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Breaking Out of Beginner's Spanish

Breaking Out of Beginner's Spanish
Author/Publisher: Joseph J. Keenan
Emphasis: Spoken Spanish
List Price: $18.95

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description
Many language books are boring--this one is not. Written by a native English speaker who learned Spanish the hard way--by trying to talk to Spanish-speaking people--it offers English speakers with a basic knowledge of Spanish hundreds of tips for using the language more fluently and colloquially, with fewer obvious "gringo" errors. Writing with humor, common sense, and a minimum of jargon, Joseph Keenan covers everything from pronunciation, verb usage, and common grammatical mistakes to the subtleties of addressing other people, "trickster" words that look alike in both languages, inadvertent obscenities, and intentional swearing. He guides readers through the set phrases and idiomatic expressions that pepper the native speaker's conversation and provides a valuable introduction to the most widely used Spanish slang. With this book, both students in school and adult learners who never want to see another classroom can rapidly improve their speaking ability. Breaking Out of Beginner's Spanish will be an essential aid in passing the supreme language test--communicating fluently with native speakers.

Language Notes
Text: English, Spanish --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 229 pages
  • Publisher: University of Texas Press; 1 edition (1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 029274322X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0292743229
  • Product Dimensions: 8.8 x 6 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review:

    4.8 out of 5 stars See all reviews (102 customer reviews)

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars - good resource for speaking spanish colloquially
enjoyed the author's sense of humor and his knowledge of colloquial spanish in mexico and south america. good value for the student who wants to speak (rather than write) spanish.


Rating: 5 out of 5 stars - The most entertaining language book you'll ever read!
I recently bought another copy of this book as the first one has fallen to pieces from much use. It's not your typical language text and not for rank beginners but it certainly gets the points across in an easy and often humorous manner. The lack of an index is a minor annoyance, and who has ever died from having to flip through the pages of a book?


Rating: 5 out of 5 stars - Breaking Out of Beginner's Spanish
GREAT BOOK!!!! Buy it if you are trying to advance from an intermediate speaker to an advanced speaker ... very useful


Rating: 5 out of 5 stars - wonderful read of spanish grammar/usage
Perhaps the only book dealing with spanish grammar I enjoyed reading. The author does a wonderful job of not bogging down in technical jargon while instilling the difference between knowing the technicalities of a language and being FLUENT in a language. It was profoundly helpful!!


Rating: 5 out of 5 stars - The Best Spanish Reference Book for Middle to Advanced Speakers
This is a book that I have been searching for. Most of the books I have come across only give very "stiff-sounding" vocabulary and idioms. The author of this book seems to be someone similar to me in how I learned Spanish; 10 years of school and college and then going to Spanish speaking countries and dating Spanish women. He is very good at explaining a lot of things that are culture related. For example, the difference between "nice" and "not so nice" people in Spanish are differentiated as buen educado and mal educado.

What I hate about most Spanish/English dictionaries is that words are not necessarily translated properly and I noticed that reverse lookup from the Spanish and the English sections sometimes don't correlate (saca puntos, which is pencil sharpener is incorrectly translated in the English section of many dictionaries to corta lapices). What I really find more valuable at my level is a Spanish dictionary with Spanish translations. This book is a valuable as that type of dictionary.

So far this is the best book I have found for my level of Spanish.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars - Spanish book
My son is serving a Spanish speaking mission for our church. He is wanting to improve his Spanish and has asked for my help. He told me this book was recommended to him. He has thanked me for all the help I have sent him, so I assume this is a good help.


Rating: 5 out of 5 stars - Helpful Book
I purchased this book when I was diving into learning the Spanish language. Although not fluent, this book is a tremendous reference source indicated which word to use when. I still use the book to this day. The author makes it interesting and fun. I'd recommend it to anyone wishing to explore and break out of their gringo culture. I've written my own book and I've included some Spanish dialog that is not "proper spanish" in it.


Rating: 4 out of 5 stars - A Good Read
Notwithstanding my recent romantic desires for a certain woman of Latin origins, and that I am a student of Spanish, I am not compelled to "speak Spanish like a native". The "gotta get it right" tone of this book (and many courses oriented to the beer-swigging tourist) isn't a selling point for me. But this is a good read, very informative and entertaining. Worth every penny. The discussion about the subjunctive is maybe a bit off-putting, not because the author fails to grasp the Spanish application of that somewhat unecessary tense (all you need is "maybe")--but because he seems confused about the English non-use of it in similar "situations" for which, he says, Spanish requires it.

