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Christopher Byrnes

Autor/a de Indonesian (Teach Yourself Languages)

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Obres de Christopher Byrnes


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If you have access to another Indonesian textbook, use it instead of this volume. I am a beginner-intermediate student of Indonesian who purchased Teach Yourself Indonesian for revision. What I have discovered after working with this set is that Brynes was more interested in making a quick buck than he was in producing a quality product to help students acquire basic fluency in the language. Here are my complaints about this volume:

1) It's a cash cow.
Teach Yourself Indonesian is an almost word for word reproduction of Brynes's 1992 Teach Yourself Malay, with the Bahasa Melayu-specific vocabulary, proper nouns, and spellings swapped out for their Bahasa Indonesia counterparts. Perhaps Byrnes believes the cultural and linguistic differences between the two nations are so slight that knowledge of one can substitute for knowledge of another, but I remain unconvinced that a hurried revision of a textbook for a related language is comparable in quality to one originally written specifically for students of the target language.

2) It's exceedingly sloppily edited.
Indonesian words are misspelled and grammatical mistakes abound in the English passages. Worse by far, Brynes provides incorrect translations for many Indonesian words. Not only is this extremely unprofessional (and should have been caught during the editing process), it will force students to spend time and effort unlearning these mistakes at a later date, or at the very least prove highly confusing whenever encountered. Such errors are simply inexcusable in a language textbook.

3) The glossary is poorly constructed.
Key vocabulary is accidentally omitted from the Indonesian-English glossary far too frequently. The English-Indonesian half fares better by comparison, but neither glossary lists the units in which individual vocabulary are first introduced. Beginning students will thus require supplementary materials to make full use of this book, yet one of the main selling points of the Teach Yourself series is that its texts are self-contained--students should not have to resort to supplementary texts to use them. This is not the case with Teach Yourself Indonesian.

4) The accompanying CDs are essentially useless.
Each 4-5 minute track contains multiple Indonesian dialogues interspersed with large chunks of English-language exposition. Listening practice is an essential component of language study, but learners will soon grow frustrated at having to sit through unnecessary narration in order to revise a 20 second dialogue. Moreover, as multiple dialogues are contained on a single track, students must waste time fast forwarding and rewinding within the track in order to revise specific passages or pronunciations. (It would have been better to create a new track for each specific dialogue.) Finally, no track listing is provided for the CDs, making it difficult to quickly locate specific dialogues or key points for revision. Learners will be unable to use these CDs with a minimum of fuss while at home, and find them impossible to use effectively while commuting or exercising.

5) Gender bias.
Each unit features a "slice of life" dialogue featuring a cast of Indonesian and Western characters. The main male characters (Indonesian and Western both) are professionals or tourists, while the female characters (who are all Indonesian) are relegated to the roles of wife or daughter, glorified "e-pal" tour guide, and secretary. It's as if no Western woman would ever have cause to travel to Indonesia or study its language, and as if Indonesian women were absent from public and professional life (never mind that Indonesian society is far more open than many majority Muslim nations). To be sure, this particular critique is more stylistic than functional, but I found it irritating in a volume published in 2003. I imagine that female students of Indonesian will find it all rather patronizing.

This is all a terrible shame, because Teach Yourself Indonesian does do a good job of clearly explaining aspects of the language likely to prove difficult to native English speakers, and of building on information presented in previous units. Unfortunately, the package's flaws are such that I am unable to recommend it to complete beginners without serious reservations.
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Trismegistus | Jul 3, 2010 |



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