Customer Review

128 of 132 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Mixed Feelings, 6 Dec 2002
This review is from: The New Penguin Russian Course: A Complete Course for Beginners (Penguin Handbooks) (Paperback)
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 language.
At first glance, I felt the new course would be every bit as good as the original; the explanations of the grammar points are easy to understand and are written in such a way as to be not only informative and interesting but even, on occasion, entertaining. I am quite sure that, in a classroom context, with the back up of a teacher, this would be a first class course book.
However, as a self-study tool, I feel the book leaves a lot to be desired. There is too much material crammed into each lesson, to the extent that the student may feel not only daunted at first glance, but also discouraged by the seemingly slow progress, because it takes so long to cover each chapter from beginning to end. In addition, I found that, even with prior knowledge of the language, I was having to turn back the pages frequently to go over a point covered earlier in the chapter, or in a previous chapter, because there are not enough practical exercises of each grammar point to allow the student fully to consolidate the knowledge acquired. I think a complete beginner, studying alone, would find this extremely discouraging.
I now find myself in the situation whereby I feel the need to acquire a separate workbook with exercises to practice the grammar points covered in just the first few chapters of this book.
In conclusion, I would highly recommend this book as a text-book for a classroom situation, but would definitely not recommend it for those studying alone, especially if they are complete beginners.
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Showing 1-3 of 3 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 8 Jun 2010 22:48:58 BDT
nicktgb says:
[Customers don't think this post adds to the discussion. Show post anyway. Show all unhelpful posts.]

In reply to an earlier post on 13 Nov 2010 23:42:53 GMT
J. I. Smith says:
This isn't an English grammar book that she's reviewing, Nick, so I'd keep your impertinent little snipe to yourself, if I were you!

Posted on 20 Jan 2014 22:34:40 GMT
Last edited by the author on 20 Jan 2014 22:37:22 GMT
kat says:
Yes, this book certainly requires infinite patience and dedication to plough one's way through successfully. And yes, a detailed grammar with very few exercises is better for developing understanding skills than speaking skills.

I always find, when learning languages, that it is a good idea to have two or three books on the go as soon as you begin to make some progress. So why not consider supplementing the grammar book with a book full of examples - such as "Russian Made Simple", by Eugene Jackson and Elizabeth Bartlett Gordon - and making sure you do a few examples each day, however few. Also, consider a book of verbs - eg,Barron's 501 Russian verbs, or Schaum's Big Silver Book of Russian Verbs. Finally, either buy an audio CD; or, if you have already broken the bank, find some free audio websites on the net.

Most important of all, whether you have one book, two books, or three: when you start getting irritated by one learning activity (such as grammar, or exercises, or audio), switch to a different activity - such as spending half an hour learning a few new verbs, or listening to some Russian music, or even taking a day off Russian and doing a spot of gardening? That way, you will remain fresh.
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