Aprendiendo El Espanol en el HP Palmtop / Leaning Spanish on the HP Palmtop

By Lanny Staton

I've wanted to learn Spanish for years now, but never thought I had the time. My life has been very busy. I'm responsible for a multistate sales territory and travel 30,000 miles per year by car and additional miles by air. Then I totaled my time spent in motels (100+ evenings a year) and time waiting to see a customer, and discovered that I had at least 1,000 extra hours per year available to me. Hours that I had been wasting!

There was plenty of course material available from local colleges and courses on public television. But lugging books around with me on the road was not desirable, and television schedules were hard to predict from town to town. Finally, I turned to an old friend that had been traveling with me for years, the HP Palmtop. I developed a system using the 100/200LX DataBase program to help me practice my Spanish.

Start by creating a vocabulary list

I started by simply keeping track of vocabulary words with a DataBase file I created (SPANISH.GDB , see graphic on this page for the List view of this file).

English Spanish Vocabulary in Database: Graphic

 This, and all my Spanish .GDB files are kept on my memory card in A:\ESPAOL. (Note the Spanish letter in the directory name. Press (Fn)-(N) to make an on the HP Palmtop. From DOS on a desktop PC press (CTRL)-(ALT)-164 to make an .)

My SPANISH.GDB database has three fields: English Word (a text field), Spanish Word (a text field), and Note (a Note field) To design a new .GDB file, open the DataBase application by pressing (CTRL)- (PHONE). Then press (MENU) File Define for the Add Field dialog box. Enter the field name (e.g. "English Word"), tab to the Field Type and check the appropriate (e.g. "Text"), and press (F2) (Add). Continue until you have defined the desired database fields and then press (F10) (Done). Next adjust the look of the screen and the size of the fields using the F3 (Move/Size) key and the ArrowKeys. When you've got the individual item screen looking the way you want, press (F10) (Done) and give your new database a name. (For more details on defining new databases, see "database definition, creating" in the index of your HP 100/ 200LX User's Guide.)

I use SPANISH.GDB to keep track of what I have already committed to memory. In addition, it provides a convenient way to review words while driving the interstate, sitting on a plane, spending the evening alone in a motel, or waiting to see a customer. As it grows, it is becoming a complete English/ Spanish dictionary.

Practicing individual words

As I mentioned earlier, I also am using a college textbook and a TV course to learn Spanish. As I study a particular lesson, I enter new words into my "new words" DataBase file, NEW-WDS.GDB for further practice. (Note: This and other .GDB files in this article, are based on the format of SPANISH.GDB. The easiest way to do this is to open SPANISH.GDB, press (MENU) File New -- not "Define New Database", and give the new database a name. DataBase automatically uses the format of the last DataBase file loaded for the format of the new database. The new DataBase file will have the same Data Item screen, but contain no items.)

When I finish a particular lesson, I merge the contents of NEWWORD .GDB with SPANISH.GDB as follows:

  1. 1. Open SPANISH.GDB in the DataBase application.
  2. 2. Press (MENU) File Merge, tab to the Files box, select NEW-WDS.GDB and press (F10) (OK).
I have another practice DataBase file called PRAC-WD.GDB , where I keep words I'm trying to memorize. I also merge NEW-WDS.GDB with this file and delete words as I feel I have learned them. Periodically, I'll go through SPANISH.GDB (my master list), looking for words I either didn't learn well enough, or forgot through lack of use. As I come across one of these words, I'll tag them (highlight and press (<Spacebar>)). I'll then extract the tagged words into a separate .GDB file (tag items, press (MENU) File Extract and give the file a name (say, TRAN-WD.GDB) and press (F10) (OK)). Then I merge TRAN-WD with NEW-WDS so I can practice the tagged words.

Separate verbs DataBase

I designed a separate verb DataBase template so that I could include additional information with each verb, including present and past participles, tenses, etc. The verb DataBase allows a list of English and Spanish verbs.

Verbs Database Screen: Graphic

 In addition, the "Data Item" screen (see below) displays the present participle (Gr), past participle (PP), and the conjugation of the seven simple tenses: Present Indicative (PI), Imperfect Indicative (II), Preterit (Pr), Future (Fu), Conditional (Co), Present Subjunctive (PS), and Imperfect Subjunctive (IS).

Verbs Database Item View: Graphic

 I also include two asterisks (**) after the English verb to indicate an irregular conjugation; include abbreviations after the Spanish that indicate just how the verb is irregular; and use a single asterisk (*) at the start of each tense that contains irregularities. This is useful when you tab through the list or when you print out a "List" of DataBase items. As I learn a new tense (I have learned four), I simply fill in the newly learned tense for each verb. By the time I complete the verb list, I have the verb form committed to memory. As I learn new verbs, I add them to the verb file.

As I do with vocabulary words, I have three files for verbs: New verbs (NEW-VBS.GDB ), Transfer file (TRAN-VB.GDB ), and Practice file (PRAC-VB.GDB ). In addition, I have a separate file for irregular verbs (VERB-IRR.GDB ), since these verbs take special attention. Another DataBase file (CHARTS.GDB ) holds usage notes on pronouns, direct objects, and other parts of speech or individual words.

I keep all of these files on a 1MB card which I may soon have to replace with a larger card. Of course, you can print out any of these lists for study without your HP Palmtop.

Special characters

Spanish and many other foreign languages use various accent marks. As mentioned earlier, the (~) over the letter "n" is made by pressing (Fn)-(n) on the HP Palmtop. You can create a regular accent mark over any appropriate letter by pressing (Fn)-(r) and then the letter. The upside down question mark () is made by pressing (Fn)-(3). The upside down exclamation mark () is made by pressing (Fn)-(FILER). Also, I did not use the second person plural in verb construction because it is used mostly in Spain and not in Mexico where I travel.

More time to spend

I started with an HP 95LX some years back and moved to the 100LX when it was introduced. I use it extensively in my business along with a Kodak 180si portable printer. I'm able to maintain all my files and prices sheets, print out correspondence and organize my daily routine. The HP Palmtop has relieved my briefcase of several pounds of paper and given me more time to spend on important things. Now it's helping me learn Spanish while I'm on the road.

Que bueno!