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68 of 69 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A comprehensive grammar guide for beginners
One year ago when I began to devote myself to learning Russian, I didn't know one solitary word of this beautiful and sometimes grammatically complex language. I followed the good advice of previous reviewers and purchased this text book immediately. I can say one year later on, it was a very wise choice.
This book is layered in a very logical and easy to understand...
Published on 13 Feb 2004 by D. P. Lomax

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127 of 131 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Mixed Feelings
As the title of this review indicates, I have very mixed feelings about this book.
I studied Russian at school (many years ago) and used the original Penguin Russian Course as a text book, finding it excellent. For this reason, I had no hesitation in buying the New Penguin Russian Course a few months ago, when I dedided to renew my acquaintance with the...
Published on 6 Dec 2002 by Fiona Goncalves


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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good, but could be better, 28 Jan 2009
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This review is from: The New Penguin Russian Course: A Complete Course for Beginners (Penguin Handbooks) (Paperback)
I agree with most of the comments from other reviewers. This is useful but far from perfect. In particular, I imagine it might be rather daunting to a complete beginner (who it is ostensibly aimed at).

I did Russian O-level about 30 years ago [the German class was over-subscribed!], and have never used it since. My daughter is now learning Russian at school, so I decided to re-learn the language to help her (and for my own enjoyment). Coming to the language for a second time, this book is an excellent summary of Russian's rather complex (but fairly regular) grammar. It is aimed at adult self-learners; and if you put in the effort, the explanations are pretty thorough. But it is rather a dense book, so you will need to concentrate. I suspect some people might give up. Those people might prefer a book that leads them through the language more slowly and gently.

In answer to another reviewer's query - yes, the stress is marked on (almost all) words throughout the book. This is important because in Russian it is not obvious where the stress falls when learning new words. I like the fact that the stress is NOT just shown the first time you encounter a word; that would be too easy to forget. One thing that is rather silly though is showing the stress on some one-syllable words (those containing the letter O). The author justifies this because some one-syllable words are unstressed in certain phrases. My own opinion is that those phrases are too rare to justify his blanket approach. Not a big problem though.

A couple of other complaints I have are -

There is a useful glossary of vocabulary at the back of the book. This contains chapter references for each word. But why not provide page references instead??? It is quite frustrating trawling through a chapter to check the usage of a specific word or phrase.

The chapter on pronunciation is rather confusing. His explanations of stress etc are generally correct, but unclear. I had to re-read them several times to make sense. He also makes a big deal of the "yuh" sound in soft vowels, when it is actually pretty straightforward. (They are pronounced as one sound, not two - as in the English words Duty, Tuna, Canyon, Onion, and unlike the "ee" in Stereo & Period. Harder for Americans presumably, because they say Duty as Dooty!)

Some of his explanations are ambiguous. Forcing you to go back and check what he really means.

Word Order is not covered till almost the end of the book.

UPDATE - since I wrote this review I have bought other books & CD's - now I hardly ever look at this one! It really is too much hard work to wade through it. If you want a grammar reference book, then the Oxford Russian Grammar is much clearer. If you want to actually LEARN Russian, then look for a course that takes things more slowly. I would downgrade my review to 3 stars - but the website won't let me!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thorough and interesting guide to the Russian tongue., 14 Feb 2012
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This review is from: The New Penguin Russian Course: A Complete Course for Beginners (Penguin Handbooks) (Paperback)
I purchased this book on the strength of the reviews here. The book does a marvelous job of introducing the Cyrillic alphabet, which is one of the biggest hurdles to a new learner. There are many interesting cultural insights that as well as helping give you a fuller picture of the Russian speaking mindset, actually clues you in to some essential etiquette.

Some have marked this book down because they found it to hard going or too dense in terms of grammar. To those people I would say, it's Russian, it's mostly hard, deal with it! Short of paying for an immersion course or going to live in Russia there is no way around the fact that you must understand grammar before you start learning any other language, especially one that does things as differently as Russian when compared to English or French.

The book does in fact provide brief explanations of any grammatical terminology it uses so if you are reasonably sentient there is no problem. Just give it time, concentration and practice and you progress at a satisfying pace.

