Some Notes On Spanish For Reading

Unlike the other languages for reading in this series, the Spanish edition is relatively recent and quite affordable.  It is a delightful and effective way for learning to read Spanish and is highly recommended.

The book’s introduction treats Spanish vowels and consonants with descriptions on how to pronounce them.  The first chapter is critical, for it deals with cognates of which there are an abundance.  These should be studied assiduously, since they are indispensable for expanding vocabulary.  I must say that, although I had three years of high school Spanish, and took a summer course in Mexican civilization and culture, the first reading about the Spanish language seemed completely foreign.  The next three chapters place a strong emphasis on the geography and history of Spain and Latin America.  After these chapters, the authors concentrate on legends, festivals and other aspects of Hispanic culture.  The readings are quite interesting and build up the reader’s knowledge of Spanish grammar, which is much easier to grasp than French or German.  It is not until Chapter 10 that the reader gets his/her first taste of Spanish literature.  The excerpts provided come from Juan Ramon Jimenez’s highly poetic and personal masterpiece, Platero and I.  In this intriguing work, the author shares his thoughts and reflections with his beloved donkey, Platero as they travel together.  An excellent translation of the complete work is available through the University of Texas.  The idea of traveling through towns and surrounding country is a major theme in Spanish literature.  Beginning with the picaresque(which features a rogue as hero, and was a reaction to courtly romances), it finds its culmination in Miguel de Cervantes’s work, Don Quixote, in which Sancho Panza(picaresque tradition) and Don Quixote(courtly tradition) travel the countryside together, viewing events from the point of view of their respective traditions.  The 12th chapter has a long reading:  Women and the Labor Force in Latin America and the Caribbean”.  This is the type of writing you might find in a newspaper or scholarly article.  At first it’s a bit intimidating, but repeated readings will flush out the meaning and boost your confidence.  Chapter 14 has two scholarly articles:  “Latin America in Transition”, and “Drug Traffic:  Two Sides of the Coin”.  The latter is particularly difficult, because some of the grammatical constructions are quite complex.  I would study these two articles until you are comfortable with all the syntactical windings.  Some brief poems by Pablo Neruda complete this instructional volume.

The major shortcomings of this book are two:  there is no comprehensive grammar test at the end as is the case with German for Reading, and there is no vocabulary list, so you will need to purchase a Spanish dictionary.  But the shortcomings are minimal compared to the excellent preparation for reading Spanish that it provides.  After completion, I found I could read a number of literary texts without much difficulty.  I recommend the book to you without hesitation as a wonderful way of experiencing the many facets and colors of the Spanish cultural heritage.

Something To Think About

Below are two quotes from two mathematicians.  Robert Brooks is speaking about mathematics, but could his statement refer to something else?  Charles Kalme mentions education and not mathematics, but is there a connection between the two quotes?  What do these two quotes suggest in our everyday lives?

“…it dawned on me that all the numbers we had been given to add up until that time had been kind of “cooked up”, so you didn’t have to carry…;  and I said to myself,  “I wonder what else they’re holding back?”–Robert Brooks, Assistant Professor of Mathematics, University of Southern California

“Education courses are where you learn not to rock the boat.”–Charles Kalme, Assistant Professor of Mathematics, University of Southern California

A Stroll Through Vasquez Rocks State Park

Recently, our caretaker, Glenn Malapit, drove Dad and me to Vasquez State Park.  In the old days, you could see this strange collection of rocky ledges from the Sierra Hwy.  But the Antelope Valley Fwy. is well to the east of the rocks, so you must drive a ways on Agua Dulce Canyon Road and Escondido Canyon Road before you get your first glimpse of this unusual collection of rock formations.  These formations were used in old westerns, and more currently, Star Trek.  The parking lot is on a gravel road with several stones of its own that need to be negotiated before your stroll begins.  But, perhaps, a few words of the history of this Park are in order.

Erosion and movement along the Elk Horn Fault are responsible for the shale-basalt slabs of today.  The slabs are part of the Soledad Basin, which formed over time from thousands of feet of sediment.

Native Americans lived here for almost 2000 years, beginning with 200 B.C.  However, they were eliminated by diseases carried by the Spanish.  Tiburcio Vasquez and his bandits brought life back to the Basin.  Eventually, after a lucrative career, he was caught and executed, but the Park remains as a reminder of his reckless life.

What follows below are some photos of our trip to Vasquez Rocks State Park.

One of Vasquez's Rocks

One of Vasquez’s Rocks

Vasquez Rocks

Vasquez Rocks

A small valley in Vasquez Rocks

A small valley in Vasquez Rocks

standing in front of Vasquez Rocks

standing in front of Vasquez Rocks

A stratified ledge in Vasquez Rocks

A stratified ledge in Vasquez Rocks

Me, enjoying the beauty of Vasquez Rocks

Me, enjoying the beauty of Vasquez Rocks

One of the hollows at Vasquez Rocks

One of the hollows at Vasquez Rocks

A stratified edge of Vasquez Rocks

A stratified edge of Vasquez Rocks

Dad and I in front of the Rocks.

Dad at 92 and I in front of the Rocks.

The same as above photo.

The same as above photo.

the base one of Vasquez Rocks

the base of one of Vasquez Rocks with spring flowers

A vision of hardened sediment

A vision of hardened sediment

One of the sharp edges of Vasquez Rocks

One of the sharp edges of Vasquez Rocks

An opening in the Rocks

An opening in the Rocks

A series of openings in the Rocks.

A series of openings in the Rocks.

A wide opening in Vasquez Rocks

A wide opening in Vasquez Rocks

The top of a rock reveals some surprises

The top of a rock reveals some surprises

A major division of the Rocks

A major division of the Rocks

A closer look at the rock surface

A closer look at the rock surface

Some interesting mounds in the Rocks

Some interesting mounds in the Rocks

Surprise! Russian Humor: The Encore

Here are some more samples of Russian wit at work:

A teacher asked his student why he didn’t do his homework.

The student asked him:

–Did you correct my dictation?

The teacher answered:

–No.  I corrected students’ dictations from the other classes.

The student responded:

–Well, I did the homework for my other teachers.

A boy’s mother told him that if he got a tattoo, he could just get out of the house.

His father told him that such an opportunity doesn’t happen very often and that he should make the best use of it.

A patient was at the psychologist’s office:

–At work, it seems that nobody understands me;  all I see are dull eyes, indifferent looks and a total lack of desire to listen to me.

The psychologist asked his patient:

–What do you do for a living?

The patient replied:

–I teach quantum physics.

A daughter was begging her relatives for a baby brother or a baby sister.

Her mother tried to explain:

–Understand, precious, that Daddy is on a trip and he won’t return for several days.  Until Daddy gets back, we can’t have a baby.

But the little girl retorted:

–Just the opposite!  We’ll have the baby right now, and when Daddy returns, we’ll tell him:  Surprise!”