Book Review: Teach Yourself Complete Catalan

Teach Yourself Complete Catalan, by Anna Poch Gasau and Alan Yates

As someone who greatly enjoys reading about and improving my own knowledge of other languages [1], this book was a very interesting one to me.  For one, I found that it was pretty easy to understand a large amount of Catalan because of its similarities to Spanish, French, and Italian, but difficult to spell correctly or to know exactly what to say because of the differences Catalan presents with those romance languages I am more familiar with.  Nonetheless, this book, which comes with two cds, is a useful one if one wants to better understand the language and mastering its materials will allow one to be conversational, to at least intermediate level, with the Catalan language.  I cannot say that many people would wish for this goal, and even those whose goals are more modest in simply wishing to familiarize themselves with the Catalan language at all, I do not consider to be a very large population among English speakers.  For those who are in this category, though, like would-be diplomats waiting for Catalonia’s independence to be recognized or those who have Catalan ancestry or interests in traveling to and relating to the local language of the Catalan nation or Andorra, this is a worthwhile read.

In terms of its contents, this book and its cds presents close to three hours of listening as well as a bit more than 300 words of reading.  The authors, one a Catalan and the other an English master of the language, begin with various summary materials of the importance of Catalan as a language within the European linguistic community as well a map of where the language is spoken.  The authors then begin with a welcome (1), discuss phrases about where one lives (2), making appointments (3), going shopping (4), and asking about what one is doing in one’s daily routine (5).  The authors move on to ordering meals at restaurants (6), dealing with questions of transportation (7), going on holiday (8), identifying public places (9), and discussing one’s personal background (10).  Further chapters discuss talking about clothes and appearance (11), pastimes and festivals (12), the weather and the future (13), work and obligations (14), moods and feelings (15), and finally discussing the past and opinions (16).  Throughout these chapters (and their accompanying cd units) there are dialogues as well to help with vocabulary concerning these subjects.  The book concludes with discussions on how to take the language further as well as answer keys to the various exercises in the book and a wordlist both from Catalan to English and vice versa and an index.

For me, there were some very fascinating aspects to this particular book and cds.  For one, the politics of Catalan and the way the authors forthrightly discuss the problems of labeling the language or recognizing its role in helping to encourage the Catalan identity as separate from Spain is something I find very intriguing.  In addition to this, the authors frame the characters in the dialogue in ways that are meant to be of considerable importance, as there is a relationship between two of the characters that is at least a little problematic in the way that they set up house together and travel together looking for hotel rooms without ever appearing to have gotten married.  Perhaps that is what kids these days are into, but I would have liked to have seen a bit more morality, and it would not have been difficult to have a chapter that addressed concerns of marriage and family as well in here, given how seriously the characters related to each other.  Be that as it may, social and political aspects always create interest for me as a reader, and given my own support of Catalan independence, I can hardly support their linguistic independence any less.

[1] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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2 Responses to Book Review: Teach Yourself Complete Catalan

  1. Pingback: Book Review: Language Hacking: French | Edge Induced Cohesion

  2. Pingback: Book Review: Teach Yourself Afrikaans | Edge Induced Cohesion

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