Yo puedo: para empezar
Elizabeth Silvaggio-Adams, SUNY Geneseo
Rocío Vallejo-Alegre, SUNY Geneseo
Copyright Year: 2021
ISBN 13: 9781942341802
Publisher: Milne Open Textbooks
Conditions of Use
This textbook for true beginners presents vocabulary and grammar generally covered during first semester Spanish (it's important to note that this covers only first semester material; it does not introduce past tense). The focus is heavily on... read more
This textbook for true beginners presents vocabulary and grammar generally covered during first semester Spanish (it's important to note that this covers only first semester material; it does not introduce past tense). The focus is heavily on vocabulary and grammar, and cultural information is fairly minimal. It is meant to be used in the "flipped classroom" format, with students studying the material at home and coming prepared to practice communicating in class. As such, it includes scaffolded notes and homework in the form of workbook-style activities. It is also meant to be used with a well-developed list of ancillary online materials such as videos (housed on a separate website) which provide vital auditory input. Appendices include glossaries and a list of objectives by unit, as well as a comprehensive index. However, a simple, concise list of exactly which vocabulary themes and grammar concepts are covered in each chapter would be a helpful addition to the table of contents.
I did not find any major errors or biases in the content.
Since the content is mainly focused on grammar and vocabulary, it will not become outdated easily. The links to multimedia materials are housed on a separate website and presumably could be updated there. The text was made to be used at SUNY Geneseo, so there are some references to Geneseo, which could easily be changed by users at other institutions.
The grammar explanations are very thorough and accessible – it is clear that they were written by experienced teachers who can anticipate students’ common questions and problem areas, and terminology is clearly explained. In a few cases, the unit objectives themselves could be rephrased for more specificity and clarity (for instance, “Understand some grammatical structures in Spanish to form sentences and questions correctly”).
The use of grammar terminology is a bit inconsistent in the beginning-of-chapter objectives lists. E.g., in Unit 4, two of the objectives are “Create sentences with both direct and indirect objects pronouns” and “Express activities related to daily routines and personal care” – one objective seems grammar focused and the other communicative. This wouldn’t be as much of an issue if the grammar topics covered in each chapter were listed somewhere, as mentioned above. Units are structured consistently; the list of objectives is given at the beginning and each section in the unit corresponds to one objective.
Each unit contains multiple sections corresponding with each unit objective, and those sections are further divided into presentation and practice activities, so the text is easily divisible. There is a lot of recycling of material, though, which could complicate reorganization. Given that recycling material is good pedagogy in language learning, I am not sure how this could be avoided.
The units are so big and contain so much information that I find it hard to stay mentally organized with this text (again, a simple list of what is covered in each chapter would help here). The large amount of recycled material is a good thing pedagogically speaking but contributes to the sense of “I don’t know what is covered where.” In the same way, the vocabulary lists at the end of the chapters are alphabetical and up to four pages long, which makes them overwhelming – it would be more user-friendly if they were grouped thematically.
In terms of topics, detailed information about accentuation (and also a list of 100 random cognates, from angel to pine to virgin) is presented in Unit 1, before students have even learned greetings, which are presented in Unit 2. The rest of the vocabulary and grammar is organized more or less consistently with how it is often presented at the elementary level.
There are no issues with the display, though I occasionally found the use of color coding in vocabulary lists and grammar examples to be a bit confusing. The text is a static PDF. It would be more user-friendly if it included navigational links and links to the online materials, instead of their being housed in a completely separate website.
Overall the grammar is correct, with the rare error (I noticed the missing preposition a in “aprendamos agrupar/pronunciar” in a few places in Unit 1). There are some minor punctuation and capitalization errors (e.g. "saludos Informales", p. 33; dónde/cómo missing question marks, p. 44; commas following a+pronoun phrases, pp. 54-56) that likely would not distract students and could be easily corrected.
Regional linguistic differences are often highlighted in the text; the discussion of regional difference in pronunciation in the first unit is excellent. The exception to this is that I did not see the use of vos mentioned anywhere. There is a detailed discussion in English of generalizations and stereotypes in Unit 4, as well as basic cultural information included in the form of brief readings in Spanish (a few examples of topics are Celia Cruz and naming conventions). While there is nothing in the text that is explicitly offensive, there is a lack of any discussion of the issue of gender and gender-inclusive language in Spanish (an absence underlined by the frequently used "girl with hairbow" and "boy with bowtie" clip art). The lack of images is also a missed opportunity to generate interest in the variety and diversity of the Spanish-speaking world.
This is a solid first-semester Spanish textbook in terms of grammar, vocabulary, and pronunciation, and the authors obviously put time and effort into its creation and the curation of its ancillary materials. It is well-grounded in ACTFL can-do statements, targeting novice students and walking them through the language step by step, with lots of encouragement and useful metacognitive strategies along the way. The instructor will need to supplement this text with additional cultural materials.
Table of Contents
- Unidad 1: Los sonidos del español
- Unidad 2: ¿Quiénes somos?
- Unidad 3: Mis planes
- Unidad 4: En mi casa
- Unidad 5: En la comunidad
- Verbs: Spanish to English
- Glosario Español
- Glosario Inglés
- Objetivos por unidad
About the Book
You have learned two words in a second language just by reading the title of the book. Think about that for a moment and reflect upon your prior foreign language experiences. Often, students enter language classes with previously acquired skills, be they from secondary school or another college. Many say, “I have studied Spanish for years and don’t know how to speak or write it,” while others are a bit anxious about taking a second language for the first time, but all are overwhelmed by the expensive textbooks and online packages that don’t seem to be practical or relevant. We sought to change these common complaints by creating materials that take a new approach to learning a second language based upon the skills that we deem most useful and that will enable our students to confidently express themselves in Spanish.The text is designed for beginning Spanish language students. The pedagogical approach incorporates the flipped classroom methodology.
About the Contributors
Elizabeth Silvaggio-Adams, SUNY Geneseo
Elizabeth Silvaggio-Adams and Rocío Vallejo-Alegre have been working together for 11 years, sharing their friendship and their passion for the Spanish language. They started at SUNY Geneseo teaching Spanish. Together they developed a series of 3 books, Yo puedo; Spanish for beginning and intermediate level students. Yo puedo, or “I can” in English, seeks to share the magic that the Spanish-speaking world offers while giving students the tools to communicate with others with confidence. In 2018 they started a program called “Learning English and Spanish TOGETHER” with the idea of breaking the language barrier by teaching English to migrant farm workers in Livingston County, helping them build a sense of belonging to the community. At the same time, the program created the opportunity for SUNY Geneseo students to practice their Spanish, develop teaching skills, and learn about other cultures as future global citizens. In summer 2020, with the goal of offering a sustainable program, a safe space for the continuity of English lessons and connecting families with community services, they decided to create a non-profit organization for this win-win program. In January 2021, Cultures Learning TOGETHER, Inc., the new non-profit organization, received the 501(c)(3) approval, a big milestone for TOGETHER. When you purchase their books, you also are part of this effort of building equity and inclusivity in the community as the royalties of the books are donated to “Cultures Learning TOGETHER, Inc”.