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Beginner's Georgian (Hippocrene Beginner's) Paperback – 10 Sep 2008
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What distinguishes the book is that the structural novelties of Georgian are gradually introduced through dialogues which appear to be thoroughly natural and authentic, and which include cultural reference points all of which are explained in a section between the vocabulary and the grammar of the lesson.
The dialogues are also imaginative in their variety, starting with a chance meeting in the street, and progressing through visiting a home, shopping, going to the bank, navigating the transport system, a cookery lesson, a birthday party - with toasts - and a survey of the landmarks of Tbilisi. Small details such as the innocent abroad, Kevin, persuading his female guide to have a cake because she does not need a diet ('need' is a grammatical subtlety) add to the charm.
With discipline, about three months will suffice to master the contents, but a little patience will be needed as it does take a while for the verb morphology to become transparent. For this reason, the reader may find it helpful to keep two lists of verbs, one for the exact forms as they appear in the dialogues, the other for the forms as they appear in the glossary, ie second person singular present (future is even better once you get used to it). By the end of the course, one can review the first list and substantially everything will have been made clear.
In terms of its lively material and wealth of technical detail, delivered so as neither to intimidate nor confuse, it is very difficult to see how this course could be improved upon, save perhaps that the exercises are not as challenging as they could be. I would recommend anyone with any linguistic curiosity to give it a try: it promises a unique intellectual adventure on which it would be a shame to miss out.
Next is "Georgian (A Learner's Grammar)" by G. Hewitt. It is overly complicated, explanations are awkward and some of the background/cultural text feels inappropriately biased (a language guide is not the place for political preaching). It is however a substantial text that offers a seemingly complete study of Georgian but some of it just seems incorrect. I could be wrong of course since I am myself new to Georgian, but it just feels a bit unedited.
So you're left with D. Kiziria's "Beginner's Georgian"... it puts the others to shame. Of course Georgian is a difficult language and you will need some experience of foreign language study to be able to follow the grammar. There is a strong emphasis on practical language and essential vocabulary. This is complemented by a CD including dialogue which is given once at normal speed and once slowed down so you can repeat. Grammar is presented bit by bit to accompany the vocabulary themes and is truncated to prevent one's mind from exploding! I fully support this choice to simplify - a serious student will be able look further for greater depth while a casual student will learn the basics without debilitating frustration.
My only criticism is that the book is two or three chapters too short. For example, indirect objects are never introduced, not enough postpositions are presented, two cases are not illustrated (although they do appear in the appendix), and having two entire chapters themed on bread vocabulary is maybe a bit much. There are also some discrepancies between the CD dialogues and their transcripts. Still, I found this title easier to use and more effective than other guides such as "Teach Yourself" or "Colloquial". Even with its mere thirteen chapters I felt absolutely equipped to write basic letters, translate simple texts, to communicate, and to take my learning further on my own. Next stop Tbilisi!
Next, a very clear and methodical introduction to the Georgian alphabet provides the foundations for further progress throughout the book.
Having tried two other books aimed at learning Georgian - they are very difficult to come by - this is by far the best.
My view has been confirmed by a Georgian friend who was also impressed by this book. The Georgian is neither stilted nor inappropriate, which is more than could be said about other more expensive texts.
If you wish to be understood in a variety of real situations in Georgia then this book with fantastic audio included is a must buy. I only wish it had been available much sooner.
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