Authentic approach

6th June 2003 at 01:00
THROUGH RUSSIA WITH LOVE. By Natalia Veshneva. Textbook pound;16. Supplementary booklet pound;12 Tapes (six, covering alphabet; dialogues for lesson; exercises, songs) pound;10 each. Melrose Publishing. Email: Tel: 020 8851 7427

A new Russian for beginners course: review by Richard Damerell

Published in London but illustrated by a Muscovite, Through Russia with Love is intended as a complete course for beginners. It combines the professionalism of a western textbook with the style of an authentic Russian artefact.

Similar in structure to A Penguin Russian Course and Teach Yourself Russian - comparable courses for beginners - each chapter begins with a dialogue and vocabulary followed by various exercises.

What distinguishes this textbook from similar courses is the fact that it is a complete GCSE course in a single volume, geared specifically towards the examination. It has been produced using the input of teachers from British schools.

The Cyrillic alphabet is presented in both printed and cursive form in upper and lower case on one page. Vocabulary is presented and consolidated as printed text and occasionally as a cursive font (rather than handwritten script).

The course sensibly introduces the more accessible letters before the unfamiliar. This is a commendable approach for the purposes of students aged 14 and above, but younger students would need more thorough consolidation.

The course provides an adequate basis for practice of the main themes of the current GCSE syllabus, but some of the grammatical content and vocabulary may be excessively stretching for weaker students.

More than sufficient knowledge and understanding for higher level GCSE can be acquired with the help of the grammatical explanations provided.

Terminology is formal and grammatical exercises very accessible. The course offers regular opportunities for assessment.

Photographs, newspaper graphics and matrioshka dolls provide opportunities for raising cultural awareness. Quality crosswords and wordsearches are used throughout.

While Novaya Iskra remains the essential course for younger or less able students, the more ambitious Through Russia with Love is a highly suitable course for students aged 13 and above.

Richard Damerell is a teacher of Russian and French

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