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on June 20, 2016
In the preface to this book, the author, Margarita Madrigal, promises that if you complete this book, you will then be able to go to a Spanish speaking country and understand them. I will now go that far and agree with the author because I believe that in order to speak and understand Spanish with confidence, you will need a learning-Spanish audio program to supplement this book. But as the author promises, I honestly believe that this book will help you to do the following:

1. Speak Spanish
2. Read Spanish
3. Write in Spanish
4. Think in Spanish

There are so many things that I like about this book. For starters, the author of this book uses a very interesting method to help you quickly learn Spanish. What she does is teach the reader how to add hundreds and hundreds of Spanish words to his or her vocabulary by simply using the English words that you already know. For example, did you already know that the following words are both Spanish and English words:

Actor
Popular
Animal
Capital
hotel
Radio
Conductor
Probable
Cable
Ideal
Flexible

The only difference is the pronunciation is different in Spanish. But the words are spelled the same way and have the same meaning in both Spanish and English.

In addition to showing the reader that he or she already knows many Spanish words because there are so many English words that are spelled the same and that have the same meaning, the author also shows how the reader can take many English words that he or she already knows and convert them into Spanish words just by making small changes in the words. For example, the author shows how we can convert many English words that end in “ist” into Spanish words by adding the letter “a” to them:

Pianist – el pianista
Violinist – el violinista
Dentist – el dentista
Oculist – el oculista
Capital – el capitalista
Communist – el comunista
Novelist – el novelista
Optimist – el optimista

I also found it beneficial that there is a helpful pronunciation key at the beginning of the book. Another thing that I really like about this book is that after every 9 or 10 lessons, there are a series of tests that help you test your progress and see how far you have come.
Near the end of the book, there is also a section called “Common Spanish Expressions” where you’ll find five pages packed with helpful Spanish expressions, such as:
Acabar de (plus infinitive) - to have just

A pesar de – in spite of
Buena suerte – good luck
Claro – of course
Dar la mano – to shake hands
Echar la culpa – to blame
Esta vez – this time
Me alegro de verlo – I am happy to see you
No lo haga – don’t do it
No es justo – it isn’t fair
Otra vez – again
Poco a poco – little by little
Ya lo creo – now I believe it

At the very end of this book, there is a handy 35-page “Vocabulary” section that is organized like a dictionary. You will find Spanish words from “a” (to, at) all the way to “zoologia” (zoology).
Out of the 45 chapters covered in this book, my favorites were Chapter 41 and Chapter 42. In chapter 41, the author teaches The Present Subjunctive and breaks down how to express hope, fear, doubt and desire in Spanish. In chapter 42, the author teaches The Past Subjunctive and breaks down how to express past hopes, fears, doubts and desires in Spanish. She even explains how to use the conditional and past subjunctive together. In other words, you will learn how to express the following in Spanish:

I would write a letter if I had the time.
She would buy an airplane if it were possible.
They would watch the movie if were interesting.

In chapter 42, Madrigal also covers the Past Perfect Subjunctive which enable you to express the following in Spanish:

I would have known the lesson if I had studied.
We would have spoken Spanish if we had studied.
If they had had time, they would have traveled to Spain.

The reason why Chapters 41 and 42 are my favorite chapters is because these are the chapters that teach the Spanish subjunctive. I, like many native English speakers, find that the Spanish subjunctive is one of the most difficult areas of Spanish. In Chapters 41 and 42, Madrigal does a fantastic job breaking-down the complex topic of the Spanish subjunctive.

