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Ultimate Italian Basic (Living Language) (Ultimate Course)
Ultimate Italian Basic (Living Language) (Ultimate Course)
by Living Language
Edition: Paperback

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Fairly good but with some problems, 12 Mar. 2009
To my surprise, Amazon has mixed up the covers and the titles. The cover for this book is for Ultimate Italian Beginner-Intermediate, and it is that course that I'm reviewing.

+ Compared to many other Italian courses, the grammar explanations are very extensive. "Italian in three months" leaves out many crucial parts of Italian grammar and both "Colloquial Italian" and "Teach Yourself Italian" present shorter and less structured grammar explanations. For grammar, this course is the best Italian course I've seen.

+ The course provides you with a rather large vocabulary, almost three times as many words as in "Italian in three months", slightly more than "Teach Yourself Italian" and about even with "Colloquial Italian".

+ Although a bit too short, the cultural points in each lesson are a nice add-on.

- The main drawback is the lack of accentuation for word stress. Unlike Spanish and French, Italian stress is not fixed and needs to be learned. Every Italian course I've ever seen marks the stress in the vocabulary lists, but this course ignores it.

- Too many mistakes. As this isn't the first edition, I was surprised to find so many mistakes, both in grammar explanations and in translations. I have no problems spotting them, but a beginner would just be confused.

- Bad layout. Compared to the excellent and well-thought layout in "Italian in three months", this course feels far from user-friendly. It's a minor point compared to the others, but still something that could be improved.

All in all, a rather helpful book but with some problems that need to be addressed before I could give it four or five stars.

A Beginners' Guide to Tajiki
A Beginners' Guide to Tajiki
by Azim Baizoyev
Edition: Paperback
Price: £38.99

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very nice and extensive course, 12 Mar. 2009
The work put into this book is truly impressive. Just to give you an idea, let me point out that this is a Routledge course and that Routledge is the world's largest publisher of language courses. In their Colloquial courses, Routledge covers more than 50 languages. Given all this, it almost defies belief that the most extensive language course of all courses published by Routledge is not a Spanish, Chinese, Arabic, Russian, French or Italian course - it's a course in Tajik!!

While most Colloquial courses include 1000-2000 words, usually around 1500, the learner will get close to 3500 words by the time he finishes this course. And the grammar explanations are so in-depth yet perfectly explained in suitable doses that you'll breeze through on your way to fully mastering all aspects of Tajiki grammar. True, there are very few other Tajiki courses on the market but even if there were, it would be hard to compete with this one.

However, there are two drawbacks. The spelling used is conventional Tajiki ortography with the Cyrillic alphabet. That's fine by me, I don't think there's any need for using the Latin alplabet BUT... I do wish that they would have indicated vowel length. Contrary to the Persian spoken in Iran where three vowels are always long and three always short, some Tajiki Persian vowels can be either long or short. For a learner, it's impossible to know which is which and as there are no CDs to help, you cannot know when to pronounce vowels long or short. The other drawback is the lack of answers to the excersises. Having excersises is rather pointless if you cannot check your answers.

If these two drawbacks are fixed, this will truly be the ultimate language course.

Dial M For Merde
Dial M For Merde
by Stephen Clarke
Edition: Paperback

39 of 44 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars The joke is getting old, 3 Mar. 2009
This review is from: Dial M For Merde (Paperback)
A few years ago, Stephen Clarke hit gold with his "A year in the merde", and I was one of the many readers who enjoyed it. Yes, Clarke was the 483rd author to write the same book: young Englishman goes to France and finds that all hot French girls adore young Englishmen. Not true, but it makes for good reading while allowing young guys to dream about it. While Peter Mayle had already written far too many books on the same subject, Clarke took it one step further by being a lot more juicy and funny than others had been before.

