Category Archives: Spanish texts

‘La Mujer sins Lagrimas’ by Mayra A. Diaz

LaMujerSinLagrimas

88 pages, alternating Spanish and English

Well, I’d been frustrated by Easy Spanish retellings of longer, classic stories that moved too quickly in a stripped-down fashion (for example, the Easy Spanish versions of  Alice in Wonderland and Don Quixote) but this book went to the other extreme with an excruciatingly slow story in much detail.

Sixty-five year old Ana, who has three adult sons and grandchildren, has been going from doctor to doctor, trying to find relief for her dry eyes that cannot shed tears.  Her son Paco finally takes her to see Dr Rodriguez, who quickly realizes that Ana’s inability to cry is more psychological than physiological. Eventually Ana divulges a secret that she has kept from her husband and family.

Actually, the level of this was just right. The chapters were long enough – about twenty lines in length – and they were followed immediately by the English translation. On the Kindle app on my tablet I was able to make the text large enough that the Spanish took up the whole page so there was no surreptitious cheating. The English version made you realize how choppy the tenses were (I hadn’t noticed in Spanish) or perhaps it’s a clunky translation.

And it was, at least, an adult story that actually captured my interest somewhat. It’s a rather low bar on these Easy Spanish books, I must admit. Anyway, this was quite good, considering.

 

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‘El Quijote’ by Miguel de Cervantes

elquixote

1602, this version 2014, 96 p. Adapted by J. A. Bravo

Now, I concede that reading this classic in a version suitable for 7 year olds might not do it justice, but I’m glad that I didn’t struggle through the 1000 page version in English either.  Fortunately this 96 page version finished at the end of Part I.

Don Quixote, or rather Don Alonso Quixano, has been addled by reading too many books about chivalry and decides to become a knight errant himself.  He persuades his neighbour Sancho Panchez to accompany him, and the two spend an inordinate amount of time on fruitless follies borne out of Don Quixote’s hallucinations, or fighting and falling on the ground.

I know that it’s famous for its antiquity and its foray into metafiction but, oh dear, in my baby Spanish it was just too silly for words.  It was a bit like reading Alice in Wonderland, where all the cleverness was stripped away in the process of making it easy to read. However, for language learning, the chapters were a good length, and it was fairly easy to follow.

I do concede that the book has survived four hundred years and that it has probably lost nine hundred pages in this version, so perhaps I should just reserve my judgment about the original!

 

‘El Sabueso de los Baskerville’ por Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

sabuesobaskervilles

Ah! This is the Sherlock Holmes I like. None of that Benedict Cumberbatch smart-arsery and supercilliousness.  Really, I think that the new Sherlock Holmes episodes are too post-modern for their own good.  Is that the fin of a shark I see circling?

jumpsharkgraph

This Sherlock Holmes only arrives at the end to announce his words of wisdom and solve the mystery in words simple enough for me to follow (even in basic-level Spanish)

You know, I don’t think that I’ve ever read the Hound of the Baskervilles before. Country houses on the moor; mysterious servants and neighbours and an eerie howl that pierces the fog in dark nights. What more could you want?

‘Cuentos de Edgar Allan Poe para estudiantes de espanol. Nivel A1’

poe

There’s a little test you can do of your language skill against the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFRL). “I’ll try that with my Spanish!” I thought, only to end up thoroughly deflated at the realization that I came out at level A1 – absolute, absolute beginner. Or as Wikipedia helpfully puts it:

He is able to understand and use daily expressions of very frequent use as well as simple phrases intended to satisfy needs of immediate type. You can introduce yourself and others, ask for and give basic personal information about your home, your belongings and the people you know. You can relate in an elementary way whenever your interlocutor speaks slowly and clearly and is willing to cooperate.

Well, on second thoughts, that’s about it.  Apparently this level takes approximately 100 hours of study and that would be just about right too.  (Actually, I’ve probably spent more time than that, so I must confess to being a laggard. I’ll blame my advanced age.)

So I downloaded Cuentos de Edgar Allan Poe for the princely sum of $2.04 AUD and found that, yes, it’s exactly the right level.  I had to look up about five words in each page, which was enough to keep me on my toes, but not so much that I felt overwhelmed.  I don’t know if the stories became simpler, or whether I improved as I went along, but it seemed that the later stories were easier to read than those at the start of the book.

It helped that I can’t remember reading any Edgar Allan Poe beyond, perhaps, in short story collections at school.  There were seven stories here: The Black Cat, Berenice, The Fall of the House of Usher, The Pit and the Pendulum, The Mask of the Red Death, The Facts in the Case of Mister Valdemar and Ligeia.  The whole book was only 68 pages in length, so each of the stories was relatively short. There were lots of deserted houses, ghostly women and glittering eyes and my favourite was probably The Pit and the Pendulum.  I did double check some of the stories in Wikipedia to make sure that I had actually understood them, and yes- they were abridged, but they captured the essence of the story with enough tension and mystery to make it worthwhile.

So, if you’re an absolute beginner too- this is $2.00 very well spent.

‘Alicia en el Pais de las Maravillas y El Mago de Oz’

aliciaenelpais

155 p.

I feel a bit as if I’m cheating counting Spanish books as ‘books read’ but – dang it- they take me as long to read as any 400 page novel, so count it I will! This book is not overtly aimed at the Spanish learner, in that it does not have vocabulary or questions at the back although its author information at the start seems to be aimed at an adult audience. The font is large, with a large illustration on the facing page, and the chapters are relatively short (i.e. a couple of pages). Of course, being Alice in Wonderland, strange vocabulary pops up and you think ‘Surely that can’t be right!’ but then you remember that yes, croquet is played with flamingos etc.  The Wizard of Oz story was easier to read because there was more repetition and the story followed a more conventional arc.

Does it work for me, reading a children’s book in Spanish? Yes, on one level, given that both are familiar stories which makes guesswork easier. But it certainly was a very abridged version, tracing plot alone, and in Alice in Wonderland particularly, it depended a lot on prior knowledge of the story with one event piled on another with little connection between them.  Come to think of it, though, that’s very much how Alice in Wonderland is, I suppose.

Source: Borrowed from my Spanish teacher Renato

‘Spanish Mystery Stories for Beginners: El Detective Pepe Sevilla’ by Alex Diez

pepesevilla

2016, 108 p.

Well, it may only be 108 very widely spaced pages, but it took me weeks to read! There were 60 chapters, each no more than two pages in length. And believe me, my Spanish is so rudimentary that one chapter a night was about all that I could manage.  Each chapter has vocabulary at the end of each chapter, with a special focus on colloquial expressions, of which there were many.

And the story? Well, surprisingly enough, there was one. Pepe Sevilla is a detective with his dog Kiko who is called to a luxurious mansion to investigate the death of a woman found at the bottom of a swimming pool. Her husband insists that it is suicide, but Pepe has his suspicions and gets to the bottom of the mystery.

It’s a pretty sparse text and I found that, in many ways despite (and because of) its brevity, it was more difficult to read than a newspaper article on BBCMundo because there’s no redundant text to help you guess the meaning of words.

I have the utmost admiration for anyone who ever becomes fluent in another language. Millions and millions and millions of people manage it so it must be possible, but it all seems a long way off yet.