Beginning Spanish ¡Empecemos por aquí!
Jenny Ceciliano, Portland State University
Lisa Notman, Portland State University
Copyright Year: 2021
Last Update: 2022
Publisher: Portland State University Library
Conditions of Use
I commend this text for its comprehensiveness. It is laid out in 3 units (meant for a quarter or trimester system) but these 3 large units (w/two subunits each) adapt to a semester system too. There is significant instructor support in a Google... read more
I commend this text for its comprehensiveness. It is laid out in 3 units (meant for a quarter or trimester system) but these 3 large units (w/two subunits each) adapt to a semester system too. There is significant instructor support in a Google Folder w/a "Begin Here" guide that answered most of my questions. There is also a "Detailed Course Schedule" to help get started as well as an Assessments folder to which you can request access.
They provide these versions of the text: printed, online, PDF, and Google-Doc for customization purposes.
Regarding grammar, the text covers all first-year grammar typically found in traditional textbooks and has some of the most relevant, engaging culture content I've seen in my 10+ years as a professor.
The language is accurate and well-explained; the authors state that they welcome feedback on any typos that an instructor might come across, but I did not see any. I also appreciated that the vast majority of reading passages have a link to accurate audio versions.
I give this book a 5 for the relevance of its chapter themes; each chapter's vocabulary is readily useful to adult learners and will provide them with a functional knowledge of Spanish from which to explore more specialized vocabulary in the Intermediate level.
The book also asks learners to explore and discuss their home city, Portland, with great frequency. This content needs to be adapted to your location if you choose to adopt this text.
Also, the longevity of the readings/videos is a much lower score, but that's a good thing. There are various inclusions from websites or Youtube videos; sources that are likely to change with time. I'd give longevity a 2-3, but to me that actually means that they've created a text whose relevance will engage learners. Updating materials yearly is a necessary part of teaching language well.
Grammar explanations are clear, and the directions given to learners about how to approach tasks in the four skill areas (reading, writing, listening, and speaking) reflect the principles of Communicative Language Teaching/Comprehensible Input Methods. Clear learning outcomes are also provided at the start of each unit.
Yes. Nothing to add here.
The text's modularity is appropriate to its purpose as a language teaching textbook.
The organization of grammar and chapter themes reflects the way most textbooks approach first-year Spanish. It also eliminates many of the extras these texts sometimes have, such as additional vocabulary or advanced explanations of infrequent grammar, which can distract learners.
It includes well-timed preparation for assessments throughout each chapter.
I do suggest that the "Detailed Course Schedule" (I reviewed Winter, 102) include more instructions on where to find specific exercises. For ex., Chapter 3 reads "Complete Vocab 3A and Homework 5-8". I was unsure where, exactly, to find these resources as I read through Ch 3. This document requires learners to watch the "Video Introduction to Spanish at PSU." Perhaps this info is included in the Video Introduction but I couldn't locate the link to it, either.
The PDF interface works well. In Chrome, I had to open audio/video files in a new tab. If I accidentally clicked on one, it took me to the file but then when hitting the "back" button I was returned to the title page of the PDF. It's a minor issue, but one worth mentioning as the book is updated.
All very well done.
This is stellar. Often first-year textbooks' culture content is touristy. This text provides interviews with hispanohablantes who are from varied racial and ethnic backgrounds. Learners respond to this content in English or Spanish prompts, according to ability level, but the stories told in the videos are engaging and relevant to daily life and to the cultural mix that happens in the US. Social justice issues are incorporated throughout and then directly discussed in the 103 module. I'll bet learners come away from this course feeling more informed and curious about how cultures interact in their communities; that is to say, I'll bet they're more interculturally competent than in a traditional course.
I am so impressed that I will be following up with my colleagues on potentially adopting this book for first-year Spanish.
I was hesitant to look at an OER because our current textbook has an online learning platform with tons of activities and it provides solid task-based learning. Nevertheless, sometimes all the extras distract learners, especially first-years, and there's a lot to be said for streamlining content and then requiring them to know it well.
This text is a good fit for instructors who feel weighed-down by the content load in their current book, and who are confident in their ability to supplement grammar practice if they feel the need. It is a great fit for a department looking to develop interculturally competent Spanish-speakers.
Table of Contents
- Chapter 1: La clase de espanol
- Chapter 2: Las personas y las perspectivas
- Chapter 3: La cultura y los viajes
- Chapter 4: La vida que vivimos
- Chapter 5: Nuestro pasado
- Chapter 6: El cambio y el futuro
About the Book
Beginning Spanish ¡Empecemos por aquí! focuses on the development of communication skills in interpretive, interpersonal, and presentational modes while centering student voices. Activities engage learners in real exchanges of information on topics that are relevant to adult students. In addition to language-acquisition learning outcomes, this text supports learning outcomes in diversity, equity, inclusion, cultural sustainability, and social justice.
About the Contributors
Jenny Ceciliano has taught language to adults for over two decades. She is currently a senior instructor II and coordinator of first-year Spanish at Portland State University (PSU). Her professional interests include language pedagogy, adult learners, open education, and Spanish phonetics and phonology. She holds an MA in Spanish (2006) and an MA in educational leadership and policy (2015), both from PSU. Her research has focused on postsecondary, continuing, and adult education, and in 2021, she began doctoral studies in educational leadership and policy. Outside of work, her greatest joy is time spent with her children, Michelle and Joey, and in nature.
Lisa Notman, coauthor, is an adjunct senior instructor of Spanish at PSU. She received BAs in English, Spanish, and arts and letters from PSU. She also completed an MA in Spanish (2017) and an MS in educational leadership and policy (2020), with graduate certificates in teaching adult learners and service learning and community-based learning. Her current areas of interest include social justice pedagogy, comprehensible input, and open educational resources. Outside of work, Lisa enjoys reading, hiking, and camping around the Northwest