Only possible draw-back is the lack of accompanying audio, but you could order this along with the Michel Thomas Russian Foundation by Natasha Bershadsky. This is also very good at introducing the sounds of Russian, the intonation patterns and much grammar as well. The Michel Thomas is good but combined with this Penguin book you will soon start to feel at home in this beautiful language that can appear quite alien at first.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Don't let other reviewers put you off, 25 July 2010
This review is from: The New Penguin Russian Course: A Complete Course for Beginners (Penguin Handbooks) (Paperback)
Firstly, I am 18, and I have not had a good history with languages in the past. So, I am only just an adult, and by no means a linguist.

I have seen many reviews saying that the book would be daunting to a beginner, and that it goes through everything too quickly, meaning that you have to spend an age on a single chapter.
This is not a problem, so long as it compliments your way of learning. I specifically chose this book due to the conciseness, clear layout, and lack of pictures and colour. Everything is clearly set out so you can find things again, and it is marked where you can skip bits (for example, I am skipping handwriting, but not skipping out soft and hard consonants).

If your style of learning is to have a page crammed with importance, possibly requiring re-reads, this is a good book. If you want dry hard information without much fancy padding, this is it.

If you buy this, you must understand that each lesson is long; a huge amount of progress is made after each page is learnt. Do not expect to be flying through (unnecessary) pages. Expect to be going back to previous pages instead.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars We're so lucky really..., 17 Jun 2012
By 
Cat (Dorset, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The New Penguin Russian Course: A Complete Course for Beginners (Penguin Handbooks) (Paperback)
Since beginning to learn Russian I have bought a fair few books, but know I study from a core few... including the New Penguin Russian Course. It's a great book, packed full of informtion and could potentially lead you to an A level. It's design for the more serious student rather than those looking to learn casual phrases before going on holiday.

Russian is a difficult language to learn, so bear in mind that it's going to take a long time and will require oodles of hard work and dedication. Don't think weeks or months; be realistic and tell yourself it's going to be a number of years before you'll become reasonably proficient. I guess that's why so many people give up? To begin with, you'll feel you're forgetting words as fast as you learn them, but as you go over and over it those words begin to stick into your brain. My biggest headache (and I suspect others might agree) is that I had to learn English grammar in order to begin to understand Russian grammar.

We're so lucky that we have a plethora of resources available to us nowadays. So allow me to recommend a few ideas... The New Penguin Russian Course, Michel Thomas Russian Course (audio), Oxford Russian-English dictionary (mine's downloaded onto my iphone, so it goes everywhere with me, Oxford Russian Grammar and Verbs, Internet radio (listen to native Russians chatting even though you might not initially understand what's being said... it helps you tune in to the intonation) and buy Russian films with English subtitles. If you can, try and find a native Russian speaker who'll help you to correct pronunciation and other aspects, particularly cases. If you're unable to find someone locally (I was very lucky in rural Dorset) then try the online community, Language Exchange. Learning to read Russian is fairly easy; you'll make silly mistakes for a while, but take it slowly and you'll soon be astonished with yourself. With that it mind, don't forget Google translate. It's a pretty usefull tool, though it does modify some of my naughty words!

