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Correct your Spanish Blunders

Those who have read Correct your French Blunders in the same series will be familiar with the concept of Correct your Spanish Blunders. The book takes a number of common grammar topics, offers a simple, practical explanation of the issue at hand, and then gives not only examples, but also what it calls blunders: typical mistakes (or at least, mistakes you should avoid) relating to that topic.

As with its French counterpart, Correct your Spanish Blunders generally offers simple, practical rules and advice for beginner to intermediate students. The book is split into three sections: a short section on pronunciation and spelling, a section on grammar, which forms the bulk of the work, followed by another short section on vocabulary. In general, the book covers a good deal of ground in a no-nonesense way, and if you're studying French to high school level and only buy one grammar book, then I'd generally recommend this one.

The grammar section in particular manages to cover most of the material you're likely to need at high school level, whilst still keeping its explanations compact and practical. Perhaps naturally, a large proportion of the grammar section is devoted to verbs. Each tense gets a chapter to itself, and is generally divided into sections for different use cases. Thus, the chapter on Present tense is divided into sections such as Stating Facts, Describing Action in Progress etc. A common format of these sections is for a small explanation to be followed by a "template" of English vs Spanish sentence pattern, followed by some translated examples, followed by a couple of "blunders". The explanations are generally short and to the point, although they do sometimes suppose a small amount of grounding in grammar. It will help you to know, for example, the meanings of basic grammar terms such as verb, noun, tense, transitive. As you might expect from a compact work such as this, the reader is expected to be able to work a little analytically with the language— in other words, for example, they're expected to be able to take a list of verb endings and, with fairly few examples, envisage how those different endings will be added to different verbs. Some, but certainly not all, learners may prefer the more "visual" approach taken by, say, Barron's 501 Spanish Verbs.

The final section on Vocabulary also includes various useful tables of commonly misunderstood or mistranslated words, and sections on various Spanish words that can be difficult for English speakers either because of a particular difference between Spanish and English (e.g. that in most dialects, Spanish gente is singular, whereas people usually acts as a plural), or some other grammar point, translation problem or other peculiarity of the word in question.

Overall, Correct your Spanish Blunders is an excellent resource for students up to an intermediate level of Spanish (including A-Level/SAT level in many cases). The main caveat is that, because of its highly practical, "unphilosophical" approach, it may not be suitable for more advanced learners. Just very occasionally, the book actually misrepresents the language in its quest for practical simplicity. For example, the tables of falsos amigos, in their enthusiasm for pointing out that, say, dirección and educación can mean address and manners respectively, fail to state clearly that these words are also normal Spanish words for "direction" and "education". Occasionally, the book's classification of a sentence as a "blunder" may also be misleading (as was a problem with its French counterpart). For example, the "blunders" El jefe exige que trabajemos and El guardia impide que entremos listed on page 168 are perfectly grammatical sentences of Spanish1. Surely, they don't quite fit in with the particular pattern of sentence that the author is trying to explain at that moment in time. But putting them in a category which on the whole is used for totally ungrammatical phrases and sentences is a little misleading.

Advanced students will also be missing a treatment of certain grammar topics such as the passive, a more extensive treatment of pronominal verbs, information on regional variation, or simply more "theoretical discussion" about grammar issues. For topics such as these, a work such as Butt & Benjamin's A New Reference Grammar of Modern Spanish would be more recommendable.

But overall, for beginner to intermediate students looking for a simple, compact and practical overview of Spanish grammar, Correct your Spanish Blunders is highly recommended.

Buying Correct your Spanish Blunders

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1. My informant also gave a "marginal" reading for "Sus padres prohíben que se casen" on the same page.

Review written by Neil Coffey. Copyright © Javamex UK 2009. All information in this review is provided in good faith and believed to be correct and representative of the work under review.