None of these are complete language programs, but they provide excellent introductions. The coursebook and three audio CDs are complementary and form the core of the course, introducing learners to the sounds of the language, sentence construction, basics of grammar, and common phrases. The CDs feature native speakers pronouncing words and sounds so you can match your pronunciation to theirs. A dictionary with thousands of entries allows you to look up words in the language being studied or in English, and also includes many useful phrases.
The goal of this series is not mastery, but exposure and basic competency. Students who complete one of the Living Language courses should be able to read, write and speak the language with some skill. The coursebook and dictionary can also be used as ready-reference guides for those already having a degree of fluency in the language. The authors encourage one half hour of study a day, though you can modify time spentas needed.
While many foreign language instructors advocate jumping right into an immersion program, trying something like Living Language first has many benefits. Not only can you decide if you really want to spend the time learning a particular language, you can guage the difficulty of learning it, experience and familiarize yourself with the way it sounds spoken, and establish a fair vocabulary that will help you recognize many words you otherwise wouldn't. It can also decrease necessary time spent on a more extensive course.
The size of the books (mass-market paperbacks) and the CD format make this a very portable program. You can learn on the way to work, during a road trip, or in your living room without a lot of extra workbooks and apparatus getting in the way. If you're going to visit a foreign country and need to learn the language only for that purpose, these are one of the best options as an ability to speak and understand the language is promised after a matter of several weeks. If you want to become entirely fluent in a language you'll need something other than, or in addition to, Living Language, but it is a solid stepping stone to mastery and fluency.
Listen to an audio sample of Complete Arabic:
Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he is a husband and father, teaches adult Sunday school in his Presbyterian congregation, and likes weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur.Read more of his reviews here.
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