Uh-oh, it looks like your Internet Explorer is out of date.

For a better shopping experience, please upgrade now.

The Complete Idiot's Guide to Learning Spanish,Second Edition

The Complete Idiot's Guide to Learning Spanish,Second Edition

5.0 2
by Gail Stein, Gregory D. Lagos-Montoya (Foreword by)

You're no idiot, of course. You know the difference between a verb and a noun, know "adios" means good-bye, and can even order margaritas with just the right flair. But when it comes to mastering a language, all you can do is order the "taco grande." Don't rip up that menu just yet! The Complete Idiot's Guide to Learning Spanish on Your Own, Second Edition makes


You're no idiot, of course. You know the difference between a verb and a noun, know "adios" means good-bye, and can even order margaritas with just the right flair. But when it comes to mastering a language, all you can do is order the "taco grande." Don't rip up that menu just yet! The Complete Idiot's Guide to Learning Spanish on Your Own, Second Edition makes learning the language fun and easy. Whether you're planning a vacation or a business trip, this new edition adds new phrases and vocabulary words to help you gain confidence in speaking Spanish. In this fully revised and updated edition, you get:

Product Details

Alpha Books
Publication date:
Complete Idiot's Guide Series
Edition description:
Older Edition
Product dimensions:
7.42(w) x 9.08(h) x 1.09(d)

Read an Excerpt

The Complete Idiot's Guide to Learning Spanish on Your Own - CH 3 - The Spanish You Know

[Figures are not included in this sample chapter]

The Complete Idiot's Guide to Learning Spanish on Your Own

- 3 -

The Spanish You Know

In This Chapter

  • Cognates and comprehension

  • Using what you already know

  • False friends

Do you love chocolate? How about potatoes and tomatoes? Do you take a taxi often?When the weather is nice, do you sit on your patio? Can you play the piano? Perhapsyou have a sweater made from the wool of an alpaca. And you've probably been stungby a mosquito more than once in your life. Well, look at that--you know some Spanishalready! You're probably unaware that your vocabulary is filled with words and phrasesborrowed from Spanish. Many other words and expressions are so similar to ours thatyou'll be able to use and understand them with very little trouble. By the time youfinish this chapter, you'll be well on your way to creating simple, correct Spanishsentences that will enable you to express your ideas and opinions.

You Know This!

My husband makes frequent trips to the video store, especially in the summer whenall the television stations show reruns. He takes his time and often spends an houror more trying to pick out the pe rfect film for the evening. His taste is very eclectic:One night we'll watch a Japanese samurai warrior film, and the next night we'll watcha French romantic comedy. More often than not, he picks out foreign films. He thinksthey are interesting and different from what we are used to. Although he only speaksEnglish, he enjoys the experience of listening to native speakers.

One night he rented Like Water for Chocolate, a wonderful but sad Spanishlove story. We sat in front of the TV for about two hours, totally involved in thetale being told. At one point, to my great astonishment, I noticed my husband wasn'treading the titles. I thought perhaps he was bored by the romance, but that wasn'tthe case. When I asked him why he wasn't reading, he said he understood what thepeople were saying. How could that be? He had never even studied Spanish. He repliedthat the words sounded just like English to him. I gave it some thought, and I understoodhis point. There is a logical explanation.

That explanation is cognates. Simply put, a cognate is a word that is spelledthe same, or almost the same, in two different languages and that has the same definition.In many cases, we've borrowed a word from Spanish and have incorporated it into ourvocabulary without giving much thought to the word's origin. Naturally, cognatesare pronounced somewhat differently in each language, but the meaning of the Spanishword will be perfectly clear to an English speaker.

Let's take a closer look and see how much Spanish you already know.

A Perfect Match

Table 3.1 is a list of cognates with the same meaning in both Spanish and English.The first column is adjectives you can use to de scribe the nouns in the middle andlast columns. Using the skills you've learned, pronounce the Spanish words and comparethem to their English equivalents. Your goal is to sound Spanish.

When you look at the list of cognates, notice that the Spanish nouns are listedunder a specific definite article, el or la. These articles both mean"the," and each indicates the gender of the noun (masculine or feminine,respectively). All Spanish nouns (people, places, things, ideas) have a gender. Thismight seem strange to you at first because we do not have anything similar in English.For now, just remember that if you want to express that Spanish is easy, you mustsay, "El español es fácil."

Memory Master

Although a noun's gender is often easily identifiable in Spanish, it is best to learn the noun with its corresponding article. See Chapter 6, "Sexually Speaking," for more details. For now, just remember that el is the article for masculine singular nouns and la is for feminine singular nouns.