It is not a good idea to ever over-concern yourself with idiomatic expressions, in any language. They come, they go. Like, read some dialog from an aging novel:

"Dig this," says one character, holding up a glittery item.
"Far out!" says another character ...

I am left, by Breaking Out of Beginner's Spanish, with the feeling that Spanish, deep down in the nitty gritty grammar, especially compared with English--whose main "problem" is its spelling--see, for example, The Future of Fonics: Spelling and Literacy--might be a bit too fraught with ancient cultural freight for a foreigner to worry much (not anymore, say, than using the big fork for salad) about ephemeral idioms and uttering shamefully quaint constructions. One asks himself how much of his personality, at home and away, is the result of his use (choices) of idiomatic speech, and, for that matter, perfect grammar? In other words, wherever your travels take you, just put your heart in the right place and ¡hablabla!


Rating: 4 out of 5 stars - fun read for someone with high school spanish
I bought this book on a recommendation. I took Spanish in high school, and even got a high enough score on the AP exam to qualify for college credit. But that was about 15 years ago. Since then I don't get much opportunity to use or practice Spanish, but I still enjoy trying to learn the language by occasionally attempting simple novels in Spanish, watching movies, etc.

This book conversationally and entertainingly explains a lot of subtleties that you will not find in your standard language text. Basically, it will help you avoid making particularly embarrassing mistakes. I also thought its explanations of the subjunctive mood and when and how to use it pretty good.


Rating: 5 out of 5 stars - Spanish learning book
This is a good book to get one beyond the "como estas Senor Lopez" many text books start with. It contains common pitfalls, words that are cognates, and words that aren't (embarazada anyone?) - and lot of good examples of these. Highly recommend this book to unlearn some of the things you learned from your Spanish textbook.


Rating: 4 out of 5 stars - Worth buying
I have to disagree with those describing this book as not for beginners. Other than the 5% or 10% that deals with imperfect vs preterite tenses and subjunctive tense, the other 90%+ is an excellent guide for beginners, covering many areas where beginners typically struggle. Keenan is a very entertaining writer and fun to read. He does not offer any guidelines or rules on how to conjugate verbs, so consider this book a supplement to other learning methods. Keenan does however, zero in on a number of important topics that other Spanish textbooks tend to overlook, and he does so in great detail regarding understanding of the subtleties. For example, he points out that the "d" in nada, comida, etc. is pronounced more like "th" or "dth", not a hard d. Few spanish books or teachers mention this important pronunciation detail. Also, Keenan makes a point to explain that present tense verbs are often used to express future events too. For example, ¿Vienes mañana? I'm not sure why, but few if any textbooks mention this dual-use aspect of the present tense. Keenan is at his best in focusing in on these kinds of details and subtleties where beginners and intermediates are most likely to stumble.

Having set the bar so high in the areas he does cover so well, I was a little disappointed in a couple of other areas. Although Keenan does an above-average job in covering the important, but often confusing ser vs estar distinction, I wished he had gone into more of his characteristic level of detail when tackling the ser vs estar faceoff. For example, he doesn't address why you would use ser rather than estar when talking about an event. Why do you say "Donde es la fiesta?" Nor does he spend much time in the often confusing area of ser and estar in the preterite. These are hot-button areas of confusion for most learners of Spanish struggling with estar vs ser. Having said that, Keenan does give the best explanation I've ever read as to why you use estar instead of ser when referencing the dead, another ser/estar issue where many beginners and intermediates scratch their heads. Similar to ser vs estar, his explanation of the subjunctive in the "twilight zone" chapter was better than most I've read, but lacking in the kind of thoroughness that Keenan uses when approaching other topics.

Keenan gives one piece of bad advice(my opinion)telling readers to avoid using the future tense conjugation because, according to him, it will make you sound too formal and less fluent. This advice, I'm guessing, is a result of his having learned Spanish while living in Mexico, as most native speakers there do seem to use ir (voy, va, etc) to communicate future events and actions rather than conjugate in the future tense. Outside of Mexico, however, this is not the case. It is common among native spanish speakers in South America and the Carribean to conjugate using the future tense in casual everyday conversation.

