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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.