- Series: Colloquial Series (Multimedia)
- Audio Cassette
- Publisher: Routledge; 1 edition (September 28, 1994)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0415092043
- ISBN-13: 978-0415092043
- Product Dimensions: 2 x 6.5 x 9.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 4 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #848,047 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Colloquial Ukrainian (Colloquial Series (Multimedia)) 1st Edition
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Colloquial Ukrainian: the Complete Course for Beginners, is stated to be, in addition to an introductory course in the Ukrainian language, a course which can be used by someone who needs minimal skills. To that end, this course is recommended for either a classroom setting or studying on one's own. Although the approach is meant to be casual and fun without disregarding grammar, I found it to be, at a very minimum, an exercise in frustration and annoyance.
Available as a kit (text and two CDs or cassettes) or individually, as a text or audio set, the language course that is reviewed below is the kit. The text, as stated on page one of the book, features native-Ukrainian speakers (I assume that they're not teachers, or that fact would have been stated), and is accompanied by "two 60-minute cassettes" (two CDs were in my kit, although the icons throughout the book still show cassettes, and the text throughout still refers to cassettes--unless, of course, you look at the back cover, which states "two 60-minute CDs are available to complement the book").
Recorded material on the CDs includes: dialogues (ad nauseam--I've seldom used dialogue, per se, from any language classes that I took; words and phrases, yes--dialogues, generally, no), selective examples from the book, and additional materials. Caveat: where the cassette symbol appears in the book, not every example is recorded. It's quite disconcerting to be reading a list only to hear a word that isn't in the order where you'd expect it to be. Additionally, the cassette icons blend in with the rest of the text and, at times, are up to five pages apart. When the speaker says "dialogue 1" or "dialogue 2," or whatever the next number is, the cassette icons in the book only show a cassette; having a number next to the cassette icon would facilitate immensely a quicker location of the dialogue. The speaker never advises to turn to page so and so; you're on your own to sort through the pages looking for the next cassette icon.
There's no background information on either the two authors or on the speakers (except that they are native speakers); additionally, the cover image isn't described/captioned except to name the photographer.
The Reference section states that it includes: "some information on Ukrainian grammar that is not in the lessons, and also that there is information in lessons, on occasion, which is not listed in the reference section." It's too bad that all of the reference material listed throughout the lessons isn't listed/included in the reference section; the student is left having to remember where something was encountered previously and then, if necessary, to do a tedious, time-consuming search.
The Abbreviations (of English terms) will necessitate constant referral to the reference section in the second half of the book. The Declension section features page upon page of almost all text in bold, rendering it a difficult read. The Weeks and Months section has, again, mostly words in bold, four columns across, which leaves the section cluttered and difficult to follow--and, is listed neither in the Contents nor in the Index. In the Conjugation section, again, most text is in bold.
It's stated that in the Ukrainian-English glossary (28 pages based on words found in the dialogues, texts, and readings) "far from being a complete list, some useful words not included will be found grouped thematically in individual lessons." If the words are useful, why weren't they all included? Again, the student is left with the dismaying task of searching for some useful words that are grouped thematically in individual lessons. Why isn't the student relieved of that task while utilizing instead the time to concentrate on studies instead of a game of search and seek? The English-Ukrainian glossary spans 11 pages--which leads one to ask why are there 28 pages of Ukrainian-English words, but only 11 pages of English-Ukrainian words in the glossaries?
Cosmetic appearance and presentation of material are just two reasons, among others, why I find Colloquial Ukrainian falling short of a good language course; they may seem minor bones of contention, but with the stress of learning a new language, each irritant becomes a stepping stone on the journey which may result in a possible dead-end. The descriptive narrative, the illustrations, the bits of information on Ukrainian history and culture which are included are all admirable additions, but if that's what I had wanted, I'd have looked to other types of books/genres. In a language course, however, among my requirements are ease in using materials, presentations which enhance learning the language and vocabulary, explanations that are able to be comprehended readily, and exercises that can be completed based on material presented and learned.
Ukrainian as a language can be in and of itself intimidating and formidable; if the steps to be climbed in the process of learning that language are too steep or too frustrating, reaching that summit may prove to be too arduous a goal, and, therefore, not achieved. If something is difficult from the get-go, the student will probably return the material to the bookstore or to the library, or just drop out of the class. By the time I got through the first lesson, I thought to myself that had I purchased Colloquial Ukrainian, I would, at that point in time, had been headed out the door to the post office or to the bookstore to return the material.
This 373-page book is smaller than a regular-sized book; makes it handy for carrying around, but with somewhat narrow margins and small fonts, it makes for a difficult read. The lessons themselves span 276 pages; reference material spans 97 pages. The pages are crammed with information to the point of making it difficult to locate specific items. The very many items on a page that are highlighted in bold make the headings lose their prominence, so that finding materials is cumbersome and tiresome. I especially dislike the lists, which have Ukrainian words in bold in the first column, English definitions in the second, Ukrainian words in bold in the third column, and English definitions in the fourth column--had the font been larger, had fewer columns been used across the page, and had fewer words been written in bold, reading and comprehension would have been easier. With so many obstacles to contend with--small text font, bold feature overused, four columns of small print across the page, much of it in bold, together with too much material on one page--the copy is very much less than reader-friendly. Add to that the frustration of using the CD together with the book, and you'll understand why I find this language course to be less than satisfactory.