Table 3.1 Perfect Cognates

Adjectives Masculine Nouns El (ehl) Feminine Nouns La (lah)
horrible (oh-rree-bleh) color (koh-lohr) banana (bah-nah-nah)
natural (nah-too-rahl) chocolate (choh-koh-lah-teh) fiesta (fee-yehs-tah)
popular (poh-poo-lahr) doctor (dohk-tohr) alpaca (ahl-pah-kah)
sociable (soh-see-yah-bleh) hotel (oh-tehl) plaza (plah-sah)
terrible (teh-rree-bleh) soda (soh-dah) radio (rrah-dee-yoh)
tropical (troh-pee-kahl) motor (moh-tohr) taxi (tahk-see)

Culture Corner

Many English words have infiltrated the Spanish language. We politely refer to these words as spanglish. Examples include los jeans, el bloque, el CD, la soda, el bistec, el rosbif, el champú, el cóctel, la hamburguesa, el sandwich, el béisbol, el fútbol, el básquetbol, and el boxeador.

Almost Perfect Partners

Near cognates are words that look so similar in both languages that their meaningsare unmistakable. Perhaps a letter or two is different, or there might be an accentmark on the Spanish word; essentially, however, the words are the same. Look at Table3.2 and see whether you can figure out the meanings of all the words. Are you upto the challenge?

Table 3.2 Near Cognates


Masculine Nouns El (ehl)

Feminine Nouns La (lah)

curioso (koo-ree-yoh-soh) banco (bahn-koh) blusa (bloo-sah)
ciclismo (see-klees-moh) catedral (kah-teh-drahl)
diccionario (deek-see-yoh-nah-ree-yoh) computadora
difícil (dee-fee-seel) grupo (groo-poh) dieta (dee-yeh-tah)
jardín (har-deen) familia (fah-mee-lee-yah)
limón (lee-mohn) hamburguesa
famoso (fah-moh-soh) mecánico
lámpara (lahm-pah-rah)
grande (grahn-deh) parque (pahr-keh) medicina
plato (plah-toh) guitarra (gee-tah-rrah)
imposible (eem-poh-see-bleh) presidente
(nah-see- yoh-nah-lee-dahd)
región (rreh-hee-yohn)
posible (poh-see-bleh) teatro
probable (proh-bah-bleh) teléfono (teh-leh-foh-noh) turista (too-rees-tah)

Memory Master

In Spanish, adjectives must agree in number and gender with the nouns they describe. We'll cover this in detail in Chapter 9, "Getting to Know You." For now, just remember to use adjectives ending with -o to describe masculine nouns and adjectives ending with -a to describe feminine nouns. Adjectives ending in -e can describe either one.

Spanish words that begin with es- are often near cognates. You can guessthe meaning of many Spanish words beginning with es- by simply dropping theinitial e-:

Word Pronunciation English Meaning
escarlata ehs-kahr-lah-tah scarlet
escéptico ehs-kehp-tee-koh skeptical
escultor ehs-kool-tohr sculptor
espacio ehs-pah-see-yoh space
España ehs-pah-nyah Spain
especial ehs-peh-see-yahl special
espectáculo ehs-pehk-tah-koo-loh spectacle, show
espía ehs-pee-yah spy
espiral ehs-pee-rahl spiral
espléndido ehs-plehn-dee-doh splendid
esquí ehs-kee ski
estudiar ehs-too-dee-yahr to study
estupendo ehs-too-pehn-doh stupendous

Practice Makes Perfect?

Practice reading the following Spanish sentences and then decipher what they mean.(The pronunciations of the Span ish phrases are provided below them.) Keep in mindthat the Spanish word es means "is." (Answers can be found on page405, in Appendix A.)

1. El piano es grande. Ehl pee-yah-noh ehs grahn-deh __________________________________________________________________________
2. El actor es horrible. Ehl ahk-tohr ehs oh-rree-bleh __________________________________________________________________________
3. La información es terrible. Lah een-fohr-mah-see-yohn ehs teh-rree-bleh __________________________________________________________________________
4. El profesor es sincero. Ehl proh-feh-sohr ehs seen-seh-roh __________________________________________________________________________
5. El tigre es cruel. El tee-greh ehs kroo-ehl __________________________________________________________________________
6. El cereal es delicioso. Ehl seh-reh-yahl ehs deh-lee-see-yoh-soh __________________________________________________________________________

It's Easy to Write!

