468: 1001 Pitfalls in Spanish by Marion P. Holt and Julianne Dueber

by Gerard

468.2421: Holt, Marion P & Julianne Dueber. 1001 Pitfalls in Spanish. Hauppauge, NY: Barron’s Educational Series, Inc., 1997. 278 pp. ISBN 0-8120-9650-9.

Dewey Construction:

  • 400: Language
  • 460: Spanish and Portuguese languages
  • 468: Standard Spanish usage
  • 468.2: Structural approach to expression
  • 468.2421: Structural approach to expression for persons whose first language is English

As a kid growing up in Europe (I was a military dependent and spent almost the entire 1990’s overseas), I tried to learn the languages of the lands we lived in (except Turkish—it had a completely different structure than anything I was used to). French came first, with its flowing consonants and almost-constant sensuality. When compared to the German I had to learn five years later, it was, to me at least, the superior language. And like all things, primacy helps memory. I still have a lot more of my French than my German. But, coming from a foreign background, I had to pick up the local language is bits and pieces and muddled through many conversations. Many times, I simply translated my English thoughts word for word, causing unfortunate mix-ups in meaning and garbled communication.

The Barron’s language “Pitfall” series helps beginners work through the more difficult parts of a foreign language. From my brief search on Amazon, it appears that they have a book for Spanish, German, French, and even English (which, judging from a quick stroll around town, might be necessary for even so-called “native” speakers). Holt & Dueber’s 1001 Pitfalls in Spanish includes the basics, like how to conjugate verbs properly, but then moves into specialized problems, including how to deal with adverb-gender agreement and when to leave words out of colloquial phrases. Of great value is the section on the variations of Spanish, including Catalan, Galician, and Basque.

Now, I have never had to learn nor have I ever actually spoken Spanish (ironic, because I’m ethnically half Mexican), but I could understand the lessons nonetheless. There are traditional mistakes that English speakers make when trying a new language, and this book does a very good job of illuminating the idiosyncrasies of the Spanish languages. Needless to say, I would recommend it to an intermediate speaker of Spanish who needs to interact with native speakers on a regular basis.