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Spanish Verb Conjugator Book Reviews

"Conjugal Bliss. A trusted friend on the route to Spanish." –Nathalia Madera for Language Magazine, languagemagazine.com

"The Little Spanish Verb Book That Could"
–Steven Roll, t
ravelojos.com

"A 'safe haven' for the panicked student and a resource for teachers." –Jerry Curtis, Helium.com

"A ready instructional reference; thoroughly 'user friendly'" The Midwest Book Review

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Monday
Jul122010

Learning Spanish: 5 Reasons Why Rosetta Stone is Worth The Money

Rosetta Stone’s method of learning Spanish is to “unlock your natural ability to learn a language the same way you learned your first.” This approach meshes entirely with my own philosophy of learning Spanish. You should choose a method that resonates with your individual learning style and lifestyle. It's impossible for one program to meet the needs of all language learners, but Rosetta Stone comes pretty close in my opinion. It’s leaps and bounds beyond the classroom environment where ‘one size fits all.’ 

By the way, did you know that there really is a stone called the Rosetta Stone? It's a slab of basalt rock discovered in 1799 that was inscribed in three languages: Greek, demotic (whatever that is), and hieroglyphics (Ancient Egyptian writing and numbering system). The inscription of each language says the same thing, so it provided Jean-Francois Champollion the key to decipher Egyptian hieroglyphics. For the first time, he opened the door to the ancient Egyptian language. The term “Rosetta Stone” has since been used to describe something that is like a key to unlock a mystery. In my opinion, you couldn’t ask for a better symbol as a trademark for a foreign language program.

I have come across diverse opinions of the Rosetta Stone computer program for learning Spanish, and it seems every review eventually comes around to the price of the program. This has inspired me to share five reasons why I think Rosetta Stone is actually a pretty good deal because it accomplishes what other programs and classes for learning Spanish do not...

1. It’s a Comprehensive Spanish Language Program That is a Virtual Bargain Compared to Tuition

High school Spanish classes in public schools are free, but rarely do we emerge from high school fluent in a foreign language. If you are serious about learning Spanish, there will be an investment of time and money involved.

From my estimation, if you were to study for just an hour a day with Rosetta Stone’s computer program for learning Spanish, you would have a year’s worth of study included in levels 1, 2, and 3. Each level would take about four months if you went through each lesson. I’ve also read that each level of Rosetta Stone is equivalent to about one college semester.

You don’t want to know how much I ended up paying for college tuition to obtain my degree in Spanish. I went for the long haul, but quality Spanish classes or a tutor would cost you far more than Rosetta Stone’s levels 1 through 3. Note: you would be considered an advanced beginner at the end of level 3. There are two additional levels, 4 and 5, which would most likely bring you to the advanced intermediate level of proficiency.

2. It’s an Intuitive Spanish Language Program that fits individual learning styles

Content is presented visually, with and without accompanying text, through a trial and error selection process, so it becomes an intuitive program for learning Spanish. Vocabulary is gradually introduced through associating Spanish words with pictures. You start out with vocabulary words and work up to phrases and complete sentences as you build language skills through pattern recognition similar to native language development.

With a very thorough system for tracking your progress, you can focus on weak areas and skim over strong areas to individualize your program for learning Spanish. If you have studied Spanish before, you can enter the program to match your current skill level. Level 1 gets you going on the basics. Level 2 introduces conversation, and then Level 3 pulls things together and picks up the pace. It’s a cumulative effect like all skill-building processes.

3. All 4 Language Skills are included: Reading, Writing, Listening, and Speaking 

To develop your listening comprehension skills in Spanish, Rosetta Stone uses native Spanish speakers in their audio and video if you have the newest version (3). By using a microphone that is provided to plug into your computer, there's a voice recognition feature to help you develop speaking skills through proper pronunciation. That’s pretty close to having a private tutor!

Reading and writing skills are incorporated through basic exercises that focus on a combination of skills. Just about any language program for learning Spanish incorporates reading and writing, but very few, if any, can offer the necessary guidance and attention to developing your pronunciation and listening comprehension skills as Rosetta Stone. 

4. It’s a Spanish Language Program That Includes Immersion

Like the way we learn our native language, Rosetta Stone is designed to teach Spanish without any translation into English. This provides immersion in the target language which is the ultimate goal of any language program for learning Spanish.

The immersion element of Rosetta Stone’s program for learning Spanish is like the foundation of language skills we received at home before we entered school to learn to read and write. It is replicating the natural way we learned our native language. But I want to be clear that I also believe it is important to supplement (add to) Rosetta Stone with materials that help you understand language structures (See #5 below).

