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

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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...

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1999 Hardcover New 0028627431. From the cover: "Idiot-proof steps to help you speak like a native. Quick and Easy techniques to learn Spanish like a pro. Valuable tips to ... perfecting your pronunciation."; 2nd Edition; 9.10 X 7.30 X 1.20 inches; 352 pages. Read more Show Less

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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:

Presents a quick and easy way to learn Spanish, and gain confidence speaking the language. Provides quick and easy ways to make sense of unfamiliar words and phrases, understand grammar, and culture of Spanish speaking countries. Softcover.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780028627434
  • Publisher: Alpha Books
  • Publication date: 3/26/1999
  • Series: Complete Idiot's Guide Series
  • Edition description: Older Edition
  • Edition number: 2
  • Pages: 468
  • Product dimensions: 7.42 (w) x 9.08 (h) x 1.09 (d)

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.
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Table of Contents

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

Part 1: The Basics
Chapter 1: The Top Ten Reasons You Should Study Spanish
Seriously Speaking
Go for It!
Fear Not!
Chapter 2: Say It Right!
When There's Stress Involved
Acceptable Accents
Vowels Are Easy!
The Diphthong Dilemma
Chapter 3: The Spanish You Know
You Know This!
Versatile Verbs
False Amigos
Chapter 4: Grappling with Grammar
Grammar! Good Grief!
Just Look It Up
Chapter 5: Idioms Aren't for Idiots
An Idiom? What's That?
Slang--Should I Use It?
Taking Off
Follow the Leader
What's Your Opinion?
How Are You?
How's the Weather?
Chapter 6: Sexually Speaking
The Battle of the Sexes
Gender Changes
When There's More Than One
Chapter 7: Going Places
What's the Subject
Just Keep Moving
Go Ahead! Ask Me!
And the Answer Is...
Verb Tables
Part 2: Traveling Around
Chapter 8: Meetings and Greetings
Ask Your Friends
To Be or--to Be!
What Are You Up To?
What's Your Line?
Tell Me All About It
Chapter 9: Getting to Know You
Meet the Clan!
You Belong to Me
Possessive Adjectives
I'll Introduce You
More and More
What's He/She Like?
Chapter 10: The Plane Has Landed
On the Plane
At the Airport
Going Places
How Do I Get to...?
Por vs. Para
What Did You Say?
Chapter 11: Getting There Is Half the Fun
The Way to Go
Catching a Ride
Go-Go Verbs
What's What?
Fill 'er Up
Show Me the Way to Go Home
How Much?
What's the Time?
Chapter 12: Settling In
A Room with a View?
Going Up
It's Time for a Change
Part 3: Having Fun
Chapter 13: How's the Weather?
It's 20 Degrees and They're Wearing String Bikinis!
What Day Is It?
The Best Month for a Visit
The Four Seasons
When You Have a Date
Give Me Good Weather
Chapter 14: Let's See the Sights
Super Sights
What Shall We See?
Suggest Away!
What Do You Think?
The World Beyond
Chapter 15: A Shopping Spree
Stores Galore
The Object of My Affection
The Personal A
Choose Your Words
I Like It Like That
You Want It? Ask for It!
Expressing Opinions
I'll Take This, That, and Some of Those
Chapter 16: A Home-Cooked Meal
Shopping Around
Quantity Counts
What Would You Like?
The Treat's on Alexandra
Chapter 17: Dining Out
Pick a Place You Like
How May I Help You?
This Menu Is Greek to Me
That's the Way I Like It
Drink to Me Only
You Can't Have It All
Chapter 18: Play Time!
Sports Are My Life
Please Join Us
Other Diversions
How Did You Like It?
How Good Are You?

Part 4: Problem Solving

Chapter 19: Getting Great Service

Dealing with a Bad Hair Day
Problems and More Problems
Prepositional Pronouns
Making Comparisons
Chapter 20: Is There a Doctor in the House?
Love Your Body!
This Is What's Wrong
How Long Have You Felt This Way?
Me, Myself, and I
Chapter 21: Did I Pack the Toothpaste?
Finding What You Need
Come Along with Me
Living in the Past
Chapter 22: Making a Phone Call
Placing the Call
Who Is It?
Sorry, Wrong Number
The Imperfect
Chapter 23: Where's the Nearest Post Office?
Please, Mr. Postman
Can You Read This?
Did You Know That...?
What Have You Done?
Part 5: Taking Care of Business
Chapter 24: Doing Business
I Need Supplies
Photocopies, Faxes, and Computers
I Love My Computer
Send Your Business This Way
What 's in Store for the Future
The Future Tense
Chapter 25: Renting a Villa
I Want to Live in a Castle
Are You Buying or Renting?
These Are the Conditions
Chapter 26: It's a Question of Money
At the Bank
The Moody Subjunctive
Forming the Regular Subjunctive
Irregular Verbs in the Subjunctive
Impersonal Expressions
Appendix A: Answer Key
Appendix B: Verb Charts
Appendix C: Dictionaries
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First Chapter

[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).
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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 24, 2003

    Worth the money

    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.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 24, 2002


    This book was fantasic!

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