Upcoming ‘brief reviews’ and why it’s so hard to review language textbooks anyway.

I have an inordinate affection for language textbooks. They always promise so much. And, having worked with more than a few, both as a learner and a tutor, the more you get to know them, the more you get to know their ins and outs.

Unfortunately, it’s very hard to fairly review a language textbook. In theory, two types of people would be ideally suited to reviewing them. Firstly, a review by someone who used the textbook all the way through starting with no knowledge of the language. But, those people are hard to find for every book, and once you’ve started on a language, you’re no longer a candidate for that category. Secondly, a full review would ideally be done by someone with a lot of experience in the language, who taught someone else using the textbook. This, of course, requires a great deal of time, and an appropriate setting.

This is why I don’t really offer “full reviews” of textbooks – to really know the strengths and weaknesses of a textbook in its minutiae, I think you need to teach with it or work through it to a fair degree. You need a fair amount of in-the-trenches time with it. Time that I often do not have.

I do have some upcoming brief reviews, and my aim with them is really to introduce a book, to give a sense of what it has, what it does, what it’s apparent strengths and weaknesses may be. For two of them, they are going to be the first of multiple brief reviews, because they are long, long books. I have in mind to write some thoughts on Ossa Latinitatis Sola, by Foster et alii, having now read pleasantly through the “First Encounter”. Likewise, having spent a little bit of time getting acquainted with the rather lengthy Italian Athenaze, I have some first impressions to offer. And then, some thought on other textbooks to follow.

My reviews tend to skew to the Greek side, if only because I have worked with and dealt with more textbooks! For Latin, I was taught with in-house notes from my lecturer, and have only really dealt with Lingua Latina, which I eternally recommend, and the Oxford and Cambridge series, which are ubiquitous. But perhaps I’ll start reviewing some other Latin things in the future.

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