Jun 01 2004


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Spanish is the easiest language on the planet for Americans to learn. Americans know more Spanish than any other language simply because of their proximity to Mexico and, to a lesser extent, the Spanish-speaking nations of the Caribbean. There is even a whole Commonwealth, within the United States that is primarily Spanish-speaking, Puerto Rico. Many areas in the Southern portion of the United States, from Los Angeles to Houston and all the way to Miami, are fast becoming predominately Spanish-speaking.

We all grew up surrounded by Spanish culture. Most of us remember Speedy Gonzalez cartoons, with ¡ándale, ándale… arriba, arriba! Some of us even watched Sesame Street in Spanish and have learned to count to ten: uno, dos, tres, cuatro, cinco, seis, siete, ocho, nueve, diez. We have all picked up a few cowboy Spanish terms from watching old Westerns like laso, burro, and hacienda. Further more, most Americans frequent Mexican restaurants. Do you think that a person from Great Britain, New Zealand or Australia has any idea what an enchilada, gordita, or taquito is? Some of us even use words borrowed from Spanish in our everyday speech – words like comprende, momento, and even no problema.

The first step to learning Spanish is to realize how much of it you already know. This book will get you speaking Spanish fast by getting you to use those Spanish words you are already familiar with and teaching you a bunch of new ones known as cognates that you will recognize instantly as related to similar English words.

There is some drudgery involved. While Spanish vocabulary is easy for Americans to pick up, and while the sound and rhythm of Spanish are pleasing to the American ear, the truth is that Spanish grammar is a bit more complicated. For instance, the Spanish language is notorious for having a complex and challenging past tense.

We are going to teach you little tricks to get around those difficulties. After all, the goal of this book is to get you speaking as quickly as possible. It’s not going to be the prettiest or most grammatically correct Spanish in the world, but it will get you by! This, of course, is precisely what you need on your vacation to a Latin American country.

How to use this Book

This book is for English speakers in the United States who have a desire to learn a small amount of conversational Spanish very quickly. It is for individuals who have had some Spanish training in the past, perhaps a year or two in high school or college, and for “newbies” who have had no prior formal exposure to learning the language.

This book has been created specifically for individuals who are planning a vacation to a Spanish-speaking country. But it is also helpful for businessmen and women who are traveling to Mexico, the Caribbean, Central or South America. It can be used by entrepreneurs and other professionals who have a need to communicate with Spanish-speaking clients or employees here in the United States. Even those who want to learn Spanish for academic reasons or for pure personal enrichment, will get a lot out of this book. The book has been broken down into various sections so you can easily find the material you are most interested in learning.

It is strongly recommended that you supplement this book with frequent listening sessions of language tapes and CDs. It is also recommended that you seek to immerse yourself in Hispanic culture here in the United States before embarking on your vacation.

Dondero’s Language Learning Journey

Dondero has mastered over 20 languages and has learned survival skills for another 20 or so.

His language learning journey started in the Navy. He picked up some Spanish survival skills as a sailor during port calls in Spain, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines. At first, these were mostly drinking terms, words needed to haggle with shopkeepers and, of course, words needed to help him meet pretty Spanish-speaking ladies. Later, while attending college, he took some Spanish courses as electives. This brought him to a basic level, but he wanted to go all the way.

After 6 to 8 years of difficult, yet self-determined study, he had only reached the advanced level. His method of study included studying the same textbooks over and over, memorizing textbook glossaries, spending countless hours listening to language tapes in the car and lots of Salsa, Tejano, and Latin Pop music. But, most important in his quest to learn the Spanish language, were frequent trips to the border.

Finally, he headed to Mexico for 3 months to teach English at a well-known college in Tampico. This extended period of total immersion in a Spanish-speaking environment pushed him over the top to full fluency.

Reaching the top, becoming totally fluent, was a tremendous achievement. Dondero would encourage anyone to follow the same path. But the amount of effort and time he invested in order to gain fluency in Spanish was enormous.

Since his experience with Spanish, he has acquired accelerated learning methods and techniques that have helped him to drastically reduce the amount of time it takes to learn a language. What follows are a few of his secrets.

