Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Learning Spanish

My brother-in-law has been learning Spanish for some time. He’s been to Spain on several occasions and loves the country. In fact, he and his wife were away in Spain the same time we were there.

I came back from Spain having picked up only a minimal amount of Spanish (hola, mostly), but he’s actually learned quite a bit. He says he doesn’t pick it up quickly because he never learned much about his own language at school, and certainly it helps to have learned other languages if you want to learn a new one.

Amongst the many books he’s got on the subject of Spanish, he has one that takes an approach I think is excellent: it starts off with the words that are the same in both languages – on the page. Then it moves on through a series of lists to show the words that are similar, but have perhaps an E added in Spanish, or some other addition. By the time you’ve gone through several chapters like this, and learned a few additional words that don’t fit into this approach, you’re well on your way to feeling comfortable with the language.

Years ago I had a German course that took the same approach, but unfortunately I lent it to someone and haven’t seen it since. It wasn’t in book form, otherwise I might be able to pick up a secondhand copy. Rather it came to me as a photocopied typescript: I’d read about the author in a newspaper and he sent me a copy himself.

I met up with the person who’d borrowed it a couple of months ago, for the first time in thirty odd years. He says it’s in his garage, but when I was visiting him, his garage was in minor chaos because he was doing some redecorating. Hopefully he’ll find it and let me know, and I might catch up with it again – after all these years.

The Spanish book, by the way, for anyone who’s interested is Madrigal’s Magic Key to Spanish, by Margarita Madrigal. It has drawings by one Andy Warhol, believe it or not, and was first published back in 1951. It’s still in print, however.

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