Since then, Clarke has written three more books about Paul West and by now, the freshness is long gone. Book 1 was about the culture differences between the English and the French, Paul West, and a lot of hot French girls. Book 2 was about the culture differences between the English and the French, Paul West, and a lot of hot French girls. Book 3 was about the culture differences between the English, the Americans and the French, Paul West, and a lot of hot French girls. It will come as no surprise that this book is about the culture differences between the English and the French, Paul West, and a lot of hot French girls.

In this book, you'll get Paul, Elodie, her dad and some new French girls. All of them are of course hot and all of them adore Paul. Didn't see that one coming...

If you disliked the first book, there is no chance you'll enjoy this one. And even if you liked the first one and thought the second book was fun as well (as I did), by the time you get to the fourth book you've seen it all. A constant parade of hot French girls, Paul West and some excuse for a story. When Clarke wants to publish his fifth book, I hope he writes his second. We've been fed the same first book four times by now.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 6, 2010 1:20 PM GMT

Colloquial Arabic (Levantine) (Colloquial)
Colloquial Arabic (Levantine) (Colloquial)
by Leslie McLoughlin
Edition: Paperback
Price: £26.99

20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A disgrace for Routledge, 22 Feb. 2009
Unfortunately, I can't recommend this book. There are three Colloquial Arabic books published by Routledge, but only one (Colloquial Arabic of the Gulf) lives up to the high standard in Routledge's Colloquial Series.

What annoys me the most that I interviewed an editor for the Colloquial series in 2001 and we discussed different courses. The editor admitted that Colloquial Arabic (Levantine) was the one book she felt ashamed of and that they would need to come out with a completely new book. Now, in 2009, they present us with the same "course" they felt ashamed of eight years ago. It's the same unsatisfactory content, these are the main reasons you should not even consider buying it.

1. Learning a new language is reasonably hard, and most Colloquial books published by Routledge are about 300-350 pages. This one in barely 100 pages and, what is more, it's smaller than most of the other books. This means that the material in this book compares to 1/5 in another Colloquial book. I don't think Arabic is that much easier...

2. In this very short book, one half deals exclusively with proverbs. No doubt interesting, but that means that the actual page number for grammar and vocabulary is nothing short of scandalous.

3. The grammar is explained very briefly, and you don't get any understanding of it.

4. Very few vocabularies are featured on the tape, so you'll finish this book without being able to pronounce Arabic (nor understand it, nor speak it)

I'm very interested in Arabic, and the Arabic of the Levant in particular, so it's very disappointing that this book don't live up to the most rudimentary expectations. Routledge is renowned as the worlds leading publisher of high quality language courses (justified in 99% of the cases) and I sincerely hoped in 2001 that they would remove this disgrace and replace it with a book worthy their reputation. Instead, they just changed the cover.

If you want to learn Colloquial Arabic, go to Colloquial Arabic of the Gulf and Saudi Arabia.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 25, 2013 2:59 PM BST

Colloquial Romanian: A Complete Language Course (Colloquial Series)
Colloquial Romanian: A Complete Language Course (Colloquial Series)
by Denis Deletant
Edition: Audio CD

19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Worse than the previous edition, 22 Feb. 2009
It is not often that, when a new edition of language course is published, it is actually much worse than the previous one. Unfortunately, this course is one of those exceptions. I'll briefly outline why you'd be much better off with the earlier edition of Colloquial Romanian by the same author.

1. Help with pronunciation. In Romanian, any syllable of a word can be stressed. In almost all Romanian courses I've seen, this syllable is marked to help the learner get the pronunciation right. It was marked in the earlier edition of Colloquial Romanian but for some strange reason it has been dropped in this edition.

2. Vocabulary lists. In any good language course, each new chapter contains a vocabulary lists of all the new words in that chapter. That was the case in the previous edition, but not so in this one. There are still vocabulary lists in each chapter, but they are very short and arbitary.

3. Grammar. In the earlier edition of Colloquial Romanian, the Romanian grammar was described in a detailed yet very user-friendly way. In the new edition, there aren't many explanations and they are likely to be confusing for the beginner.

