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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
As all of you know, those of us whose Spanish was learned from textbooks in high school or college soon realize that we have only been taught a very formal, "official" version of a rich and subtle language. To native speakers, I imagine that we sound awfully stiff, not to mention largely ignorant of the actual day-to-day speech of real people.

I recently discovered Joseph J. Keenan's superb "Breaking Out of Beginner's Spanish," written by a ****** who has lived and worked in Mexico for decades. This book is a feast of "inside information" about the nuances of colloquial Spanish, covering a wide range of idiomatic usage and cultural tips that, once mastered, are sure to favorably impress any Mexican you relate to, formally or informally. Rather than give an in-depth review, I will refer anyone interested to the page on Amazon.com to read the nearly 150 glowing reviews by readers, including both Mexicans and gringos at various levels of proficiency. These reviews are spot-on -- this book is a gold mine.

I got my copy on Kindle for only $10, and believe it may be one of the most important investments I've made toward becoming a happy expat who has the chance to really be comfortable communicating with the people of Mexico. If you learned Spanish the way I did in school, this book is definitely for you.

Highest possible recommendation!
 

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As all of you know, those of us whose Spanish was learned from textbooks in high school or college soon realize that we have only been taught a very formal, "official" version of a rich and subtle language. To native speakers, I imagine that we sound awfully stiff, not to mention largely ignorant of the actual day-to-day speech of real people.
Actually, Mexicans tend to be very open and generous with foreigners who attempt to speak their language and don't make judgments about the way we use it. In most cases, they're just pleased that we make any effort at all to speak Spanish instead of expecting them to speak English. I'm not familiar with the Keenan book. Could you give us a few examples of the kind of information he offers to the novice Spanish-speaker? I would hope he doesn't encourage the use of slang and off-color language in an attempt to make you speak "real" Mexican Spanish. That could place you in embarrassing situations, depending, of course, on the Mexican company you keep!
 

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Funny how the human psyche works. I appreciate your thread, and can see myself adding this book to my digital bookshelf, however, it would be solely for the purpose of helping me understand what is being said. I can't come on board with using catchy phrases that I do not come by via natural evolution. If I do not culturally understand the meaning of a quip, I might as well be reading it aloud from the book and not speaking from memory. I am reminded of the three testicle toast from My Big Fat Greek Wedding. I, being the prototype ******, am OK if I am outed each time I open my mouth. I hope that some day I will be practiced in day to day quips that have been developed through the years, but, until then, I will have to limit myself to the basics I learn by study and street usage. Please don't take this as an indictment of your suggestion. It is not, rather, it is a simply a statement supporting the old different strokes philosophy.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Actually, Mexicans tend to be very open and generous with foreigners who attempt to speak their language and don't make judgments about the way we use it. In most cases, they're just pleased that we make any effort at all to speak Spanish instead of expecting them to speak English. I'm not familiar with the Keenan book. Could you give us a few examples of the kind of information he offers to the novice Spanish-speaker? I would hope he doesn't encourage the use of slang and off-color language in an attempt to make you speak "real" Mexican Spanish. That could place you in embarrassing situations, depending, of course, on the Mexican company you keep!
There's a short section on vulgar slang, but the author deosn't recommend using it, and he take great pains throughout to steer you toward proper usage of the colloquialisms. I will have to wait until I'm home after work to give you specifics, though.

Yes, Mexicans are more than forgiving toward gringos who at least make an attempt to converse. When I served on the board of the Mexican Cultural Institute of San Diego, my mainly Mexican colleagues affectionately called me "Miguelito," and when I asked why not Miguel, they said -- chuckling --"because you speak baby Spanish." (Board meetings were conducted in an uproarious Spanglish.) I currrently live in a city which has transformed from mainly black to mainly Latino in the past 15 years, and there are some excellent grocery stores carrying a wide range of Mexican products. I always speak rather clumsy Spanish at the meat counter and checkout, and after a few visits I began to get "a little extra" added to my orders. For Christmas last year, the butcher gifted me 3 pounds of my beloved chuletas ahumadas with a cheery "Feliz Navidad."

That said, why NOT learn how people really talk?
 

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There's a short section on vulgar slang, but the author deosn't recommend using it, and he take great pains throughout to steer you toward proper usage of the colloquialisms. I will have to wait until I'm home after work to give you specifics, though.

