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on May 9, 2001
I got decent grades in college Spanish; two “A-‘s” and a “B+.” However, when I needed to actually speak Spanish, I was lost. I couldn’t say much except “Mas cervezas, por favor (More beer, please)!”
"Madrial’s Magic Key", along with the expensive (but quite worth it) Pimsleur tapes, have corrected the “mis-education” I was subjected to. The drills Ms. Madrigal presents are easy to remember and fun to do, not like those tedious translations and verb conjugations that college texts are so fond of. In two months, studying this book in my spare time, I retained more Spanish than I did in an entire academic year. And, for the first time, I can actually say that I understand Spanish.
I would supplement this book with a comprehensive book on Spanish grammar (I have the Barron’s, but I suppose any would work) and a dictionary. I would definitely recommend “Breaking Out of Beginner’s Spanish” by Joseph Keenan for an in depth take on colloquial Spanish as well. Further, if you have the money, buy the "Pimsleur Comprehensive" series as well. Get vol.’s 1-3, even though they are pricey. If you are an audio/tactile learner like me, I guarantee that you will retain more Spanish idioms using the Pimsleur method than any other.
1313 comments671 of 691 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on January 10, 2004
Magic Key to Spanish is one of those rare books that you come back to again again, it inspires progress and there's so much to learn from it- it's certainly not going to be a dust gatherer if learning Spanish is what you truly want. If I've convinced you already buy it- if not read on.
The book starts with a very positive introduction and goes on to explain that an English speaker already knows hundreds if not thousands of words in Spanish and it gives you the rules that unlock this 'magic key' to Spanish. It then moves on to teach you grammar in a very novel way, none of the boring conjungations that had to be learnt by rote when doing languages at school. She starts with the past tense as this is how we speak to friends and then moves through much of the essential grammar required to Speak, Read and write Spanish.
I would recommend this book to all beginners in Spanish. It has got two downsides which are the layout, which is now dated (it was written in the early 1950's with Andy Warhol as the illustrator) and also (for me living in England) the fact that the emphasis is on South American Spanish not peninsular Spanish.
I wish the Magic Key to French and German were still in print as I have made substanital progress with my Spanish using this book, the method obviously works. If the publisher is reading this, please consider a reprint of the other two editions given the success of the Spanish version.
The late Margarita Madrigal was ahead of her time as the method she used in this book is akin to what trainers would now call Accerlerated Learning. A word of warning, make sure that you do all of the exercises and tests or you will not be learning to your full potential.
I recommend that you buy this book and use it in tandem with an audio course either the Pimsleur series (expensive) or Michel Thomas would be great- as these will give you the pronunciation which you will require to progress further. Both the audio courses are structured so that there is no repetition and so you have to consciously form the language and remain motivated not bored. If you would like more in-depth information on Spanish grammar I highly recommend 'Buscalo'
Hope this helps you with your introduction to the beautiful and very useful Spanish language- buena suerte!
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on October 27, 1999
I have searched for years to find good books to teach myself Spanish, and this one is head and shoulders above the rest. The clear structured organization and presentation make it easy to read and to study. Most others are too basic or, it seems, oriented to very young students. If you are seriously interested in teaching yourself conversational Spanish, then this book will be very helpful. It progresses at a good rate, integrates vocabulary painlessly and uses excercises that build conversational ability. If you are interested in teaching yourself Spanish, then this book is very effective. It uses some very effective shortcuts. For example, it omits the familiar form which reduces the number of verb forms without limiting your ability to comunicate. Many books seem oriented to college course work and seem tediously and academically oriented to stucture and detail, rules and form. This book does not suffer these defiencies. It is committed to teaching you to communicate in Spanish easily (at least as easily as possible)and effectively. I am just someone who wanted to learn to speak Spanish and for that purpose, I found it very effective.
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on July 13, 2002
Since the original date of publication (1951), the Real Academia de la Lengua Española (guardian of the Spanish Language) officially removed the accents on some one-syllable words. The old spellings appear in the book. For example, in Chapter 31 (common irregular verbs), these words have changed:
Old form: ví, vió, dí, dió, fuí, fué
New form: vi, vio, di, dio, fui, fue
(NOTE: this is not a complete list!)
Old spellings also appear in exercises using these words.
These changes don't change the pronunciation of the words! Accent marks are used to show how a word should be written in accordance with the way it is pronounced. The rules on pronouncing weak-weak, weak-strong, strong-weak and strong-strong vowel combinations apply: so, for example, vio (new form) sounds the same as vió (old form).
This is a great book for learning Spanish. Don't let the age of it throw you.
