the library this week I found a slim volume sandwiched between two thick, underused Spanish dictionaries: Spanish Pronunciation Illustrated by J.P. FitzGibbon and J. Merino. I immediately fell in love.

The petite volume was published in 1963 and doesn’t appear to have seen any more printings after that. A quick search around the internet reveals only a few copies for sale (2 on ABE, for instance, and both of them are in the UK). The book goes through all the sounds in the Spanish language, using example words and sentences to give the user practice with each. The fun part is that all the sentences are written in a rhyme-y, sing-song-y, and hilarious way and are accompanied by illustrations. It’s kind of like Edward Gorey made a Spanish primer.

Ana anda hasta la casa.

El militar pinta la piña.

La niña pide la silla.

Laura va hacia la farmacia.

Esta tela tiene tinta.

Está en la peña con mucha pena.

Of course, the illustrations are the best part of the book. As you can tell from the above image, they’re awesome! Simple and humorous, they’re by the Portuguese artist Lima de Freitas. According to this article (as best as I can make from the Portuguese), he lived from 1927 to 1998 and illustrated over 100 books, including Aquilino Ribeiro‘s translation of Don Quixote. There are also a couple of Quixote illustrations in this book, by the way. If I weren’t such a morally upright boy, I’d keep this little gem for myself. Alas, one day soon it’ll be back on the library shelf…gathering dust.

New Day, New Text

After frustrations with my last teacher, I’ve moved to a college further away from where I live, in hopes of finding a more solid instructor. Yesterday was our first class, and I would say I’m optimistic. The sad thing about this situation is that my new teacher doesn’t use Sol y viento as his text. So I must say goodbye to the baby I carried for five months last year. However, since I own the film, I plan on sticking with María and Jaime’s story through the end—so no worries for you Sol y viento film fans. But my educational focus is now on ¡Arriba! Comunicación y cultura, which doesn’t seem significantly different from the old Sol y viento. There’s still a video component, and each chapter centers around a particular country and a song by one of its artists. I’m hoping that’s a novel idea in practice. We’ll see. Our instructor also requires that we do online work through My Spanish Lab—something that’s new for me. But I have to ask…why does Pearson Education have to promote this aspect of its course materials in such a boring and uninspired manner? The following video looks like an industrial safety video—something I’m unfortunately too familiar with. It’s 2010, folks!

Laugh ‘n’ Learn Spanish : oh, what comics can teach us

Now I’ve never counted myself as a fan of For Better or For Worse, the family comic that graces most funny pages in the US and Canada. The strip focuses on the Patterson family, a typically pleasant collection of suburban characters living near Toronto who, until a couple years ago, accurately aged throughout the years of the comic’s publication: children grew up and married, the dog passed away, and so on. But for some reason, someone had the idea of using the strip as a basis for language study. I don’t know if it was the strip’s creator Lynn Johnston or writer Brenda Wegmann or both, but the result is Laugh ‘n’ Learn Spanish: Featuring North America’s #1 Comic Strip “For Better or For Worse,” which ends up being a novel approach to improving one’s Spanish skills.

The book is split up into 100 strips that are organized for beginning, intermediate, and advanced students, but they don’t need to be read in a particular order. Though generally I’d say knowing a little Spanish would be helpful before cracking open the book. Each strip (all in Spanish by the way) introduces a theme, ranging from simple tasks like asking to use the bathroom to thinking about the future and even making wedding plans, and each is followed by a fill-in-the-blank exercise. They also include word, grammar, and phrase help.

All of which creates a rather unusual language book: no rote memorization and no inane dialogues. The strips present real situations with useful conversational phrases, and the visuals help to reinforce the language and vocabulary. And though it seems particularly uncool of me to admit, some of the strips did make me chuckle a bit. (Have I sold out?) I’d say the book seems like an especially good tool for visual learners. However, I wouldn’t go throwing out your old textbook just yet. Sometimes grammar needs to be laid out in all its nooks and (sometimes boring) crannies. So I would suggest this book to the Spanish learner as a complimentary tool and not an end-all, be-all authority.

Como agua para chocolate (Like Water for Chocolate) : a film by Alfonso Arau

When I was younger, I used to love Like Water for Chocolate—both the book and the film. It seemed such a sensual, magical, surreal delight. A tear drop ruins a wedding cake, a sister bursts into flames of passion, a mother haunts her youngest daughter, and all in the backdrop of exotic México. But I hadn’t seen the film since the mid-90s when I watched it again over the weekend, and it hasn’t aged well. For one, I remembered something that always disappointed me about the film, Tita’s preference for Pedro over Doctor Brown. Only instead of disappointing me, it irritated me to no end during this viewing. I wear glasses and I’m a bit nerdy, so perhaps I have a natural preference for Brown, but just what does Pedro offer Tita? He seems pretty lifeless actually, other than having a hunky, Antonio-Banderas-like visage. Brown is sweet, intelligent, and caring. And way too understanding! Also, I guess CGI must have ruined me, because what was once a surreal delight now seems pretty straight-laced in terms of narrative and imagery. I guess, as B.B. King says, “the thrill is gone.”