on 15 August 2009
I bought this book when I was living in the Basque Country. The only two books available to me at the time were this and the book Colloquial Basque by the same author.
I really don't like Colloquial much (I've attempted three of their courses in the past) and so I settled for this. Besides, I figured, even if it's no better as a course book, there's more material in there that I can pull out and teach myself. And that's precisely what I'm doing now, because as a course book, frankly, it stinks.
The grammar is taught in a rather disjointed, discrete way -- everything remains in very short phrases a considerable way into the book -- and a hell of a lot of vocabulary is thrown in at once (particularly irritating is that the word "American" plays a big part and you're asked to say "I am American", which I'm not!)
The exercises are very mechanical: having been presented with a small table of parts of a sentence, you are asked to "make as many sentences as you can", which just smacks of laziness on the course author's part. He also has you converting negative and positive, singular and plural and the like.
The notes in English are very sparse, and you suddenly find yourself being able to do the tasks without knowing -- or caring -- what it means. Suddenly technical grammatical terms are introduced without any explanation, and given the nature of Basque grammar, many of these terms are unfamiliar even to many students of other languages. These terms are used instead of any proper explanation, so the language slips further and further into a pit of unfathomable mechanical rules.
This is very troublesome, as the author expects the reader to know what something means if he has seen it before, and while a word looks familiar and you can manipulate it, you often don't actually know what it means. This starts a vicious circle of mechanical knowledge building on mechanical knowledge, until you have a model of a large part of the Basque language that you can't actually use to speak or understand Basque, because these words and forms are totally divorced from their meanings.
Sadly, though, for the English learner of Basque, there's not much choice.
on 8 August 1996
This book is an excellent refence book if one wants to use it in this manner. I have this book and have enjoyed it. The only problem I have is that there isn't any tapes that come with it so that a person can hear what the language sounds like. However, the author has remedied this with a slightly less expensive language learning set called "Colloquial Basque" that contains tapes so you can hear the Basque language spoken. This set happens to cost much less. If you want to find it here, just look up the title and you will be able to see the price for it here at amazon.com.