Yes, Mexicans are more than forgiving toward gringos who at least make an attempt to converse. When I served on the board of the Mexican Cultural Institute of San Diego, my mainly Mexican colleagues affectionately called me "Miguelito," and when I asked why not Miguel, they said -- chuckling --"because you speak baby Spanish." (Board meetings were conducted in an uproarious Spanglish.) I currrently live in a city which has transformed from mainly black to mainly Latino in the past 15 years, and there are some excellent grocery stores carrying a wide range of Mexican products. I always speak rather clumsy Spanish at the meat counter and checkout, and after a few visits I began to get "a little extra" added to my orders. For Christmas last year, the butcher gifted me 3 pounds of my beloved chuletas ahumadas with a cheery "Feliz Navidad."

That said, why NOT learn how people really talk?
That was a cute joke from your colleagues on the MCI, but, of course, calling you "Miguelito" was essentially a way of showing affection, not a negative comment on your Spanish.

How people "really" talk depends on many factors: geography, age, education, social class,and the social context of the conversation. That's why I tend to teach my students standard American usage, which will be appropriate in most settings and to most of the English-speakers they're likely to meet here or when they travel. I'm looking forward to hearing some specific examples from this book.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Funny how the human psyche works. I appreciate your thread, and can see myself adding this book to my digital bookshelf, however, it would be solely for the purpose of helping me understand what is being said. I can't come on board with using catchy phrases that I do not come by via natural evolution. If I do not culturally understand the meaning of a quip, I might as well be reading it aloud from the book and not speaking from memory. I am reminded of the three testicle toast from My Big Fat Greek Wedding. I, being the prototype ******, am OK if I am outed each time I open my mouth. I hope that some day I will be practiced in day to day quips that have been developed through the years, but, until then, I will have to limit myself to the basics I learn by study and street usage. Please don't take this as an indictment of your suggestion. It is not, rather, it is a simply a statement supporting the old different strokes philosophy.
No offense taken, Ken..."whatever floats your boat" is a good maxim to live by.
 

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As Isla Verde says, I'd be curious to know what kind of expressions he includes in the book. Can you give any examples?

For the last three years Spanish has been my daily household language so I am around it quite a bit and I tend to pick up many expressions simply through exposure but I still find that people chuckle when I use some expression that is too colloquial. I made my wife laugh just today at breakfast by saying "porfa" instead of "por favor".

People tell me that they like listening to my textbook Spanish, that it fits well with my mild accent (I didn't start to learn until age 42 so the accent is never going to go away completely). When I say something too Mexican or colloquial they say it jumps out and sounds funny.

I agree with Ken Wood that a book like this would be great to learn new expressions so you can mentally file them away for future listening or reading comprehension but care is needed when trying to include them in your own speech. Sometimes using them has the opposite effect and makes you sound even more "extranjero"!
 

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Learning a language as an adult, no matter the method, can lead to some "interesting" interactions.

My son in law to be, who teaches language in his native Italy, told me that my pronunciation was good, but my grammar is horrible. Not unexpected, as the bulk of the Italian I've learned is from listening to CDs, not talking to real people.

I took it as a compliment, anyway. :)
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 · (Edited)
As Isla Verde says, I'd be curious to know what kind of expressions he includes in the book. Can you give any examples?

For the last three years Spanish has been my daily household language so I am around it quite a bit and I tend to pick up many expressions simply through exposure but I still find that people chuckle when I use some expression that is too colloquial. I made my wife laugh just today at breakfast by saying "porfa" instead of "por favor".

People tell me that they like listening to my textbook Spanish, that it fits well with my mild accent (I didn't start to learn until age 42 so the accent is never going to go away completely). When I say something too Mexican or colloquial they say it jumps out and sounds funny.

I agree with Ken Wood that a book like this would be great to learn new expressions so you can mentally file them away for future listening or reading comprehension but care is needed when trying to include them in your own speech. Sometimes using them has the opposite effect and makes you sound even more "extranjero"!
Lol...I had no idea my enthusiastic little post would solicit frowning caveats.

The book doesn't teach you how to "talk like a native," nor does it replace hands-on learning. What it does is show you shades of meaning/emphasis among myriad related words and phrases which textbook learning doesn't cover.

