New Penguin Russian Course Book Review | Language Reading Challenge Language Resources

Welcome to the fifth official Language Reading Challenge Update and Linkup! As a quick recap, you can check out the previous months’ challenges here:

January // Book about the culture of the area you’re studying
February // Book in your target language
March // Travel book or travelogue related to region that uses the language you’re studying
April // Book about the language that you’re learning

The guidelines to participate are available here and you can find out what we’ll be reading over the next few months, as well.

The challenge for this past month was to read or finish up a language course book. To complete the challenge, I opted to work through the rest of a course book that I had already started.


The New Penguin Russian Course is a great reference book, but definitely not a standalone resource. It includes thirty chapters which span from an introduction to the writing system to the various cases to tenses. It also contains grammatical tables, a section on spelling rules, a Russian-English dictionary and an English-Russian dictionary (albeit limited to around 1,500 words), an answer key, and glossary of grammatical terms.

The book claims that it helps the learner achieve a solid A level in the Russian language. To be honest, I was a little bit surprised by this because 1) the book is very grammar intensive (the grammar included in the book alone has to be beyond just A level) and 2) the book doesn’t come with audio so it doesn’t technically get you to an A level for either speaking or comprehension, only reading and writing.

The New Penguin Russian Course is definitely for those interested in “slow learning” Russian and not for someone looking for just enough of the language to get conversational quickly. If you’re interested in the latter, there are definitely better resources out there for you. But if you’re interested in learning Russian thoroughly and for the “long haul”, then this is definitely something you should have on your shelf.

My Personal Experience Using The New Penguin Russian Course

The book assumes that you’ll spend the necessary time required to learn to read the Russian alphabet – the transliteration of new vocabulary disappears after the first few chapters. I, personally, really like this feature because it keeps you from being lazy (something that can be pretty easy to do when faced with the challenge of learning a new writing system).

I worked through the Penguin Russian Course at the pace of one chapter per week. There were some weeks this was just right and others it might almost have been too much. Russian grammar is definitely up there at the top of my list of “difficult language” things I’ve studied.

Each chapter includes grammar points, vocabulary lists, exercises, and reading passages. I learnt quite a few interesting words from the vocabulary lists, but I feel that the words included in this text, compared to other resources I’ve come across, are rather random.

Things That I Don’t Like About The New Penguin Russian Course

The Penguin Course does not come with an audio supplement, so you’re pretty much on your own when it comes to figuring out how the language should sound. There is a pronunciation guide at the beginning, but I really feel that course books can be well complemented by a good audio supplement.

The pacing of the book seems to accelerate rather quickly in the last few chapters and it can be a bit overwhelming.

Things That I Liked About The New Penguin Russian Course

Great price for the amount of information it contains. It is less than $20 on Amazon (and for that price you get more than 500 pages of useful grammar pointers, charts, vocab lists, and exercises). 

Relatively compact in size. Even though the book is 500+ pages, the paperback version is still relatively compact in size and quite portable.

It has the best explanations of spelling rules I’ve come across thus far. And this is so helpful if you have any interest in writing or reading the language.

The book isn’t organized into topics (like visits to an airport, the train station, family, etc). Instead, it’s organized by grammar structure. The difference from other books is refreshing and quite systematic.

Conclusion

The Penguin Coursebook contained a lot of the grammar that I had been taught in lessons, but continued to struggle with. In this guide, however, it is explained in a way that made it easier to understand and I definitely feel that my Russian has benefited from working with this resource.

That being said, I do not think this was the best choice for me as my first Russian course book. I personally feel that it would better function as something you keep on hand to reference while studying with other resources than it does as something that you work through from chapter to chapter. It is more of a grammar manual than a “course book” and for that reason, the book is definitely something I’ll keep on my shelf to reference as I continue my studies.

Title: The New Penguin Russian Course: A Complete Course for Beginners
Author: Nicholas J Brown
Series: Penguin Handbooks
Pages: 528 pages (paperback)
Publisher: Penguin Books
Publication Date: December 1, 1996

Language Reading Challenge Linkup

1. Share your post discussing the book that you’ve read this month. Submissions unrelated to the theme or links to your homepage will be deleted.

2. Link back to this post as a part of your post.

3. Follow the hosts: Shannon from Eurolinguiste, Lindsay from Lindsay Does Languages, and Alex Gentry from The Language Voyager.

4. THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT RULE: Please visit the site of the person who linked up immediately before you and leave them an encouraging comment! If you do not do this, you will be removed from the linkup.



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