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I'm going a cheat a bit with this review. I'm not going to review the entire book and cd pack in fact I'm just going to stick to covering the first few chapters and you will soon see why.....
Lets start with a couple of questions...
If you buy a book called 'Teach yourself Polish' how much experience of Polish would you think you would need before you could get into the 1st chapter? ....i'd answer none at all or maybe the odd word learnt on holiday
Secondly, when you open the first chapter of a Teach yourself Polish book what are the kinds of things you would expect to see in the first chapter?...i'd expect a few of the introductory words: hello, how are you, my name is..., and maybe a role play based at somewhere like the train station and you'd have to buy a ticket
I ask these questions because the first time I opened the book I had been with my Polish girlfriend for 6 months, had been to Poland several times, had made numerous Polish friends through which I had amassed a vocabulary of maybe 150 words, and had done Russian at school to a decent standard (Russian shares many words and grammar structures with Polish). Despite this, I was not able to complete any of the exercises in the first chapter. 2 years later, by which time was already having rudimentary conversations in Polish, I could just about complete the chapter if I had my girlfriend sat beside me to help me through it.
The reason is entirely due to the way this book is pulled together. It feels like the publishers met a couple of Polish blokes in the street, they knew they had no teaching skills or experience but they knew they spoke Polish. They get them to write everything they know about the language in a book, found someone else to throw in a bunch of exercises and record a cd to include in the pack. Hey presto they have a pack they can sell for £30!
The book opens with a ten page introduction to grammar and Polish pronunciation. Now Polish grammar and pronunciation is notoriously difficult, in fact my Polish teacher claimed it is in the top 5 most difficult languages in the world to learn, and it takes a long time to learn it. To give you an example it's not like English or French where you can learn a few nouns, e.g. the chair, the dog, then learn a few verbs e.g. we have, I like, and shove them together to make a sentence e.g.' I like the dog'. In Polish the endings of the nouns and adjectives are affected by numerous different cases and whether the noun is masculine, feminine or neuter. I would expect the grammar introduction to give a decent overview that you can refer back to but I would then expect each lesson in the book to properly introduce and expand on a particular point of grammar. They do touch on these points in the introduction but then launch into the chapters as though that was enough for you to become an expert
The 1st chapter this is where it all went horribly wrong. As I mentioned above I was expecting a nice gentle introduction with some easyish exercises which would gradually become more difficult as I went on. What I was not expecting was 3 different tenses and a word that has no direct translation in English
You struggle to read the role plays in the book (try saying przepraszam which is the 3rd word you see!) and note the list of vocabulary next to it. It means nothing to you because you don't yet understand how to pronounce the words. The cd then reads through the role play - on reflection the clarity and speed seem ok but by now I was very frustrated at being completely out of my depth. After this they reuse some of the phrases to ask questions which you are then supposed to give answers to. The problem is you can't - how the heck can anyone hear one conversation in any language and then be expected to give a reasonable reply to it??
The rest of the chapter continues on the same theme of pushing you too hard too soon - you get some exercises that will just annoy you e.g. put the correct word in the following sentences where you have a choice of in, on, my etc. This would have been a lot easier if they had remembered to tell you earlier in the chapter that w means in and na means on....
2nd chapter and onwards
You would have hoped that the 2nd chapter would reuse some of the phrases you have just learnt in the 1st chapter and would add to them...well it doesn't. It contains in much the same vein of pushing you too hard, with too much new vocabulary. Cases are covered in a one page grammar summary as are noun genders and with that you are suddenly expected to be an expert on them.
I persevered with this book until chapter 5 at which point it relocated to its new home at the back of the cupboard. The whole thing is done in such a haphazard way that I would be amazed if anyone got to that point without the help of a native speaker - there does not seem to be any plan or structure as to when and where they introduce a new concept. More and more vocabulary is thrown in but they rarely reuse the words from a previous chapter so you have little chance to remember any of it.
I'll quote someone far more knowledgeable on Polish than myself to give you a conclusion: when my Polish teacher saw it on my desk she picked it up and told the class "I don't know who this book is aimed at but it's not for normal people"