5. It Provides a Natural Foundation to Build On

Rosetta Stone provides a foundation to learning Spanish through proper pronunciation, listening skills, and conversation. There will come a time, however, when you will want to dig into some grammar to start organizing Spanish language patterns. That is one complaint I have heard about Rosetta Stone, it can be almost too natural. 

I suggest supplementing Rosetta Stone with some reference materials, and at some point you should introduce a beginning reader. (See my previous blog post about the benefits of reading to advance your language skills: Reading is The Glue That Makes it All Stick Together.)

Grammar is introduced in the third level, but at any time you can supplement the Rosetta Stone program with reference materials: a Spanish-English dictionary, a Spanish verb guide, and possibly Spanish vocabulary flash cards. I also like those laminated Spanish grammar summaries that outline the most important grammatical topics. You could keep that handy as you progress through the lessons. See my recommended reference materials in the widget to the right (as you scroll down). You can supplement however you choose and rest assured that the Rosetta Stone program for learning Spanish provides a solid foundation that is closest to the way you learned your native language.

Payment Options for Rosetta Stone

Rosetta Stone provides a 6-month 100% money back guarantee only when you buy the software directly from them. They also offer a test drive option so you can see what it's like before purchasing. Here's the direct link to Rosetta Stone to access these options and where you will also find descriptions of each level (Note the Test Drive option is under the "How It Works" tab):

Rosetta Stone Spanish Language Learning Program

They really make it easy to try before you purchase, and you even have an ample window of time to get reimbursed if you don’t like it. There’s no denying they are a foreign language industry standard in the fields of education, government, and homeschooling. It comes down to quality, and history proves that Rosetta Stone is the best computer program available if you are serious about learning Spanish. You can use it as a self-study program or to really enhance and augment your Spanish classes.

Perhaps negative feedback about the price of the program is a sign that one is not entirely ready to follow through with learning Spanish. Putting the idea of learning Spanish into a plan of action is a commitment, and like all important decisions in life–they usually come with a price tag.

Through Amazon.com you can save over $20 on Level 1; or $50.00 on Levels 1-3; or $70.00 for Levels 1-5, you can choose one of the Spanish Software Packages available below for the most economical prices; you will also qualify for free shipping (Note that in exchange for the savings, the money back guarantee will not apply if you order through Amazon.com):
 

Rosetta Stone Spanish (Latin America) Level 1 with Audio Companion 

Rosetta Stone Spanish (Latin America) Level 1, 2 & 3 Set with Audio Companion

Rosetta Stone Spanish (Latin America) Level 1,2,3,4 & 5 Set with Audio Companion


Tuesday
Jun292010

Latin American Musician Spotlight: Alejandro Lerner

I am continuing to peruse the nominees and winners of the 2009 Latin Grammy Awards to learn more about popular Latin Music and Latin Musicians.

I select the artists and songs that I like and that provide good examples of the Spanish language in context through the song's lyrics. So far, the songs that are easiest to understand in Spanish for beginners are love songs or ballads.

Here's a link to a previous blog post which describes the way music can play an important and entertaining part in learning Spanish: 2009 Song of the Year 

Now, onto the spotlight artist, Alejandro Lerner. He is from Argentina and has been a successful Latin musician since the 80's. I found a biography you can link to which describes quite an impressive professional resume. He has maintained success for decades: Alejandro Lerner Biography from Artists Direct

Alejandro has also composed music for other artists, in many cases for the Latin market in the U.S., and produced award winning music for television. He has collaborated on albums for Paul Anka, Celine Dion, and the popular Latin musician, Luis Miguel. 

If my translation serves correctly, I found an interesting tidbit of information on a Spanish blog: he recorded an album in 2003 of children's songs which was only sold in gas stations in South America. The proceeds went to La Fundación Hospital Garrahan.

His album, "Enojado" (Angry) was recorded in 2007 which featured various guitar players from bands of other famous musicians such as Sting, Jeff Beck, and Eric Clapton. His song, "Verte Sonreir" (To See You Smile) from this album was nominated for 'Song of the Year' in 2009. Here is the YouTube video embedded below with a link to the Spanish lyrics for your learning and listening pleasure.

"Verte Sonreir" Spanish lyrics by Alejandro Lerner

 

Tuesday
Jun292010

When Learning Spanish: Don't Forget Reading is The Glue That Makes it All Stick Together

Do you remember how you learned to read in English?

