Date: Fri, 8 Jul 2005 16:53:43 -0400 (EDT)
From: Regina Morin
Subject: Camino al español: A Comprehensive Course in Spanish
AUTHORS: Andres Martinez, Consuelo de; Bruce, Eugenia Ariza;
Cook, Christine; Diez-Bonet Isabel; Trippett, Anthony
TITLE: Camino al español
SUBTITLE: A Comprehensive Course in Spanish
PUBLISHER: Cambridge University Press
Regina Morin, The College of New Jersey (TCNJ)
As described by the authors in the introduction, this book is a
beginning Spanish course aimed at students with no previous
knowledge of Spanish. Part I is divided into twenty units, centered on
one or more topics or functions. Chapters 1 through 5 provide
instructions in both English and Spanish, and only in Spanish from
Chapter 6 on. Each unit is divided into four sections: 'Presentación y
prácticas' is meant to introduce functions, and new structures and
vocabulary; 'Comprensión auditiva' provides listening exercises based
on these functions; 'Consolidación' contains written revision
exercises; and 'Gramática' provides explanations of all new grammar
points in English. Part II includes Teachers' Guidelines, including a
sample unit, solutions to the written exercises, and tape scripts for
most of the listening activities that appear in the text. Part III contains
reference tools and study aids such as a student guide to grammar
terms, a list of Spanish verbs with conjugations, a Spanish/English-
English/Spanish glossary, and an index of grammar, topics, and
CHAPTER BY CHAPTER SUMMARY
The Chapters in Part I present topics, functions and grammatical
points in the following order:
Chapter 1 (¿Cómo te llamas?). Topics and functions: How to greet
people in Spanish, giving and asking for personal information, and
spelling names in Spanish. Grammatical points: saying "hello"
and "goodbye" and introducing people, the present tense forms
of 'ser' and 'llamarse', demonstrative adjectives and pronouns,
questions, negation, pronunciation of vowels and consonants, word
stress and the written accent.
Chapter 2 (¿Tienes hermanos?). Topics and functions: talking about
family members, describing appearance and character, and telling
your age. Grammatical points: subject pronouns, the present
indicative of -ar, -er, -ir verbs, 'tener' ('años'), possessive adjectives,
irregular comparatives, questions, cardinal and ordinal numbers.
Chapter 3 (¿Cómo es tu casa?). Topics and functions: describing
places, saying where you live, saying what places there are in a town,
using numbers. Grammatical points: gender and number
agreement, 'haber' ('hay'), cardinal numbers, and adverbials such
as 'muy', 'bastante', 'demasiado', 'un poco'.
Chapter 4 (¿Dónde está la oficina de correos?): Topics and functions:
asking for and giving directions, locating people and places,
expressing obligation and necessity. Grammatical points: present
indicative of 'estar', 'ir', 'venir', 'coger', 'torcer', 'seguir', 'saber',
and 'conocer', introduction of 'ser/estar' and 'saber/conocer', 'tener
que'/'hay que', and prepositions of place.
Chapter 5 (¿Qué desea?). Topics and functions: expressing likes and
dislikes, going shopping, talking about weights and measures.
Grammatical points: irregular verbs in the present , indirect object
pronouns, 'gustar/parecer', pronouns used as object of a preposition.
Chapter 6 (De viaje) (first chapter with instructions only in
Spanish).Topics and functions: telling the time, days of the week,
months and dates, transportation and buying tickets, booking a hotel
room, holidays, the weather. Grammatical points: telling time and
asking when something happens, days of the week, the date and the
seasons, the verbs 'hacer', 'llegar' and 'salir', verbs followed by an
infinitive, formal letters (greetings and endings).
Chapter 7 (¿Y tú, qué haces?). Topics and functions: describing daily
routines, frequency of activities, writing informal letters. Grammatical
points: present tense of stem changing verbs (o>ue, e>ie, e>i),
reflexive verbs, more verbs followed by a preposition, expressions of
frequency, informal letters (headings, openings, endings).
Chapter 8 (Cuando era pequeño). Topics and functions: talking about
what you used to do, comparing people and places in the past,
comparing past and present, saying what people were doing at a
particular time. Grammatical points: forms and uses of the imperfect,
time phrases used with the imperfect, the verb 'soler'.
Chapter 9 (¿Te gustan estos zapatos?). Topics and functions: buying
clothes and presents, making comparisons. Grammatical points: word
stress and the written accent, comparatives and superlatives, verbs
combined with direct and indirect object pronouns, the adjectives otro
(a)(os)(as), and ¿qué?, ¿cómo?, ¿cuál?
