Demystifying is right! -- Luis Rojas, www.rojasspanish.com
I can't see this book not being useful for anyone whose native language is
not Spanish. Even if you are familiar with the topics covered, chances are
you will see things that cause you to say, "Yeah cool, I've never really
thought of it quite like that--very helpful."
- Paperback: 112 pages
- Publisher: Small Town Press; 1st edition (March 17, 2008)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0981646603
- ISBN-13: 978-0981646602
- Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.4 x 0.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces
- Average Customer Review:
This is really one gem of a book!
Brandon chose to cover 6 *practical* areas in Spanish grammar that give
non-native speakers the most difficulty. In focusing on these topics, he affords
himself the luxury to really delve into each topic and demystify these
troublesome points of grammar.
One reviewer (who gave a favorable 4-star review) said "don't expect to learn
much Spanish". Brandon's intent was not to teach these topics, but clarify them.
You don't learn Spanish from this book -- you learn how to use Spanish
CORRECTLY. There's a big difference. This little book is for those of us who
have already read the "Por vs Para" or "Ser vs Estar" sections of our textbook,
and are still left, at times, scratching our head over which one to use.
Clarifying a focused set of topics would, by itself, make this book worth the
price tag. However, this book is special in other ways as well:
First, the book's tone:
Brandon takes on a *very* conversational tone in this book. As I read the book,
it felt as if Brandon were sitting in front of me, tutoring me. It's a very
personable book, and hence, utterly readable.
Second, Brandon's approach:
One of the remarkable things about this book is how Brandon approaches the
demystification. A typical section of this book will:
1. State the difficulties students have with the topic.
2. Discuss the standard treatment of the topic, and why the standard treatment
is either insufficient or confusing. In other words, he analyzes and critiques
the standard treatment you'd find in a typical textbook.
3. He discusses how he himself stumbled onto his own personal take of the topic.
4. He presents how he himself thinks of the topic, offering illustrative
examples of why his take on that particular topic is more effective than the
It's quite remarkable that Brandon chooses to deconstruct the orthodox
methodology of Spanish education (e.g. "Ser is permanent and Estar is
temporary") and then offer his own replacement methodology.
In that respect, this book actually goes beyond the stated goal of "demystifying
Spanish" and begins to approach "Spanish education pedagogy".
My only real criticism of the book is that it left me wanting more of Brandon's
insight. I would love to see his take on other topics in Spanish grammar.
Perhaps the same book with double the content at double the price.
Which brings me to the last point: the price.
The book is about $12. If you're not completely competent in these topics in
Spanish grammar, you would be insane not to plunk down the price of a 6-pack for
this book. It is a very high value, very low cost book.
If you're a professor, the book is cheap enough to be on your recommended books
This book sets out with a very clear purpose and delivers on its promise to help
demystify the common grammatical stumbling blocks you'll encounter as you try to
As someone relatively new to learning Spanish but with a vested interest in
getting it right - as I'm living here - this book answered questions I'd simply
had to leave uncomfortably unanswered (because no other book had answered them
or the explanations were hidden somewhere deep within the larger textbooks)
before. Not only are the really confusing rules and conventions of Spanish
covered but they're handled in a user-friendly way that even a relative newbie
Rather than seeing this as a Spanish learning book in its own right however I'd
suggest you use it as a very helpful reference guide for those times when you're
left scratching your head.
I'm sure my copy will get referred to again and again as I slowly begin to
master the native tongue of my new home.
Demystifying Spanish Grammar by Brandon Simpson is a small but useful book
covering points of grammar that confuse many students of Spanish. I will use the
acronyms and other helpful hints I learned in this book whenever I need to
review ser/estar, por/para, imperfect/preterit and the subjunctive, all of which
give me problems. I'm glad to have found a book with these particular grammar
Spanish grammar is not easy. Specifically, the parts of spanish grammar that
don't translate directly from English. The author of this book tackles them all
in brief reliable instructions. Specifically, he's the only person who
accurately and succinctly deciphers the difference between por and para.
I recommend this book for beginning and intermediate Spanish students. The book
weighs in at about 100 pages, so you won't be overwhelmed with material.
Components of the book that I particularly liked: 1) Useful acronyms to help you
remember when to use particular words, such as ser/estar. 2) Results of
interviews with native Spanish speakers as to what grammar they would use in a
particular situation (e.g., whether they use preterite or imperfect in a given
sentence). 3) Exercises that help you master grammar.