There are four skill areas of learning Spanish or any language: listening, speaking, reading, and writing. When we learn our native language, the order these skills are acquired is first through listening to our family speak the language, and then we learn to speak by modeling their speech patterns. We then go to school where we learn to read and write.

We enter kindergarten with basic communication skills in our native language, but we still need to learn the alphabet, the calendar, colors, and of course the social skills involved in communication (sharing information with others). By first grade, we learn how to spell words and read short sentences which then leads to developing our reading skills. These are the basics. Once the foundation is built, it's just a matter of time as our natural abilities and instincts grow and develop through elementary school.

I like to compare learning Spanish to how we learn our native language, but it isn't a typical experience to have our family model Spanish for us unless we grow up in a bilingual home. The sequence of acquiring the four skill areas in Spanish will be different, but if we want to master the Spanish language we can’t forget to leave any of them out. Reading tends to be the forgotten language skill in our race to learn to speak Spanish.

Are you learning how to read in Spanish?

You should ask yourself how you are incorporating each of the four skill areas in your current program for learning Spanish. Your advancement in any language depends on expanding your vocabulary through reading and writing. As a result, your listening comprehension skills and speaking abilities in Spanish will improve also. The four language skills are interdependent.

In a beginning level Spanish class there's a lot of basic vocabulary building going on with nouns, adjectives, and the kindergarten basics (numbers, letters, colors). And of course there is the complicated system of verb conjugation in Spanish. It’s all rather overwhelming.

The best way to put it all together and see how the puzzle pieces fit is through reading. And just like the elementary readers we started with in English (“See Dick and Jane run”), we need to start with elementary Spanish readers.

I know this important piece was missing in my Spanish education and I suffered for it. And I also know that it was very challenging to find resources for my high school Spanish classes that guided reading in Spanish for my students, and they suffered for it. It is a missing link in secondary foreign language classes as we push students through to meet their “2-year” college entrance requirement.

If you do continue with a foreign language in college, that‘s where you will feel the absence of your reading skills. Besides slowing down the process of learning Spanish, writing papers and reading literature in Spanish will be double the challenge.

How can you start learning to read in Spanish?

I remember trying to use children’s books in Spanish as a way to get started with reading, both for myself and my students, but they were often difficult to understand also. This was exactly the case when my daughters were starting to learn to read in English. I couldn’t just give them one of our children’s books and say, “Here, let’s read this.” They needed to start with books specifically written to help the first-time reader.

Readers will have basic vocabulary and use minimal verb tenses. The level of difficulty will gradually increase to build reading skills. And then the important reading comprehension questions develop writing skills. Once we acquire reading skills, reading material then serves to teach us about culture, history, and literature. What you’re reading becomes just as important as learning how to read it.

My recommendation for you: an ‘Easy Spanish Reader’

Recently I found a recommendation for a Spanish reader and I wanted to pass it along so you can get started reading in Spanish. It’s called “Easy Spanish Reader: A Three-Part Text for Beginning Students” by William T. Tardy, published by McGraw-Hill. It’s designed for beginners, and it starts out with very basic Spanish. By the end of the book it incorporates the past tenses.

There are three sections with activities and reading comprehension questions. The first section is about two high school students in the U.S. that are in a Spanish club. It helps to build confidence in reading. The second section is an overview of the history of Mexico featuring famous historical personalities. The third section is an adaptation of a well-known piece of Spanish literature.

This ‘Easy Spanish Reader’ accomplishes in one book what reading is meant to provide: culture, history, and literature. After I first heard of this reader on Facebook, I went to Amazon.com to learn more about it. There are a lot of wonderful reviews that endorse the book. I was impressed with one in particular that said this reader helped launch her skills in Spanish which eventually lead to a degree in Spanish and Portuguese.

To make it super easy for you, here is a direct link to Amazon.com and the 'Easy Spanish Reader':

I must say that The Spanish Verb Conjugator would be an excellent companion to the ‘Easy Spanish Reader’ especially for referencing the past tenses in the third section. As I remember in college, I needed a dictionary and verb reference when I came upon words I didn’t know. Like my verb guide, the ‘Easy Spanish Reader’ is designed to bridge the learning gap for beginners.

As you increase your reading skills in Spanish, which is inevitable if you continue to read, you will then be able to read newspapers, magazines, blogs, as well as important literature in Spanish. Reading ultimately takes us beyond our intellectual boundaries and contributes to the collective intelligence of all human beings. It’s pretty important stuff. That’s why you see promotional material encouraging young people to read more, our evolution depends on it.

