Cheat Sheet

Spanish Word Games For Dummies

From Spanish Word Games For Dummies by Adam Cohen, Leslie Frates

Solving word games and puzzles helps improve your Spanish language skills in a fun, effective way. You get even more out of the puzzles and Spanish vocabulary when you follow a few suggestions for solving and studying.

Retaining the Vocabulary You Learn from Spanish Word Games

Learning Spanish isn’t all about vocabulary, but learning vocabulary certainly doesn’t hurt. As you work through Spanish Word Games For Dummies, or any Spanish language course, use these tips to make sure your new vocabulary sticks.

  • Practice every day, during every opportunity that comes your way!

  • Look at your vocabulary words, read them out loud, and write them down.

  • Make your own flash cards and glance over them daily.

  • Put each vocabulary word on a sticky note and place it where you can see it regularly.

  • Use new words as often as you can — even if you have to steer the conversation to do so.

  • Double your results by learning words along with their opposites: lejos de/cerca de, izquierda/derecha, grande/pequeño, joven/viejo.

  • Repeat + reuse = remember!

Speaking and Listening to Improve Your Spanish

Even if you want to learn Spanish only so that you can read and write it, speaking and listening in Spanish helps you absorb the language effectively and efficiently. But talking in Spanish can be intimidating to beginners, and so here are a few tips to help you make the transition from Spanish rookie to proficient Spanish speaker and listener.

  • Read out loud to hear yourself speaking Spanish.

  • Get a practice partner (or two or three) and make the time to chat.

  • Seek out opportunities to interact with Spanish speakers so you get the chance to speak, listen, and learn.

  • Watch Spanish-language television — commercials, serials, newscasts, and so on — to hear good pronunciation and pick up on words you recognize to maintain the thread of understanding.

  • Buy a CD of Spanish-language songs. Read the lyrics in the liner notes and sing along to train your tongue and ear.

  • When watching a DVD, set the subtitles or spoken language to Spanish.

  • Relax and don’t be afraid to make mistakes; make every effort to keep talking and be understood, and do it with a smile!

Solving Spanish Crossword and Fill-In Puzzles Like a Pro

Whether you’re solving in Spanish or English, the main difference between crossword and fill-in puzzles is that fill-ins don’t have numbers, and so you have to figure out on your own where the answers go. Both crosswords and fill-in puzzles become easier when you have a few tips at your disposal.

To solve crossword puzzles, do the following:

  • Seek out answers that you know immediately and fill those in first.

  • After you enter the words you know, use the placement of those letters as hints to solve connecting words.

  • Put an S at the end of words that are clued as plurals.

  • Remember the theme, and think of or write down words you already know that are related to the theme and see if they appear in the clues.

  • Think of words in other languages — particularly other Romance languages — that you might already know that may be similar to those in Spanish.

To solve fill-in puzzles, use the following hints:

  • Look for words in the word lists that are of unique lengths; when there’s only one place on the grid that a word can fit, you don’t have to struggle to place it!

  • Note that shorter words may be easier to place in the grid because of fewer intersecting possibilities, but longer words provide more hints for the connecting words.

  • Keep track of the lengths of the words that you haven’t put in the grid yet, to help you figure out where they fit to complete the puzzle.

Finding the Answers in Spanish Word Search Puzzles

Word search puzzles commonly come in two flavors: the seek-and-find variety that includes a list of words you need to find, and the secret list variety, which describes a group of words and leaves figuring out the specific words hidden in the grid up to you.

To find the words in a seek-and-find puzzle, try these tips:

  • Scan the grid for the first letter of the word you’re looking for, and then when you have found it, look for adjacent squares that contain the second letter, and so on, until you find all the letters in the word.

  • Try to spot letters in words — not necessarily the first letters — that have unique properties or shapes that are likely to “pop out” at you. The Q, with its tail, is one good example.

  • If a word contains an uncommon letter, such as Z, Ñ, X, W, or K, try to spot that letter and look for adjacent letters to that one; less-common letters may be more likely to stand out.

Secret word list puzzles offer different challenges. To figure out what you’re looking for in this kind of puzzle, do the following:

  • Think of all the words you can that fit the theme. Writing them down helps you visualize them so that you more easily spot them in the grid.

  • Keep track of the words you find using the spaces that follow the grid to figure out the lengths of the remaining words in the puzzle.

Decoding a Spanish Cryptogram Puzzle

Cracking the code of a cryptogram puzzle (in which letters stand in for other letters) becomes easier when you know a few inside tips:

  • Remember that if one letter substitutes for another, it does so for all instances of that letter in the puzzle.

  • Not all puzzles contain all the letters, but every letter that does appear in a cryptogram puzzle will appear at least twice and in two different words.

  • If all the words in a cryptogram list end in the same letter, it could be R if the words are all verb infinitives, S if the entries are plural nouns, or O if they are all adjectives.

  • Review the important properties of Spanish spelling, such as the greater appearance of consonant-vowel alternations compared to English.

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