Good Language Books
Aug 2003 - Alex Alejandre

Professor Arguelles' Taxonomy:

  • Text based: present you with a dialogue or text, you build an intuition on (Assimil, Linguaphone, the better Colloquials)
  • Grammar & Excercise: Lessons arranged by grammar point (Hugo, Teach Yourself, Langenscheidt)
  • Model & Drill: (Berlitz, FSI)
  • Phrasebook: Arranged by topic (shopping etc.), no useful excercises (Modern style)

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  • Teach Yourself

    The older books squeeze everything in 200 pages. For the most part this works extremely well, however sometimes they really drop the ball. Here’s a list of the older ones:

    • Turkish - G. L. Lewis?
    • Chinese - H.R. Williamson?
    • ❤️ Gaelic - Roderick Mackinnon Best book for the language, by far.
    • ❤️ Serbo-Croat - Vera Javarek, Miroslava Sudjić Lovely. The first few pages teach cases beautifully.
    • German - Wells, Jenkins, Adams? Shows that German plurals are regular.
    • Cantonese - R. Bruce
    • Portuguese - J.W. Barker
    • Danish - H.A. Koefoed
    • Swahili - D.V. Perrott
    • Old English - Leslie Blakeley
    • Russian - Maximilian Fourman
    • Russian - Michael Frewin These are different books.
    • Maltese - Joseph Aquilina
    • Welsh - John T. Bowen, T.J. Rhys Jones
    • Arabic - A.S. Tritton?
    • Malay - E.B. Lewis
    • Italian - Katherine Speight
    • Hausa - C.H. Kraft, A.H.M Kirk-Greene
    • Icelandic - P.J.T. Glendening
    • Romanian - M. Murrell, V. Ștefănescu-Drăgănești
    • Ancient Greek - F. Kinchin Smith
    • Modern Greek (pre-1982 polytonic script) - S.A. Sofroniou
    • Polish - M. Corbridge-Patkaniowska
    • Urdu - T. Grahame Bailey
    • Afrikaans - M.P.G. Burgers
    • Dutch - H. Koolhoven
    • French - Norman Wilson, John Adams
    • Norwegian - A. Sommerfelt, I. Marm
    • Spanish - N. Scarlyn Wilson
    • Swedish - R.J. McClean
    • (Biblical) Hebrew - R.K. Harrison
    • Colloquial Arabic - T.F. Mitchell
    • Latin - F. Kinchin Smith
    • Bengali - D.F. Hudson
    • Jifunze Kiingereza: English for Swahili-Speaking People-D.V. Perrott
    • Esperanto - John Cresswell, John Hartley
    • Finnish - Arthur H. Whitney
    • New Testament Greek - D.F. Hudson
    • Indonesian - John B. Kwee
    • Japanese - C.J. Dunn and S. Yanada
    • Latvian - Tereza Budina Lazdina
    • Maltese - Joseph Aquilina
    • Samoan - C.C. Marsack

    “What are those question marks?” you may ask. I found a cute mystery about their authors.

    More detail here

    The newer Teach Yourself books aren’t good for much. While in the older chapters focus on a grammatical feature, then apply them, the newer series presents a theme like “greetings” with little relation to the language structure itself, haphazardly handling grammar etc.

  • Colloquial

    Overall my favorite series, these books built my foundation for many languages.

    • Spanish - William Robert Patterson
    • German - P.F. Dory
    • Italian - A.L. Hayward
    • ❤️ French - William Robert Patterson This taught me French.
    • ❤️ Persian - Lawrence P. Elwell-Sutton
    • Japanese (romanised) - William Montgomery McGovern
    • Arabic (romanised) - De Lacy O’Leary
    • Hindustani (romanised) - A.H. Harley
    • Hungarian - Arthur H. Whitney
    • Czech - J. Schwartz
    • Rumanian - Grigore Nandriș
    • Turkish - Yusif Mardin
    • Portuguese - Maria Emília de Alvelos Naar
    • ❤️ Russian - William Harrison, Yelena Clarkson, and Stephen Le Fleming This taught me Russian.
    • Modern Greek (pre-1982 polytonic script) - Katerina Harris
    • Chinese (Northern) - A. Neville J. Whymant
    • ❤️ Coloquial Serbo-Croat - Cecilia Hawkesworth This taught me ‘our language.’
  • Assimil

    My next favorite series.

    • French
    • ❤️ Hungarian Best Hungarian course.
    • Dutch Their best course.

    This shines with Standard European languages (the Dutch course is particularly loved.) Non-Indo-European languages are generally handled poorly, although Hungarian is especially fantastic. The Slavic courses are also quite poor.

  • Hugo
    • Swedish (new and old, I learned from the new one)

    The older and newer are both good. The old versions had an interesting style of interwoven text while the newer versions are similar to Colloquial.

Stand Alones

  • Langue et Civilization Françáises - Mauger

Textbooks teaching multiple languages at once.

  • Heatwole - Span, French, Ital. grammar
  • Notley - comp. gram. Fr. It. Sp. Port. - 1868
  • Mikhail Petrunin - Comp. Gram. Span, Port, Ital, Fr. - recent.
  • Horst G. Klein - EuroComRom - die Sieben Siebe - Romantische - Germanische
  • Elisabetta Bonvino - Read and Understand 5 Romance Languages - with nice website
  • Paul Teyssier - comprendre les langues romanes (includes Ro!)
  • ❤️ Bodmer - Frederick Bodmer - The Loom of Language