Chapter 10 (¿Qué van a tomar?). Topics and functions: ordering a
meal in a restaurant, talking about preferences, saying how long you
have been doing something, asking if something is allowed, physical
and mental states with tener. Grammatical points: the present
indicative of 'poder' and 'tener', states with tener, direct object
pronouns, the personal "a", familiar commands and pronoun
placement, the passive and impersonal se.
Chapter 11 (¿Qué harás este fin de semana?). Topics and functions:
making and talking about future plans, making, accepting and refusing
invitations, and writing letters and using the telephone. Grammatical
points: expressions for talking on the telephone, uses of the gerund
and the present continuous, the future tense, uses of the
Chapter 12 (¿Qué te pasa? ¿Cómo estás?). Topics and functions:
parts of the body, talking about health and how you are feeling, talking
about problems and how to solve them, describing states.
Grammatical points: 'ser'/'estar', obligation ('deber', 'hacer falta').
Chapter 13 (¿Qué has hecho esta semana?). Topics and functions:
talking about what you and others have done, saying how long you
have been doing something. Grammatical points: present perfect,
direct and indirect object pronouns, negation, the
adverbs 'ya', 'todavía', 'aun', 'ni siquiera'.
Chapter 14 (¿Qué pasó?) Topics and functions: events in the past,
the order in which things happened, getting people to talk about what
happened to them. Grammatical points: the preterit, the preterit and
the imperfect, the preterit and the perfect, time expressions used with
the preterit and other past tenses.
Chapter 15 (Ya se había marchado). Topics and functions: saying
what happened and the circumstances in which it happened, telling
someone's life story, speaking of what had already taken place.
Grammatical points: stem-changing/irregular verbs in the preterit, the
Chapter 16 (Cuando llegue el verano...). Topics and functions: talking
about what you may do in the future, saying what might or might not
happen. Grammatical points: the subjunctive (the future, doubt,
Chapter 17 (Quiero que vengas): Topics and functions: describing
your ideal partner, apartment, etc., saying what you feel about things,
saying what you want to happen, telling others what to do.
Grammatical points: the uses of the subjunctive.
Chapter 18 ((No olvides la crema bronceadora!) Topics and functions:
giving instructions and advice, telling someone what not to do.
Grammatical points: polite affirmative commands (ud., uds.), familiar
and polite negative commands (tú, vosotros, ud., uds.), pronoun
placement with commands.
Chapter 19 (¿Qué harías?). Topics and functions: describing
hypothetical places, saying what you would do in a hypothetical
situation, reporting what was said or done. Grammatical points: the
conditional, the passive voice, 'ser' +past participle vs. 'estar' + past
Chapter 20 (Si fuera millionario). Topics and functions: Reporting what
you would do if..., giving advice, reporting what others wanted you to
do. Grammatical points: the imperfect subjunctive, conditional
sentences and the subjunctive, a checklist of when to use the
subjunctive, the indicative or the infinitive.
This textbook has some desirable qualities that are often absent in
beginning Spanish textbooks. The tips in the learner guide are
extremely practical, and point the student who takes the time to read
them towards out-of-class activities that can enhance the learning
experience. The tips for gaining linguistic awareness specifically
encourage learners to look for language patterns in Spanish, and to
notice patterns that are similar and different in their native language
Each chapter is headed by a Learning Aims section that explicitly
spells out the functions and topics of each unit. In this way students
are made aware of the specific objectives of each new chapter.
The earlier chapters in this book recycle material such as vocabulary
and grammatical points, thus providing the students with multiple
exposures to the same material. For example, to complete a writing
activity in Chapter 2 students must refer back to information contained
in Chapter 1. Chapter 9 uses clothing vocabulary to review noun-
adjective agreement, which is introduced in detail in Chapter 3.
Throughout, the book explicitly points out useful facts that students
too often do not learn until too late when they are already making
errors, for example, subject pronouns are used sparingly in Spanish,
mostly for emphasis or to avoid ambiguity; question words have
written accents on the stressed syllable; -o is generally masculine
and -a is generally feminine, but in addition, certain suffixes (-ción,-
dad) are generally associated with masculine or feminine gender.
Most of the readings in the book are authentic materials, either
adapted from or taken directly from Spanish language newspapers,
and in many cases they are followed by web addresses (e.g.
www.lamoncloa.es) that students can consult for further information in
the target language.
