Top positive review
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A humane and well-rounded introduction
on March 7, 2008
My reaction has been quite opposite that of the other reviewer. While this is not the only Persian textbook you'll ever need, it is just right for someone new to the language. I find that this course covers a lot of material and is clearly written, engaging, and well paced. Previous to this course I was using Thackston's "An Introduction to Persian," and I completed over half of his course before finally giving up in favor of Living Language's.
While Thackston was intelligible and comprehensive, the book's bare-bones, disconnected presentation leaves much to be desired. You'll learn grammatical concepts and little else. There is no dialog, no cultural or contextual information, only a handful of rote exercises, and a fairly useless set of vocabulary. There is almost no chance to practice or review what you've learned. Complicated constructions are consigned to explanations of a few terse and highly technical sentences. His explanations are more akin to those of a reference grammar than an introductory course. After assiduously working through the bulk of the book, I found myself more suited to parse verbs than to read or speak any Persian. I would probably recommend his book for those interested in reading Persian for academic reasons, or possibly as a follow-up to an actual introductory course like this one.
Living Language's course was a pleasant contrast. Suddenly, I was 1) given interesting dialog; 2) introduced to useful and relevant vocabulary; 3) taught the key grammatical concepts in a clear and logical manner; 4) given many opportunities to practice what I've learned in a variety of contexts; 5) provided with a variety of cultural highlights and insights.
The grammar explanations are excellent, albeit too quickly paced at times. I'm at a loss as to why another reviewer bemoans the presentation of the verb. Yes, the author likes to provide more explanation than a stark conjugation chart. The conjugations are there, but they are introduced in helpful and logical ways.
For example, Thackston adopts the traditional approach: first, he presents the infinitive (eg. raftan, "to go"), then demonstrates (I won't say "teaches") how to derive the past stem (raft) by dropping the infinitive ending (-an). He then demonstrates how the past tense is formed by the addition of person/number endings (raftam "I went", rafti "you went"... etc.) He doesn't introduce the present tense (which has a separate verbal stem) until almost half-way through the book!
In contrast, Living Language introduces the uses of the verb in a rational order, starting with the various forms of the present tense and proceeding to the past tenses, future, etc. This way is much more natural. I'm not sure what anyone could find objectionable about this presentation.
As for the complaint that the inclusion of colloquial usage is somehow inaccurate and confusing, I did not find it this way. Instead, it is characterized by a few predictable rules, and it was instructive to see how the formal grammar translates into daily speech. When colloquial speech is being used in the book, it is marked as such, and the more formal written variant is presented. If there are any inaccuracies, I would ask critics to refer to them specifically.
This course includes six CDs: three to accompany the book and three to use at any time. The dialogs are delivered at a reasonable pace and provide good practice. The two narrators, a man and a woman, do a good job, although I often found that the woman enunciates words more clearly. The "at home" CDs are audio of the Persian in each chapter; the "on-the-go" ones provide a four or five handy drills for each chapter, starting with a short dialog and then prompting you to create or alter sentences.
My main complaint that the chapters contain too much content; namely several grammatical concepts and several vocabulary lists. I think the book would be better if it were divided into more chapters (from 15 to maybe 20 or 25) with smaller portions of grammar and vocabulary. Also, vocabulary is introduced that is not used in the chapter's dialog or exercises, something that I find frustrating.
A final caveat: I learned to read and write the Persian alphabet before this course, so I did not have a chance to evaluate its presentation in this book. All of the Persian script in this book is accompanied by a phonetic transcription, but I would recommend that any beginner spend some time learning the fundamentals of reading and writing. My suggestion is write out the alphabet in full as many times as you can stomach, repeating the sound/name of each letter out loud as you do so.
Overall, I find Living Language's Farsi to be a solid and interesting introduction to Persian.