January 2, 2014 | Review Period

Language-Learning 2014: A Preview

New releases I am excited about.

I love looking at the websites of publishers and booksellers to see what language products will be coming out in the near future. It definitely gets my heart rate up. Below are some of the 2014 releases that caught my eye.


New to McGraw-Hill's Practice Makes Perfect Series: Writing Japanese Kana

New to McGraw-Hill’s Practice Makes Perfect Series: Writing Japanese Kana

As of tomorrow you will be able to buy Practice Makes Perfect: Writing Japanese Kana by Rita L. Lampkin and Osamu Hoshino.

McGraw-Hill, the publisher, is not wasting any time getting into new territory for their Practice Makes Perfect series, which has been dominated to date by major European languages. I have tons of books from them for French, Spanish, German, and Italian, but of late I have also been encountering new products for Portuguese, Arabic, and Chinese.

Lampkin and Hoshino happen to have written Easy Kana Workbook (1991), which I liked a lot, so I am curious to see how this one works out. That 1991 volume was published through McGraw-Hill as well, so perhaps some of the content will be preserved.

By the way, another new Practice Makes Perfect offering for Japanese is coming out in April: Basic Japanese by Eriko Sato.


The following month will bring a new Living Language product—for Irish—and the return of SparkNotes foreign-language flashcards!

I have tried out Living Language’s Portuguese and Arabic products, and I am pretty fond of them. For Irish you can go for the “Complete Edition,” whose list price is $49.95, or opt for a more modest initial nibble, the “Essential Edition” for $22.95.

Living Language Is Adding Irish This Year

Living Language Is Adding Irish This Year

SparkNotes Is Reissuing Its Language Flashcards!

SparkNotes Is Reissuing Its Language Flashcards!

The same month, SparkNotes will be reissuing study cards for various languages. Their previous ones have been out of print for some time.

I love flashcards, and SparkNotes was my favorite, and I have been feeling their loss. In 2013 I sent the company a couple of mournful e-mails on the subject, to no avail. Well…unless I can take credit for this latest development, that is.

The German cards shown above right are going to be released simultaneously with boxes of flashcards for Spanish, Latin, Italian, and French—$8.95 apiece for a thousand words. For the same price SparkNotes will also be releasing a 600-card set for American Sign Language and a box of 600 blank cards for do-it-yourself flashcard makers.



A New Dual-Language Book from Dover Publications: Russian and English

A New Dual-Language Book from Dover Publications: Russian and English

As spring approaches, Long Island-based Dover Publications, for which I have a soft spot, will be issuing a new dual-language book called Russian Folktales from the Collection of A. Afanasyev.

Dover offers numerous dual-language books—you know, where you have one language on the left and the other language on the right. Their offerings span French, German, Italian, Spanish, and Russian.

I have not been drawn to this dual-language idea previously, but maybe I will try it in 2014. Sergey Levchin is the editor for this particular volume.

One thing I worry about with translated texts is that the learner (meaning me) will turn too easily to the translation. I tend to like my literature monolingual, to reduce temptation. But this type of publication can be valuable for gaining simultaneous linguistic and cultural insight, and Dover’s books are refreshingly budget-conscious.


April seems to be a busy month for language-learning publishing!

Basic Arabic: A Grammar and Workbook, by Waheed Samy

Basic Arabic: A Grammar and Workbook, by Waheed Samy

Modern Japanese Grammar Workbook, from Routledge

Modern Japanese Grammar Workbook, from Routledge

Routledge’s Basic Arabic: A Grammar and Workbook, by Waheed Samy and Leila Samy, is scheduled for an April release. 

As I was researching this volume, I noticed that Dr. Samy had passed away in 2011. Leila is his daughter. It is moving to me that this language book is a father-daughter undertaking, and I send my condolences to the family. I look forward to examining the book.

Practice Makes Perfect: Coming Soon for Basic Latin

Practice Makes Perfect: Coming Soon for Basic Latin

The Modern Japanese Grammar Workbook (above right) is also from Routledge and will act as companion to their recently published Modern Japanese Grammar: A Practical Guide (November 2013). If you get one, I would recommend getting both. Practice is a good thing where language-learning is concerned.

According to McGraw-Hill, of course, practice makes perfect. And in keeping with that philosophy, they are releasing a new Practice Makes Perfect for Latin!