The Contents includes: About this book; Introduction; Lessons (twenty titles are in Ukrainian with translations directly beneath each); Reference section; Grammatical terms used in this book; Abbreviations; Declension; Numerals (not listed in the Contents); A few propositions and case government; Weeks and Months (not listed in the Contents); Conjugation; Selected further reading and reference (in the text, "and reference" is omitted); Key to the exercises; Ukrainian-English glossary; English-Ukrainian glossary; and, Index.
In the Introduction, it's confusing when readers (on the CD) read words in a list, but skip around. For a person familiar with Ukrainian, it's annoying; for a person who's learning the language and not yet proficient in the spelling of words and pronunciation of sounds, it must be extremely frustrating. Dialogues have a paragraph of text in Ukrainian followed by a paragraph of translation in English. I prefer to see a line of Ukrainian dialogue followed by the English translation.
The section entitled "Tips on writing" (still in the Introduction), shows some samples of Ukrainian script. The script is too small for any useful purpose. On a computer, it's possible to enlarge the script size--while reading a book, that convenient feature, alas, is unavailable. I doubt that many students study from books while holding a magnifying glass in one hand; I know that I've never studied with a magnifying glass held over a textbook--however, looking at the Ukrainian script in this text, I thought that perhaps I should get out my magnifying glass for a closer look, at least that would be better than squinting. Instead of cramming four columns on a small page with small font, it would serve the student much better to have shown a larger script in order to show the scripted letters and how they're formed and connected.
No information is given in the book on either of the authors. The Amazon product page states: "Ian Press is Established Professor in Russian and Stefan Pugh is Reader in Russian, both at the University of St. Andrews." I researched and found on the Internet some information on Dr. Pugh (in the two paragraphs below), but couldn't verify any background on Ian Press.
Author Stefan Pugh, Ph.D., Professor of Modern Languages received his Ph.D. Slavic Languages (1984), University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill; M.A. Slavic Languages (1979), Yale University; and, B.A. Russian (1978), Duke University. Dr. Pugh began his academic career at Duke University, where he taught for fourteen years in the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures. The next fourteen years were spent as Reader in Russian at the University of St. Andrews. Dr. Pugh came to Wright State University in 2008 as Professor of Modern Languages.
Major publications of Dr. Pugh include: 1) The Rusyn Language. A Grammar of the Literary Standard of Slovakia, with Reference to Lemko and Subcarpathian Rusyn. Languages of the World/Materials, Vol. 476. (2009). 2) A New Historical Grammar of the East Slavic Languages, Vol. 1: Introduction and Phonology. LINCOM Studies in Slavic Linguistics 27. Munich: Lincom, 2007. 3) Ukrainian: a Comprehensive Grammar. With J.I. Press. London and New York: Routledge, 1999. 4) Systems in Contact, System in Motion: the Assimilation of Russian Verbs in the Baltic Finnic Languages of Russia. Uppsala: Uppsala University, 1999. 5) Testament to Ruthenian: A Linguistic Analysis of the Smotryc'kyj Variant. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press for the Harvard Ukrainian Research Institute, 1996.
Cover photograph is by Christina Dameyer/Lonely Planet Images. The photo doesn't have a caption, so I'll hazard a guess: probably domes of one of the churches of the Pecherska Lavra Monastery of the Caves, which overlooks the Dnipro River. On August 21, 2007, the Lavra was named one of the Seven Wonders of Ukraine based on voting by experts and the Internet community. The Pecherska Lavra Monastery is inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site (along with Saint Sophia Cathedral).
Acknowledgements made include: thanks to Professor Michael Branch, Director of the School of Slavonic and East European Studies (SSEES), University of London, for putting the authors in touch with Routledge (the publisher); to James Dingley, SSEES, for his help and encouragement; to Marta Jenkala for invaluable criticism; to Olena Bekh of Kyiv University for her time, help and advice; to Professor Roksoliana Zorivchuk of L'viv University for her patience and help; to Professor Evgenij Dobrenko of Duke University for assistance and enthusiasm; William H. Pugh for proofreading and comments; and, to others for other assistance.
Colloquial Ukrainian (the Complete Course for Beginners) by Ian Press and Stefan Pugh was first published in 1994 and reprinted in 1995, 2002, 2003, and 2007 by Routledge (an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group, an informa business). The 2007 edition was published simultaneously in the USA and Canada; it was printed and bound in Great Britain. Routledge is owned by Informa; Informa plc is a United Kingdom-based publishing and conference company, with offices in over forty countries and with over 7,000 employees. Besides publishing, the group has several other interests represented by the several brands it owns across many countries. These companies work in the areas of management consulting and performance improvement. Colloquial Ukrainian is part of The Colloquial Series, which at the time of publication (2007) offered sixty-one titles (with two more forthcoming).
