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In This Chapter
* Recognizing the little Spanish you know
* Saying it right (Basic pronunciation)
* Using gestures
* Understanding typical expressions
If you're familiar with the term "Latin Lover," you may not be surprised to know that Spanish is called a Romance language. But the romance we're talking about here isn't exactly the Latin Lover type - unless you love to learn Latin.
Spanish (as well as several other languages such as Italian, French, Romanian, and Portuguese) is a Romance language because it has its origins in the Latin of ancient Rome. Because of that common origin, Romance languages have many similarities in grammar and the way they sound. (The fact that they all sound so romantic when spoken is purely a bonus!) For example, casa (kah-sah), the word for "house," is identical in looks, meaning, and sound whether you speak Portuguese, Italian, or Spanish.
The differences in the Romance languages are not terribly difficult to overcome, especially in South America. Any Spanish-speaking American can talk with a Portuguese-speaking Brazilian, and they will understand each other even if the other person sounds a bit funny. Still, each Romance language is different from its sister languages. Spanish is a language that comes from a region of Spain called Castile. So in Spain and some Latin Americancountries, such as Argentina, they call the language castellano (kahs-teh-yah-noh), which means Castilian.
This book concentrates on the Spanish spoken in Latin America. Throughout the book, we also explore the differences in the words used in these 19 countries and mention some variations in pronunciation. Latin America consists of all of the Western Hemisphere with the exception of Canada; the United States; the British and French-speaking Guyanas; and a few islands in the Caribbean, such as Jamaica, Haiti, and Curaçao, where English, French, or Dutch are spoken.
This chapter is the foundation for the other chapters in the book. Subsequent chapters in this book discuss pronunciation, gestures, and body language. We also give you a few quickie phrases that show Spanish speakers you're one of their bunch.
You Already Know Some Spanish
The English language is like an ever-growing entity that, with great wisdom, absorbs what it needs from other cultures and languages. English is also a language that is like a bouquet of flowers plucked from many different roots. One of these roots is Latin, which 2,000 years ago was spread all over Europe by the Romans and later by scholars of the Middle Ages.
Because all of these live elements exist in the root of the language, you can find many correspondences between English and Spanish in the words that come from both Latin and French roots. These words can cause both delight and embarrassment. The delight comes in the words where the coincident sounds also give similar meanings. The embarrassment comes from words where the sounds and even the roots are the same, but the meanings are completely different.
Among the delightful discoveries of similarities between the languages are words like soprano (soh-prah-noh) (soprano), pronto (prohn-toh) (right away; soon), and thousands of others that differ by just one or two letters such as conclusión (kohn-kloo-see ohn) (conclusion), composición (kohm-poh-see-see ohn) (composition), libertad (lee-bvehr-tahd) (liberty), economía (eh-kohnoh-meeah) (economy), invención (een-bvehn-see ohn) (invention), and presidente (preh-see-dehn-teh) (president).
Beware of false friends
The trouble begins in the world of words that French linguists have designated as false friends. You can't trust fool's gold, false friends, or all word similarities. Within the groups of false friends, you may find words that look very similar and even have the same root, yet mean completely different things. One that comes to mind is the word actual, which has very different meanings in English and Spanish. In English, you know that it means "real; in reality; or the very one." Not so in Spanish. Actual (ahk-tooahl) in Spanish means present; current; belonging to this moment, this day, or this year.
So, for example, when you say the actual painting in English, you're referring to the real one, the very one people are looking at or want to see. But, when you say la pintura actual (lah peen-too-rah ahk-tooahl) in Spanish, you're referring to the painting that belongs to the current time, the one that follows present day trends - a modern painting.
Another example is the adjective "embarrassed," that in English means ashamed or encumbered. In Spanish, embarazada (ehm-bvah-rah-sah-dah) is the adjective that comes from the same root as the English word, yet its use nowadays almost exclusively means "pregnant." So you can say in English that you are a little embarrassed, but in Spanish you can't be just a little embarazada. Either you're pregnant or you're not.
Recognize some crossover influence
Word trouble ends at the point where a word originating in English is absorbed into Spanish or vice versa. The proximity of the United States to Mexico produces a change in the Spanish spoken there. An example is the word car. In Mexico, people say carro (kah-rroh). In South America, on the other hand, people say auto (ahoo-toh). In Spain, people say coche (koh-chen).
Here are just a few examples of Spanish words that you already know because English uses them, too:
Reciting Your ABCs
Correct pronunciation is key to avoiding misunderstandings. The following sections present some basic guidelines for proper pronunciation.