The only thing that I did not like about this book is that the vocabulary does not cover modern technology. The first edition of this book was written in 1951. This book seriously needs to be updated. You will learn how to say the Spanish words for telephone, newspaper and telegram. But don’t expect to learn how to say cellphone, website or email in Spanish.
Although this book does not teach you any Spanish words related to modern technology, I still recommend that buy this book because it will allow you to quickly learn hundreds of Spanish words quite easily – just by using the English words that you already know. By the way, this same author, Margarita Madrigal, has another helpful book that you will find available here at Amazon:

In closing, I want to leave you with a list of my favorite three learn-Spanish products available here at Amazon:

1. Easy Spanish Phrase Book NEW EDITION: Over 700 Phrases for Everyday Use (Dover Language Guides Spanish) Easy Spanish Phrase Book - This is an economically priced, handy resource that easily fits into my back pocket. You can conveniently take it anywhere with you when vacationing in a Spanish speaking country in order to have more than 700 phrases in your Spanish-vocabulary arsenal. And unlike so many learning-Spanish books, there is also a section called "Computers and Technology" where you'll find Spanish vocabulary related to modern technology.

2.Learning Spanish Like Crazy Level 1 CDR - w/ Super Bonus Package - Learn Spanish & Speak Spanish - New & Improved for PC/Mac - Free Updates for 1 Yr LSLC - This is my favorite audio Spanish program because the program focuses on everyday, Latin American Spanish. It's geared toward the foreign-language learner who wants to eventually achieve fluency in Spanish instead of someone who just wants to learn a few travel phrases. Compared to the other programs that I have used, this one does the best job at teaching you how to develop an authentic sounding Latin American Spanish accent. The program also comes with a very impressive bonus package.

3. 501 Spanish Verbs with CD-ROM and Audio CD (501 Verb Series) 501 Spanish Verbs - If you think you can accomplish fluency in Spanish as an adult without mastering conjugating Spanish verbs, you are only fooling yourself. This book is an absolute essential resource for learning how to conjugate Spanish verbs.

And if you have any questions about Madrigal’s Magic Key To Spanish, please post your questions below and I will do my best to answer your questions.
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on March 5, 2016
For the price, this book is tough to beat as a self-study method for learning Spanish. It's not perfect. Originally published in the 1950s and never updated, some of its lessons have to do with taking dictation or sending telegraphs. Don't expect lessons on emailing or text messaging here. But the fundamentals of the Spanish language haven't changed much since the '50s, and fundamentally the book seems to me to be sound.

I actually bought this book several years ago and tried a couple lessons before giving up in disgust and putting it back on the shelf. This was because the first few lessons are little more than huge, enormous, long lists of Spanish words, of the type "Look! Here are 100 Spanish words you already know because they are so similar to English", and "Look! Here are 200 more!" and so forth. It seemed at first that the book was going to be little more than long lists of vocabulary to memorize.

But, recently, I gave the book a second chance and am glad I did so. Once you get past the introductory chapters, the book does become rather useful.

Here are a couple things I like about the book:

1. Spanish has three ways of saying "you": "tu" (the familiar singular form, equivalent to the archaic English 'thou'), "vosotros" (the familiar plural form, American English's "y'all" or "you all" or "you guys") and "usted/ustedes" (the formal form, equivalent to French's "vous"). But in this book, the author entirely ignores "vosotros" and almost entirely ignores "tu", focusing entirely on "usted". Which, if you think about it, is totally fine, since as a foreigner visiting Latin America as a tourist, you should probably be using the formal form anyway. But by omitting "tu" and "vosotros", the book only needs to cover four forms: yo, usted, nosotros, and ustedes, rather than six, which means 1/3 less verb conjugation for you to get bogged down in.

2. The explanations of grammar in this book are so short, so succinct, so pellucid, that it's really something special. Other textbooks will spend an entire chapter twisting themselves in knots trying to explain the difference between the two verbs for "to be", ser and estar. Madrigal explains the difference in one little box. Throughout the book, the most topics typically most challenging and problematic for English speakers are reduced to extremely short, clear, easy to understand explanations unlike what I've seen in other books.

3. There are abundant (if sometimes repetitive and boring) exercises in each chapter, which gives you plenty of opportunity to conjugate verbs and practice the essentials.

One thing I did *not* like about this book: It proceeds at what, for me, was an ideal pace -- until the last couple chapters, when in the span of a few pages, the conditional, imperative, subjective and past subjunctive were all tossed in at the last minute without ample exercises to reinforce the learning of those tenses. The book had done such a good job with the simple past tense, the present, and the imperfect, that it was disappointing that the other tenses were sort of an afterthought.

