Essential Portuguese Grammar: A Teach Yourself Guide

3 Portuguese, Books

March 10, 2013

Author  Sue Tyson-Ward
Series  Teach Yourself
Publisher  McGraw-Hill
Publication Date  2010
Price  $15.00
Skill Level  Beginner, Intermediate

Essential Portuguese Grammar: A Teach Yourself Guide is a little more lighthearted than some of the heavy Portuguese grammars out there.

It focuses on the Portuguese of Portugal, but the author, Sue Tyson-Ward, offers regular comments on Brazilian usage and vocabulary differences, which I found very helpful. (You do keep getting verb conjugations for pronouns that aren’t really in use in Brazil, though, which for me was kind of a pain.)

I appreciate Ms. Tyson-Ward’s pedagogical philosophy. In her introduction, she writes:

During my teaching over the last 18 years, I have encountered many learners who wish to go beyond the basics of learning a few holiday phrases. However, many people were put off grammar at school, and often say to me “Do we have to learn any grammar in this class?” My straight answer is always “Yes, you do!” Without the basic building-blocks of how a language works, you can never go beyond learning phrases parrot-fashion.

I think this is slightly overstated, and an obvious exception would be an immersion experience, where you have no choice but to sink or swim, with or without grammar lessons to buoy you. Nonetheless, I do believe in grammar!

Now for the criticisms. First, the order in which things are explained in Essential Portuguese Grammar is just plain weird. You learn how to say “rhomboid” and “obtuse angle” before you ever reach a chapter on present tense. And you do not get enough verb practice when you get there.

In addition, throughout the book you are repeatedly given examples and exercises in which concepts you haven’t yet learned are used without explanation.

I think Essential Portuguese Grammar could work okay (not great, though) for people who are independent and experienced language learners, especially if they already have a solid knowledge of Spanish or Italian. On the other hand, if you are experienced enough to fill in the numerous informational holes along the way, you might find some of the exercises silly. I know I did. 

Essential Portuguese Grammar, at Coffee Shop
Essential Portuguese Grammar, at Coffee Shop

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