This is my review of TALK RUSSIAN (BOOK & CDS) NEW EDITION by Georgina Martin,Svetlana Furlong.
This course follows a standard format which I have already used for Italian. It is an attractive and accessible format, and I have not found a better way of starting a language quite cheaply, although I have a few complaints. If you have the discipline to work hard at the exercises, moving on to avoid getting bogged down but repeating them until the knowledge is embedded, you can learn a good deal from this book.
Bearing in mind the difficulty for an English speaker of learning the Russian alphabet, the approach used here is probably as good as any: showing the alphabet in full, but highlighting a few letters to learn at a time, starting with the easiest. It was probably a sensible decision to focus on the printed form of Russian and invite students to jot down the meanings of word in English, but I would have liked a lesson devoted to writing in Russian.
Again, the complexities of grammar are probably skirted round quite well at this basic stage e.g. saying that some words like "open" and "closed" must agree with the words they describe, and showing whether words are masculine, feminine or neuter.
I was a bit irritated by the need to keep flipping to the back to check the answers to exercises. I suppose this forces the student to make a real effort to answer without cheating, and it would probably add to the production cost to integrate answers clearly into the questions and tasks.
My main criticism is that I would like every Russian word or phrase in the booklet to be recorded for practice on the CD e.g. on page 52, a list of facilities in a town centre like supermarket or chemist is left for you to work out, possibly using the index, which is fine, but the words are not spoken for you to hear. Cutting out the repetitive jingle would give more space on the CD for this!
Also, some of the conversations are quite fast, which is good practice, but I would like a greater number of them to provide more opportunities to develop competence e.g. more examples of different types of drink you might order, more chance to practise numbers which I find quite hard, more opportunities to listen and talk about the things you may really need like directions, use of public transport, situations in hotels and restaurants.