Try writing and saying the following sentences in Spanish. You can peek back atthe cognate list to make sure you are using the correct article (el or la)and to check your pronunciation. (Answers can be found on page 405, in Appendix A.)

1. The president is elegant. __________________________________________________________________________
2. The computer is interesting. __________________________________________________________________________
3. The information is important. __________________________________________________________________________
4. The h otel is large. __________________________________________________________________________
5. The color is magnificent. __________________________________________________________________________

Versatile Verbs

Many Spanish verbs (words that show action or a state of being) are so similarto their English counterparts that you should have no difficulty recognizing theirmeanings.

Spanish verbs are governed by certain rules that will be explained in Chapter7, "Going Places." For now, look at the three major verb families--verbsending in -ar, -er, and -ir. Any verbs belonging to a familyare considered regular; those that do not belong to a family are irregular. Eachfamily has its own set of rules that will also be explained in Chapter 7. (Irregularverbs don't follow the family rules. Think of them as the black sheep. More informationabout irregular verbs is available in later chapters.) Check out the following membersof the three major families and see whether you can determine their meanings.

-ar Verbs
acompañar entrar negar reparar
adorar explicar observar reservar
celebrar ignorar pasar terminar
comenzar invitar practicar usar
declarar marchar preparar verificar
eliminar modificar refusar
-er Verbs
comprender responder vender
-ir Verbs
aplaudir dividir omitir
decidir persuadir recibir
describir preferir sufrir

In a Flash

Create five flash cards with a Spanish word on one side and the English cognate on the other. Practice looking at the English and giving the correct Spanish pronunciation.

You've Got the Swing of It!

The preceding section showed that you know a lot more Spanish than you realized.As a matter of fact, I'll bet you can easily read and understand the following sentenceswithout any problems. (Answers can be found on page 405, in Appendix A.)

1. Juan prepara el menú. __________________________________________________________________________
2. El mecánico repara el carro. ___________________ _______________________________________________________
3. El turista usa la información. __________________________________________________________________________
4. El programa termina. __________________________________________________________________________
5. Marta celebra su aniversario. __________________________________________________________________________
6. José adora el programa. __________________________________________________________________________

Give Your Opinions

Pretend you are a tourist in a Spanish-speaking country. Use what you have learnedto express the following feelings to a fellow tourist. (Answers can be found on page405, in Appendix A.)

1. The program is excellent. __________________________________________________________________________

2. The park is popular. __________________________________________________________________________

3. The dish is famous. __________________________________________________________________________

4. The restaurant is large. __________________________________________________________________________

5. The theater is modern. __________________________________________________________________________

6. The program is magnificent. __________________________________________________________________________

7. The actor is dynamic. __________________________________________________________________________

8. The hotel is comfortable. __________________________________________________________________________

False Amigos

< P>Don't assume every Spanish word that looks like an English word is a cognate.Nothing is ever that simple. Although you might think you've mastered cognates, everyrule has exceptions. In the case of cognates, exceptions are called false friends.False friends are words spelled exactly or almost the same in both Spanish and English,but they have different meanings in each language. They might even be different partsof speech. Beware of the false friends listed in Table 3.3. You want to use themcorrectly.

Table 3.3 False Friends

Spanish Word English Meaning Spanish Word English Meaning
asistir to attend hay there is (are)
caro expensive librería bookstore
comer to eat joya jewel
fábrica factory pan< /TD> bread
flor flower sopa soup

Now You're a Pro!

A complimentary copy of a Spanish newspaper was delivered to your hotel room.Curiosity has gotten the best of you, and you've decided to see how much Spanishyou already know. Identify the sections of the newspaper shown below and determinethe contents of the articles. (Answers can be found on page 406, in Appendix A.)

The Least You Need to Know

  • You know more Spanish than you think because of words called cognates.

  • Cognates are words that look exactly or almost the same in English and in Spanish and that have the same meaning in both languages.

  • Watch out for false friends (words spelled the same in Spanish and in English that have different meanings in each language).

Meet the Author

Gail Stein is the author of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Learning Frenchon Your Own, The Complete Idiot's Guide Learning Spanish on Your Own, the French Is Fun series, the French Practice and Testing series, the Spanish Practice and Testing series, and French at a Glance. A well-known language instructor who has taught in New York City public schools for more than 25 years, she has given presentations at numerous foreign language conferences, and her lessons have been videotaped by the New York City Board of Education for national distribution. She lives in Bayside, New York.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Post to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews

The Complete Idiot's Guide to Learning Spanish,Second Edition 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is very informative. It covers mostly every situation you might experience in the real world. I especially like the pronunciation next to each word.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was fantasic!