on 19 August 2009
I've just finished the last chapter of Kullu Tamam and I have to say that my general verdict of this book is not very positive. Here's why:
1) The recorded dialogues are too short and not at all interactive. The "listen and repeat" exercises, a very common feature of modern textbooks, is totally absent from Kullu Tamam. There is nothing to stop you from hitting the pause button if you do want to repeat or listen to the sentences, but the gaps between the recordings are too short, making this a very tedious process!
2) There are disparities between the recordings and the transcription of the dialogues. Such "quirks" may be slightly amusing for the more advanced student or teacher but is the very last thing a beginner, who expects clarity, wants.
3) The grammatical explanations are unclear, with too few examples given. Typically, you would only get one or two example sentences for crucial grammatical rules, which need a lot of consolidation. The treatment of Arabic verbal conjugation, an extremely important aspect of the language, is crammed into 3 or 4 chapters (IX-XII), with very few examples, paradigms and explanations. Likewise, object suffixes are summed up in one page but of course, students are expected to tackle exercises all throughout the book, which make abundant use of these suffixes!
4) The exercises at the end of each chapter are overambitious considering the inadequacy of the grammatical explanations I've just mentioned. Learners are expected to translate fairly complex sentences from English to Arabic, based on the very sparse and often contradictory examples used in the preceding chapters.
5) Many exercises are often pointless and ridiculous. For example, there are lots of "fill in the blanks" exercises. In the hands of competent authors, these would serve to illustrate how word x cannot be substituted for word y because a particular grammatical or idiomatic point logically excludes this possibility so there is really only one correct answer. In Kullu Tamam, however, learners are basically being asked to second-guess the minds of Manfred Woidich and Rabha Heinen-Nasr. Why a particular car should be red and not black, or a child should be tall and not short, or that Samya is going to the market but not to school is just because the authors say so! There is no grammatical or idiomatic reason to make these mutually exclusive! Just try doing these exercises and you'll see exactly what I mean!
6) An extremely irritating aspect of this book is its frequent use of vocabulary and grammar that are only explained or glossed in subsequent chapters. For example, an exercise in Chapter XII requires the use of the active participle in Stem VIII, but this is only explained in later chapters. Bizarrely, the usage of wala and 'ayy are finally explained in Chapter XIII after being constantly used from almost the first chapter.
7) In the Introduction, the authors explain why they have decided to use transcription, mainly because in their view, the phonology of Egyptian Arabic cannot be adequately described for beginners using the Arabic script. This is reasonable enough and I have nothing against this approach but in that case, why bother to introduce he Arabic script at all in the VERY LAST chapter of the book, making it nearly useless?
8) By far the worst aspect of this book is the fact that it is FULL of errors and typos. Kullu Tamam suffers from sloppy and amateurish editing which needs to be addressed urgently should the authors decide to inflict upon us a future edition. Even the answer key contains numerous errata, even more inexcusable given that one of the authors is a native speaker. For example, in Lesson XIV, exercise XV, has a sentence "There is only one orange in the fridge". The answer key has "apple". Lesson X, exercise XVI has 'arfa but the answer key has 'arfin. There is also a nonsense sentence in the answer key for Lesson XI, "mish 'arfin nimam bi_llel", "we don't know how to sleep at night''!?? Page 123, Lesson IX, the authors claim that mediae geminatae verbs "are conjugated the same way as mediae infirmae with an a-perfect which means that when followed by endings which begin with a consonant they receive an additional (long) e". This is flatly contradicted by the preceding page which clearly shows that med.gem are not similar to med.inf but to tert.inf verbs!
In conclusion, I found Kullu Tamam to be a very inadequate and poorly edited "introductory" textbook for Egyptian Arabic with numerous errors and omissions.
on 28 October 2010
When I bought Kullu Tamam I was really excited because it was advertised as a modern approach to teaching Egyptian Arabic using English transliteration, and as I was starting out from scratch with no basis in MSA or Arabic script it sounded perfect. It wasn't. For me Kullu Tamam is the embodiment of old-fashioned language teaching methods, which seem to work on the basis that if you describe a grammar rule in as much detail as possible all in one go, people will magically be able to put it to use in communicative situations (as if simply understanding the rule was the problem...try this with children learning their first language) and that if you give people random lists of 40 words to learn without context, somehow they'll stick. Anyone who has taught a language knows that this is an approach that is bound to fail for 95% of students and slow down the learning of the 5% who have the bloody-mindedness to stick it out. I'm convinced this is why so many people in the UK are under the impression that language learning is an extraordinary and mysterious 'gift'. If you're looking for an introduction to Egyptian Colloquial Arabic that uses English transliteration you would be infinitely better off with 'Colloquial Arabic of Egypt' by Jane Wightwick and Mahmoud Gaafar, which is designed for self-study and brilliantly sets out the fundamentals of vocab and grammar in an intuitive and incremental way, supplemented by Pimsleur Egyptian Arabic (which will teach you how to read and get speaking) before starting off on the Kallimni 'Arabi series. If you want to learn to write, 'Mastering Arabic Script' is a really useful, practical little book. And for the record, I think learning Egyptian Arabic before starting out on MSA is a really great way round of doing it if you can get your hands on the right books.
on 15 June 2009
Contrarily to what the other review says, you definitely need arabic dialects to communicate. I graduated in Arabic and spent 2 months in Yemen to practice it, and believe me, outside the arabian peninsula very few people speak standard arabic.
The egyptian dialect is widely understood, though not as widely spoken, because Egypt produces loads of tv shows and films. And this book really helps.
I bought it after my graduation because I also wanted to speak Egyptian, and I would recomment it to anyone.