I have studied Spanish off and on for years. But, lately, I have gotten serious about it.
About ten days ago, someone recommended I take a look at Madrigal’s Magic Key to Spanish.
I just finished reading it about a half hour ago.
Here is a quick overview/review:
Author: Margarita Madrigal
Date I started the book: August 17, 2020
Date Finished: September 2, 2020
Why I read this book: One of my readers recommended it to me.
What I liked: This is the clearest explanation of Spanish grammar I have yet encountered.
What I didn’t like: I wish it had more reading. I wish it were structured more like Lingua Latina. But, you can’t have it all, as they say.
Would I recommend it? Without hesitation. If you are learning Spanish, learn the grammar from Madrigal’s Magic Key to Spanish.
Would I read it again? I have already incorporated it into my live Spanish classes. I will be reading it again and again.
And, here, in case you’re interested, is my longer review:
Honestly, I think I’d be closer to fluency in Spanish if someone had told me about this book years ago.
Years ago, I was ready to give up on Latin. I had read all the grammar-based approaches to the language. I felt I was no closer to mastering Latin. Every book just repeated the same old worn-out grammar-based approach. I felt like the authors were all repeating themselves. They would add their own favorite pictures of Rome, and another Latin grammar book was born!
I was ready to quit. I wasn’t getting it. My students weren’t getting it. We were all frustrated.
Then, I found Lingua Latina by Hans Ørberg. I have written about this book many times. Here is one of my posts on it: https://dwanethomas.com/a-16-year-old-reads-new-testament-latin-after-3-semesters/
Lingua Latina kept me from quitting. It kept me from going back into construction and property management… which is where I was headed. Studying Latin via Lingua Latina with Hans Ørberg was actually enjoyable.
Since discovering Lingua Latina, I have been on a quest. I have been looking for similar books for Spanish, French, Italian, Greek, and German.
I have not been very excited about a Spanish book for a long time. Perhaps not ever. I just have not been able to find what I have been looking for.
Now, first things first. I am not quite as excited about Madrigal’s Magic Key to Spanish as I was about Lingua Latina. Almost. But, not quite.
Here’s why. Lingua Latina is a novel, with Latin grammar explained in the clearest way possible. I have tremendous respect for those who can explain difficult concepts in a quick and easy manner. Hans Ørberg could.
Margarita Madrigal has done the same thing in Madrigal’s Magic Key to Spanish. She has explained Spanish grammar using the most simple explanations I have ever encountered in a Spanish book. If her book included a novel, I’d be just as excited about it.
That said, I am very excited about her book. She tackles Spanish grammar and breaks the concepts down into clear, simple, easy explanations. After reading this book, I understand things about Spanish grammar I have never understood.
Not only does she keep the grammar simple, but she also kept her book simple as well.
Have you ever been inside an elementary school classroom? Every time I walk into one I feel like the primary color wheel and the school laminator fell in love, got married, and started having kids. And, it turns out, the color wheel and the laminator were also rabbits. What I am trying to say is this… elementary classrooms are cluttered. They are distracting.
Most language books are, too. In the case of Spanish, there are pictures of chimichangas, piñatas, sombreros, Aztec pyramids, cathedrals, and if you are unlucky, Caga Tió… the log that poops gifts. If you beat it with a stick while singing to it. The point is, most Spanish books almost seem to be trying to distract you from learning Spanish.
Madrigal’s Magic Key to Spanish gets to the point. The author gives a quick, simple explanation of the grammar, and then throws the reader right into the work. The practice is highly repetitive. By the time you finish each chapter, you’ve got the grammar down.
There is something else I love about this book. The author spends her time teaching you the grammar you are actually going to use. I listen to Spanish radio a lot. Especially during election season. Not listening to American news during an election season is one of the wisest things an American can do, but, enough about that.
As I was saying, I listen to a lot of Spanish radio. Over the last ten days, as I was reading Madrigal’s Magic Key to Spanish, I noticed that I was hearing, daily, what I was reading about in the book. Today, as I listened, I noticed I was understanding more than I had ever understood. This book is practical.
Many language books get hung up on every tiny grammatical point. (I am looking at you, Latin books). That isn’t helpful. Imagine telling driver’s education students they would not be allowed to drive until they could label every single part of a car. Every part. The steering wheel, the gas pedal, the trunk, the hubcaps, the carburetor, the pistons, the crankshaft, the rear-wheel differential… and, at this point I no longer know what I am talking about.
The point is, you do not need to know the name and function of each and every car part to drive a car. You only need to know some basics. And, you need to know how to drive a car.
Madrigal’s Magic Key to Spanish treats Spanish the way we treat cars. I am sure there are grammatical points the author left out. That’s fine. You don’t need to know each and every grammar point to speak a language. In fact, after studying Latin for over 20 years, I would be willing to bet that memorizing each and every grammar point actually slows you down and KEEPS you from speaking the language.
Madrigal’s Magic Key to Spanish does not make this mistake. The book focuses on the grammar you need. The grammar you are actually going to use.
I finished this book today. But, I will be reading it again.
Years ago, when I picked up Lingua Latina, I figured I’d read it once and then move on. That’s what I did with most Latin textbooks. Because most Latin textbooks are the same. Instead, I read Lingua Latina again and again and again.
A few weeks ago, I ordered Madrigal’s Magic Key to Spanish thinking the same thing, Sure. I’ll read it. And, then, I’ll move one. The search for a better Spanish textbook will go on.
I don’t feel that way now. I am planning to read it again. I am also planning to incorporate it into any Spanish classes I teach. That being true, I imagine I will read it again and again and again.
If you are serious about learning Spanish, then you should read it, too.
If you are learning Latin, I have written a book with all of my best tips and strategies. It’s available as a free download here: https://dwanethomas.com/downloads/via-latin-lost/
If you are interested in learning Latin, you can go through the classes on my site 24/7. I recommend the book Lingua Latina by Hans Ørberg. If you tackle the book and find yourself bogged down, you may find the classes on my site helpful. To join, just click here: https://dwanethomas.com/join/
If you want a more professionally filmed experience, check out the best-selling DVD series: Visual Latin.
Or, if you want to skip Latin, and just jump right into learning English words from Latin and Greek roots, you may enjoy the series Word up! Warning. Word up! is a bit wacky. You will learn a lot… but, you may find yourself rolling your eyes, too.