Despite these positive characteristics, this book is characterized by a
number of shortcomings that may not make it the ideal textbook for the
average U.S., college-age learner of Spanish. The authors purposely
used a standard presentation throughout the book. Material is
presented in roughly the same way, in the same order for the entire
20 Chapters, thus allowing for very little variety of presentation.
Especially in the more advanced chapters, much of the "contextual"
presentation of topics is accomplished through reading and listening
to dialogues or introductory texts while reading along and then
answering a series of questions. The book makes scant use of picture
stories or drawings.
The introduction states that the emphasis is on communication, but
merely doing activities in the target language is not necessarily
communicative. It is true that especially in the earlier chapters there is
a good variety of information gapping and describing activities, but
throughout the book, a number of functions are introduced exclusively
with fill-in-the-blank type or transformation exercises. In this way,
grammar exercises consistently find their way into the 'Presentación y
Prácticas' section, which is meant to introduce new structures and
vocabulary in context. For example, in Chapter 4 (p. 82) '¿Conocer o
Saber?' is a fill-in-the blanks exercise not based on any activity that
presents the concept in context. In Chapter 9 (pp. 174-5) comparisons
are not introduced contextually, but as a series of example sentences
followed by an exercise of the type: "El perro no
es...independiente...el gato." In Chapter 15 (p. 286), the function of
telling what had already taken place is introduced by a paragraph in
which students are asked to underline all verbs in the pluperfect
tense, followed by a transformation exercise of the type: Belén; "No
sonó el despertador."-->"Belén dijo que no había sonado el
despertador". Additionally, the book would be better organized if
the 'Consolidación' and 'Gramática' sections were combined into one.
The large amounts of grammatical information provided would be
easier to assimilate if each new point and sub point were followed by a
relevant exercise through which to apply the new concepts.
The order in which grammar points are introduced is somewhat
mystifying. For example, Chapter 1 introduces a host of grammar
points, including all the demonstrative adjectives and pronouns, while
the more basic definite and indefinite articles are not introduced until
Chapter 3. Indirect object pronouns make their appearance in Chapter
5, direct and indirect object pronouns appear together in Chapter 9,
and direct object pronouns appearing alone are first discussed in
Chapter 10. Chapter 8 is entirely dedicated to the forms and uses of
the imperfect, while the preterit is not mentioned until Chapter 14. It is
discussed again in Chapter 15. The remaining chapters introduce the
pluperfect, the present subjunctive, polite and informal positive and
negative commands, the conditional, the passive voice, and the
imperfect subjunctive. Thus, while the earlier chapters effectively
recycle vocabulary and grammar, the second half of the text
introduces a large number of grammar points in quick succession, with
little opportunity for repeated exposure or practice.
According the introduction, the book aims to develop a broad
awareness of cultural contexts in which Spanish is written and spoken
both in Spain and Latin America. It is, however, heavily tilted
toward Spain. For example, on p. 28, the book states that: "Lunch (el
almuerzo/la comida) is much later in Spain than in the English-
speaking countries." It does not then explain if this is true also in
different Latin American countries. Much of the vocabulary is clearly
inspired in Peninsular Spanish, with occasional explanations that
vocabulary may vary somewhat in Latin American countries (e.g.
clothing vocabulary, use of the verb 'coger'). Spain seems to be
painted in a more positive light than Latin American countries. For
example, in Chapter 3 one reading (p. 68) begins with: "Madrid es una
ciudad fascinante, cosmopolita, llena de vida." On page 70, the
reading on Latin America begins with: "Unos 100 millones de menores
viven y trabajan en las calles de las ciudades del mundo en
desarrollo. En América Latina hay cerca de 40 millones." In addition,
much of the realia and many of the readings are drawn from
Peninsular sources. For example, Chapter 6 (De viaje) includes the
following activities: '¿Qué trenes hay para Madrid?'
(dialogue), 'Estación de Atocha' (interpreting a train schedule from
Madrid to Sevilla), '¿Qué tiempo hace en Santander?' (a weather map
of Spain), 'Excursiones' ( a tour of Galicia), 'Billete de Tren' (a ticket
from RENFE, the Spanish national railroad). Travel destinations in
Latin America are only briefly mentioned in a listening exercise in
the 'Comprensión auditiva' section. Chapter 9, on shopping, uses the
floor plan of 'El Corte Inglés', the largest department store in Spain,
and in all the dialogues in the Comprensión auditiva section, all prices
are in euros. There are roughly 12 authentic readings in the text: 10
are drawn from Peninsular newspapers, including regional
publications like the 'Heraldo de Aragón', while only 2 come from Latin
American sources. There are three additional articles included in
the 'Comprensión auditiva' section, all from the Peninsular press. Of
an additional eleven readings not drawn from the press, eight are
about Spain, and three are about Latin America. There are three
maps of Spain, one detailing all the 'comunidades autónomas', and a
street map of Oviedo. There are two maps of Columbia, each showing
only Bogotá. There are no other maps of Latin America.
