Russian (Teach Yourself Languages) Paperback – 26 Dec 2003
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The aim of this course is to equip the beginner with the skills needed to communicate in practical, everyday situations and give some background information about Russia and Russian society. The 20 thematic units are designed to teach specific uses of the language related to everyday situations. The book starts with sections on the alphabet and pronunciation; the course does not use transliteration but gives lots of help with mastering the Cyrillic alphabet.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
TEACH YOURSELF RUSSIAN begins with the alphabet. I found Cyrillic fairly easy, but those who end up struggling with it can obtain Teach Yourself Beginner's Russian Script as well. The meat of the book is a series of chapters containing a dialogue (mainly a story about the usual English tourist, here one Anna Prince) with following vocabularly, new grammatical points, and exercises. There is often a reading passage dealing with some aspect of Russian culture or history. While the grammar can be pretty heady for those who have no prior experience with foreign languages, I admire how the amount of new vocabulary and idiom in each chapter is kept manageable, unlike the avalanche found in each lesson of the mid-1990s Routledge's Colloquial Russian. At the end there's an appendix with Russian accidence, which is nicely substantial for a Teach Yourself book. I cannot comment much on the cassettes, as I've always been surrounded by native speakers of Russian who read the dialogues for me.
While this is a pretty good main textbook, it does not stand alone. In my experience inflecting languages require much more drill than isolating or agglutinating languages, but the exercises on Russian morphology in each chapter are few and not terribly rigorous. I'd recommend supplementing TEACH YOURSELF RUSSIAN with Basic Russian: A Grammar and Workbook by John Murray and Sarah Smyth (London: Routledge, 1999) which has plenty of fulfilling practice. I'd also recommend getting a picture dictionary, such as the Osborne one or similar, which makes learning new vocabulary of everyday items enjoyable. And, as with every self-taught textbook, the glossary at the end of the book is worthless and the reader must get a proper dictionary. The Oxford one is a popular desk reference, but I've always carried around Random House Webster's Pocket Russian Dictionary and been happy enough with it.
But if you want to get started on Russian, get Daphne West's textbook, supplement it with other materials, and don't forget to get plenty of conversational practice with native speakers, ideally a couple of hours a day.