Teach Yourself Russian Grammar
Revised April 8, 2013
Author Daphne West
Series Teach Yourself
Publication Date 2003
Skill Level Beginner, Intermediate
Teach Yourself Russian Grammar by Daphne West was the first grammar book I used for this project. It is, according to the introduction, “a reference and a practice book in one. It is intended for learners with very little Russian, but will also be useful for anyone who feels they need more explanation and practice of basic Russian grammar.” There is an answer key in the back—always a critical component.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and I considered giving it five stars, but in the end, I thought it had some shortcomings. Let me start with its strengths, though.
There was for sure a sense of order. One page of explanation, then one page of exercises relating to that explanation, one page of explanation, one page of exercises—for the entire book. It was definitely way clearer than a lot of the Teach Yourself books for other languages I have used since then.
Function is sometimes subordinated to form, however. Teach Yourself Russian Grammar is organized strangely, based on part of speech, which means it takes you until page 116 to get (officially) to verbs, even though verbs naturally appear many times in preceding pages. I also studied six noun cases without knowing how to count to 10 or say, “My name is Ellen.”
Although I appreciated being able to look things up easily (based on the part of speech), language instruction should not be ordered that way.
I believe you would need to have a solid grammar background to feel comfortable with this book. My familiarity with German helped me, because I have spent a lot of time around grammatical cases such as genitive and dative that Americans don’t often have reason to think about. Nonetheless, I still made quite a few mistakes in the exercises.
If you use Teach Yourself Russian Grammar, I recommend that you memorize the Russian alphabet before you begin. The alphabet is presented to you on page 2 of the book, but without some practice before diving in, you might feel lost. You can try the Russian for Everyone site for an introduction, or if you don’t like that one, just Google “Russian alphabet,” find something you like better, and do a little practice on spare sheets of paper.
Pretty soon you should be ready to go!
Addendum: This book has now gone out of print, but a revised version of it appears to have been issued under the title Essential Russian Grammar: A Teach Yourself Guide. I haven’t laid my hands on it, so I can’t vouch for it, but an examination of the table of contents suggests a strong resemblance to the edition I reviewed here.