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Greek: An Intensive Course
Greek: An Intensive Course
by Hardy Hansen
Edition: Paperback
Price: $41.29
81 used & new from $19.45

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, Well-Organized Greek Grammar, September 7, 2010
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This is an excellent, well-organized introduction to Attic Greek. The descriptions of morphology and syntax are extremely clear and thorough, better than any other textbook I've looked at (JACT, Ancient Greek Alive, Pharr, Homeric Greek:A Reading Course); the Greek font is large and clear; the layout of paradigms, examples and exercises is attractive, simple, and uncluttered. Other reviewers have noted that the vocabulary included is small. I believe that was done deliberately to keep the focus on the grammar. There are plenty of exercises and some self-correcting exams including answer keys.

The book would work well as a classroom text supplemented by additional vocabulary and readings. It is not very well suited for self-study except in two situations. If you have studied Greek elsewhere (I had worked through Pharr's Homeric Greek before Hansen and Quinn), then the bare bones, crystal clear grammatical review will be helpful. Or, if you have learned to read several other foreign languages and have gotten to the point that you learn new ones by reading a grammar quickly and then tackling unedited text with a dictionary, then you could use this book to learn Greek grammar.

Spoken Cambodian: Modern Spoken Cambodian (Yale Language S)
Spoken Cambodian: Modern Spoken Cambodian (Yale Language S)
by Franklin E. Huffman
Edition: Paperback
Price: $45.00
39 used & new from $24.01

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Best Way to Learn Khmer, September 4, 2009
Khmer is a truly difficult language for Westerners to learn, harder than Mandarin to speak, and harder than anything other than Chinese or Japanese to read. There are several difficulties. First, many of the vowel sounds are unlike anything in a European language and are only subtly different from one another. Second, crucial differences in meaning depend on distinguishing aspirated and unaspirated versions of consonants, something not critical in most European languages. Finally, the writing system is sufficiently complicated that if you try to learn it up front, it will take a long time to get started on even the most basic conversation. To top it off, there is no standard, intuitive system to transcribe Khmer into the Latin alphabet. Every book and dictionary uses its own idiosyncratic transliteration system, and many of them seem to me to bear little relation to how the words actually sound.

If you really love Cambodia, however, and are motivated to learn this monster of a language, there is no better series of books than "Modern Spoken Cambodian," "Cambodian System of Writing and Beginning Reader," "Intermediate Cambodian Reader," and "Literary Cambodian Reader and Glossary," by Franklin Huffman.

"Modern Spoken Cambodian," ignores the writing system and provides progressive, repetitive exercises that let you get typical sentence structures embedded in your brain. Like all transliteration systems, the one used here is not perfect, but with the help of a teacher or a set of tapes you will eventually figure out the relationship between the letters and sounds. It is helpful to do this before learning the writing system because you'll build up vocabulary and confidence with the (simple enough) grammar. Once you start learning to read you'll find it a big help to recognize the words you are trying to puzzle out.

"Cambodian System of Writing and Beginning Reader" is divided in four parts. The first is a technical description of how the writing system works. It is called an "abugida", sort of halfway between an alphabet and a syllabary. All the rules and exceptions are explained thoroughly. If you find it hard to learn just from a list of the rules, the second part consists of graded exercises that gradually introduce all of the written symbols and then give you practice in writing and transcribing them. The third section consists of a series of heavily annotated readings about basic aspects of life in Cambodia. The book ends with a glossary of all Khmer words used in the readings.

"Intermediate Cambodian Reader" consists of a series of annotated, but unedited examples of written Khmer, including Khmer folktales, descriptions of various monuments around Angkor Wat, including a far more interesting and detailed description of some of the famous bas-relief on Angor Wat than you will find in any English guidebook, excerpts from newspapers dating from the late 1960's, and a complete modern novella, "Sophat." Depending on your interests and the sort of vocabulary you need to learn you could pick and choose among the readings. A variety of Khmer fonts are used, a feature which helps get you used to the many different variations on each symbol that you may find in Cambodia. The book ends with a glossary of all words in this book and the previous one.