Still, overall, for the price, and considering the many very terrible Spanish learning textbooks available in the US, this is a very good value, and there's a reason it's still in print after some 60 years or so. If you are a dedicated self-teacher of languages, this one is very hard to beat for its price.
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on April 13, 2016
I have studied several other methods of learning Spanish and have found "Madrigal" truly a magic key to Spanish. As an American-English speaker, I didn't start studying Madrigal until I was 57 years-old when it became imperative that I learn to speak and understand Mexican-Spanish. I've been speaking Spanish for twelve years now. Don't let anyone, including yourself, tell you that you're too old to learn. I did it. I have recently purchased two more copies of this book because I'm using "Madrigal" to teach English to the children in my Spanish-speaking community! I can make Madrigal's "magic" work in both directions, English/Spanish and Spanish/English. I can't recommend this book highly enough, whether you speak English or Spanish and want to learn the other language.
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on June 9, 2013
I have been an on/off student of Spanish for 50 plus years. Two years in High School in the 50's, then off and on during a business career that took me to Mexico, Spain, Chile, Peru,Brazil and Columbia.
I've had tutors, tapes, and some immersion.
We stumbled across this book when taking group lessons in Scottsdale, Arizona in early 2000.
The teacher had us work our way through this book in about a 10 week syllabus.
I used to take it with me on airplane rides to Santiago and for 11 hours prepped myself for three weeks of non stop practice.
We had a group of Aussies doing contract work for two years at a time and we gave them this book as the starting point for their immersion.
I cant speak to Rosetta Stone or other touted tape classes, so I have no comparison.
I will say that the best advice I ever got from the instructor in Scottsdale was to go out into the garage and talk Spanish to the dog. He said to read newspapers out loud, blast through the tough words like "establecimiento" and when conversing to the dog if you hit a word you didn't know in Spanish, use the English word, and keep right on chugging.
This book seemed to be the best organized of those we used in group classes and it built your way into the language in bite size chunks.
By starting with the words that are the same or derivatives of English, it builds confidence and gives you a sense that learning this language might not be impossible.
I highly recommend it where reading to learn is the method that best meets your needs.
I can also highly recommend a small book called "How to Survive in the Chilean Jungle". There are books one and two and were written by Gringos who lived in Chile. They are a lexicon of Chilean slang and Spanish sayings and make you sound like a pro.
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on October 23, 2013
I am about 85% of the way through Madrigal's Magic Key and have to say that I am very impressed with Madrigal's approach. Her approach is different from the conventional lesson plans with which I have been familiar since language training in high school. One person posted the comment that it matters HOW one learns and perhaps Madrigal's approach isn't the right approach for everyone, but it is certainly the right approach for me. A number of years ago I tried to learn Spanish using, "Spanish Made Simple". Essentially, I got nowhere. This time around, using Madrigal, I'm making very rapid progress. Another person commented that the best thing about Madrigal's approach is that it engenders confidence. This is totally true. Her teaching approach is brilliant, really. She starts off by showing the student all the Spanish words that he already knows and quickly builds other basic language skills on that starting foundation. From there, she presents lessons in terms of basic "blocks" of concept areas in ascending order of difficulty. Interestingly, one of the first starting concepts is how to use past tense. After that she presents the next big "block" (most common) verb forms; the "ar", "er" and "ir" verb groups. I can't say enough good things about this approach. It serves to give the student a basic orientation to major concept areas very quickly starting with the easiest to understand concept areas first.
This works very well for me. The usual language approach is to start with "useful phrases". This invariably turns out to be useless for me because providing me with details that I cannot assemble into anything bigger is just totally confusing. I need the opposite approach. Give me the "big picture", then show me how to break it down into smaller useable bits, and then I'm off and running. The details can be ground finer and finer as necessary.
Another thing in Madrigal's text which makes perfect sense is that she saves discussion of familiar forms of address until the last lesson. I can remember being confused early on in my high school French class because of the "need" to learn the familiar (It also added unnecessary complexity to my German language studies). But think about this just one minute. One only needs to use the familiar form of address with family and close friends. If one lives in an environment where there are significant numbers of Spanish speaking family members and intimate friends with whom one needs to communicate, then how is it remotely possible that one doesn't already know how to speak Spanish!!! Obviously, for the non-native speaker, the familiar form of address can safely be left for the last lesson.
In an earlier edition of this review I mentioned a couple of criticisms which, as I have progressed through my "Madrigal course work", have proven unfounded. Margarita's lesson plan is idiosyncratic and would benefit from an appendix with a little bit more detail to help the student to better navigate questions as they arise. I recommend the Mirriam-Webster Spanish/English dictionary as a basic study aid. Additionally, I have found very helpful the guide to conjugating the 254 most often used Spanish verbs, and 501 Spanish Verbs is another text worth considering. These books are very useful because the Madrigal Method approaches teaching the verb forms piecemeal and, depending upon the student, he or she may be better served if he can just forge ahead with some of the conjugations.
I highly recommend Madrigal's Magic Key as the cornerstone of a beginning Spanish course with the understanding that at some point, one will need to add additional course materials.
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on June 24, 2014
Okay, I will jump into this right away and say that she takes an unorthodox approach from the vast majority of Spanish learning texts (and she states this early on), but I use her book much more than the other 5-6 books I have on learning Spanish. I am somewhat of an old fart and do not believe that everyone can learn in the same way (and certainly not like we did as a child). Madrigal takes a different approach and to me it make sense when you consider what made me at least (and perhaps a lot of Spanish learners stumble so much when first trying to converse with others. I will state what her approach was and why I think she did so.