Next to the Spanish words throughout this book, the pronunciation is in parentheses, which we call pronunciation brackets. Within the pronunciation brackets, we separate all the words that have more than one syllable with a hyphen, like this: (kah-sah). An underlined syllable within the pronunciation brackets tells you to accent, or stress, that syllable. We say much more about stress later in this chapter. In the meantime, don't let yourself get stressed out (pardon the pun). We explain each part of the language separately, and the pieces will quickly fall into place. Promise!
In the following section we comment on some letters of the alphabet from the Spanish point of view. The aim is to help you to understand Spanish pronunciations. Here is the basic Spanish alphabet and its pronunciation:
a (ah) b (bveh) c (seh) d (deh) e (eh) f (eh-feh) g (Heh) h (ah-cheh) i (ee) j (Hoh-tah) k (kah) l (eh-leh) m (eh-meh) n (eh-neh) ñ (eh-nyeh) o (oh) p (peh) q (koo) r (eh-reh) s (eh-seh) t (teh) u (oo) v (bveh) w (doh-bleh bveh) (oobveh doh-bleh (Spain)
x (eh-kees) y (ee gree eh-gah) z (seh-tah)
Spanish also includes some double letters in its alphabet: ch (cheh), ll (ye), and rr (a trilled r).
We don't go through every letter of the alphabet in the sections that follow, only those that you use differently in Spanish than in English. The differences can lie in pronunciation, the way they look, in the fact that you seldom see the letters, or that you don't pronounce them at all.
Consonants tend to sound the same in English and Spanish. We explain the few differences that you can find.
Inside the Spanish-speaking world itself, you'll find that consonants may be pronounced differently than in English. For example, in Spain the consonant z is pronounced like the th in the English word thesis. (Latin Americans don't use this sound; in all 19 Spanish-speaking countries on this hemisphere, z and s sound the same.)
In the Spanish speaker's mind, a consonant is any sound that needs to have a vowel next to it when you pronounce it. For example, saying the letter t by itself may be difficult for a Spanish speaker. To the Spanish ear, pronouncing t sounds like te (teh). Likewise, the Spanish speaker says ese (eh-seh) when pronouncing the letter s.
Only a few consonants in Spanish differ from their English counterparts. The following sections look more closely at the behavior and pronunciation of these consonants.
The letter K
In Spanish, the letter k is used only in words that have their origin in foreign languages. More often than not, this letter is seen in kilo (kee-loh), meaning thousand in Greek. An example is kilómetro (kee-loh-meht-roh) (kilometer) - a thousand-meter measure for distance.
The letter H
In Spanish, the letter h is always mute. That's it!
The pronunciation brackets throughout this book often include the letter h. These h's generally signal certain vowel sounds, which we cover later in this chapter. In the pronunciation brackets, the Spanish h simply doesn't appear, because it's mute.
Following are some examples of the Spanish "h":
The letter J
The consonant j sounds like a guttural h. Normally you say h quite softly, as though you were just breathing out. Now, say your h, but gently raise the back of your tongue, as if you were saying k. Push the air out real hard, and you'll get the sound. Try it! There - it sounds like you're gargling, doesn't it?
To signal that you need to make this sound, we use a capital letter H within the pronunciation brackets.
Now try the sound out on these words:
The letter C
The letter c, in front of the vowels a, o, and u, sounds like the English k. We use the letter k in the pronunciation brackets to signal this sound. Following are some examples:
When the letter c is in front of the vowels e and i, it sounds like the English s. In the pronunciation brackets, we signal this sound as s. Following are some examples:
In much of Spain - primarily the north and central parts - the letter c is pronounced like the th in thanks when placed before the vowels e and i.
The letters S and Z
In Latin American Spanish, the letters s and z always sound like the English letter s. We use the letter s in the pronunciation brackets to signal this sound. Following are some examples:
In Spain, z also has the sound of the th in thanks, rather than the s sound prevalent in Latin America.
The letters B and V
The letters b and v are pronounced the same, the sound being somewhere in-between the two letters. This in-between is a fuzzy, bland sound - closer to v than to b. If you position your lips and teeth to make a v sound, and then try to make a b sound, you'll have it. To remind you to make this sound, we use bv in our pronunciation brackets, for both b and v.
