INTRO.TO PERSIAN 4TH EDITION Hardcover – 1 May 2009
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About the Author
Wheeler M. Thackston is retired Professor of the Practice in Persian and Other Near Eastern Languages at Harvard University. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
Thackston's Intro does employ technical terms, but get over it! You don't need a BA in English or linguistics to understand those. Why can't a learner go check in Wikipedia or a dictionay what "semantic" or "enclitic" mean? The use of the technical terms, in my opinion, help understand the grammar tremendously.
Do bear in mind however, there is a significant difference between written and spoken Persian, this book focuses almost exclusively on the written language. Upon completion of the book one should be equipped with the knowledge of READING simple Persian prose with aid of a dictionary and ready to embark on more advanced study -- this book is equivalent of a year of college level work.
For those who want to get by speaking Persian in Tehran, but not commited to mastering the script and reading, this is not the right book, they should use the LP phrasebook, which gives written Persian in Persian script, but also transliteration in Roman script of colloquial Persian on the side; or simply "Colloquial Persian" published by Routledge, in which the text in Persian script reflect the pronounciation of Tehrani dialect.
In all this is a fairly user friendly book with a lot of materials, it could have been better if more excercises are available and supplied with answer keys.
Mr Thackston then procedes to describe in brilliant detail the nature and harnessing of the persian language. His attention to the technical specifications of the grammar of the language is absolutely second to none. An example of his prose from Lesson 20 is as follows
" 60.3 Semantic objects of the infinitive
(a) Non-determinate and generic infinitival objects precede the infinitive and form compounds"
Answers on a postcard.
If you a BSc in English and wish to master the Persian language and the script, then this book is for you. Otherwise steer well clear!
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Now, because it *is* a grammar, it uses actual grammatic terminology. Some reviewers are apparently shocked by this. So, if you're not familiar with that terminology, you may actually have to use an English dictionary to look up some words. It's pretty difficult to learn a language on your own without understanding some grammar. There are very expensive and time-consuming courses in some languages that will drill you through all the various grammatical forms without explaining what they are, or using any hard English words (but nothing like this is available in Persian, anyway.) So, get over it, and use a dictionary.
I'm using this book to learn how to read Persian. It's pretty good for that, and quite thorough. It would be useful as an adjunct resource if you want to learn to speak Persian, but not as your primary resource. It doesn't have the appropriate sort of drills and tapes for learning to speak. The drills are of the more traditional two-way translation variety.
The major weakness of the book, as others have pointed out, is the lack of keys to exercises. For me, it's not a big problem, because if you're learning to read a language, you can usually tell when you've figured out the right translation, because things will just "click". If you wanted to learn to write to your Persian friend in Persian, this would be a major problem, as you really need a key to the exercises, because you'll make little grammatical errors that you won't catch without a key.
A minor weakness is the presentation of the alphabet. Everything you need to know about the Persian script is presented in the introduction to this book. However, it's presented in a very concise format, so what you'll have to do is use this information to make up your own drills with flash cards, etc., so you have a good handle on the alphabet before you start. That's what I did, and it worked fine.
You may also want to either get the tapes associated with the book, or get another course where the focus is on speaking. I say this only because I've had real trouble in the past learning to read languages where I didn't have a firm grasp on what the language sounded like. For some reason, I can teach myself to read much better if I can hear the words in my head. The tapes with the book are fine for that, with good, clear, slow pronunciation, but they're not good for learning to speak, because, again, they don't have the appropriate sort of drills.
So, in summary, it's quite good for learning to read, so-so for learning to write, and useful only as a secondary resource for learning to speak.
It is a very complete and sophisticated handbook to the grammar of Persian, arranged in progressive lessons, but it does in many places demand a knowledge of English grammar (and grammatical terminology) that excees what most readers have these days. Frankly, I think that this book, and particularly the grammatical descriptions/explanations in it, would be very heavy going for a true beginner at Persian, especially someone working on his/her own without a teacher or class.
For the true beginner, or the independent learner, I think the tried and true "Teach Yourself Modern Persian" by John Mace, (and NOT the new book by the same title written by Narguess Farzad) offers the easiest way to become aquainted with the Persian alphabet and language in easy stages in such a way that, even working on one's own, you can make good progress and get a good feel for the structure of the language.
In my view, the Thackston book is a good follow-on book for someone who has already picked up the basics from Mace. Thackston's particular strength, in my opinion, is the way he has analyzed virtually all the aspects of the language and provided very clear-cut sample sentences, always in both Persian and English, to illustrate even the finest nuances of meaning. In this regard, it is outstanding, and the sentence-examples and their translations make the points sink in well even if the explanations are a bit abstruse in terms of grammatical teminology. But unless you already have a basic grasp of the fundamentals of Persian, you may not be able to benefit so much from Thackston.
In short, I think Thackston's book is marvellous as a "follow-on" textbook for people who have already picked up a basic understanding of the way the language works, but is probably a bit heavy for those just starting out. I thus recommend it as your SECOND Persian book, and I think that if you approach it in this way you will value it very highly for the way it clarifies and solidifies what you have learned from Mace.
The technical language and grammatical approach may be off-putting for a beginner, but I managed to teach myself chapters 1 to 18 (out of a total of twenty-five)in about four months of constant study (a couple of hours most days)which allowed me to enter and subsequently complete a second year Persian course as part of an undergraduate degree. However, I was already familiar with the Arabic script and I did need a little English grammar book to explain the meaning of terms such as "predicate" and "copula".
The tapes should help you to pronounce words correctly but I did not use them when I was teaching myself. The book does not feature many conversations to emulate and useful phrases appear in grammatical, but not necessarily subject, order. There are some useful thematic vocabulary sections such as food and clothing.
If your primary objective is to speak Persian, look elsewhere. Completing this book will provide a platform from which the grammar necessary to read newspapers and simple literature is second nature. In addition, it should allow the spoken language to be rapidly acquired in a Persian speaking environment.