Thursday
Jun102010

Spanish Verb Patterns: The 'Secret Formula' to Spanish Verb Mastery

Recently, I was fortunate to receive a book review for The Spanish Verb Conjugator from Jerry Curtis. Jerry is an educational writer with a lot of experience spanning education and serving as a military translator. I came upon one of Jerry’s Articles (under his pen name Curt Smothers) on the web site Bright Hub: The Hub for Bright Minds. His article is an excellent overview of Spanish verbs, specifically how to approach them when you are overwhelmed in the beginning. It is written for Spanish teachers; however, I think it can apply to students as well. Here’s a direct link to that article:

“Learning Spanish Verbs: A Method to the Madness” by Curt Smothers on brighthub.com

As Jerry explains in his article, he encourages his tutoring students to look for patterns in verb stems and verb endings as a way to manage the daunting task of learning how to conjugate Spanish verbs. When you learn a specific Spanish verb pattern you can apply it to any verb of its kind that comes your way. By finding the Spanish verb pattern, you can predict how it will “behave.” It’s similar to formulas in science and math. By the way, there are about 50 common irregular Spanish verb patterns of the verb stem. There are a few extra that are rarely used. 

Although educators like Jerry and I find Spanish verb patterns interesting and compelling to learn, not everyone else does. But the funny thing is, once you achieve a basic level of proficiency, Spanish verb patterns become more obvious and you kind of know naturally how to apply them. It does take some time, though, it doesn’t happen overnight.

Until that natural instinct takes hold, I have felt inspired to provide support to beginners: to bridge the learning gap and provide symbolic “training wheels” for Spanish verb conjugation; to have everything beginners need in one place, in one verb guide, explained in very basic terms. 

The inspiration for my Spanish verb guide came to me in one entire vision (the whole book), so wiithout realizing it until the book was finished, it turned out to be instructional in many ways. It is definitely divided into two distinct reference areas: for regular verbs and for irregular verbs. Here’s an outline:

(Before I go further, I want to review some basics to avoid possible confusion. There are two main groups of Spanish verbs: regular and irregular; and there are two parts to every verb: the stem and the ending.)

3 Ways to Learn Spanish Verb Patterns

1. Regular Spanish Verbs

Identifying the two parts of every verb is the absolute starting point for learning Spanish verb conjugation: to learn how to find the verb stem and one of three possible verb endings: “ar,” “er,” or “ir.”

Instead of providing a long list of common regular Spanish verbs conjugated on verb tables, The Spanish Verb Conjugator provides regular verb endings on what you could call “regular verb endings' reference templates.” There is a regular verb reference template for each verb ending: Regular -AR Verb Endings, Regular -ER Verb Endings, and Regular -IR Verb Endings. Below is an example chart of the Regular -AR Verb Endings' reference template from The Spanish Verb Conjugator:

Any regular verb stem can be applied to the correct verb ending to conjugate a regular Spanish verb, but before you even use a reference template, you have to have made the decision that the verb was in fact regular (not irregular). By the way, if you don’t know, which is expected in the beginning, you can use the indexes to verify if the verb is a regular verb or not. 

So in this way of referencing Spanish verbs, you are training yourself through repetetive usage to learn which verbs are regular or irregular. If the verb you are referencing is irregular, you can then proceed as described under No. 2 below. 

The beginner is literally guided to make one decision that leads to another. With repetive practice, this decision making process will become a little faster each time as Spanish verb conjugation skills develop and become second nature. Just like my analogy of “training wheels” on a bicycle, the beginner needs that support and confidence in the beginning as they work towards independent practice.

An added bonus of using regular verb endings' reference templates is that it eliminates a large number of verb charts, therefore eliminating the bulk of a clumsy text. This makes it easy to carry while you are applying your Spanish skills in the real world where true integration takes place. 

2. Irregular Spanish Verbs

There are actually 3 main groups of Spanish verbs within the irregular verb category: stem-changers, "spell-changers" (the name I use for this group), and a group of around 28 various irregular verbs that are individually unique. There are some verbs that belong to two of the three groups at the same time.

Irregular Spanish verbs are irregular because there is a deviation (of spelling) in the verb stem of most subjects when conjugated. Irregular verb stem patterns occur primarily in the present and preterit tenses. Note that the verb endings stay the same whether a verb is regular or irregular, but there are some Spanish verbs in the group of 28 individually unique irregular verbs where the verb endings also deviate from the norm in the preterit tense only.