In short, this book is more mysterious than any detective story. I have no idea why the author decided to downgrade his own book to this extent. The one improvement made is that the conversations are more up to date and relevant in this course. If the author would have made those changes but kept the pronunciation help, stuck to complete vocabulary lists and maintained the same grammar explanations, this would have been the best Romanian course on the market. Now, it's not only a rather useless course, it's a course that's much worse than its own previous edition.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 13, 2014 8:53 PM BST

A Florentine Death (Michele Ferrara)
A Florentine Death (Michele Ferrara)
by Michele Giuttari
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

5 of 10 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Good book but so badly translated that it's impossible to read, 28 Oct. 2008
The Italian author and former police Michele Giuttari has received a lot of praise for this first book of his. The praise is well-deserved and I recommend the book to anyone able to read it in the original Italian or in any other language into which it has been translated (German, French, Swedish...)

Unfortunately, the English translation is so bad that it defies belief. Instead of translating the book, the translator has added large pieces of text to it and it is embarassingly obvious when the text changes from the talented writing of Guittari's into the lacklustre and talentless translator's contributions. At times, several paragraphs in a row have been added. These never contribute anything, but they distract a lot from the story. Whereas this police thriller is meant to be an intense and exciting story, the translator is happy to interrupt the discovery of the first murder victim to give us a long narrative about his own preferences in wine, his view on the Italian Renaissance and his favourite spots in Tuscany. Needless to say, such meaningless and disruptive interruptions of the original story completely kills the suspense and leave the reader frustrated. If we wanted to read uninspired travel literature about Tuscany, we would hardly have bought a detective story.

I would love to recommend this book the way it deserves to be recommended, but if your only option is between not reading it at all and reading this clumsy translation, better leave it be. You could always contact the publisher ([...]) to complain about this sham.
Comment Comments (11) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 12, 2015 4:35 PM GMT

Colloquial Afrikaans: The Complete Course for Beginners (PB + CD)
Colloquial Afrikaans: The Complete Course for Beginners (PB + CD)
by Bruce Donaldson
Edition: Paperback

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Inadequate, 14 Aug. 2008
After all the rave reviews for this course, I hate to rain on the parade. However, I feel that some crucial parts are missing from the other reviews. Yes, it's a good book and for exactly the reasons other reviewers have mentioned. The grammar is very well defined and Afrikaans is a remarkably easy language to learn.

Unfortunately, this books comes with a major problem. No wordlists! In almost any other Colloquial or Teach Yourself course, each dialogue is followed by a word list containing the words used in the dialogue. That's the way you study the words and enlarge your vocabulary. Not so in this course. For the first few lessons, the dialogues are followed by an English translation. This isn't a very good substitute, especially not as word order is very different in Afrikaans. You can't be sure whích English words mean what, so you can only learn phrases like a parrot. After a few lessons, even this English translation is dropped and your left with dialogues in Afrikaans with no wordlist nor translation! How is this different from reading a newspaper in Afrikaans and having a dictionary to check up each word? Not at all, and that's free on-line.

I usually prefer Colloquial courses over Teach Yourself, but in this case I strongly recommend the excellent course Teach Yourself Afrikaans. The author of that course didn't try to get off too easy by ignoring the word lists and the result is that Teach Yourself Afrikaans is an excellent book. The author of this book was lazy, and it is the reader who pays the cost. So Afrikaans is an easy language, but this book makes everything it can to make learning it harder. Teach Yourself Afrikaans makes it easier.

Colloquial Dutch: A Complete Language Course (PB + AudioCD)
Colloquial Dutch: A Complete Language Course (PB + AudioCD)
by Bruce Donaldson
Edition: Audio CD
Price: £26.49

2.0 out of 5 stars Not enough, 14 Aug. 2008
Once again a course from Routledge that is all but destroyed by a very common error. No wordlists.