Colloquial means "relating to conversation; denoting or characterized by informal or conversational idiom or vocabulary." Indeed, the CDs included very much Ukrainian dialogue, but I wondered what good was hearing dialogue when the student might not have memorized the words? Throughout the book, the dialogue precedes the vocabulary--I'd have preferred to see the vocabulary first, and then being familiar with the words to hear them spoken in dialogues. And, would not a better utilization of the CDs have been saying a Ukrainian word followed by the English translation--at least then, the student could listen to the words and memorize the vocabulary. The student would then still hear the Ukrainian words being spoken, but in addition would have the benefit of learning vocabulary. Hearing dialogue for the sole sake of hearing the language spoken seems to me to be a wasted opportunity, especially since later in the course paragraphs of Ukrainian text are read, but there are no English translations given.
Amazon sells the kit with a cassette pack; the material that I perused had two CDs. The CDs do, indeed, have lots of recorded Ukrainian conversations. However, as I listened to the recording and followed the dialogues in the book, I thought: Learning a language means having to recognize and digest words, which takes longer for someone unfamiliar with the language and words; at times, even people familiar with a language find others speaking too quickly for them to comprehend the words spoken. Also, I thought that just listening to conversation for the sake of hearing Ukrainian conversation could have been accomplished by either getting a tape/CD from the library or finding a site on the Internet which has Ukrainian TV or radio programs and listening to conversations there.
As I continued to listen to the CDs, I also thought: that the reading, although read at a regular pace, seems to me to be too fast for the novice student. In normal conversation, many times words seem to run into each other; a student, unfamiliar with the words, needs at least a slower pace than what's presented on the CD. Slower pronunciation would definitely be a plus for me.
You're warned ahead of time that not all of the exercises will be covered in the cassette; nonetheless, I found it disconcerting to be following the text in the book only to have the speaker pronounce a word that wasn't next on the list--there seemed to be a helter-skelter random choosing of words to pronounce. I then needed to search through the list for the word that had just been spoken, only to miss out on the spoken words that followed.
Additionally, listening to the CD, I found it disconcerting that the speaker would finish the exercise and not direct the student to the place in the book for the next exercise, which at times appears a page, or two, or even five pages later. I've listened to other language course tapes, and generally, the speaker will say something to the effect of: "now stop the tape," or "this exercise is/continues on page..." With the Colloquial Ukraine CD, instead of concentrating on learning, I was forever scanning the pages ahead for the next cassette icon.
The 2007 edition (section entitled About this book) states that "two 60-minute cassettes are available," and later "the learner should note that where the cassette symbol appears throughout the book," mention is made of "cassette," however, the kit that I perused did not include cassettes, but two CDs. Additionally, throughout the book the icon of a cassette appears rather than an icon of a CD. This may seem like a minor point, but a person who has a cassette player and purchases this book specifically because he/she perhaps doesn't have a CD player or prefers to use a cassette player will be disappointed. If the book says cassette, the kit should have a cassette; if a CD is included, the book should state CD and the icons should show a CD and not a cassette. Despite saying "cassette" throughout the book, the back cover states "Two 60-minute CDs are available." As far as I know, a cassette is different from a CD--the words are not interchangeable. Edits should have been made to the book to reflect the correct terminology.
All in all, illustrations and some history are not what I seek in a language course--a nice touch, but secondary to the course itself. Will you learn Ukrainian (at least phrases and some words) from this kit? Probably. Flying coach, business, or first class are several ways to get to your destination--which do you prefer? If the journey is long, bumpy/turbulent, and tiring, which method of transportation is your preference--car, cruise ship, plane, kayak, or train? Based on the frustration and annoyance that I endured while attempting to utilize the materials, I wouldn't place Colloquial Ukrainian high on a list of recommended language courses since there's at least one language course that accomplishes that without any of the annoyances or frustrations. Please see my review of Ukrainian for Speakers of English (by Dr. Roma Franko), which I found to be excellent and recommend highly.
Addendum: Readers, you're invited to visit each of my reviews--most of them have photos that I took in Ukraine (over 600)--you'll learn lots about Ukraine and Ukrainians. The image gallery shows smaller photos, which are out of sequence. The preferable way is to see each review through my profile page since photos that are germane to that particular book/VHS/DVD are posted there with notes and are in sequential order.
To visit my reviews: click on my pseudonym, Mandrivnyk, to get to my profile page; click on the tab called review; scroll to the bottom of the section, and click on see all reviews; click on each title, and on the left-hand side, click on see all images. The thumbnail images at the top of the page show whether photos have notes; roll your mouse over the image to find notes posted.
Also, you're invited to visit my Listmania lists, which have materials sorted by subject matter.
Great book to begin self-instruction of the language. It would be improved if the dictionary pages included more vocabulary.