Most helpful positive review
136 of 138 people found the following review helpful
Excellent self-study package
on December 28, 2012
This latest edition of the Living Language self-study language programmes is a modified and enhanced version of their "Complete: Basics" series. It seems to be part of a program by Random House to consolidate their language courses. Unfortunately, the vastly superior "Ultimate" series has been abandoned in the process. The new "Complete" edition is divided into three levels. The first level, "Essential", is drawn from the Living Language "Starting Out In German". The second and third levels, "Intermediate" and "Advanced", respectively, are, for the most part, slightly modified versions of the previous "Complete: Basic German". The Intermediate and Advanced books contain "Units", each of which covers a theme (Family, Work, Hotel, Restaurant, Medical Appointment, etcetera). The Units are divided into four "Lessons", the first three of which present the Words, Phrases, and Sentences that are used in the fourth lesson Conversations. Although the approach seems quite logical, it does take a little getting used to at first as, occasionally, some individual Phrases or Sentences seem a little odd because they are missing the context of the end-of-unit Conversation. Each Lesson also contains explanations of grammar. Despite the publisher's decision to label the second and third books as Intermediate and Advanced, be advised that this is STILL an BASIC self-study language course. Nonetheless, enhancements include: a vastly improved visual presentation, some much-appreciated additional exercise material, and access to some fairly simple on-line learning activities. Also, a glossary and a summary of grammar are included as appendices in all three levels. Although I have detected a few, very minor errors, in my opinion, the "Complete" series merits five stars.
AUDIO RECORDINGS - ONE IRRITATING FEATURE
The audio recordings are, as always with the Living Language programmes, of a very high quality. The voices are clear, well-modulated, and at an appropriate speed. The latest set of recordings includes EXTENSIVE instructions in ENGLISH that are drawn directly from the printed material. This accounts for most of the expansion of the recordings from the original 4 CDs to the 9 CDs in this latest edition. Some users might find the English audio reassuring, as it will permit them to read through the text only once and then rely more-or-less completely on the recordings. The DISADVANTAGE of all of this English audio is that, as the learner becomes more comfortable with the material, reviewing the key phrases and dialogues will require some deft skipping forward to avoid - what will have become - superfluous English instructions.
SUGGESTION FOR ADDITIONAL PRACTICE
In my attempts to learn German, I have found that finding opportunities to PRACTICE the language to be one of the greatest challenges. If you simply want to DRILL--DRILL--DRILL your German (or almost any other language), I suggest that you visit the website FSI-LANGUAGES.YOJIK.EU. The FSI BASIC COURSES were developed by the Foreign Service Institute (FSI), U.S. State Department, in the 1960's through the early 1970's. While they were meant to be taught in a classroom by a qualified instructor, the texts and accompanying audio recordings are absolutely fabulous for practicing the basics of the language. And here's the really good part ... they're FREE as pdf/mp3 downloads! Have a look at FSI BASIC GERMAN. If you find yourself struggling a little bit, then try the FSI GERMAN PROGRAMMED INTRODUCTION course first (but go only to about Unit 20, as the last few Units are not well designed) and then return to the Basic course.
Another fine source of practice material would be ASSIMIL GERMAN. The course is composed of, essentially, 100 short dialogues (with no apparent overall theme) accompanied by translations and notes. The material is quite good for practicing. However, while the NOTES often contain interesting comments on colloquial usage, their presentation of GRAMMAR is NOT AT ALL CLEAR.