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Breaking Out of Beginner's Spanish 1st Edition

4.6 out of 5 stars 255 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0292743229
ISBN-10: 029274322X
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Editorial Reviews


" ...a breakthrough ...indispensable reading for any non-native speaker of Spanish ..." William F. Harrison, co-author of Spanish Memory Book: A New Approach to Vocabulary Building

About the Author

Joseph J. Keenan is a journalist, editor, and environmentalist who has lived and worked in Latin America since 1984.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 229 pages
  • Publisher: University of Texas Press; 1 edition (1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 029274322X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0292743229
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6.8 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (255 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #61,965 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
As a Spanish major who has also spent several summers in Mexico, I have read pretty much every Spanish text I have come across. In all that reading, I have never found another Spanish book that even comes close to this one (in accuracy, helpfulness, readability, and other key areas).
Keenan does an excellent job of picking out the specific Spanish words and phrases that cause English speakers the most problems. I have several friends who are also studying Spanish. It seems like 9 times out of 10 when they ask me a question, it is an issue that was covered in "Breaking out.."
This book was written with the reader's attention span in mind. Imagine: a Spanish text that is actually enjoyable to read! I read this book cover-to-cover at least once a year. Every time I glean some new pointer that I can implement in my constant quest to sound like less of a gringa.
Sections include a discussion of the subjunctive, a chapter on cursing (!), cultural info, general language learning tips, useful verbs to add to your repertoire, and discussion of the evolution of the Spanish language. To me, the most helpful sections were those dealing with word choice: a couple of chapters that deal with stuff like "what is the difference between regresar, volver, devolver, etc.?"
If you have a general grasp of the basics in Spanish but feel like your learning has kind of reached a plateau, this book is an excellent resource for learning how to get your Spanish to the next level.
The only negative I can think of is that the book is not indexed.
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Format: Paperback
You may as well be trying to learn Latin with most Spanish books. Not only are they dry and boring, they are absolutely lifeless! Keenan presents Spanish as a living language, full of real life examples and situations (and I don't mean asking the maid in your hotel room for more towels!) I have read this book until the pages have fallen out. Take it from someone who followed Keenan's advice, went to Mexico, and started talking to the locals - you will never find a more helpful resource for your sojourn. The section on invectives and obcenities is worth the price of admission. You may never have an inclination to use any of these words, but I guarantee you it is very, very useful knowing when they are being used toward you. Finally, never have I encountered a Spanish language book which enlightens one as to why everything in Spanish is reversed, e.g. blanca y negra for black and white. Keenan's wonderful book helps you get inside the Spanish speaker's mind and world to the extent that you might just realize it is the English speaker that has everything backwards.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I moved to Mexico two years ago and enrolled in a language school right off the bat. I also bought this book. After reading it, I thought it was helpful, but not excessively so because I didn't quite "get" everything it was trying to tell me. I stuck it on the bookshelf.

Now, two years later, I'm going through it again and discovering a virtual gold mine of information. My point being: Take the book's title seriously. It is a book for people firmly at the intermediate level or above. For these people, it answers a ton of things that have proved baffling. For these people, the book is a gem. If you are departing the beginner stage, this stupendous book will answer lots of those things you've been scratching your head over. Immensely valuable.

But don't buy it for Spanish 101.
4 Comments 335 of 345 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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By A Customer on February 17, 2002
Format: Paperback
I would have given this book 4 stars, but with all the 5-star reviews one needs to take another off to get across the point that this book is not perfect. Given all the justifiable good things everyone says about this book, it's worth mentioning a shortcoming and making some contrarian points.
First, the LACK OF AN INDEX is a BIG SHORTCOMING. This is a reference book written by a journalist, with an entertaining style and interesting anecdotes and verbal illustrations. It's therefore easy to forget that it is, first and foremost, a reference book. After my first quick read through this book I recall wanting to check back on a fine distinction between a couple of similar verbs (I don't remember now which ones). They might have been in chapter 7, "Sixty-four Verbs", or in chapter 11, "Which is Which". I couldn't find what I was looking for by skimming, and an index would have been greatly appreciated.
Second, a number of reviewers keep emphasizing that this book is for intermediate or advanced speakers. If you're interested in this book, I wouldn't let that stop you from getting it. I've been seriously attempting to learn Spanish for about a year and a half. From my perspective, that of having been a university student a long time ago in a place far, far away, terms like "beginner" and "intermediate" are of more use to academic bureaucrats than to teachers and learners. I consider the community college courses I've taken have been auxiliary rather than primary means of learning Spanish. A few months ago I was in Bogota for a week and surprised myself with how well I was able to communicate with the locals. More recently here at home in California I sat in on a reading course in which most of the students were, to some extent, native speakers.
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