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Customer Review

on 18 December 2010
I was studying beginner's Basque with a free online course in Spanish and I decided to buy this book because of the positive reviews here. And I thought it would be easier in English, my native language.

I'm very disappointed so far. The first exercise involves proving that you understand the author's transcription method, which he seems to have written on the assumption that everyone speaks English with the same accent that he does. They don't, mate. That's why we have the international phoenetic alphabet. Anyone capable of understanding the grammatical explanations in this book will also be able to pick up the international phoenetic alphabet without much trouble, so it's beyond me why the author didn't use it, especially when none of its more unusual or difficult characters features in the Basque language.

This version of the book comes with two audio CDs. A woman reads a list of Basque words to show you how to pronounce them. She pronounces two of them in her own dialect, in a way that directly contradicts what the author says about the rules of pronunciation. Unlike English, Basque has an official body that decides these things, so there is an official, standard pronunciation of Batua, and it's reasonable to expect that pronunciation in a beginner's guide. So, the CDs aren't much use.

The book begins with a chapter of Wikipedia-type general information about the Basque country, so you can see how the author writes in English when he's not giving grammatical explanations. His overview of the primary and secondary education system is so poorly written (the writing style, not the information he gives) that if I hadn't already been familiar with the topic I really wouldn't have known what he was talking about. He also seems to be confused about when to use "would have" and when to use "had". When someone's grasp of English grammar is that poor, he's probably not the best person to turn to for explanations of unfamiliar grammar.

Basque grammar is complicated to explain to a beginner; there's no getting away from it. Still, I suspect the author of being unnecessarily long-winded and technical at times. The contrast between the pompous, formal language of the explanations and the absurdly incongruous examples had me laughing out loud:
"The following are examples of this process."... "Good day! I am a boy."... "Hi! I am a girl" ..."It is recommended to pay careful attention to the exercises to learn the correct application of the article in Basque."... "Good morning Michael! How old is Johanna?"

This book really needed to be gone over again by a ruthless editor. If you speak Spanish (and maybe even if you don't) you can definitely find the same quality of material for free on the internet.
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