As I suggested, it's very easy to check the reviews on Amazon to see what many, many others think about it, including native Mexicans.
 

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Lol...I had no idea my enthusiastic little post would solicit frowning caveats.

The book doesn't teach you how to "talk like a native," nor does it replace hands-on learning. What it does is show you shades of meaning/emphasis among myriad related words and phrases which textbook learning doesn't cover.

As I suggested, it's very easy to check the reviews on Amazon to see what many, many others think about it, including native Mexicans.
Some examples would be helpful and, perhaps, elicit cheers instead of caveats from some of us.
 

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LaMocha

There is an extensive thread on language which you can find by using the search button.

I have just started to use LaMocha, an online interactive service, which is very, very inexpensive. All you need is a headphone with a mike and you will find a community of language speakers to give you feedback.

Thanks for the tip about the book.
 

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My previous comment wasn't a caveat on the book - I didn't know really what the book was about.
My comment was a caveat on trying to speak too colloquially in your non-native tongue.

So, I went to Amazon the read some reviews of the book and a few of them do indeed give specific examples. It does sound like a really good book for an intermediate speaker to notch up their level. After reading the reviews I can see that the book is not about colloquialisms at all.

Some examples mentioned by readers (paraphrased by me):

1. If you wish to say "it doesn't matter to me", you use "me da igual" and not "no me importa".
I learned that one the hard way a few years back when someone explained to me that "no me importa" is very strong and basically comes off like "I don't give a flying sh*t". I learned this after years of saying "no me importa" all the time. Oops.

2. How to use the verb "quedar" in various ways.
Esa blusa te queda muy bien. (That blouse fits you very well.)
Las enchiladas no me quedaron. (A cook saying that his enchiladas turned out poorly)
Solo me quedan $50 pesos. (I only have $50 pesos left.)
Me quedo aquí. (I'll stay here.)

3. Use the subject pronoun only to give emphasis since the verb conjugation usually already makes it clear.

4. Natural sentence starters like "es que, resulta que, fíjate, la verdad es que, lo que pasa es que [generally followed by a good excuse]".

5. Classic false cognates like embarazada /embarrassed as well as other more subtle ones like "atender/asistir" versus "attend/assist".


All good stuff. I think I'm going to get it for my sister-in-law who is at the perfect level to take advantage of a book like this.
 

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Oh, yes, I've read this book and it is lots of fun. Every now and then when a Mexicano or Mexicana asks me "?como estas?", I will reply "todo marcha sobre ruedas". This catches the person by surprise and they will raise up their head and roar with laughter and instantly a friendly bond is created. I enjoy the book very much and refer to it from time to time. I wouldn't call it "essential reading" so much as "fun reading". :-D
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
My previous comment wasn't a caveat on the book - I didn't know really what the book was about.
My comment was a caveat on trying to speak too colloquially in your non-native tongue.

So, I went to Amazon the read some reviews of the book and a few of them do indeed give specific examples. It does sound like a really good book for an intermediate speaker to notch up their level. After reading the reviews I can see that the book is not about colloquialisms at all.

[Circle's examples from book, deleted]


All good stuff. I think I'm going to get it for my sister-in-law who is at the perfect level to take advantage of a book like this.
Thank you, circle...I just sat down to fulfill Isla Vista's request for examples, and you gave some good ones. Whew...it's hard to do this from a Kindle.

I do think that a lot of the book is about colloquialisms, but perhaps I don't know what the word means. I think of it as informal rather than academic language, usually with a regional component. And I do think a lot of that is contained in this book. I wonder if Castilian or Argentine Spanish uses many of the expressions found here, and if they do, are the meanings identical?

But I'm pleased that you went directly to the reviews -- saved me a lot of effort.

I think it's a great little book.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Oh, yes, I've read this book and it is lots of fun. Every now and then when a Mexicano or Mexicana asks me "?como estas?", I will reply "todo marcha sobre ruedas". This catches the person by surprise and they will raise up their head and roar with laughter and instantly a friendly bond is created. I enjoy the book very much and refer to it from time to time. I wouldn't call it "essential reading" so much as "fun reading". :-D
Fun for you...fun AND essential for me. As the Bible says, "Our Father's house has many mansions."
 
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