Difficult to tell how useful this will be as it depends on the user (my 17-year-old niece) how much commitment she puts in to learning Arabic. But this is what she wanted and I think it will be very useful used in conjunction with the Cd and phrase book.
I'm an English teacher and so have an understanding of what it takes to teach and learn a language. After grappling with this book for several weeks, I can see that this book is extremely poor.
The 'for Dummies' series is supposed to suggest from the title that it will be easy to learn. The contents are promising and I flicked through them before buying the book. It looks good - with themed chapters suggesting you're going to learn some useful stuff, but after engaging with the material for 5-6 weeks, it's really very badly written. Clearly no thought has gone into what is actually necessary to learn a language. It is frightening to think that the author taught at the ABC Language Exchange and the Council of Foreign Relations in New York, because judging by this book, he either has no awareness of how to help someone learn a language, or simply doesn't care and just made the book look like it would be useful.
An example is the section on weather. You get a list of words: sun, rain, thunder, lightening, clouds, temperature, degree, cold, hot, humidity, wind, storm, snow, rainbow... Then a random list of phrases: Is it going to rain today? etc... And then in the listening section you get a dialogue which contains very little of what was in the lists just presented, with phrases such as "It's going to be sunny all week long"...
This means that it is impossible to work out which part of the phrases in the listening means 'It's going to be' 'sunny' 'all week long' etc...
It's clear to me after giving myself headaches and becoming extremely frustrated at the amount of time I've wasted trying to make the best of this book, that the author has put zero thought into the learning process and just slapped together a few lists of vocab items, phrases, and listenings. At first sight, it looks like it will be good because they are organised into functional/themed sections, but as I have discovered it is pretty much one of the worst experiences I've had trying to learn a language, and I have studied several languages in the last 20 years, and seen a lot of teaching materials through teaching English myself.
I will be writing to the publisher when I return to the UK and seek a refund.
As a linguist, who has self-taught languages previously, and a language teacher all I can say is this book is terrible. The use of Arabic words in the middle of English sentences is mostly certainly not conducive for language learning - useless it is completely unavoidable as in the case of grammatical terminology. To begin using Arabic words before introducing the script is simply fruitless and confusing. Starting a language learning book with heavy grammar only serves to demotivate the learner. The book offers very few opportunities to interact with the language, which is the best way to learn a new language. It is terribly put together with absolutely no logic or structure to it.
I'm a French teacher and I find this book very badly written, although you don't need to be a teacher to get to this conclusion. The book is filled with sentences that are of little use when you just started learning Arabic and have no clue about the grammar and pronunciation. The book teaches little grammar and I would say that 30% of the book is dedicated to useless talk that is completely useless to learning arabic. (Maybe the writer would argue that it's about teaching intercultural differences, but I wouldn't even call this teaching about the arabic cultures). Consider for example this section:
"PLACING YOUR ORDER After you peruse the menu, place your order with the waiter or waitress. Restaurant staff are usually highly trained individuals who know the ins and outs of the food that the restaurant serves, so don't be afraid to (...)".
When I read such sentences, I have the impressions that the author thought that She could just fill up the pages with small talk that barely has a link to the chapter theme.
The two first stars are for the vocabulary, I do use the book to learn some vocabulary and the verb tenses chapter were fairly well done.
If like me you don't have the time to go to classes or wade through the pages of children's language books or even the space to listen to CD's this book will fill the gap. Because you don't need to stick to a running order you can simply locate the topic you're interested in or need and just focus on that alone. Like all language learning it only sticks if you keep on practicing.
Learning languages is a very personal thing. I gave up quite quickly with this book. I found it dull and so long-winded. I appreciate Arabic is difficult but there must be a more fun and more effective text book.