I am a Spanish major. I am in the process of finishing my last four classes for
my B.A. in Spanish. I own too many Spanish reference books to even count. And, I
know which areas of grammar usually give non native speakers of the language
problems when they write or speak.
A few days ago I recieved this thin, green book in the mail. The title made me
curious. I asked myself "Is it possible that this author can demystify Spanish
grammar?" Well, the answer is yes. The author, Brandon Simpson, has managed to
present and clarify written accents, ser/estar, para/por, the
imperfect/preterit, and yes, the dreaded Spanish subjunctive in a very fresh and
very user friendly way.
I especially like the way the author uses acronyms like HIDE/STARS to help
inforce the usage of the imperfect and the preterit. These types of acronyms
along with practice exercises are used throughout the book. And, they do what
they were designed to do, they help the learner to remember and understand these
often troublesome grammar areas. Mr. Simpson presents all of the above grammar
topics in a very precise fashion. His book is a gem for all intermediate to
advanced Spanish learners. His creativity and his ability to actually help
learners is commendable.
Please note that this book does not cover every aspect of Spanish grammar. The
areas mentioned above are the topics of focus. And, if you are studying Spanish,
you already know why a focus on these areas and an easy to carry book like this
one is necessary.
Brandon Simpson, you did a fine job. I recommend your book to all Spanish
learners who want to fine tune their fluency and comprehension of the Spanish
Thanks for a wonderful tool!
This little book is a handy summary of a number of tricks that will help
intermediate students to understand some of the points of Spanish orthography
and grammar that they are unlikely to have mastered at the beginning level.
Simpson explains such matters as accent use, por/para, ser/estar and the
subjunctive with simple rules, memorable acronyms and a minumum of technical
language, so that the average reader of the book won't get bogged down in the
terminology-laden presentations of advanced grammars.
I give the book four stars rather than five because, while it accomplishes its
task well for its intended audience, it does have a few errors and some
decidedly non-native examples. Overall, though, I recommend this book for high
school students in the second year or above, or college students who have
finished at least one semester of Spanish.
A revised version of this book with a little polishing would be most welcome.
I find this little book very helpful in doing just what the title claims it will
do: demystification. The author has taken "los temas más traumáticos" (for us
norteamericanos, anyway) and put them into one streamlined, to the point,
non-bloated volume. Yes, you can find this info scattered in other Spanish
learning resources, but you won't find it this compact and you won't find some
of the slick ideas introduced to explain and remember the concepts and rules
Digging through a thick reference grammar is fine. But let's face it: there is
something to be said for getting more than just a dry definition and/or usage
rules. And the author has done an admirable job at it here. The rules are
explained. The examples are there. Nothing is lacking, yet, nothing is overdone
either. There is no kicking a dead horse, as some authors tend to do, NOR is
there any brushing over the details without sufficient explanation. It's just
I can't see this book not being useful for anyone whose native language is not
Spanish. Even if you are familiar with the topics covered, chances are you will
see things that cause you to say, "Yeah cool, I've never really thought of it
quite like that--very helpful."
At 112 pages, Brandon Simpson's DEMYSTIFYING SPANISH GRAMMAR isn't bulky, but it
is almost worth its weight in "oro puro" -- pure gold. Which verb to use if you
are upset, versus a different verb if you're a "Norteamericano(a)"? One calls
for "ser," another "estar," but how can we tell the difference? What if you went
to the movies yesterday but went to the movies once a week when you were a
child? Calls for different verb tenses.
Mr. Brandon is a kind and patient teacher and offers real-world examples of the
classic pratfalls for the new student of Spanish. When he teaches us how to
distinguish "ser" from "estar," say, or using the imperfect instead of the
preterit, he gently debunks old textbook "theories" and opens up better and
clearer uses. The examples from native speakers (who don't always follow the
theories but know just what 'feels right') are highly lluminating and useful.
DEMYSTIFYING SPANISH GRAMMAR has certainly helped me. I think almost any student
of Spanish will be helped by it too.
This week, my daughter Katrina completed her second year of high school Spanish.
Therefore, some time ago, I gave her this book and asked her to use it and give
me her input. Her response to the book was very positive. She noted that it
demonstrated a lot of things that were not in her textbook and helped her make
sense of some of the language structures. Her grades support this opinion.
