LINGUIST List 14.1890

Tue Jul 8 2003

Review: Applied Ling: Santamar303255a Iglesias (2002)

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  • Terri Greenslade, A Spanish Grammar Workbook

    Message 1: A Spanish Grammar Workbook

    Date: Mon, 07 Jul 2003 14:12:51 +0000
    From: Terri Greenslade <>
    Subject: A Spanish Grammar Workbook

    Santamar\303\255a Iglesias, Esther (2002) A Spanish Grammar Workbook, Blackwell Publishing, Blackwell Reference Grammars.

    Announced at

    Terri Greenslade, Indiana University, and J. César Félix-Brasdefer, Indiana University

    This workbook is intended to complement ''A Comprehensive Spanish Grammar'' (de Bruyne, 1995) and is designed as a practice manual for learners of Spanish at varying levels of proficiency, as well as a classroom resource for teachers and tutors of Spanish. The exercises in the workbook follow the sequence of the material in de Bruyne's Spanish Grammar and are cross-referenced with the detailed grammatical explanations provided therein. The book is organized in 22 chapters, each providing practice exercises related to a specific aspect of Spanish grammar, including: Pronunciation, The Article, The Noun, The Adjective, Numerals, Pronouns, Impersonal Expressions, The Adverb, Comparative Constructions, Prepositions, Constructions with Verbs and Nouns, Conjunctions, The Verb: Conjugation, Use of Tenses, The Passive, Use of the Moods, The Impersonal Forms of the Verb, Special Problems with Spanish Verbs, Subject-Verb Concord, Syntax of Negative Elements, Word Order, Affective Suffixes

    This workbook could be used independently by a fairly advanced, motivated learner as a means of reviewing and practicing grammar, or as an instructor's resource for supplemental grammar exercises for the language classroom for different levels of proficiency. The 500 exercises contained in the workbook have been coded according to their level of difficulty (elementary, intermediate, and advanced), and contain a variety of formats including mechanical exercises (e.g., fill in the blank, matching, sentence unscrambling, etc.), puzzles (e.g., crosswords, mazes, word find, etc.), and translation activities. At the end of each chapter, communicative exercises are included. Following the presentation of all exercises, there is a comprehensive answer key which allows learners to verify their responses independently. The usage norms in the workbook are largely those of Peninsular Spanish, but according to the author, some elements of Latin American Spanish usage have also been included.

    The main strengths of ''A Spanish Grammar Workbook'' lie in the number, creativity, and variety of exercises provided at various proficiency levels. Many of the exercises are suitable for use in classroom activities to supplement grammar and vocabulary practice. The fresh, creative approach of many of the exercises, especially the variety of puzzles, provides engaging and enjoyable ways for learners to interact with the language while reinforcing grammatical concepts. This workbook could be used by instructors as a valuable source of ready-made exercises which could be incorporated in the classroom or, alternatively, as testing materials. While the workbook's main audience is learners of Spanish as a second language, many of the intermediate and advanced exercises would also be appropriate and challenging for heritage speakers who wish to improve their knowledge of and proficiency in various subtleties of the Spanish language, such as: idiomatic expressions and complex grammatical structures, including word order, the use of complex tenses and mood, impersonal expressions, and prepositions.

    The language teacher who intends to use ''A Spanish Grammar Workbook'' should be aware of the limitations mentioned below. As previously mentioned, at the end of each chapter, the author has included ''communicative exercises'' which ''are intended to function as prompts to the oral and syntactical practice of the grammar in representative contexts'' (p. ix). However, if communication is to be understood as ''the expression, interpretation, and negotiation of meaning in a given context'' (Lee & Van Patten, 1995), then many of these activities do not appear to foster true communication. For example, on page 44 in the chapter on Numerals, one of the communicative exercises requires learners to ''Write or role-play a dialogue that includes the following measurements: 1 l., 100 gr., 1 kg., 12, 1/4 kg, 1/2, l.''. Similarly, in the chapter on Adverbs, another exercise instructs learners to ''Write or role-play a dialogue with the adverbs of time that you know. Check back through the chapter if you need help remembering them.'' (p. 81). These activities might indeed help learners practice the concepts they have learned in these chapters at the discourse level if sufficient contextual details were provided.

    While other communicative exercises do provide more contextual information, often the situational context is not described thoroughly enough to permit a productive exchange of ideas. Furthermore, many of the communicative exercises are aimed at eliciting oral or written language. Especially for learners with low proficiency levels, these activities may require the guidance of an instructor, thus making the workbook more suitable for high-intermediate to advanced learners who are better able to monitor their progress independently. Finally, it should be pointed out that of the 500 exercises contained in the workbook, less than 15% of the exercises focus specifically on advanced grammar (''complex syntax and sophisticated expressions'' [p. vii]). The majority of the exercises are intended to practice intermediate grammar (''standard conversational Spanish and communicative expressions'' [p. vii]).

    Given this limitation, students, language teachers, or tutors seeking additional exercises at the advanced level, or those seeking additional grammar explanations and practice with Latin American varieties of Spanish may wish to complement this workbook with the following resources: A New Reference Grammar of Modern Spanish (Butt & Benjamin, 2000), De la oración simple a la oración compuesta (Campos, 1993), and Gramática española: �nálisis y práctica (King & Suñer, 2001). Overall, Santamaría Iglesias' ''A Spanish Grammar Workbook'' is a valuable tool for students seeking to practice and review various aspects of Spanish Grammar that can be used over the course of the learning process. It is also a useful source of exercises in a variety of formats for instructors and tutors who are looking for creative ways to make the learning process more enjoyable and engaging for learners.


    Butt, J. & Benjamin, C. (2000). A new reference grammar of modern Spanish. Third Edition. New York:McGraw-Hill.

    Campos, H. (1993). De la oración simple a la oración compuesta. Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press.

    de Bruyne, J. (1995). A comprehensive Spanish grammar (Adapted with additional material by Christopher J. Pountain). Oxford, UK: Blackwell.

    King, L & Suñer, M. (2001). Gramática española: �nalisis y practica. Boston: McGraw-Hill.

    Lee, J. & Van Patten, B. (1995). Making communicative language teaching happen. New York: McGraw-Hill.


    Terri Greenslade is an applied linguist who specializes in Second Language Acquisition. Her main focus is the acquisition of Spanish by native speakers of English. Her research interests include input processing, word order, language pedagogy, and teacher preparation. Other interests include feedback in second language writing and maturational constraints on second language learning. Beginning fall 2003, she will be teaching in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese at Indiana University -- Bloomington.

    J. César Félix-Brasdefer <> is an Assistant Professor of Hispanic Linguistics in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese at Indiana University - Bloomington, specializing in cross- cultural and interlanguage pragmatics. His research interests include politeness theory, speech act theory, linguistic variation, and research methodology. He has investigated the pragmatic and sociolinguistic behavior of L1 and L2 speakers of Spanish, and is currently working on linguistic politeness in Mexican Spanish and the acquisition and teaching of pragmatics in the L2 classroom.