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.