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“Speak, write and understand basic German in no time!” proudly pronounces the cover of this book. So how exactly does the Everything Learning German Book deliver on this bold promise? Well, the book itself is written by Edward Swik, a well known university level teacher who has incorporated his excellent knowledge of the German language (as well as how to teach it) into this one handy textbook. This expertise is apparent throughout the book. For example, although the German language is similar to English in some ways, the grammar is surprisingly complicated. Hence, despite this being a beginner’s book, an emphasis is put on grammar to get you over this first hurdle. Specifically, Swift pays due attention to direct and indirect objects which help the reader make sense of the language’s numerous definite and indefinite articles. In the same way throughout this book, Swift expertly picks out aspects of the language which beginners find especially difficult and ensures that readers understand them before moving on. We especially liked the book's differentiation between colloquial and written German which made it a lot more practical. The tips and cultural information were also an interesting addition.
As well as the content being relevant and clear, the material throughout the book is well presented. Each chapter takes you through a different grammatical construct and set of vocab at a gentle pace that does not leave you feeling pressured. We appreciated the chapters being short enough to keep your attention and allow study in small, bitesize sessions. By the end of each section you really feel like you have a solid understanding of the rules of German; to get speaking confidently, just add vocab!
Many textbooks don’t come with a CD but luckily the most recent edition of The Everything Learning German Book does. This complements the core material excellently as you begin learning German as it should be correctly pronounced from the very start. Other textbooks use phonetic spelling and pronunciation guides but these simply don’t match up to native speaker audio; with textbooks alone there is always the danger, especially for first time language learners, that you will develop a poor accent which will prove to be a difficult bad habit to get rid of in the future. This said, maybe including the CD made the author of this book lazy as we were disappointed to find several discrepancies and inconsistencies in the phonetic spellings and pronunciation guides throughout the book; an unacceptable and potentially confusing oversight. It must also be noted that the Kindle AudioBook version doesn’t come with the CD; especially annoying as it is referred to throughout the textbook and wouldn’t be difficult at all to include as a download.
Overall, this is a good beginner’s course and grammar reference book, but a few annoying (and unnecessary) flaws let it down. With no follow up material available, users looking to achieve anything more than the basics of German will need to look for additional materials. However, if it is just the basic grammar you are looking for then the low price of The Everything Learning German Book could be a worthwhile investment.
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