For some reason, quite a few of the authors in the Colloquial series seem to be under the false impression that providing English translations of the dialogues is a satisfactory substitute for listing the new words. I disagree 100%. There are no languages that can be translated word by word into English and the result of this is that you end up not knowing which words in Dutch that corresponds to a given English word.

The result of this is that you can memorize the phrases in this book like a parrot, but that won't get you any far and is no better than a much cheaper and more extensive phrasebook. As you're not given the chance to learn and repeat new words, you simply won't be able to construct sentences on your own. It's very disappointing that such a great expert on Dutch as Bruce Donaldson has made such an enormous error and it makes this book very unsuitable for learners. Look for Teach Yourself Dutch instead.

Italy ("Sunday Times" Working & Living)
Italy ("Sunday Times" Working & Living)
by Kate Carlisle
Edition: Paperback

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Did the author ever visit Italy?, 16 Jun. 2008
A guide to working and living in Italy is a useful book for many people so this title would be a welcome addition to the many similar guides already on the market - if only it contained some correct information. Reading through the chapters, I was struck by how often the author seems to make up "facts" without bothering to check. Just to take two examples from one of the more general chapters, that on the Italian language
- The author claims that Italian isn't an official language in any other country in the world. The population in neighbouring Switzerland will be surprised to hear it, as Italian definitely IS an official language of the country.
- Even stranger is the author's claim that the North Italian dialects are Celtic!! Celtic, dear Kate Carlisle, is the language branch found in Ireland, Wales and Scotland. The Italian dialects are all Latin in origin.

That an author doesn't know such simple facts is rather telling. Time and time again as you read this book, you can only shake your head in disbelief at the many errors. Fortunately enough, there are other guides to living and working in Italy on the market and I strongly recommend buying one of those. The publisher of this guide would do its reputation a lot of good by pulling it from the market.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 18, 2011 7:00 AM GMT

Colloquial Irish: The Complete Course for Beginners (Colloquial Series)
Colloquial Irish: The Complete Course for Beginners (Colloquial Series)
by Thomas Ihde
Edition: Paperback

25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Redundant from the start, 20 May 2008
Long overdue, Colloquial Irish has finally been published. Unfortunately, it turns out to be a big disappointment. In recent years, Routledge has turned to publishing shorter and shorter books in the Colloquial-series, giving its readers ever less value for the money. For some languages, the person interested in learning it may not have a choice, but that's not the case for Irish. Small as it may be, there are some excellent courses and this new course is nowhere near them.

For some reason, the authors decided to pick the Irish dialect of Cois Fhairrge for this book. That's a brave choice, given that a very good and extensive Irish course (Learning Irish) focuses on exactly the same dialect. So, the learner eager to learn Irish (or Cois Fhairrge Irish in particular) has got two courses at hand, which one should he pick? My answer is Learning Irish, for the following reasons:

- Learning Irish is by far the more extensive of the two courses. While Colloquial Irish will only give a vocabulary of about 800 words, Learning Irish will see to it that you finish with around 2.500 words.

- The grammar is explained in great detail in Learning Irish, making sure that the reader really learns it and reducing the risks for misunderstandings. Colloquial Irish gives a much more rudimentary grammar presentation, and the likely result is that the reader will be more confused than helped. If not in this book, then at least by the time he goes to the Gaeltacht and tries speaking Irish only to discover that he doesn't know all those things Learning Irish would have taught him.

- There are many more excersises (with answers) in Learning Irish, so the learner really has the opportunity to practice.

Having worked my way through Learning Irish, I went to Ireland and managed to live in the Gaeltacht for many months, speaking only Irish. Of course my Irish improved a lot during my time there, but I would never have come so far without the very solid foundation Learning Irish had given me. Colloquial Irish is much to short and basic to come anywhere near that.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 13, 2016 4:56 PM GMT

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