How to Learn Another Language Quickly!

Learning another language is not an easy task. However, there are shortcuts and even a few tricks that can be employed to make the job a little easier. If you learn these shortcuts and the few tricks before you embark upon your language learning journey, you will save yourself an enormous amount of time, money and effort.

Dondero did not learn his other languages in the same manner. Before he ventured into learning other languages he invested some time reading books on language learning methods, accelerated learning, advanced study techniques, and brain development. For his next language – Italian – he cut the language learning time in half. For French and Portuguese he cut the time it took him to learn Italian by half. Since then, he’s been able to learn other major world languages to a median level of fluency in about a year.

So, what are the shortcuts?

Build Your Vocabulary

here is a core group of about 50 to 100 essential words in any language that should be mastered right away. These words include prepositions, question words, a few adjectives, and select nouns. Learn these words and you will eventually be able to understand many other words through context.

Memorize Vocabulary Words

Word lists should be memorized and then reviewed many times over. Saying the new words out loud, rather than just reading them silently, helps greatly. Word association, imagining an equivalent word in your native language, can also be helpful. Flash cards might seem a little low tech but they are quite effective tools for this. Even Post-it Notes placed on household items with the vocabulary word listed can help. To gain maximum retention the vocabulary list should be reviewed daily for a week or two and then again weekly for at least 4 to 5 weeks.

Always Read Aloud

Don’t just read new phrases and vocabulary silently to yourself. Read aloud. Studies show that this helps you retain new vocabulary at a much faster rate, plus it helps with pronunciation.

Don’t get Bogged Down by Grammar

Let’s be honest, grammar is a dry subject. It can be an absolute incentive killer. So, just start out with a brief overview of prepositions, definite and indefinite articles, singulars and plurals, adjectives, and most importantly, pronouns. Put off learning conjugation for verb tenses until later on. Just learn enough grammar at the start to get you by. If you make mistakes no big deal. Native speakers can understand what you are saying 90% of the time through context.

Study Phrase Books

Always carry a phrase book with you for the targeted language you are learning. Study it at every opportunity including standing in line at a grocery store, waiting on a train or bus, over your morning cup of coffee, or while relaxing in the yard.


Immerse yourself in the language learning experience and you will learn much more quickly. Look for every opportunity imaginable to use your language skills. The best way, of course, is to physically go to the country where your targeted language is spoken. We cannot stress enough how critical an element this is, even if it’s for a very short amount of time. Look for any excuse to travel to a country where your targeted language is spoken. The next best thing is to visit an area in your city or town where the language is spoken. Hang out at cafés, libraries, malls, bars, and other locations and engage foreign language speakers with simple conversation. Make friends with native speakers. Invite them over for dinner or a few drinks. Tell them that you want them to speak to you only in their native language. Date a native speaker. The absolute best way to immerse yourself quickly is to find a boyfriend or girlfriend who speaks the native language you are trying to learn.

Watch Television and Movies in Your Targeted Language

These days television programming is available in a whole range of languages over satellite and on cable. Watch them for an hour or two every day and try to pick out familiar words and phrases. Additionally, try to mimic the tone and accent of the speakers. Go to a local video store and rent movies in your targeted language. Have a 2-hour vocabulary review session before you watch the movie. It’s even better to watch each movie more than once.

Listen to Music with Lyrics in Your Targeted Language

Give your native music a rest for a short while and experiment with some music from the country of your targeted language. Many of the national bookstore and CD store chains now have excellent World Music sections. Listen to stations and programs on the radio in your targeted language. You can tune in to some of these stations on-line.

Listen to Language Tapes

Purchase some language learning tapes and listen to them as often as possible. First, read the accompanying booklet to get a feel for the vocabulary and grammar. Then, listen to the tapes while relaxing at home, while driving to work, on a Walkman when jogging or while working out, and even while in the shower. Be a maniac with the tapes. Don’t just listen to the tapes in your easy chair or in your car once a day. Listen to them around the clock. You need to listen to the tapes about 15 or 20 times before they really start to sink in.

Take Computer Language Courses

Whether on-line or through a software program, computer language courses provide good visualization for learning vocabulary words.

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