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.
Text: English, Spanish --This text refers to an out of print or
unavailable edition of this title.
- 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:
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.
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?
GREAT BOOK!!!! Buy it if you are trying to advance from an intermediate speaker
to an advanced speaker ... very useful
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!!
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!!!!
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.
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.
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
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.)
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.