I thought that the chapters on Spanish obscenities and the history of the Spanish language, although interesting, were a squandering of Keenan's considerable talent, and together they take up close to 1/4 of the book. The history part in particular seemed like a "page filler" and that's the main reason why I didn't give this book 5 stars. Those pages could have been better used to address other areas which so often trip up those trying to learn Spanish: por vs para, word suffixes, que vs cual.. these topics aren't mentioned at all in the book, and would have been perfect for someone with Keenan's insights. Nonetheless, this book is very good. Most of the topics which Keenan does cover, are well chosen and covered very thoroughly with insights you won't find elsewhere. He offers a somewhat unique perspective coming from an English speaker who learned Spanish as an adult living in Mexico, helping readers avoid many of the pitfalls in learning Spanish which he undoubtedly experienced himself.


Rating: 5 out of 5 stars - The best Spanish book of its genre ever
Your mama probably told you that life isn't fair. This axiom is well-illustrated by the fact that this book seems to drift in and out of availability while many other offerings that are far worse just seem to keep hanging around. This book won't do you much good if you've never had a Spanish class but if you have had a year or two of high school or college Spanish back there somewhere in your past, it will well and truly take you to the next level. I lost my first copy in a recent move and just replaced it with another copy. It is that good.


Rating: 5 out of 5 stars - Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!
This is the perfect book for people who are trying to achieve some semblance of fluency in Spanish who have not had the opportunity of living in-country for any substantial period of time. I'm so grateful for this book, the author is to be applauded for producing one of the most useful books ever written on learning Spanish. A MUST HAVE for every student of Spanish. PLEASE do yourself the favor of owning this book.


Rating: 5 out of 5 stars - a must have for all Spanish students
This book is AWESOME! It's a must have for all who are determined to get past the basics and really start talking like a native Spanish speaker. I recommend it to all of my friends who head overseas to Spanish speaking countries.


Rating: 5 out of 5 stars - Breaking Out of Beginner's Spanish
This is a great book! I have studied Spanish for 10 years and didn't think there was anything I could get out of a book for "beginners". My friend had the book with her when we went to Guatemala to study Spanish and I started reading it on the plane because I had nothing else left to read. I read the book from cover to cover and enjoyed every page. The author does a great job of explaining false cognates; it made me laugh out loud at the stupid things I have said in the past, and was embarrased by some vulgar things I've said and not realized it. I recommend this book for Spanish students of all levels.


Rating: 5 out of 5 stars - One of the best Spanish study aids out there
Great insight on concepts underlying the language and common mistakes English speakers make (Ser/Estar, Traer/Llevar). I came to Argentina to learn Spanish and I've been carrying this book around with me everywhere - if I can only take a few books with me when I go out, I take this one and my guide book and leave the dictionary/verb book at home. Best book I bought for this trip!!!!


Rating: 5 out of 5 stars - Going Beyond Classroom Spanish
In a change of pace from most foreign language instructional texts, this book was written not by an academic but by a native English speaker who at the time of publication had lived and worked in Mexico for 10 years and whose wife (I am guessing from the acknowledgments) is Mexican. This is a "Been there, done that, don't make the same mistakes as I did" kind of book.

The book is written in a straightforward, conversational style that is often as amusing as it is educational. The book will help you in your quest for fluency (but of course, you won't become fluent from reading the book any more than you could learn to ride a bicycle from reading about it).

Perhaps I can save you some time in reading the reviews by summing them up. Almost everyone loves this book. Most people wish the book had an index (and you will too). Most like the fact that the book has a chapter on vulgarities (if only to know what to avoid saying) while a handful flinch at seeing the topic broached in the book. Everyone agrees that this is no stuffy textbook.

This book will suit a wide range of learners, from those just beyond beginner Spanish to those who are nearly fluent. As you progress in learning the language, you will continue to find things of value in the book.

OK, so the book is great, you could learn a lot, but is it right for you? It is if you know the basics of the language and want to learn to speak more colloquially. If you need to know how to conjugate verbs, then you're still a beginnner, not ready to break out. If you're looking for a book to help you pass the next quiz in your Spanish class, this is probably not for you. But if you are ready to converse with native Spanish speakers, this could be your passport to travel out of the classroom and into the real world.


Rating: 5 out of 5 stars - Excellent but Even Better with Behind the Wheel Spanish
You'll be surprised at how small Breaking Out of Beginner's Spanish actually is when you receive it.
Despite its compact size, it packs on heck of a linguistic whallop when it comes to providing you with just the right information on the Spanish language at the right time. A true bargain for the money.
One note. In order to really learn to speak Spanish, you really need more than just a Spanish reference book.
I have experienced great results with 'Behind the Wheel Spanish' 8 CDs and text. Fabulous and works well with Breaking Out of Beginner's Spanish.


