Basic Dutch: A Grammar and Workbook

3-5 Dutch, Books

March 10, 2013

Author  Jenneke A. Oosterhoff
Series  Routledge Grammar Workbooks
Publisher  Routledge
Publication Date  2009
Price  $37.95
Skill Level  Beginner, Intermediate

If I hadn’t had German helping me out (there are many similarities with Dutch), I think Basic Dutch: A Grammar and Workbook would have been too hard for me as a complete beginner. Because I did have German helping me out, and because I was using another Dutch book at the same time, it went pretty well. 

Still, throughout Basic Dutch, written by Jenneke Oosterhoff, I had this uneasy feeling I was being expected to know more than I had been taught. You don’t learn as much when you are trailed by confusion, and the level was just a little too advanced for someone in my shoes, even though the book is ostensibly designed for either absolute beginners or for “learners who want to refine their knowledge of grammatical structures.”

In addition, I don’t love the exercise design. There are too many fill-in-the-blank kinds of things, and there is little space to write answers, so my book ended up a big mess of cramped pencil scribblings. I would prefer more English-to-Dutch translation exercises, or in any case more labor-intensive drills that make you use your head more.

But there aren’t a lot of options for Dutch self-study, and I feel that at least Ms. Oosterhoff is responsible and knows what she is talking about grammatically. The editing was careful, and the design of the book and the paper are quite lovely for a grammar. I like lovely books.

A small exception to that “careful editing” comment is that I was asked to do present perfect in an exercise on page 111 but didn’t actually get present perfect explained to me until the subsequent chapter. It worked out okay, because I had studied present perfect elsewhere already, but that kind of stuff is annoying if you’re working with only one resource. That’s why I don’t (work with only one resource).

One other technical gripe: I don’t like that in Basic Dutch’s appendix of strong and irregular verbs, strong verbs are listed not alphabetically, but rather, according to the way they change their stem vowel in the simple past and the present perfect. Nooooooo! I am a beginner. I need totally alphabetical. Just let me find the damned thing without having to know anything about stem changes in advance.

Because of this flaw, I ended up using the verb table—an alphabetized one—in the back of my other main grammar book, Essential Dutch Grammar, in order to do an exercise in this book.

Should you finish Basic Dutch, there is a successor by the same author.

Pretty Design, Okay Content
Pretty Design, Okay Content

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