I wish I knew Latin and ancient Greek. I realize that in order to realize these wishes, I will need to study them. The problem is the gobs of living languages that are being spoken by living people right this moment and that keep tempting me away from classical texts.

I have spent only about 20 hours in my entire life studying Latin, but my impression is that there are some fairly dominant Latin textbooks that many people use. A couple of them are on my shelves.

Still, the more the merrier, so I will probably get this one.


May will bring the completion of a new three-part Arabic series from (yes, again) Routledge.

The 'Arabiyyat Al-Naas Series Will Add a Third Volume This Spring

The ‘Arabiyyat Al-Naas Series Will Add a Third Volume This Spring

From Georgetown University Press, Beginning Hindi: A Complete Course

From Georgetown University Press, Beginning Hindi: A Complete Course

The first two volumes (introductory and intermediate) were released last fall; the third volume, shown above left, is labeled “advanced.” I like the description of the introductory volume on Routledge’s website:

‘Arabiyyat al-Naas (Part One) offers a groundbreaking introduction to Arabic as it is written and spoken by native speakers. It combines a progressive and rigorous grounding in Modern Standard Arabic (MSA)—the form employed for reading, writing and formal speaking—with an innovative integration of the spoken Levantine variety used in everyday situations in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Palestine. Introducing the two simultaneously ‘Arabiyyat al Naas (Part One) uses each in its proper context: Levantine for conversations and MSA for reading and writing activities. In this way, the course efficiently prepares students for the practical realities of learning and “living” Arabic today.

One of my frustrations in studying Arabic is that there are multiple spoken dialects jostling for attention alongside standard written Arabic. The correlation between what I have learned orally and what I see in writing is pretty poor. I hope this series will solve some of those learning challenges.

I am curious to see Beginning Hindi: A Complete Course (shown above right) by Joshua Pien and Fauzia Farooqui. This one is being published by Georgetown University Press.

It is not cheap (a hair under $70), and it is a textbook, but I like the cover! I need more Hindi materials.


June will introduce a fourth member to McGraw-Hill’s growing new collection of Practice Makes Perfect books for Arabic. This one, by Ali Almakhlafi, is ambitiously entitled Complete Arabic Grammar.

Complete Arabic Grammar: I'm Curious to See This One

Complete Arabic Grammar: I’m Curious to See This One

Arabic from Routledge: To Increase Your Speed and Decrease Your Errors

Arabic from Routledge: To Increase Your Speed and Decrease Your Errors

In addition, I am kind of intrigued to see what Sebastian Maisel will advise me to do in his July release Speed Up Your Arabic: Strategies to Avoid Common Errors. I’m not sure my Arabic is at a stage where it is ready to be sped up (actually, I’m quite sure it’s not), but I will keep working on it. The publisher of this book: once again, language-learning behemoth Routledge, which already has similar volumes to accelerate your Spanish and Chinese.

I don’t yet have anything to tell you about the second half of the year, but I hope one or more of the above-mentioned products will tide you language-lovers over through the dog days of summer.

Comments (16)

Alex • Posted on Fri, January 03, 2014 - 12:29 pm EST

Twenty bucks says Pimsleur publishes a 30-unit Japanese IV by the end of the year. I made that prediction last month after I noticed how the languages receiving the most completion updates were those ranked on Pimsleur’s front page as being their most popular choices by consumers - the most recent as I’m sure you know being Chinese (Mandarin) IV - and Japanese is the last on the list. I don’t know if there’s any way to tell where it will go from there, though.

Ellen Jovin • Posted on Fri, January 03, 2014 - 2:51 pm EST

You’re on, Alex! I don’t think that will happen this year. But it would be great if it did!

Jeff Whittaker • Posted on Fri, January 03, 2014 - 3:51 pm EST

Here’s a few more from my wishlist:
Chinese Verbs & Essentials of Grammar (May 2014)

Fundamentals of Arabic Grammar (January 2014)::

Arabic: A Linguistic Introduction by Karin Ryding (author of the Arabic Reference Grammar) (April 2014)

Ellen Jovin • Posted on Fri, January 03, 2014 - 4:06 pm EST

Jeff, those look great! Thank you so much. I love that verb series (the first one you mentioned); I’ve seen it for a couple of other languages. I didn’t realize they were still producing new products for it!

It seems as though there is an awful lot of Arabic coming out this year…much to look forward to.