Rating: 5 out of 5 stars - The explanations you've been looking for
I only wish Joseph keenan would expand this book to cover the dictionary. He explains some of the most important and most used nuances of the language that have been glossed over by all the classes and books I've read. His English wit and colorful writing style will keep you smiling as you read. PLUS, you can actually sit down and casually read this book front to back without getting bored or brain dead. An excellent supplement to your Spanish studies


Rating: 5 out of 5 stars - GET THIS BOOK!
As a spanish major I read all spanish books; some good alot really, really bad. This book does not disappoint. If you only have money to buy one book BUY THIS ONE! (This book is not for beginners.)


Rating: 5 out of 5 stars - Great advanced beginner's book that delivers on its promise!
This is a wonderful concise book for taking your ability to speak Spanish to a higher level quickly. This upward movement is usually painful and requires a tremendous amount of work. However, this book gives you what you need to know in a relatively painless manner.

You will about many common mistakes that non-native speakers make and correct them by following the well-organized, short lessons presented in the text. Specifically, you will overcome the bad habits that are holding you back and replace them with new ones that will boost you to the next level.

I own many Spanish books, software, audio tapes and CDs. This text is one of my top "must have" choices for moving forward quickly and enjoying the ride along the way!


Rating: 5 out of 5 stars - Must Buy for Learning Spanish.
Usually I don't write reviews, but this book is that good. If you are on the intermediate level and need that boost into near fluency, this is definitely the book. It covers a ride array of topics to do that. Really, no matter how much I write about how great this book is, it will not do it justice. Buy it now.

Here are some books I have found especially useful in cleaning up my Spanish.

1001 Pitfalls of Spanish
Breaking Out of Beginners Spanish
Spanish Pronouns and Prepositions
Spanish Verb Tenses

I guarantee when you get through these four books and have fully absorbed and practice the contents within. You will feel very confident about your skills.


Rating: 5 out of 5 stars - Spanish: The next step
I am just finishing this informative and interesting book. I would reccomend it to anyone wishing to become more fluent in Spanish and knowledgeable about the surrounding culture. I especially enjoyed the section on invective and obscenity. This is an area that, most often, out of necessity and sensitivity gets ommitted from formal Spanish instruction. The author has a real passion for the language and gently leads the reader into unknown territory. If you want to take your Spanish to the next level, get this book


Rating: 5 out of 5 stars - This book will give you much more confidence speaking Spanish
This book is fantastic. Amazing. Unbelievable. Lo mejor.

I was looking for a book to help me improve my usage of Spanish; this is exactly the book I was looking for. Don't let the title fool you--while it describes the objective of the book perfectly, it's far funnier and easier to read than you might think based on the cover... (I guess that's why they say, don't judge a book by it's--well, you know.)

I think that some people who have found this book unhelpful were expecting things from it that it wasn't intended to give. It's true that the book doesn't teach you tenses; it isn't supposed to. It's also true that it's not a comprehensive dictionary of idioms; it's not supposed to be. But what it's supposed to do, it does very well: It goes through some the most common mistakes that English speakers make on the road towards fluency in Spanish and helps you overcome them, while teaching you a little history and making you roll on the floor laughing at the same time. It helps you begin to stop sounding like "a small, semi-literate child," as Keenan says in the introduction.

The only problem I had was that I was cringing with embarrassment as it points out to me those silly mistakes that I have made in conversation. But that's my problem, not the book's. And it's certainly not going to make you fluent. For that, you need to spend some serious time and effort speaking Spanish day in, day out. However, it really gave me some of the confidence that I needed to let me feel comfortable using my Spanish at every opportunity that has come my way.

This helped me grow so much more as a Spanish speaker than I could have done on my own--or with any other book I have found, for that matter.


Rating: 4 out of 5 stars - Good but Lacks the Depth of Behind the Wheel Spanish
Keenan's book is good. Especially for gringos or 'gringas' like me.
That is the strong point of the book.
The weak points are obvious. Incomplete in every way, from idioms to adequate presentation of the past, present and future tenses. The book is 'good' not 'great'.
I recommend you buy this book and use it. It would be an invaluable but incomplete asset in your learning Spanish arsenal.
If you really want to learn to speak the language and want a comprehensive and easy to learn from complete text on Spanish complete with translations and answer keys, I would have to recommend you buy Behind the Wheel Spanish with 8 CDs and the book.
Awesome and practical.
I have used both Breaking Out of Beginner's Spanish and Behind the Wheel.
But for me, Breaking Out of Beginner's Spanish is the backup.
Behind the Wheel is the main course.


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