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4.6 out of 5 stars
Madrigal's Magic Key to Spanish
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134 of 136 people found the following review helpful
on 17 July 1998
Learning Spanish should be fun and easy. If not, the odds are that you'll get frustrated and never learn this fantastic language.
Madrigal's Magic key is trully "magical." The book simply is entertaining and a very easy read. It makes learning Spanish fun and not a chore. The book gets the student right into the language without all those complicated rules. The emphasis is on buidling your confidence and establishing a Spanish vocabulary quickly without pain. This is accomplished based on your knowledge of English. For example, she teaches you the tricks of converting english nouns into verbs. The result is that you're not memorizing verbs but focusing on applying simple rules to building a large spanish vocabulary quickly and maintain conmfidence.
The book would truly be outstanding if it combined more exercises (writing) with her "See It and Say it in Spanish" book which is great also.
This is not a book that you'll read and forget a! ! bout. The second and third time I read it increased my comprehension significantly. My ownly regret is that I found this book after spending alot of money on books that only frustrated me, were virtually useless and definitely too much like work.
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83 of 85 people found the following review helpful
on 19 March 2002
I absolutely love this book. If my first encounter with it had been in a store though, I might have put it back on the shelf quickly. At first glance, it looks dated and lacks the glossy colour pages and multi-media bells and whistles of most self-study materials today.
As I first came across it on Amazon though, I was influenced by the consistently glowing reviews, rather than my own shallow prejudices.
One review here poses the question, why haven't other language teachers caught on to this method? I would say that Madrigal's approach is broadly similar to that used by Michel Thomas in his equally valuable cassette/CD based course. (If you're interested in that, I'd strongly recommend buying the full course and not just the 2hr introductory version). Both of them take the approach of introducing the language via cognates, which encourage you to feel that you know some Spanish already. It is a great way to engage the student who may be doubtful as to their own abilities to learn another language.
The other significant similarity is that they both passionately believe in the student actively "creating" the language for themselves, rather than learning things parrot fashion. The latter approach, as I can attest from my time at school, means that you are likely to retain very little of the language and even less of your enthusiasm to study it.
I've been amazed at how different the study of Spanish seems using these resources, compared with how things were during secondary education. Back in those dark days, it was all rote learning of vocab lists and endless verb conjugation drills. You still have to learn the structure of the language using Madrigal's book and/or Thomas' cassettes, but in both cases the process is fun - you're not introduced to the language in a dry manner, devoid of application. You find yourself doing something which is stimulating, creative and confidence-building. How different from that sense of banging one's head against a brick wall.
As I say, I'd highly recommend the Michel Thomas course. However, some people - myself being one of them - may be a little disconcerted with it being audio only and would appreciate a text to consolidate their learning. Madrigal's Magic key is excellent for that purpose.
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95 of 98 people found the following review helpful
on 2 October 2004
This is basically a grammar book so you will need to look elsewhere for vocabulary and usage. I used this book in conjunction with other more readable grammar books such as Shaums Outline Grammar to help get me up to intermediate level.
Pros:
1. I like the idea of teaching verbs by starting with the Past Tense. It's so mush more useful and you can start constructing more meaningful conversations sooner.
2. There are a few chapters at the end that handle the subjunctive pretty well.
3. It is very example driven. There are plenty of exercises and practice with the answers available immediately so no leafing to the back of the book.
4. The price. It's worth having for £7.
Cons:
1. The layout is very cramped and dull. Surely it could have spruced up a bit to make it a bit more readable. There is no need for this book to be 450 pages long if the layout was improved and the book edited.
2. The book is overly verbose and there are far too similar many examples of conjugations. The examples are often overly simplistic. It should be enough to give the rules of conjugation for standard, stem changing and then the irregular verbs in each tense. Shaum's Outline Grammar manages to condense the same information into less than ten pages of an appendix!
3. There is a lack of everyday usage information for particular verbs.
4. This book teaches South American Spanish. If you are going to Spain after using this book you might get some funny looks. It sticks to Usted rigidly and omits the Tu conjugations. All the exercises and answers are in Latin American Spanish throughout. Examples include 'boletos' instead of' billetes',' tomar' instead of 'coger' (not that you would use 'coger' in Mexico!), 'estacionar el auto' instead of 'aparcar el coche' and so on.
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65 of 68 people found the following review helpful
on 5 June 2003
I bought this book largely because of the glowing reviews it has received on Amazon.
However...the method of learning is good in theory, but the crowded layout and endless lists of words are so poor, you get bored of looking at it. Also, depth and good explanations of grammar structures are too thin at the expense of keeping things simple.
Having said all that, for picking up a few sentences and getting the gist of some grammar structures then it is useful.
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43 of 46 people found the following review helpful
on 27 March 2002
I love this book! It starts with a very positive introduction and goes on to explain that an English speaker already knows hundreds if not thousands of words in Spanish and it gives you the rules that unlock this 'magic key' to Spanish. It then moves on to teach you grammar in a very novel way, none of the boring conjungations that had to be learnt by rote when doing languages at school. She starts with the past tense as this is how we speak to friends and then moves through much of the essential grammar required to Speak, Read and write Spanish.
I would recommend this book to all beginners in Spanish. If it has got a downside it would be the layout, which is now dated (it was written in the early 1950's with Andy Warhol as the illustrator). I wish the Magic Key to French and German were still in print as I have made substanital progress with my Spanish using this book, the method obviously works.