Furthermore, a stem-changer will have one of only 3 possible stem changes when conjugated; spell-changers will have a variety of spelling variations when conjugated (more than 3). The group of 28 various irregular verbs doesn’t follow any consistent pattern, they are individually unique in their deviation.

Did I lose you? As I mentioned earlier, teachers and linguists are interested in comparing and observing irregular Spanish verb patterns, but the average beginner is not. That is perfectly fine because irregular verb pattern recognition will naturally evolve as the result of repetitive verb modeling.

Without having to dissect Spanish verb patterns, the beginner, as well as the intermediate level student, can rely on The Spanish Verb Conjugator until irregular verb pattern recognition takes place. It is similar to how we learn our native language. We adapted to the grammatical structures as our family modeled them for us.

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Monday
May242010

'The Spanish Verb Conjugator' is a 2010 Next Generation Indie Book Awards Finalist

What are the Next Generation Indie Book Awards?

The following excerpt from the Indie Book Awards web site (www.indiebookawards.com) explains the awards:

"The Next Generation Indie Book Awards" (the “Indie Book Awards”) is an awards program for independent publishers and authors worldwide. The Indie Book Awards was established to recognize and honor the most exceptional independently published books in 60 different categories, for the year, and is presented by the Independent Book Publishing Professionals Group (www.IBPPG.com) in cooperation with Marilyn Allen of Allen O’Shea Literary Agency. It is the only awards program of its kind because cash prizes and/or awards and maximum exposure are given to the top 60 books selected."

Why is exposure so important to Indie Books?

With breakthroughs in computer technology in the past decade, it is possible for Indie publishers and authors to publish their work without a major publishing house. Although this by no means makes it easy with the standards of professional publication firmly in place. It almost makes the publishing market more challenging with the competition growing exponentially.

Many quality books never get the attention they deserve because there are hundreds of thousands of books released each year in the United States alone. According to Bowkers’s Books in Print database, more than one million new titles were projected to be published in 2009, of these 764,448 were “non-traditionally” published books including self-published titles. Publishing professionals don’t have the time or resources to review all of them. This makes it nearly impossible to get your book in front of the right people for exposure in the publishing industry and in front of the consumer.

How do the “Indie Book Awards” operate?

All books are judged for their content in 60 different categories; such as, Children’s, Business, Education, Fiction, Health, Multicultural, Self-Help, etc. The judges include expert editors, writers, and publishers in the book publishing industry. This is the first year, after much consideration, that the number of finalists was reduced from up to 10 in each category down to 3 (in some cases there appears to be a tie for a finalist placement). As a result, the winners and finalists named in “The Next Generation Indie Book Awards” truly are considered to be “the cream of the crop.” The following link includes the roster of winners and finalists of the 2010 Next Generation Indie Book Awards:

Winners and Finalists of the 2010 Next Generation Indie Book Awards

What does this Indie Book award mean to “The Spanish Verb Conjugator”?

In very good company, “The Spanish Verb Conjugator: The Beginner’s Guide to Mastering Spanish Verbs” has been selected as a finalist in the Education/Academic category. As a title in the education/reference genre with a first-time author and independent publisher, it made the cut. Now, it literally has a seal of approval as a sign of a quality educational product. Along with other promotional efforts, it’s that extra “something” that provides confidence to the consumer in a crowded marketplace. This nod will undoubtedly strengthen publicity efforts in the future.

What does this Indie Book award mean to me?

For me personally and professionally, I consider it to be one of my greatest accomplishments. I embarked on this endeavor so many years ago. Had I known what I know now about publishing, I’m not sure I would have done it on my own. But maybe like a lot of things in life where we are full of blind hope in the beginning, we may not experience the journey knowing full well what lies ahead. Many times when I considered giving up, I felt I had invested too much time and energy to turn back. Here’s an excerpt from Steve Weber’s “Plug Your Book: Online Book Marketing for Authors” that sums up perfectly what I discovered:

“Imagine spending months or years putting everything you know into a book, polishing every page to get it just right, and just when you thought you were finished–surprise! Now you have to learn everything you never wanted to know about book publishing and marketing.”

Whether a book is self-published or backed by another publishing house, unless you are famous, book promotion weighs heavily on the shoulders of the author.

For the record, my verb guide manuscript and book proposal made it through the doors of a major publishing company that I won’t name; they were very interested, but in the end they pulled out. After searching for about a year for another publisher without any “luck,” I decided to dive in and do it myself. I established Roche Publishing as a sole proprietor in order to publish my book.

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