She also said that it would not be suitable for a first year student just
starting out, because most things in the book were introduced late in the first
year or in the second year. Her conclusion was that this is an excellent
supplemental text for the learning of Spanish.
Don't expect to learn a lot of Spanish or to spend hours reading this book. I
went through the entire thing in a couple of hours. The book only goes into six
grammatical issues facing foreign learners. For me I picked up a few small tips
(using "ser" to indicate event location and a slightly better understanding of
when to use the accent mark) but about 95% of the book was covered in my College
advance grammer course. The book is good for a quick study before a test in one
of the grammar areas and I suspect it is more useful for high school student
(who don't have a good understanding of even English grammar) than for College
The book does give some acronyms to remember for when to use "ser" vs. "estar"
and is good for people that need acronyms to jar their memory.
All in all the material, though sparse is well explained and will be useful for
students that have difficulty with the concepts covered.
Look, I don't know much about Spanish. Most of what I know or can dope out I
picked up through my music studies and having to try and read lyrics and texts
in various European languages. The only language I studied at all was a year's
worth of German as an undergraduate. So, I know a little about what students go
through in trying to learn a new language. If you are beyond Spanish 101 and
want to get some real help in understanding some key basic elements of the
grammar of Spanish works, Brandon Simpson's little book can help you.
Simpson says you should consider this book like sessions with a tutor and I
think that is spot on. He sets out to help you with a few problems that his
experience tells him most students studying Spanish struggle with.
1) Demystifying the Written Accents in Spanish
2) Demystifying Ser and Estar
3) Demystifying Para and Por
4) Demystifying the Imperfect and the Preterit HIDE/STARS acronyms.
5) And two chapters dealing with the Spanish Subjunctive.
He provides several mnemonics to help you remember the rules, as most good
teachers will do, several sets of exercises to help you see if you really
understand what you have read, and several appendices to help you get at key
information and a list of other books to read and study. Simpson also provides
contact information so you can get a hold of him yourself and ask questions.
A handy and useful book. Just remember that it is a few lessons with a tutor to
help you learn a few key lessons rather than a big text on the all and all of
Reviewed by Craig Matteson, Ann Arbor, MI
I speak a bunch of languages but strangely enough, I never bothered to learn
Spanish. And what they tell you (it's EASY) is NOT true; the verbs are
troublesome. And there are other irregularities (I contend Portuguese is the
easier of the two language, by the way.)
This book is for college and high school students who want to master certain
Estar vs Ser (with a helpful mnemonic of LET and JETCO to get you to the
situations where each of these "to be" verbs is used)
Para and Por
Written accents and why
Imperfect Tense and the Preterit
and of course the problematic subjunctive, always an issue in any language. As
in German, the subjuntive takes different forms depending on if the action is
simply in future or is conditional. And an obsolete form used in Spanish
literature is also discussed.
As you can see, this is not a complete list of irregularities in verbs or
idiomatic usages, but it is a good guide to some difficulties that the student
is going to encounter. A good reference and probably would get someone past an
exam or two by memorizing phrases and helps included in here, which would make
this book quite worthwhile. I used to memorize set phrases in German (from
opera, as it happens) to get me past the subjunctive and I know this kind of
thing can be the difference between passing and failing language exams
"Demystifying Spanish Grammar" not a book for the beginning student; nor is it
really a suitable text for a more advanced speaker; rather, this is a perfect
volume for those who have just arrived at the intermediate stage of learning
Spanish. There are other more complete studies of Spanish grammar ("A New
Reference Grammar of Modern Spanish" by John Butt and Carmen Benjamin comes to
mind), but chances are that most learners are not quite ready for such detail.
The book explains a rather limited number of concepts (hence my four stars out
of five), but it does that explanation quite well. Brandon Simpson clears-up
several difficult points in the acquisition of Spanish as a foreign language:
(1) the written accent mark; (2) the distinction between "ser" and "estar"; (3)
the difference between the prepositions "por" and "para"; (4) the divergence
between the preterit and the imperfect tense; and (5) the deployment of the
If you have been out of the foreign language for several years and require a
quick refresher in some troublesome areas, "Demystifying Spanish Grammar" would
be perfect. If you are a current college student moving from the "elementary" to
the "intermediate" level, you need a book like this. However, if you are still
at the beginning level, this text is not going to be particularly accessible.
And for an advanced student, you should skip this title and select a more