1. First she starts out with 2-3 chapters illustrating how familiar we are with hundreds (if not thousands) of Spanish words and how they can be constructed following a few simple techniques. This builds one's confidence that they literally already know or can easily guess at hundreds of words in Spanish.

2. Then she goes into the simple past tense first, a quite different approach from almost all other teaching guides who first jump into the present tense in chapter one. Why does she do this?? I think for several good reasons. First, we generally converse with others using two tenses, the past and the future. Secondly, the present tense conjugations are where the vast majority of conjugation irregularities occur with Spanish. I think students often get overwhelmed with these irregular conjugations in the present tense. Thirdly, at least in my case, it was the change in accents that caused me to stumble the most when trying to converse with others. One can concentrate on learning the verb infinitives and they are always accented on the final syllable. Our ear and mind get used to this pattern with all the verbs. But when we conjugate the verb in the present tense, the penultimate syllable gets the accent...and often the verb will sound different to our ears So in a sense, you have to train your tongue to say each verb in two different ways or patterns. The simple past tense, for the most part, uses the same accent patterns as the present tense and of course there are far far fewer conjugation irregularities in the past tenses, so the student can rely more on the verb infinitive to know how to say conjugate the verbs. The untrained tongue stumbles less.

To me, this gives the average student of the Spanish language a boost in confidence and shortens the learning curve. Obviously, sooner or later, one will have to tackle the present tense with all its learning problems, but at least it is not so immediately overwhelming to the beginner.

Finally, Madrigal is one of the few authors who explains why some irregular endings are the way they are, which was helpful for me in learning patterns of irregular verbs, etc. Also, it was important for me to see how she used many exercises to form many sentences using 3 groups of words. The Spanish Learning Institute first course software also uses this approach for forming sentences from groups of words and it worked for me in the same way.

