I consider it to be an excellent tool for teachers of Spanish, both for teaching the language and also for practising and learning Spanish themselves.
Issue 35, March-April 2012, 46pp and issue 36, May-June 2012, 50pp
(Punto y Coma is an audio magazine, published six times a year, for intermediate to advanced speakers of Spanish. It comes with an printed magazine and audio CD.)
I had never come across the magazine puntoycoma, and it has been a great discovery for me. I consider it to be an excellent tool for teachers of Spanish, both for teaching the language and also for practising and learning Spanish themselves.
The magazine, aimed at learners of Spanish at different levels, comprises shorter and longer articles that cover very interesting topics such as: the arts, health, culture, society, anthropology, literature, books, cinema, and music. But the list does not finish here, as other appealing themes such as psychology, technology, travel and destinations, terrorism and war, plus interviews with and biographies of celebrities, are included. In addition, towards the beginning of the magazine, there is always a theme featured, one good for discussion in class, possibly a bit controversial (such as climate change or vegetarianism), which is already presented with a question for debate and a list of points, for and against, to aid discussion (also useful for a writing composition).
Some of the longer articles come with exercises for reading comprehension and even questions for oral practice (besides including useful glossaries), a total of between three and five exercises for each of these articles. As the magazine comes with an audio CD, with more than 60 minutes of audio, some of the exercises could be used as a listening comprehension instead, or even for a combination of listening and reading. The articles, and therefore the activities, come with an indication of the levels (rarely elementary, mostly intermediate or advanced, or a combination of these) for which they are to be used.
In addition, in each issue of the magazine there is space for a short story, with exercises including the usual questions and prompts for oral discussion, and an appealing page or two of ‘visual vocabulary’, which with the aid of drawings shows some vocabulary on a specific theme such as: Easter in Spain, or going camping. Puntoycoma is a rich mine of resources for the language teacher, particularly for A levels and universities and for conversational and cultural lessons.
Two more sections come with invaluable information on the language and offer exercises for the reader and for students: the first on colloquial language and idioms, the second on grammar. The former links to several of the expressions used in the various articles of that issue of the magazine, acting as a further section of explanation and then as reinforcement (through the exercises) of previous learning. The latter is not a dry and boring grammar section, and does not consist of strictly grammar items: the two issues I have read used this space for two (out of at least three) specific articles on proverbs and sayings.
The publishing company of this six year old magazine is based in Spain, but some of the articles are written in Latin American Spanish, so that the readers, on top of the Spanish version of the Iberian language, can also learn expressions used in other variations of Spanish, such as Mexican Spanish. The articles are generally very well written, appealing to the reader and above all very informative, often linked to current affairs and events. There is also a page at the beginning of each issue dedicated to correspondence from readers.
The CD is more than a simple CD where the sound of the texts present in the magazine is collected, you can hear music added and discussion of the current issue is enhanced by different and clear voices. As before with regard to the written text, in the audio tracks a variety of different accents can be heard such as: Spanish, Mexican, Argentinean and Cuban.
In summary, Puntoycoma, besides being a fascinating and useful magazine for learners of Spanish on its own, is also a great tool for the teacher of Spanish, as it contains plenty of interesting articles, exercises and the audio tracks. Between the longer articles, the short story, the grammar section and the colloquial language section, the teacher has in each issue seven sets of exercises and activities at his or her disposal, plus a myriad of other smaller and interesting articles that could be used in the classroom and are often a source for learning more about Spanish-speaking cultures and societies.
Glyndwr University, Wrexham
(Review appeared in Vida Hispánica Spring 2012 No. 45, The Association of Language Learning Journal for teachers of Spanish and Portuguese at all levels)
The beauty of this resource is that there are so many ways to approach it
Listening is the hardest skill to pick up when learning a language. You can speak and write at your own speed, making the best of your resources; and, as with reading, can pause and use a dictionary if need be. But with listening, you are at the mercy of native speed, idiosyncrasies, elisions, local accents and so on.
This until you have nailed the elusive words / phrases that have prevented your understanding of a whole passage. It attunes you to the rhythms of the language.
Beyond this, Puntoycoma classifies items by difficulty, it includes translations of some words in a glossary on most pages, and it has fairly rigorous exercises to test comprehension of text and understanding of grammar and vocabulary.
If your knowledge of the language is advanced, Puntoycoma is still for you: it presents the reader with a range of genuinely interesting, varied and up-to-date insights from Spanish-speaking countries. Travel, health, literature, society, history are all aired in items that are not linguistically watered down for a foreign audience. There are plenty of pointers to websites and to other reading where you can follow up on topics of interest. There is a page on contemporary language usage (slang?) and a section on grammar.
The format, both audio and visual, is distinctly user-friendly. The magazine has pictures and the CD has brief musical links, both of which help you ‘navigate’.
The beauty of this resource is that there are so many ways to approach it, depending on your proficiency. You can train your ear, drill your grammar, lift out phrases to learn, or simply settle down to update your knowledge of the culture of the Spanish speaking world. Whichever ‘way in’ you choose, the other benefits accrue.
Ian Blaikie, (ex Head of Modern Languages, Warley High School, West Midlands.)