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Coursebooks: old-fashioned or modern?


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I wonder what you think of old-style coursebooks versus modern-style?

By "old style" I mean the books for language learning that were widespread in the past: no (or minimum) pictures, a lot of exercises (with big emphasis on translation to and from target language), a lot of grammar - grammar rules, grammar exceptions, pages and pages of grammar exercises.

That's what foreign language textbooks in my school used to be like when I was in primary school.

By "modern style" I mean the books that you are popular nowadays: a lot of images, more listening and less exercises, more speaking and less grammar.

I've always liked the "colourful" ones more, however,  to really learn a language I do need to have access to plain old-fashioned grammar books. To actually read all about the rules and not just something like "Past tense is easy! See these nice cute boxes with some info here and go on creating your own sentences".

What about you?

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I think that the older style of grammar books works best for me. I get very distracted easily. Lots of colors and pictures just pulls me out of my zone, and makes it harder for me to concentrate. I like the older style books for learning because they are straight to the point. I think both types of books should be available thought, because everyone has different learning styles. I have always learned by reading, if I read something over and over then I get it. Not everyone excels that way, and it is good that their are lots of other options for learning these days. 

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To me, what's important is substance. Pretty is nice, but if the book is structured illogically, or messed up in some other way, nice pictures doesn't make it any better. Don't get me wrong, there are many good new and old texts out there, some pretty ones, some not. It's nice to have audio, of course, but text books are never my only source of audio, even in the beginning, and I rarely learn pronunciation or script from a general text anyway. There are so many better choices out there for those items. Lots of exercises are good, but they don't all have to be translation.

I don't really agree with your definition of new vs old. However I will mention a trend that I think is unfortunate. Many newer texts are letting themes drive the organization of the book, rather than grammar. This might work fine in some languages, but can leave me with a feeling of everything being detached if the grammar of a language is complicated. Learning grammar in the order that makes it easiest to remember should be what drives the organization of most texts imo. 

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I don't really agree with your definition of new vs old. However I will mention a trend that I think is unfortunate. Many newer texts are letting themes drive the organization of the book, rather than grammar. This might work fine in some languages, but can leave me with a feeling of everything being detached if the grammar of a language is complicated. Learning grammar in the order that makes it easiest to remember should be what drives the organization of most texts imo. 

I have to agree - it's one thing if you're trying to brush up your skills and just repeat something but if you're starting from the scratch and the book is organized in terms of topics, like "saying hello", "talking on the phone", "food", the grammar tends to be messed up with some bits of this here and bits of that there, and it's really harder to learn.

One of the things I enjoy in those "more serious" textbooks is that they go from simple bits of grammar to more complicated ones. It's not always the case in the brand new colourful coursebooks I see in the shops. When you are on an advanced level, that's fine - I even prefer it that way. But when you know nothing about the language and you're getting some really complicated constructs in lesson 4? I've seen plenty of people get discouraged and lose interest :( And I can't blame them for it.

I find a mix of "old-style" and "new-style" works best for me. I'm sorry if my definition is a bit off to you, I was just trying to describe the general trend I've seen during my lifetime.

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I would prefer something that I can still use as a reference -- a reliable and complete one. It should be complete with all the grammar rules and exercises. Something that I can pass on to a friend who also wants to learn the real thing. Maybe the new style might be easier to follow but it may not contain all the information that a learner ought to know.

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