LEIGH FORBES: Books of all Sorts

Complete Norwegian: Beginner to Intermediate Course

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3-star

by Margaretha Danbolt-Simons.

NOTE: the “audio support” for this edition (ISBN13: 9781444195040) is a phone app, through which you then download audio files to your phone. There is no CD, and the audio can’t be played on a computer. You have to have a modern smartphone with 226MB free space.


I might up this rating as I get further through the book, but I’m on Chapter 4, and am feeling weary. The author makes a point of saying – in the introduction – that learners shouldn’t be afraid to work things out for themselves. To this end, the book incorporates the “discovery method … a sort of DIY approach” (as though teach-yourself isn’t already DIY enough), which we’re told is more likely to result in more thoroughly embedded learning. Sounds sensible, but this results in a number of frustrating features: incomplete vocab lists (this is deliberate: earlier editions have complete word lists) – which as left me floundering over some words and expressions that aren’t in the appended dictionary (or a separate dictionary I have) – e.g. it took a lot of googling to find the correct meaning(s) of “skal” – present tense of å skulle; grammar seems to be presented first, and explained later, sometimes quite a lot later (e.g. demonstratives are explained 16 pages after they’re first used), resulting in further confusion; text in Norwegian, with no translation – meaning you have no way of knowing whether you’ve truly understood or not. I have no problem working hard to learn a new language (this is my 5th), but this book isn’t yet suiting my learning style – which is being able to check and double-check my comprehension.

All this said, the accompanying audio files are good (ignoring the ridiculous conversations the characters have) – particularly the feature that allows you to slow down (or speed up) the rate at which people are speaking. When very slow (0.5x), they all sound drunk (which is quite funny), but it’s easy to pick out individual words. Other options are 0.75x (which works best for me), 1x (i.e. normal speed, which I find too fast), 1.5x and 2x (neither of which I’ve tried yet). It’s a shame the audio can’t be downloaded to a laptop, but it’s been no bother (for me) to play it on my phone. The worksheet-type questions also work well for me, although the space given to write your answers is unnecessarily, small; and there are errors (p.48, for example, is littered with them), which I feel is unforgivable in a text book.

Could work if you already have some grounding in Norwegian and don’t mind a lot of head-scratching, and have reliable internet access (for all the googling you’re going to be doing), and a smartphone.

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