Most helpful critical review
23 of 26 people found the following review helpful
on 17 June 2010
For the English-speaking beginner, Czech prsents three major problems which combine to make it a difficult language to get to grips with: the pronunciation, which has sound combinations alien to English; the vocabulary with its lack of recognisable cognates; and the finicky system of declensions for nouns, pronouns and adjectives. A good textbook would attempt to minimise these problems, but Teach Yourself Czech, far from doing this, exacerbates them.
There is an accompanying CD, but a) it's obviously been recorded from a crackly old cassette, and the sound quality is poor; b) instead of giving a clearly, slowly enunciated example, then repeating it in a more natural way, the speakers merely mutter the same thing twice, in such a way that the learner cannot hear the phonemes properly.
Given the lack of obvious cognates with English (or German, or French), it would be better to have a light load of useful and useable words. Instead, this book goes in for a huge vocabulary overload - each half-page dialogue is accompanied by 1.5 to 2 pages of vocabulary lists, with no attempt to make the words memorable.
But the worst fault of all is the way the noun declensions are introduced - dry as dust, rule after rule after rule, exception after exception, and with pitifully few useful examples. There are better ways of doing it than this - all you need is a bit of imagination.
I speak as a archetypal 'good language learner' (and a language teacher), who has learned Japanese and Thai to fluency, as well as several European languages. I will learn Czech too, but not from this book, which is going in the bin.