TUTTLE ASIAN LANGUAGES
“ELEMENTARY” AND “CONTINUING” SERIES REVIEW
Average cost of the method
$23 to $40
6 languages (Arabic, Hindi, Japanese, Korean, Tagalog, Vietnamese)
Type of method
All-encompassing method available in print (paperback or hardback) with audio CD/MP3, covering vocabulary, grammar, and more through dialogues and exercises. Suitable for, and typically used in, classroom settings, but can also complement formal language classes or other study materials for the self-learner.
Tuttle is the world’s largest publisher on Asia and has quite an impressive collection of quality language learning textbooks. Most of the languages covered by Tuttle publishing are Asian languages, including, but not limited to, the ones covered by the series in this review: Arabic, Hindi, Japanese, Korean, Tagalog, and Vietnamese.
Tuttle’s “Elementary” and “Continuing” series comprises of lessons opened by short dialogues, presenting real situations related to the lesson’s theme. The new vocabulary used in the dialogues is given with translations into English. In all Elementary textbooks, the language script is introduced (e.g. hiragana and katakana for Japanese, Hangul for Korean, Devanagari for Hindi, etc.). Each textbook comes with an audio CD/MP3. The recordings cover the dialogues included in each lesson, as well as the narratives with vocabulary, grammar and usage notes, the sayings, and the section on pronunciation, if there is one.
Overall, the “Elementary” and “Continuing” series tend to be a bit more “academic” in character. For example, they typically introduce the phonetics of the language in great details; the organs of speech are shown and the manner and place of consonants is listed in the Elementary textbooks. For linguistics students, this can be very helpful. For others keen on learning about the organs of speech (such as the International Phonetic Alphabet and the precise way in which consonants and vowels are produced in a native speaker’s mouth), this can also be a good resource. For others, I would simply suggest skipping the more technical parts; think of it as an added bonus, but don’t get bogged down by the technicality of the language.
How Does It Work?
While these particular Tuttle textbooks are suitable for, and typically used in, classroom settings, including in some of the best universities in North America, they can also serve as an excellent out-of-class reference tool and can very well complement formal language classes or other study materials for the self-learner. From my experience, this series should appeal to a broad range of people, including individuals working on their own, professional people working with a tutor, or students in a classroom setting. I have personally used the Tuttle Elementary and Continuing textbooks both as part of university classes and on my own, and I have been very satisfied with them.
The books typically introduces a lot of vocabulary in each lesson; for example, the Korean “Elementary” and “Continuing” textbooks introduce about one thousand words in each volume. Because the lessons in these textbooks tend to cover a lot of territory, the authors of some of this particular textbook recommends spending roughly 8-10 hours on each lesson. To give you some perspective, the “Continuing Korean” textbook, which is a textbook for intermediate learners, contains 30 lessons. So a student going through this textbook as part of a university course or on his/her own could expect to spend anywhere from 240 to 300 hours on this textbook. Obviously, you are welcome to go through the textbook at a faster pace if you this suits your learning style and your needs; alternatively, the “Elementary” and “Continuing” series can also serve as a reference to be used in tandem with other resources, such as Assimil, Teach Yourself, etc.
The “Continuing” series is a sequel to the respective “Elementary” volume and assumes a thorough knowledge of the patterns and vocabulary introduced there. If you already feel like you have reached a B1-B2 level in a particular language (what most would call “intermediate” fluency), then you may want to dive straight into the “Continuing” textbooks. However, if you are a beginner or a low intermediate learner, the “Elementary” textbook may serve as a good resource to begin with (or as a good refresher), as they tend to cover a lot of topics, grammar, and vocabulary.
- This series provides a comprehensive, organized, and above all professionally-made overview of Asian languages. Most of the textbooks under this series were written by Ph.D.’s from Harvard, UCLA, or other top American universities, and very often they are the textbooks used in the top language schools around the world. If you have a look at the reviews on Amazon (see here and here), you’ll see that the overwhelming majority are 4 or 5 stars. From my personal experience using many different language methods, Tuttle Languages is definitely very professional, thorough, and affordable (but certainly challenging).
- The dialogues are usually very practical and contain words and phrases that you are very likely to use in everyday conversations with educated native speakers.
- The audio CDs are a welcome companion to the textbooks and provide professional recordings of the dialogues and various other parts within each chapter.
- The series, for the most part, contains very little in terms of pictures, diagrams, or any such thing (Japanese being an exception; book chapters contain comics and other drawings in black and white). The books are essentially black ink on white paper. I personally have no problem with that, but some learners might find it a bit dry.
- At the time of writing, the “Elementary” series of Tuttle Languages is only available in 6 languages (Arabic, Hindi, Japanese, Korean, Tagalog, and Vietnamese). If you are studying any other language besides those, you will therefore have to look somewhere else.
Overall, the Tuttle “Elementary” and “Continuing” series will give you a solid base in the language you are looking to learn. If you spend the time necessary to go through the dialogues, do the recommended exercises, memorize the vocabulary introduced in each lesson, and carefully work on your pronunciation and repeat after the recordings, you should be able to considerably advance your fluency in your target language with any of these textbooks.