Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Review of Colloquial Russian

I have been using the book Colloquial Russian for my beginner's Russian, as it is the book that I will be learning from at the start of my university course. Here is a short review and what I think so far:

Colloquial books
I am consistently amazed by the range of languages offered, from several types of Arabic to Zulu, if you want to learn a specific language with these books, you probably can. I personally find the Colloquial series of books rather more convincing than the Teach Yourself series, but it is a matter of personal preference, and both series are useful resources for self teaching.

Owning quite a few books in the series, I have found that they are available extremely cheaply on Amazon, and if you look online, the PDFs are usually available somewhere, too. Sometimes the accompanying audio can be a bit more elusive, however.

The audio recordings
Without the recording of the texts, the book is perhaps half as useful as it could be. When using self-teaching books I would assume that the student doesn't have constant access to native speakers or to a teacher, so if you are indeed a beginner, you have almost no chance of learning to speak the language convincingly without audio material. It is essential to hear native speakers (or at least competent speakers) when beginning a language, and even as a continuing learner, and as such, I think the importance of hearing what you are learning cannot be overstated.

Ease of use
I find this book relatively easy to use, given that its format is similar to many textbooks I have used before, and given that I already knew some Russian before starting. Had I been a complete beginner, I think I would have found the first lesson too difficult and this may have put me off. For those who are already familiar with the alphabet, basic greetings and conversational phrases such as 'my name is' and 'I am from', the start of the book is at the right level.

Grammatical content
As you can see from the above picture, taken from the first lesson in the book, no time is wasted in getting to the grammar. I personally think this is a blessing - you cannot use the language correctly by guessing, you have to know what is right and why it's right. Grammarphobes can skip over these sections at their leisure, but with a grammar-heavy language like Russian, the amount included is not excessive, but necessary. For other languages, grammar might be on a more need-to-know basis, I can't be sure.

It's a good book! Depending on your level, you might want to use several books/ websites to study with so that you can get a few different approaches to the same subject matter, and this certainly would be a great book to start with.

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