"Literary Cambodian Reader and Glossary" is for hard-core students of Khmer literary culture and includes progressivly older literature, mostly poetry. The farther back in time you go the more formal, difficult, and Sanskrit/Pali-influenced the language becomes. If you are marrying into a Khmer family and want to chat with your in-laws, or doing business in Cambodia, this book is probably not what you need.

There are other Khmer textbooks out there. "Everyday Khmer" uses the international phonetic alphabet to transcibe the sounds. That's quite accurate, but it takes a while to learn the IPA itself. The book has useful dialogues, but is weak on repetitive grammar drills, which most people need. "Colloquial Cambodian" is not bad; the transliteration is no more inadequate than any other, and it good dialogues and more exercises than "Everyday Khmer." "Cambodian for Beginners," does a good job of teaching you how to write, but does not cover all the rules and exceptions of the writing system in anywhere near the detail of Huffman's book; also it's transliteration system seems only tangentially connected to how the words are really pronounced. The Foreign Service Institute has a text you can download for free; it seems reasonable, but halfway through starts using the Khmer writing system without teaching it. It's transliteration system seems almost identical to Huffman's

If you've read this review all the way to the end you are really, really motivated to learn Khmer. It is not a language for the faint of heart, but once you've learned a fair bit of it it is really fun. You'll probably want to try out several of the books listed here. Of them all, I think the Huffman books are the most complete and will get you farther towards fluency.

Fundamentals of Piano Practice
Fundamentals of Piano Practice
by Chuan C Chang
Edition: Paperback
Price: $21.50
17 used & new from $18.00

43 of 44 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding Book for Self Teaching, April 15, 2008
This book radically improved my piano playing. I was a good amateur classical guitarist when younger, but did not take up the piano until age 40. I assumed it would be impossible to develop enough technique as an adult to play anything very interesting. I spent 8 years or so banging out Hanon exercises and scales and got nowhere at all musically. With much painful labor I could work through some of the easiest Hayden sonatas at 75% of proper tempo. This book taught me how to practice the piano musically and in about a year and a half all of the Mozart and Hayden sonatas are within range and I am able to play for teachers or friends without falling apart. I no longer creep through scores looking for approachable adagios; I go straight for presto and allegro con brio.
This book clearly shows what's wrong with the way many students and teachers approach piano practice and tells you how to do it efficiently and quickly. Some of the tips I found most helpful were (1) throw Hanon in the trash (2) practice hands apart more than you think you need to (3) whenever you are working on a tricky passage, play it over and over at whatever tempo is relaxed, but end by playing it once very, very slowly (4) start your practice by playing a difficult piece musically without a long warm-up on scales and exercises.
The author sometimes has an idiosyncratic way of looking at things. For example, he suggests that in order to learn to play an Alberti bass very fast you should just realize that playing all notes of the chord simultaeously is the same as playing the Alberti pattern infinitely fast -so all you need to do is slow down a bit from the infinitely fast tempo. Clever, but not really that helpful. In spite of little quirks like that, though, this book can really help.

Homeric Greek: A Book for Beginners
Homeric Greek: A Book for Beginners
by Clyde Pharr
Edition: Paperback
38 used & new from $6.90

45 of 45 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Straight to the top, May 29, 2002
This is an excellent way to learn classical Greek. It takes you straight to unsimplified Homer within a few lessons and if you tough it out you can end up able to read Homeric Greek quite well. It works fine as a teach-yourself book. I had had a semester of Greek many years ago, but I was essentially starting from scratch.
Each lesson provides the vocabulary for a few lines of Book I of the Iliad and sends you to the reference grammar at the back of the book to learn the grammar incrementally. Early on there are some prose sentences in Homeric Greek to translate, but these go away in later lessons. Once you have finished the book you will have read all of Book I and will be ready to continue through all of Homer (with a lexicon). My only gripe is that a few more prose sentences to illustrate the grammar points by repetition would have helped a bit. Overall a great teach yourself book.

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