My plug for a top-notch dictionary: get the Pocket Oxford Spanish Dictionary Second Edition (2000).
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on January 22, 2004
I found this book by chance in a bookstore in Berkely California 12 years ago. At the time I had only taken 3 years of Spanish in high school. My spanish took off after studying this book and most people now think I am a native speaker of Spanish. I think this book boosts your confidence from the start by showing you all the Spanish that you already know (the conjugates) and by teaching you the past rather than the future first. I highly recommend it. Also remember to practice at every opportunity! Speaking a new language is like learning to dance. You feel silly at first and will make mistakes. But with practice you will become more confident and you will experience the joy of communicating with others in this beautiful language.
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on July 17, 1998
Learning Spanish should be fun and easy. If not, the odds are that you'll get frustrated and never learn this fantastic language.
Madrigal's Magic key is trully "magical." The book simply is entertaining and a very easy read. It makes learning Spanish fun and not a chore. The book gets the student right into the language without all those complicated rules. The emphasis is on buidling your confidence and establishing a Spanish vocabulary quickly without pain. This is accomplished based on your knowledge of English. For example, she teaches you the tricks of converting english nouns into verbs. The result is that you're not memorizing verbs but focusing on applying simple rules to building a large spanish vocabulary quickly and maintain conmfidence.
The book would truly be outstanding if it combined more exercises (writing) with her "See It and Say it in Spanish" book which is great also.
This is not a book that you'll read and forget a! ! bout. The second and third time I read it increased my comprehension significantly. My ownly regret is that I found this book after spending alot of money on books that only frustrated me, were virtually useless and definitely too much like work.
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on August 6, 1999
This book is the clearest, easiest and most rapid way to learn a foreign language I've ever experienced, and I speak 6 languages. I learned to speak rather fluent Spanish in record time because of the ease of using this book. I was able to rapidly perfect my fluency later because I was fortunate enough to find the late Margarita Madrigal in New York to teach me. She was a fun person, hence the fun of using Magic Key to Spanish to learn the language. I'm now using it to teach Spanish to my friends and they are advancing rapidly. It is an amazing book
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on June 8, 2001
This book is loaded with great info on vocabulary-building, grammar, verb-conjugation, usage, etc. even though it was originally written in the 1950's. But what makes this book stand out for me is the "magic key" that Madrigal provides that allows one to derive or intelligently "guess" hundreds and hundreds of words, including verbs, based on words you already know in English which can be converted into Spanish with little to no modification following a few basic rules. It's actually AMAZING!
In addition to the "magic key" and the other useful info it presents, Madrigal's Magic Key to Spanish is written in a very informal, unpressured style that reassures the reader constantly that they will master the material in short order, with quizzes and periodic self-tests to reinforce the learning process.
As I was already a beginning to intermediate Spanish speaker when I first encountered this book, I cannot say how well it would work for someone with little to no previous experience with the language. My sense is that it will be more helpful for people who are at least familiar with Spanish pronunciation and rudimentary grammar, although it is written as if the reader has no previous knowledge of the language.
It's also cool that Andy Warhol did the illustrations for this book.
I love this book! I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to exponentially leap forward in their knowledge of the living Spanish language.
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on July 4, 2000
I've been studying Spanish for over 3 years and I have purchased dozens of books. I've also completed 2 years of study in a local college. This book is by far may favorite of all the books that I have collected during my studying. The lessons are put in a very logical order and the book has been written so that it is much easier to learn! I hope to see more of Madrigal's work in the future. This is a great book. It's worth every penny. In fact, soon I will have to purchase another because I have dog earred the pages and have written all inside of the book, soon it will fall apart because I have used it so much. How's that for a write up? Seriously, it's a great book for the student who really wants to learn the language and understand how the language is assembled, etc.
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on February 18, 1998
I've used many different books to learn Spanish, and found that Margarita Madrigal really is the easiest. Instead of immediatly teaching us to memorize verb conjugation, she starts out with a commom ground. What do I mean? Well, from the very first chapter she shows us that we know many spanish words already. For example, Here are some spanish words that every English-speaking person knows....popular, capital, animal, hotel, radio, conductor, cable, actor, ideal, fexible, central. Is that incredible or what? Margarita goes on to show us other words that we can easily recognize, such as optimista, dentista, artista,importante and presidente. All of these are very easy words to recognize and use. Of course this does not mean that her book is shallow or too easy. As you continue on in her book, you will see very detailed explanations and verb conjugations. This publication has been extensively used in many missionary homes by Jehovah's Witnesses, to enable these missionaries to really communicate with and understand Spanish-speaking people in all of Latin America. This book is a must for anyone who truly wants to learn Spanish the way it is spoken.
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