Spanish Memory Book

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Spanish Memory Book

A New Approach to Vocabulary Building

By William F. Harrison and Dorothy Winters Welker

Spanish Memory Book offers original mnemonic rhymes to assist in learning and remembering several hundred of the 2,000 most commonly used Spanish words.



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6 x 9 | 110 pp.

ISBN: 978-0-292-77641-8

Using mnemonics is an age-old technique for remembering names, numbers, and many other things. In Spanish Memory Book, William Harrison and Dorothy Welker offer original mnemonic rimes that are by turns amusing, ironic, pathetic, sentimental, and sardonic to help students and independent learners acquire and remember Spanish vocabulary.

Included are mnemonic jingles for 700 of the 2,000 most commonly used Spanish words. Each jingle contains both the sound of the Spanish word and its English meaning. The authors have included a general pronunciation guide to Spanish vowels and consonants.

This innovative approach, which the authors have used successfully with their own students, is simple, effective, and entertaining. In the words of one student, "This book teaches me not only Spanish words but English words as well."

  • To the Reader
  • How to Use the Spanish Memory Book
  • Conventions Used in This Book
  • Pronunciation
  • Vocabulary
  • Final Exam
  • Glossary

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In learning a new language, one of your first goals is to acquire a large stock of useful words in that language. The Spanish Memory Book is designed to help you learn Spanish words easily and fast and to recall them at will. It will enable you to recognize Spanish words when you see or hear them (passive vocabulary) and to recall these words when you speak or write Spanish (active vocabulary).

The Spanish Memory Book accomplishes this by means of mnemonic devices (memory helps. Mnemonic devices are not new, of course. They have been used for centuries. We still call upon them every day to remember names, numbers, and many other things. The mnemonic device sets up an association between a new word and old words that enables us to recall the new word. The mnemonic devices used in the Spanish Memory Book are rhymes that help you to remember both the pronunciation of the Spanish words and their English meanings. They fairly jingle the new words into your memory.

Research has shown, surprisingly enough, that the more far-fetched, even absurd, a mnemonic device is, the better it helps you remember. You will probably agree that many of the jingles in the Spanish Memory Book qualify for high marks in absurdity. You will have a good time learning and applying them.

The Spanish Memory Book contains about 700 words that were selected (with half a dozen exceptions) from the 2,000 most useful words in Spanish. (These words are listed in order of usefulness in the Graded Spanish Wordbook, compiled by Milton A. Buchanan, 3d ed. [Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1940.

Read the Spanish entry and the corresponding jingle, thus:

bailar: to dance
Buy larger shoes to dance in. Buy smaller pants to prance in.

The word to be learned is bailar, English "to dance." Incorporated in the jingle are English sounds that resemble the sounds of Spanish bailar. These sounds are buy lar and are printed in boldface type. Pronounce the boldfaced syllables carefully, making sure you pronounce them exactly as you pronounce them in English. Then note the corresponding English words ("to dance"), which are also incorporated in the jingle and are enclosed in a box.

Now look away from the book and ask yourself, What is the English word for bailar? Chances are you will come up at once with "to dance." If not, just read the jingle once more.

Shall we do another word?

frío: cold
Free old Tom from this cold world.
His day is done, his flag is furled.

Here English free o gives the sound of Spanish frio. The English equivalent is "cold."

And here is one more. Do it on your own.

barato: cheap, inexpensive
Bar Otto from this cheap canteen
Where fewer drinks than drunks are seen.

1. As far as possible, the jingles reproduce the exact sounds of the Spanish words. When exactitude is not possible, the Spanish syllables are approximated. For the fine points of pronunciation, turn to a Spanish textbook or to your Spanish teacher. A table of pronunciations is provided in this book as a convenient reference.

2. The English equivalent of the Spanish word may appear in a jingle in any convenient form. For example, a verb may be in any tense. A noun may be either singular or plural. The main Spanish entry (alphabetical) always gives the infinitive of verbs and the singular of nouns.

3. The gender of nouns is given except for nouns ending in o, which are usually masculine, or in a, usually feminine. Endings are given for adjectives that indicate gender by o and a.

4. To make possible the inclusion of many Spanish words containing the sound a (English hot, father), the Memory Book occasionally replaces this sound by one of two similar sounds: [schwa] (English about) or [symbol] (English caught). This liberty has been taken only in unstressed syllables.

5. In the jingles, a long dash indicates a change of speaker.

Note: The Memory Book is aimed primarily at helping you learn vocabulary. It cannot give conjugations of verbs or rules of sentence structure. To do so would reduce the number of words that could be included and would encroach on the territory of language teachers and grammar textbooks.

abajo: below,down
Ah, bah! José, don't look below.
Ignore the fear all climbers know.

abrazo: hug, embrace
A bra so snug
Invites a hug.

abrir: to open
To open the debating season Bob reared a monument to reason.

abuelo: grandpa, grandfather
Bob, wail obediently at Grandpa's grave.
Never admit you knew him to be a knave.

acabar de: to have just
Knock a bar they won't let ladies drink in.
That's the very thing I've just been thinkin'.

acaso: perhaps
Peacock, ah! So gorgeous is your train
Perhaps we can forget your tiny brain.
(But why do peacocks make me think of Jane?)

aceite (m.): oil
Pa, say tequila made that ugly spot.
Some olive oil will cure it, like as not.

William F. Harrison is Associate Professor of Spanish and Portuguese at Northern Illinois University. The late Dorothy Winters Welker was retired from the University of Illinois, Chicago.

"...this is an outstanding book. It kept me laughing for hours at the cleverness of the jingles.... there is no question about the potential henefits deriving from its use in acquiring Spanish vocabulary."
—Brian Stross, Associate Professor of Anthropology, University of Texas at Austin

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