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Post A-Level Course

Faculty of Modern and Medieval Languages and Linguistics


Summer Preparation: Spanish

Your summer preparation must focus on both aspects of your future course in Spanish: the study of language and the study of literature, culture and history.

Language Preparation

It is vital that you work actively on your language skills over the summer. You may choose to take a summer language course or to spend time living or working in Spain or Latin America. Or you may simply make a commitment to watch Spanish-language television, listen to Spanish-language radio, and read newspapers in Spanish throughout the summer, ideally every day for at least 30 minutes. You should also review your Spanish grammar, especially if you have taken a gap year since your A levels and have not worked much with the language in that time. Your goal is to expand your vocabulary, improve your listening skills, and increase the grammatical accuracy and syntactic complexity of both your written and spoken Spanish, in preparation for your course at Cambridge.

Please note that you will be asked to take a diagnostic test prior to coming to Cambridge. (Information will be sent out in late August). The aim of this exercise is to assess your level of Spanish so that we can allocate you to the group that is best suited to you.

You will find suggestions for online resources here [link to: ‘Resources for Spanish students’ below], but if you prefer to work with printed books we recommend the following:

  • Gramática básica del estudiante de español (Barcelona: Difusión, latest edition) [For intermediate level. This grammar is also available in English from the same publisher: Students’ Basic Grammar of Spanish]
  • A New Reference Grammar of Modern Spanish, John Butt and Carmen Benjamin (London: Routledge) [Advanced level. All you will ever want to know about Spanish grammar; purchasing this book is not compulsory, but if you want to invest in a comprehensive grammar book that will support you throughout your degree, this is an excellent choice]. There is a workbook with answer key to accompany it: Practising Spanish Grammar, by A. Howkins et al.

Preparatory reading

In order to be ready for the rapid pace of SP1: Introduction to the Language, Literatures and Cultures of the Spanish-speaking World please read the following before the start of the Michaelmas term:

A. General introductory and background material

1.    Some general background on Spanish and Latin American literature (not exhaustive and further introductory and explanatory material will be available when you arrive in Cambridge).

§  Some good, basic (short) introductions include:

§  Jo Labanyi, Spanish Literature: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford, 2010)

§  Rolena Adorno, Colonial Latin American Literature: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford, 2012)

§  Roberto Gonzalez Echevarria, Modern Latin American Literature: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford, 2012)

B. Set texts for the first-year course ‘SP1: Introduction to the Language, Literatures and Cultures of the Spanish-speaking World’

It will help you feel better prepared if you are able to read some of the words you will study during your first year in advance of beginning the course. You will find that supervision texts may vary from college to college; nonetheless all Sp1 students will be asked to prepare material from each section of the paper. As a guide, you should at least read the asterisked texts below, but ideally more.

The Pre-Modern Condition (Section A of paper SP1):

  1. Medieval (narrative): Diego de San Pedro, Cárcel de amor
  2. Renaissance (narrative): Anon., Lazarillo de Tormes (anonymous)*
  3. Baroque (poetry): Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, Obras selectas

§  Recommended edition: Trueblood, Alan S., (trans), Juana Inés de la Cruz, A Sor Juana anthology with both Spanish and English versions, (Cambridge, Mass, and London, Harvard University Press, 1988).

The Consolidation of Modernity (Section B):

  1. Enlightenment (narrative): José Cadalso, Cartas marruecas
  2. Romanticism (narrative): Jorge Isaacs, María
  3. Realism (narrative): Emilia Pardo Bazán, Cuentos Emilia Pardo Bazán, Cuentos (a selection): ‘Un matrimonio del siglo XIX’ (1866); ‘El indulto’ (1883); ‘El encaje roto’ (1897); ‘Las medias rojas’ (1914)

§  Recommended edition: No single edition of any compilation of Cuentos includes all four of these texts, but all of these stories are very easily accessible online. The Taurus edition by Juan Paredes Núñez (1988) features a very useful introduction (in Spanish).

Modernism and Beyond (Section C):

  1. Avant-Garde (poetry): Federico García Lorca, Romancero gitano*

§  Recommended edition: Romancero gitano: edition by Madrid: Cátedra, by Allen Josephs and Juan Caballero (title is Poema del Cante Jondo; Romancero gitano), or edition by Herbert Ramsden, (Manchester University Hispanic Texts, 2008)

  1. The Twentieth-Century Novel: Mario Vargas Llosa, La tía Julia y el escribidor *
  2. Contemporary Cinema: Icíar Bollaín, También la lluvia (film) *

Section D – Linguistics:

In the linguistics lectures you will gain a good understanding of the Phonetics and phonology, morphology and syntax of modern standard Spanish as well as of selected varieties of Spanish such as US Spanish, Ladino, etc.

There is no set textbook for linguistics, but if you manage to find any of the books below in a local library they are all well-suited to the aims of the Spanish linguistics lectures:

Hualde, José Ignacio, Antxon Olarrea & Anna María Escobar (2001) Intro- ducción a la lingüística hispánica. Cambridge: CUP.

Muñoz-Basols, Javier et al. (2017) Introducción a la lingüística hispánica ac- tual: teoría y práctica. London: Routledge.

Pinker, Steven (1995) The Language Instinct. London: Penguin.

Pountain, Christopher J. (2003) Exploring the Spanish Language. London: Arnold.

Alternatively, please consult the following online resources:

• Portal de Lingüística Hispánica (Muñoz-Basols & Gironzetti)

VARIEDADES DEL ESPAÑOL (incluye audios/vídeos)


For further details of this paper, see SP1: Introduction to the Language, Literatures and Cultures of the Spanish-speaking World.