Noche Oscura en Lima – Preface

Noche Oscura en Lima is a beginning reader, offered for second-semester college and second-year high-school classes. Its authors have attempted to write an interesting mystery story, embodying many of the idioms of highest frequency and a basic vocabulary. The setting is present-day Peru. In the development of the plot, which has its beginnings in Lima and Callao, we go by airplane, with interesting glimpses of the countryside, to Arequipa; thence by train to Cuzco, ancient capital of the Inca Empire; and finally on foot into the lofty Peruvian Andes.

The vocabulary (excluding numerals and proper names) contains the first 1,000 words of Buchanan’s Graded Spanish Word Book, plus 67 from the next 100. In addition to these there are only 127 words, of which 26 are cognates. The total vocabulary is 1,194 words. If we assume, as seems reasonable, that the student will have learned the first 500 words of the basic list in the first semester of college Spanish or in the first year of high-school Spanish, then he will meet only 694 new words in reading Noche Oscura en Lima.

Constructions considered to be even slightly difficult for the beginner are explained in the notes, which also provide data on the history and geography of Peru.

Exercises are provided for each chapter. They include drill on idiomatic expressions, a review of irregular, radical-changing, orthographic-changing, and reflexive verbs, uses of the imperfect and preterit, of the prepositions para and por, a review of the imperative and subjunctive moods, and translation of connected matter from English to Spanish. A questionnaire is furnished beginning with chapter 21. In order to compel a progressive mastery of the limited vocabulary and prevent a mere matching of words, no English-Spanish vocabulary is supplied.

The story is especially suitable for oral practice, and many chapters may easily be dramatized in class, since the dialogue involves no long paragraphs.

The authors are sincerely grateful to Mr. Max Ríos Ríos of Brooklyn College and to Mr. Richard Brun of New York University for reading the manuscript and offering valuable criticism, and to Mr. Edward C. Caswell for his skillful interpretation of the spirit of the story and his faithful attention to detail in making the illustrations.
W. B.

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  1. Dios mio! How old is this book? We read this in High School forty years ago and thought it was quite old then.

  2. 1941. This book is 70 years old! I think I'd still use it to teach second year Spanish students because it strengthens grammar and vocabulary and the reader gets a sense of achievement and success.

    1. Thanks for your comments and I agree completely. I enjoyed reading it a couple of years ago and definitely did feel that sense of achievement you mention. And, maybe it's just me, but I think it has aged fairly well as a story.

  3. Jeff, just finished, and I really appreciate you making it available. I was in a Spanish conversation group that was reading it using copies of the pages from the book itself, but then I had to leave town for several months and was very glad to find your website when searching for the title. It may not be the greatest novel ever written, but it is a great challenge for beginning readers of Spanish, and I did enjoy the story and characters as well.

  4. Jeff, what a gem. Thank you for making this available online!! I had never heard of it, but this is the type of tool that is lacking in foreign language teaching.

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