My only complaint about the book is that it is/was a little hard to figure out where it goes from topic to topic (chapter to chapter)...but I felt it was more akin to a teacher standing in front of a class and often going into a new topic or maybe just reviewing a topic from a couple of days ago. All in all, I would highly recommend this book.
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on March 27, 2017
Actually much more useful and helpful than it appeared at first. As some other reviewers have noted, the first several chapters revolve pretty tightly around just showing how golly gee whiz SIMILAR so many Spanish words are to some of their English counterparts. Which, for me at least, is not so very useful, as it is remembering WHICH English word for writing something is the magical key that opens up the word escribir. That being said, once you get past those initial chapters, this lets up a bit, and actual useful information regarding tenses, moods, and sentence structure is conveyed in a readily understandable fashion, and in an order than is keyed to actual constructive learning. This order isn't the standard order you might have had in high school Spanish, but it works very well. Overall, I'd say this should be a major go to if attmepting to learn Spanish on your own- I wouldn't make it your only line of attack, but Madrigal combined with a podcast, a Barron's, and some reading, I've been making much more progress than expected.
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on May 1, 2014
So far I've only gone through the first couple sections of this book, and find it fascinating. Now, I did not find it very engaging, and it is quite boring to use. At first, I was certain that this was not helping me at all. I had gone through those first few sections a number of times, and just felt swamped and thus left the book behind.

Unbeknownst to me, the sections I have gone through had actually helped me a bit, or maybe even a lot, in just knowing words to make up from their English counterparts while I am in conversation with Spanish speakers. This is giving me a much stronger pull back to the book, but the boring nature of it is repelling me at the same time. I am quite certain that I will utilize this book again in the future, but at present I am using my other tools.

That being said, I think this is an irreplaceable book, and once I break back into it, I am sure it will catapult me into a new level.
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on September 2, 2016
My son wanted to learn to speak Spanish. I jokingly told him he needed a speak Spanish in 30 days book. He said That's exactly what I need! Mostly for fun I went on Amazon and sent him this book. That was about 3 weeks ago. While he has a ways to go he is able to have lengthy phone conversations, has written several letters and can read pretty well. Grammar and sentence structure are coming along nicely. He is very impressed with the methods the book uses teaching and bringing him along in easy to understand steps. The book was written in the 50's so some of the lingo is a little dated. My point is My Son wanted to learn to speak Spanish and he is! I have to remind him to speak English! Highly recommended! Adios Amigos and Amigas!
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on May 24, 2017
I'm kinda shocked that nobody has picked up on this and I'm not quite sure if I'm right or not but the structure of some of her examples are incorrect. I'm an intermediate Spanish student, with many years of jr. high + high school Spanish and now I'm working with a private tutor to finally learn this dang language once and for all! Anyways, I was showing my teacher this book and basically on page 3, the question structure is wrong. I'm learning Spain-Spanish so I'm not necessarily sure of the dialect or structure of say Mexico-Spanish. But my guess is basic structure, as an entire language, isn't going to change that much from place to place.

Page 3 says: Turn the sentence "El actor es popular" into a question by simply reversing the order into "¿Es popular el actor?" Well, according to my teacher (who has spoken Spanish for over 40 years and has traveled all over Spain, South America and Mexico) you would not say that! You would say "¿Es el actor popular?" If that's true, many people are learning the wrong way when it's hard enough just to learn how to do it in the first place!

Other than that one (huge) snag, I do really love the book. It's super simple and succinct; I love the little flash cards she gives you. I use the first couple of them all of the time to convert English words into Spanish while doing my Spanish homework and speaking drills. She's kinda trying to teach Spanish in a style that's similar to say Michel Thomas (the king of language), but I think when it's in a book form it can get very confusing where you're only learning bits and pieces of stuff when what you could really benefit from is just seeing the entire picture. Great for vocabulary and contrary to other reviewers I don't care that she doesn't teach you how to say "cell phone, email, etc." that's what the internet is for.

My biggest piece of advice to anybody trying to learn Spanish is to first understand yourself - how do you learn best? Are you a visual learner? Do you pick up on patterns easily? Do you learn best with mnemonics? Flash cards? Native (speaking) videos? There's a ton of different paths to get to the same destination of learning a language successfully and you just have to find what really works for you by trying a bunch of different things. There is really no magic bullet, either, besides consistency. And learning it correctly from the get go. There is that. This is generally a really great tool but I wouldn't count on it to be your language bible, either.
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