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Living Language Irish, Complete Edition: Beginner through advanced course, including 3 coursebooks, 9 audio CDs, and free online learning Paperback – Audiobook, Unabridged
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About the Author
Living Language has been a proven and effective language learning instruction for over 65 years. Using techniques originally developed for the US State Department, the Living Language Method follows a four point approach from building a foundation of essential words and phrases, advancing to full sentences and conversations, practicing with recall exercises aimed at both short and long term memory and developing practical language skills to equip the learner in any situation. Living Language is an imprint of Random House LLC, a Penguin Random House Company.
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What I liked about the course was that it really gave a lot of examples and opportunities for practice, unlike other courses, and also includes self-quizzes. The format really helps to drive home the grammar that they are trying to teach you effectively. In fact, the course is almost entirely oriented around teaching grammar patterns. Unfortunately, with this focus and most of the space taken up by workbook activities, there are not quite enough examples of natural language and conversations longer than one sentence. You may end up with good grammar in the end, but will have a hard time conversing because you will still be translating everything in your head from English.
I found the assertion that this is three courses in one to be completely misleading. Like I said, the course is based on presenting grammar along with a certain speaking topic, so for the "Advanced" course they simply wait to teach the "harder" aspects of Irish grammar, such as some irregular future tenses. I can hardly call a course that is still teaching verb forms, plurals, and sentence structures an "Advanced" course. I expected some actual in-depth analysis of passages, conversations, and figurative language, but what I got was the same information you find in the final chapters of shorter courses. In other words, you don't learn more Irish with this course than others, they just give it to you more slowly.
The absolute worst part of this course was the clear lack of input from native speakers. Only one of the people in the recordings seems to be an actual Gaeilgeoir. Pronunciation is taught with phonetic English spelling, and the inconsistency with which they spell out gh- or kh-sounds matches the inconsistency with which the speakers actually pronounce them. They will pronounce Gaeilge as "gwailga," that English w-sound being a common rookie mistake. It is embarrassing at best when your recordings purport to teach a student the proper pronunciation, and your speaker enunciates with clear English sounds "Deeya gwitch." Serious students of Irish also know that in most dialects there are three pronunciations of the verbal ending -adh, depending on grammar. The speakers in this course clearly have no idea that this is the case (the one native speaker excepted), and instead of pronouncing it according to the Caighdeán or any of the living dialects, they pronounce them all the same. The lack of native speaker input even seems to affect the text, with odd word choices ('Tá an film go breá,' "The film is fine") to odd grammar ('Tá Clár ard agus tanaí,' when native speakers would not use 'agus' in this sentence.)
So all in all, you WILL learn Irish, but heavily-accented second-language learner Irish. It is embarrassing that this publisher has consistently failed to find native speakers for its Irish courses when so many others have (Teach Yourself, Colloquial, Pimsleur, Buntús Cainte, Rosetta Stone, Learning Irish to name a few.) Living Language Spoken World Irish by the same publisher has the same problems. You are much better off choosing something from the Teach Yourself series, which will teach you the same information as in this course, albeit more condensed.
Some positive points are that the speaker doesn't go so fast as the ones on the Pimsleur course and the accent is sufficiently different to help me learn to attune to more of the many accents that one encounters on Irish radio. I find these particular variations of the sentences helpful, since Irish appears to be a language where the same thing can be said in a dozen different ways. I find written the exercises helpful even though I've always thought that it was wasteful and unnecessary for a student to actually write into a workbook! Luckily they provide a blank notebook which I'm using for my answers to keep the workbook pristine.
There is an excellent effort taken to lay out and rationalize an introduction to orthography, grammar and verbs, the three greatest banes of my Irish learning experience. Irish is a language where the general word order is verb --> noun --> object like some of the native north African languages rather than noun --> verb --> object like English and other European languages... but Irish has also been subject to a thousand ears of forced English instruction so this will vary a bit. Likewise the spelling varies a good bit since words have been adopted from other languages through the centuries in both English and Irish. This is probably the biggest forte of the course, the well laid out and logical approach to the points which make Irish...foreign. There is a logic to Irish grammar but it is not an English logic and kudos to anyone who can explain it in a readable form. Irish verbs defy brief explanation, but this book breaks down the subject into edible bytes.
Like in all language courses it appears the writers sometimes include chaff. In this course it would appear they waste effort at the end teaching cold war NATO terminology (but not a word about what one eats nor wears at the high level meeting, the history of the hotel where they stay nor the music they listen to when they go out drinking with the French ambassador). If they've got to put in something of this nature, Ireland has had a thousand years of more interesting words to describe wars, battles and oppression. I'm debating whether their chapters on technology are chaff or not since apparently even the most rural Irish have cell phones and computers with all the concomitant verbiage but on the other hand everyone in Ireland knows English and English is the lingua franca of technophiles.
Another, probably greater, negative is that some of the audio disks are scratched though they are new in the box. Reason appears to be they are in a cheesy cardboard binder which doesn't allow good control when the shipping clerk drops the box on its top. So they get loose, bounce around and get scratched. So far they are all listenable but when I saw the scratches I decided to put them on my computer so I could archive the originals. And the scratches slow down that process considerably, to the point where I'm able to type this longwinded essay while waiting for a single disk to upload.