On the cultural awareness level, the book presents the additional
problem that some of the activities will not be relevant to U.S.
students, and many of the grammar explanations will appear stilted
because they use structures that are not usual in Standard American
English. For example, Chapter 5 explains that: "En España las horas
de las comidas son distintas a las de Inglaterra". If they are not the
same in England as in the U.S. such an explanation does little to
clarify what they might be in Spain. In Chapter 11, students are invited
to accept an invitation from the Spanish consul in Liverpool, and in
Chapter 14, they are asked to read a text and answer questions about
the experiences of a young Spanish woman during her first year in
Sheffield. Likewise, in Chapter 11 (p. 224), for example, the grammar
section states that: "Spanish sometimes uses the present where
English uses a future. ¿Quieres dejarme una libra? ¿Me dejas una
libra? Will you lend me a pound?" American English does not use the
future in this way, so the explanation may lead to confusion. There are
other such examples throughout the book.
It is laudable that this textbook pays attention to pronunciation and
phonetics, an all-too-often ignored area of foreign language study.
Nonetheless, the pronunciation sections are plagued with
inaccuracies that could have been corrected prior to publication by
consulting any good phonetics textbook (e.g. Teschner 2000). For
example, the explanation of diphthongs on p. 30 of the text
reads: "Vowels can come in twos or threes. They are not separate
sounds but nevertheless need to be pronounced clearly..." This is
patently incorrect. Diphthongs and diphthongs are indeed two or three
separate vowel sounds, but they do not occur in two or three separate
syllables. The explanation of strong and weak vowels is similarly
misleading, stating that "a", "e", "o" are strong vowels and "i", "u",
and "y" at the end of a word are weak. This is not so. All vowels are
strong in their own syllable (e.g. hijo, humo), and "i" and "u"
additionally are strong when they are stressed (e.g. ha-cia vs. ha-cí-a)
next to another strong vowel. The vowels "i" and "u" are only weak
when they appear unstressed in a single syllable together with a
strong vowel as part of a diphthong. More worrisome are the
suggested pronunciations for Spanish vowels (e.g. "a" as in "cat",
e.g. "casa," "o" as is American English "boat", e.g. "piloto", "u" as
in "moon", e.g. "club"), which will lead to pronunciations that should be
avoided in Spanish, characteristic of the complex vowel nuclei of
English. The "a" of "cat" is slightly higher and more fronted that the
Spanish /a/. Dalbor (1997: 141) suggests that it sounds like the vowel
in 'hot' in most American dialects, but that it is more open, tenser and
shorter in duration. According to Dalbor (p. 144) the Spanish "o" is
similar to the first part of the English complex vowel nucleus
(diphthong) in 'boat'.
This lack of attention to detail is evident at other points in the text. For
example, to express existence in Spanish it is usual to use the
verb 'haber' ('hay'), but not with the definite article ('un'/'una'). An
exercise on p. 62 asks: "¿Qué más hay en tu ciudad?". The prompts
appear as: "un buzón, la playa, la parada del autobús, la parada del
metro, el teléfono público", which will result in incorrect structures
such as: *"Hay la playa. *Hay la parada", instead of "Hay UNA playa.
Hay UNA parada.". Another example is to be found in the explanation
of indirect object pronouns. The grammatically unacceptable *"La
dependienta da el cambio a Luis", (without the use of "le") is used to
illustrate the concept of "to whom". Spanish uses both the explicit
indirect object and the pronoun together, so students who model their
output on the example given will produce structures that are
grammatically inaccurate in Spanish.
To summarize, this text is not quite as communicative, nor does it
create as broad-based a cultural awareness of the Spanish-speaking
world, as was promised in the introduction. In addition, it may not be
the most adequate text for a U.S. American audience without revision
of grammatical explanations to reflect usage in American English, and
of activities that may be culturally irrelevant for students who may or
may not be familiar with England and English customs and cities.
Finally, it contains some inaccuracies that may led to incorrect output,
which should be adressed before the publication of the second edition.
Dalbor, John, B. 1997. Spanish Pronunciation: Theory and Practice.
3rd Ed. Fort Worth, TX: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, Inc.
Teschner, Richard. 2000. Camino Oral. 2nd Ed. New York: McGraw