Excerpted from Spanish For Dummies by Susana Wald Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Part I: Getting Started 7
You Already Know a Little Spanish 9
The Nitty Gritty: Basic Spanish Grammar 25
Part II: Spanish in Action 41
¡Buenos DiAas! Hello! Greetings and Introductions 43
Getting to Know You: Making Small Talk 63
Dining Out and Going to Market 77
Shopping Made Easy 103
Going out on the Town 123
Enjoying Yourself: Recreation 143
Talking on the Phone 165
At the Office and Around the House 179
Part III: Spanish on the Go 205
Money, Money, Money 207
¡DoAnde EstaA? (Where Is It?): Asking Directions 221
Checking into a Hotel 237
Getting Around: Planes, Trains, Taxis, and More 255
Planning a Trip 279
Help! Handling Emergencies 295
Part IV: The Part of Tens 320
Ten Ways to Speak Spanish Quickly 321
Ten Favorite Spanish Expressions 325
Ten Holidays to Remember 329
Ten Phrases That Make You Sound Fluent in Spanish 335
Part V: Appendixes 340
Posted October 27, 2007
I¿ve always wondered if the ¿for dummies¿ theme of this particular series of books has been bad for sales. If you¿re turned off by the idea of being told you¿re a dummy, don¿t let the tongue-in-cheek title fool you: Spanish for Dummies is a comprehensive teaching tool for those interested in learning to speak Spanish. Covering vocabulary, pronunciation and grammar is next to impossible in just one book, so don¿t expect Spanish for Dummies to teach you to be fluent in Spanish ¿ it can¿t and won¿t. It¿s a great start, though, and fun to read. The dialogs are interesting and fun to follow, and the layout is pleasant and easy on the eyes. Honestly, though, if you¿ve read one ¿for dummies¿ book, you¿ve read them all. You either enjoy the style or you don¿t. I have to say that I¿m generally biased toward the series, so take that into account. If you¿re really going to drill down and master Spanish (or any language, for that matter), I have to recommend a good CD set for repetition and mastering pronunciation. Phonetic spellings from books just don¿t cut it when trying to master all the nuances of speaking a foreign language. The best tool I¿ve found for this is the Learning Spanish Like Crazy CDs. Everything from the structure to the lessons is excellent in this series. It¿s well worth the purchase.
13 out of 18 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 7, 2008
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Posted October 18, 2001
I bought this book to help with my beginning Spanish class, because it was the only one I saw with a CD. It was a terrible disappointment. Very few of the basic words I looked up are in the 'mini-dictionary' which only spans a few pages. Keep looking --
5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 29, 2009
I had to start Spanish 1 in high school 2 years ago and my friend had given me this book for my birthday as a joke. Before I started Spanish class, I started to use this book. It really helped me and maybe even gave me an advantage over the other students. I did all the exercises at the end of the chapters. I completed 2 years of Spanish in HS and am now going onto being a Spanish major in college. I would really recommend this book for anyone looking to learn to speak Spanish, although it will not make you fluent. That can take years. Also, not really satisfied with the Spanish-English dictionary. Overall, great book
4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 8, 2010
This is actually a very good book. I had taken three year semesters of Spanish in high school/college but I wanted to refresh and become more fluent in the language. This is a fun way to refresh your language skills, where it seems like the author is right there to support and encourage you as you progress. For individuals that know little Spanish, are just learning a new language, or want to brush up on the commonalities of the language (along with some good grammar lessons), this is a great book to start with. It's not for the already-fluent speakers looking for more in-depth analyses of grammatical function, but it's just a great little guide for brush-ups and improvements!!
2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 13, 2009
This book was not helpful at all. It is geared more toward someone who is traveling to Spanish speaking countries. I was looking to learn just some basic everyday phrases. Asking where a restaurant is was not what I was looking to learn. This was a waste of money.
2 out of 5 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 3, 2002
Personally, contrary to what the other reader has written, i find this book comprehensive and well-written. I agree that the 'dictionary' at the back is short, but who doesnt know that any person learning a new language should get a proper and at least a few-hundred-page dictionary?? This is one book which helped me through my Spanish. Interesting and funny.
2 out of 4 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 20, 2012
I thought with dealing in an area with a lot of diversity I could use this book to speak more fluent Spanish with some of my clientele. The basics of the book are boring and useless as it give you ides on how to conjugate different words but does not tell you what the words mean or their specific conjugation translations. To add to the frustrations the table provided that do actually review specific words or explain the conjugation do not expand out even when you increase the size of the font, which makes it impossible to read without a magnifying glass. I am going to request my money back on this one as I find the book useless and boringly frustrating.
1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
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