Sunday, May 26, 2013

The Arsenal

Apologies in advance (and minus two demerits) for using militarized terms as metaphors here...but here is my "arsenal" of the weapons of mass destruction I have in book form for slaying the Polish language dragon (OK, minus ten demerits).  I also have a number of instruction books in other languages as well; you can see a glimmer of some of these on the left side.

I also have to admit that this post (and my blog in general) has a bias towards learners who are learning  Polish from a vantage point of already speaking English.  But that's not completely my bias, it also exists on the Internet in general, from what I have seen.  I've sure there are other books that cover Spanish to Polish, or Hindi to Polish, etc.  I haven't done much to seek them out.  More apologies and demerits.

Also, yet more apologies and demerits for the fact that I really thought this was going to be a quick and easy post; just a little blurb with pics of my Polish instruction books.  Nope.  This ended up being another post from hell, due to my constant obsessive need to dredge the sea floor for reassuring details.  That huge chunk of time this month without any other blog posts reflects me working on this post.  I suppose that helps keep me from being that person who is constantly dragging around a worn one-eyed stuffed bunny.

Apologies and demerits out of the way, here are the books:

I probably have missed a few books because I have some scattered somewhere else, but this is the core of the books I am using for my Polish Language studies.  Some of them I use a little, some of them I use a lot, and some I hardly use at all.  Many of them I simply picked up over the years in used book stores.  This explains why I have multiple introductory texts, but actually having multiple sources of introductory instruction has been very useful to me, because when I have gotten stymied on a topic, I have been able to see how different authors approach the particular subject, and looking at the different approaches helps my learning.

After an early period where I went through the first few chapters of many of the lessons in the texts sequentially, I evolved a style where I just randomly picked out chapters to study or looked up topics that I was interested in at the time based on things I had run across.

Here is a closer picture of the books on the right-hand side.  I'm going to describe them from right to left rather than the usual left to right because that is how I have them ordered, for the most part.  I'll also provide links to the books on Amazon (or elsewhere) when I can find them there so you can see them (and even order some if you want). The first book on the right is the one that started it all for me.  It is called "How To Say It In Polish" and is a book that is an excellent phrase book as well as having good vocabulary collections grouped for everyday usage.  I picked this up several years ago and never looked at it for quite a while.

The next two books are the "Polish In 4 Weeks" books (Part I and Part II).  I got the first book a long time ago (it was probably my second instructional text).  There are good, straightforward treatments of the concepts presented, and good narratives provided on CD with readalong text.

"Among Poles" was a cheap thrift-store purchase.  Looks decent, but I've mostly only used it for comparison on topics.  There is also a "Part II" book which I don't have.

"First Year Polish" by Oscar Swan is a decent first-year text, which I haven't used much because it either has no CD of the narratives or it didn't come with the copy I have.  But it is fairly comprehensive, and has a good breadth of vocabulary.  This was a definite score for me: it still has the ninety-nine cent price tag on it from the used bookstore where I bought it.

I bought "Cześć, Jak Się Masz", Book Two solely because my first Skype tutor demanded I do so (the whole process with her insisting that I get the book and me begging not to because I already have several texts was kinda hot).  She assessed my linguistic ability and determined that I should study at the A2 level rather than A1, so she told me to get the second book.  It's a good book, but really expensive (at least in the US, maybe cheaper in Poland).  You can also get Book One.  It would be so awesome if they republished it with Daniel Johnston's "Hi, How Are You" drawing on the cover.

"Język Polski Dla Cudzoziemców" is mostly a book of exercises (at least the one I have...maybe there is an accompanying text).  I've browsed through it but haven't used it much.  I saw it on Ebay and it was in the twenty-dollar range, but didn't sell for about three cycles, so I made an offer of about fourteen bucks and bought it.

"Mastering Polish" is a good general survey book that starts with a deeper vocabulary than your average survey text and has a CD to accompany the chapter narratives.  The best value for me was the audio with a read-along and I also used it comparatively.

There are two "Teach Yourself" book franchises (maybe more, but these two are the ones I know about).  The first "Teach Yourself Polish" is the blue book in the picture and was my first real textbook-type book.  It was a thrift store purchase but eventually lost pages, so I bought another one (I've found all of these "Teach Yourself" books I have for any language have really crappy binding).  It's main value is in its density, which makes it a little more tedious, but it is packed with concepts.  It is a very detailed text and probably packs two years of survey course into one paperback text.  Another great value is its excellent index in the back which allows you to look up exactly where in the book a particular concept is discussed.