Good luck.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book... even for beginners, 12 Nov 2003
This review is from: The New Penguin Russian Course: A Complete Course for Beginners (Penguin Handbooks) (Paperback)
The back of the books says it will take the reader through to proficiency, when I first got this book I was a beginner and didn't feel proficient at all! But this book explains things really well. It starts by teaching you the Russian alphabet and handwriting (which is lovely curvey letters) then explains Russian grammar (and believe me there's lots!) Although grammar can be really confusing the book explains it really well, I actually found myself enjoying a lesson about prepositional case!! There are lots of exercises at the end of each chapter to help you remember what you have learnt and dialogues for you to translate. Reading this book doesn't feel like a chore! You seem to progress so quickly! It gives you a good sound base of knowledge so you will be able to read and understand Russian literature, rather then just giving you a few stock phrases to use when you're holiday in Moscow. The only thing I would say is (and this isn't a sur on the book in anyway) that if you are new to Russian you will probably need to enrol on a college course or invest in a tape to help you pronunciate Russian words.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Just the ticket if you want a refresher - but maybe a bit tough for newbies, 28 May 2012
This review is from: The New Penguin Russian Course: A Complete Course for Beginners (Penguin Handbooks) (Paperback)
I bought this book because I studied Russian way back when and also spent a year there and achieved quite a good level by the end of it. However over the years, I unfortunately forgot most of what I knew due to a total lack of practice. This book is just what I wanted: it packs quite a punch for a smallish book and helps you get to grips with even the stickiest parts of Russian grammar. However, as other reviewers have noted, it is more like a textbook and doesn't have so much in the way of fun, practical exercises (if you are new to the language, you would probably need to supplement it with some kind of workbook). However, for someone who wants to reactivate prior knowledge and doesn't necessarily want to plod through loads of exercises, it's perfect - I have worked through about half of it and I feel I have regained a lot. My one comment would be that the language used in some of the explanations feels stilted from time to time and some of the comments made are a bit odd for an academic book, but that's a minor gripe. Recommended, great value!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very good, 22 Jun 2011
This review is from: The New Penguin Russian Course: A Complete Course for Beginners (Penguin Handbooks) (Paperback)
For someone who wants to learn the language just from a book, it is great. However, when learning a language, I think a CD would come in useful, especially when it comes to pronunciation. But just as a book, it is very good.
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16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not for complete beginners, 24 Dec 2005
By 
Sergio Angel Verbo (Madrid, Spain) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The New Penguin Russian Course: A Complete Course for Beginners (Penguin Handbooks) (Paperback)
This book claims to be a complete course for beginners. It is not. The grammar is well dealt with; the order in which it is introduced is, in my opinion, not as productive as the author claims. I like to get things done as soon as possible. Studying the prepositional case in singular first, and then finding, after several units, the same case in plural is counter-productive. The explanations are nevertheless very good.
Now, the book tries to deal with vocabulary as well... unsuccesfully. Anyone interested in buying this book should be aware that they will also need a book that introduces vocabulary. At least a dictionary may be necessary. The author's understanding of what basic vocabulary is seems to be quite bizarre. I learnt what "borsch" (beetroot soup) or "kefir" mean, or the russian for "entrance hall", even before it taught me how to say "nearly", "to read" or "Merry Christmas".
Therefore, this book is not a very good starting point for someone with no knowledge whatsoever of Russian. The book lacks vocabulary, and when learning a language, there are some expressions and words that must be learnt prior to even learning some more complex grammar. Traditionally, the emphasis in teaching languages has been put on grammar. It is no use being able to build complex sentences if you can't say anything because you can't find the words to express what you wish to communicate.
All in all, this book is useful, above all, as a reference grammar book, or as a way of complementing other books, or of brushing up, but a rather confused knowledge of Russian grammar and random vocabulary may come of using this book alone to learn Russian from scratch.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Not for Beginners, 10 Mar 2014
By 
Kamal Hurree "Sleepy Doormouse" (Sandhurst, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The New Penguin Russian Course: A Complete Course for Beginners (Penguin Handbooks) (Paperback)
This is a reference book for students learning Russian at School or College. It is absolutely not suitable for beginners (hence the one star). There is far too much grammar crammed into each chapter. Reminds me of the bad old days of learning a foreign language at school. Totally confusing. I already speak fluent French, Creole and basic German. I bought this book as a follow on after completing the Michel Thomas Total Russian course. My advice would be to stick to Michel Thomas (Natasha Bershadski) if you want to learn Russian. It's more expensive but very much more effective and fun.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great for self-study, 1 Jan 2013
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This review is from: The New Penguin Russian Course: A Complete Course for Beginners (Penguin Handbooks) (Paperback)
I bought this Russian course before I have moved to Moscow with our family for a year. Although I have done only about half of the units, the course has helped me greatly to get into contact with local people. Simple conversations are quickly possible. I also return a lot to the grammar section of the book to check details which I could not remember when talking to someone. I like the thorough in-depth information on grammar and vocabulary combined with the simple and precise tone and structure of the book. Although the new vocabulary for each unit is a bit narrow, this is the best course for independent self-study I have found so far. Highly recommended for anyone going east!
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