Ellen Jovin • Posted on Fri, January 03, 2014 - 10:52 pm EST

I just reviewed the first book mentioned on this page, “Practice Makes Perfect: Writing Japanese Kana.” You can read the review at

I was a little grumpy to discover that it is basically the same as “Easy Kana Workbook” (McGraw-Hill, 1991), but it’s still good anyway.

Katherine • Posted on Thu, January 09, 2014 - 10:22 pm EST

I am so happy to see so many Arabic language books coming out!!  I hope they are useful.  There are no bounds for my hatred of the Al Kitaab series so loved by American universities..

Ellen Jovin • Posted on Thu, January 09, 2014 - 10:57 pm EST

Schools/institutions sometimes get in a rut where they keep using the same product over and over, until it becomes a moribund tradition.

Jeff Whittaker • Posted on Fri, January 10, 2014 - 3:15 pm EST

You’re right Ellen, there is a SURGE of Arabic stuff coming out in 2014. I found a ton more, so start saving your money folks!

Arabic DeMYSTiFieD (Sept. 2014):

Salamaat! Learning Arabic with Ease (from Tuttle) (June 2014):

Modern Written Arabic: A Comprehensive Grammar (May 2014 - Routledge):

An Introduction to Modern Standard Arabic (Oxford Press) (June 2014):

al-Murshid: A Guide to Modern Standard Arabic Grammar for the Intermediate Level (January 28)

Building Arabic Vocabulary through Reading: For Advanced Students of MSA (January 2014)

And I would be negligent if I did not mention this book which is already available and is AWESOME for beginning Arabic learners (check out the Amazon preview of the back cover to see the unique way you can find words with this dictionary):
Lingualism Arabic Learner’s Dictionary: Arabic-English

Arabic Stories for Language Learners is also out (and a steal at $14.95 for intermediate learners):

Ellen Jovin • Posted on Fri, January 10, 2014 - 3:19 pm EST

Jeff, that list is completely fabulous. Thank you SO much. Better start studying, folks! :)

Alex • Posted on Fri, May 30, 2014 - 12:19 pm EST

You won’t believe this. Pimsleur is actually going to do a FIFTH level of both Spanish AND French. When? I don’t know. I hope the new level of French covers concepts like “ne… que” and “lorsque” vs. “quand”. So much new ground they need to cover there…

Also, Japanese 4 is coming out before long, no doubt by the end of the year… looks like someone’s gonna owe me 20 bucks by Christmas ;) (I’m totally joking here, I’m just excited for all the new Pimsleur stuff coming out)

Ellen Jovin • Posted on Fri, May 30, 2014 - 12:50 pm EST

Alex, you must have friends in high places! You are BLOWING MY MIND with all this great news. We will see about the Japanese, and if you are right, please send me your mailing address. ;)

Alex • Posted on Fri, May 30, 2014 - 1:23 pm EST

Actually, I just got the information from the Pimsleur website’s FAQ (scroll down/click the link to “Coming Soon”). But I guess that’s kind of the same thing.

Unless it was a joke or a hack or something, Pimsleur’s bakery is cooking up something good!

Ellen Jovin • Posted on Fri, May 30, 2014 - 1:39 pm EST

‘Tis no joke! I am apparently not hanging out in the right places. ;) Thanks again, Alex. This is fab.

Alex • Posted on Sun, June 01, 2014 - 3:43 pm EST

If it is a joke, is certainly on board with it:

www amazon com/French-Comprehensive-Understand-Pimsleur-Language/dp/1442368411

Alex • Posted on Wed, September 10, 2014 - 8:40 pm EST

Hello! It’s me again. Yesterday I found this:,p_27:Pimsleur,p_n_feature_browse-bin:2682077011&bbn=283155&sort=date-desc-rank&ie=UTF8&qid=1410377660&rnid=618072011

It’s not a spam link, I swear. That’s a list, sorted by publication date (most recent first), of the CD sets Pimsleur has or will have available.

As you can see from that link, Spanish 5 is due out in the next couple of months and anyone studying Japanese can complement their studies with the fourth level as a Christmas present.

Personally, I’ve bookmarked it - I’ve known Amazon to have good release date information. Their intel is awesome. This is stuff you can’t even get from the Pimsleur website. ;)

Ellen Jovin • Posted on Thu, September 11, 2014 - 1:06 am EST

Haha. I trust you, Alex! Thank you so much for following up on this. ;)

Post a Comment