The other "Teach Yourself Polish" is a standard meat-and-potatoes survey text with a CD of read-along narratives.  I've used this a lot because the explanations are straight-forward and the narratives are easy to follow

"Polish An Essential Grammar" is probably one of the best grammars you will find at a relatively decent price in English.  It has a fairly moderate treatment of most important grammatical concepts (though there is some stuff I wish it would provide more depth on).

"Basic Polish" is by the same author as the above tome, but is a workbook.  It has some very useful exercises.

"Polish Verbs & Essentials Of Grammar" is simply a more comprehensive version of the free Oscar Swan grammar available online.  I bought it mostly because I've used his free stuff online so much that I figure I owed him at least a few bucks.

I bought "Język Polski Kompendium" in Poland.  It looks like it is comparable to "Polish An Essential Grammar" only more dense.  Haven't used it much, except to see if I can find better treatments of a grammatical subject than I can find in any of the other grammars.

Here is a closer view of the other half of the books.

I haven't really used the book "Gramatyka -- Składnia" at all. Here's a picture of a sample page that demonstrates why.

I think I bought it online, but upon perusing it, it looks like it relies a lot on some obtuse brand of funky phrase structure grammar symbolism and heavy descriptions of theoretical syntax which is definitely beyond the pale for the average language learner. Avoid this book like the plague unless you are going for a Nobel prize.  But if you dare, here is a link that might be a .pdf file of it (I'm not sure if it is the same book as I haven't checked it out).

"301 Polish Verbs" is a good treatment of verbs and their conjugations, but it has some surprising omissions.  Still, there is an index in the back where you can find out where in the book verbs with the same stem are conjugated, which is useful.  For a more complete discussion on verb conjugation, see the sources in my post on Polish verb conjugation.

"Larousse English-Polish Polish-English Dictionary" is a good intro or pocket dictionary.  Don't expect any in-depth lexicology, stem history, or examples, and understand that you will only get basic definitions and many words will be omitted.

"The New Kosciuszko Foundation Dictionary" (2 volumes) is a more in-depth dictionary with some lexicology and a medium number of examples.  I wouldn't characterize it as an interpreter's dictionary, or comparable to the OED, but it's a much-better-than-average comprehensive tome.  Still, it has some surprising omissions, particularly in the realm of adjectives and adverbs formed from verbs (I guess the assumption is that if you know the verb and the rules, you know how to make the derivative words).

"A Treasury Of Polish Aphorisms" is just what it says...a collection of short, pithy sayings that tend to verge toward the idiomatic and the poetic.  It's good exposure to artistic and whimsical linguistic constructions.

There are a few children's books on the left side that I bought in Warsaw, and I won't really go into detail on them.  I had this goofy and misguided thought that having children's books would help me "learn as a child does."  Wrong approach.  Don't do it.  Go for adult instructional books.  First of all, these books won't expand outward from your compendium of basic human needs.  You'll be doing the pee dance because you won't have learned how to ask where the bathroom is, and you'll go hungry looking at the menu.  Second of all, do you really need whimsical kid concepts?  Do you need to know about how to make the magic fairy appear, how to trick an ogre, or how to tame the friendly dragon?  Do you need to know all the different verbs for noises animals make (verbs are hard enough to learn without adding relatively useless ones to your vocabulary)?  No, you don't.  You need to know where to frenetically dash when you're cresting a puke.

But wait, there's more!  Here is some more stuff I gathered up scattered around different places in my house:

I'll go from right to left again (pardon the melodica, it is just propping the books up on the shelf).  The first one is my volume of "Pimsleur Comprehensive Polish" CDs.  It's a little pricey, but definitely worth the investment, and much better than Rosetta Stone, IMHO.  You don't need any accompanying text as the recordings are self-contained and self-explanatory.  The audio uses spaced repetition principles which assist in quick learning.

The next book is "The Oxford Picture Dictionary (English/Polish)", which has pictures of items by category and says what they are in both English and Polish.  Lots of nouns.

My final gem I'm going to talk about is old-school.  It's "A New Polish Grammar" from 1962.  I think I picked it up on Ebay for pretty cheap.  It is very comprehensive and is not only a grammar book, but also a text covering what I would guess most texts covering first and second year Polish cover and maybe beyond.  I've used it a good deal.

1 comment:

  1. Why not use mobile apps instead of books? ;) Like for example "Learn Polish - Conversations"