Since I wrote this review, over 10 years ago, I have managed to obtain reasonably priced copies of the French and German Magic Key books, both are excellent and if you can find them at a reasonable price buy them!

There are recordings to accompany the series but they are as rare as hen's teeth. If anyone ever finds a copy please let me know.

If you listen to Michel Thomas first Total Spanish with the Michel Thomas Method (Michel Thomas Series), then read Magic Key as you will be able to pronounce all of the words, afterwards get Sandberg's 'Spanish For Reading' Spanish for Readingyou will be very effective in Spanish and save a fortune on the ineffective materials out there.

Os deseo buena suerte!
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31 of 33 people found the following review helpful
on 6 January 2006
I've bought a number of books to learn Spanish but this is the one I have methodically worked through whilst I dip in and out of the others.
It paints broad brush strokes of words you already know and rules of thumb to help with the feeling of progress during the tougher initial days.
The list based approach reinforces learning by building and translating sentences on a slow but well pitched learning curve.
The only downside of the book is that tu and vosotros forms aren't covered until the end - but this means that concentrating on the main 4 conjugated verb endings makes it easier to conjugate quicker by having to remember less. Tu is then pretty simple as you have a good grasp of Usted endings.
Thoroughly recommended, especially for the price.
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42 of 46 people found the following review helpful
on 22 August 2003
This book makes learning Spanish easy. I have never come across a book with such an innovative and unique approach, it removes all the confusion out of learning a language. The way the lessons are presented makes retention of important grammar simple. I have learned so much from 'magic key' and I return to it again and again - I have bought many other Spanish books but none compares to this one. I absolutely recommend it.
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
After trying to learn Spanish for 30 yrs I have succeeded. This book makes it so easy. Why havent other language tutors cottoned on to this method. I can speak, read and write in Spanish now. The best buy I,ve ever made.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 11 February 2012
Simply an excellent book -well set out and logical. I find it difficult to learn a language -this book has given me a solid base , easy to understand -cant recommend it enough!
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on 17 January 2008
I bought this book following the good reviews it's received here. However, despite many attempts to use it, I have found it just cannot maintain my interest. Most of the chapters have huge long lists of similar words and it's near impossible to stop yourself from just scanning quickly down these without really taking them in (at times it looks like a dictionary). You then get to the short exercises and the chapter is complete. Yet I felt I had learnt nothing.

I am also using the Michel Thomas method which is excellent, but this book which some have said is similar just doesn't work. Yes it follows a similar path, but it doesn't intergrate things together anywhere near as well. I am really enthused about learning Spanish and have given this book several goes, but it is just not for me and doesn't engage my brain in the same way Michel Thomas does.
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