Teach Yourself has a diverse set of language courses for various learners of various proficiencies, from the Get Started series for absolute beginners to the Enjoy series for learners who want to perfect their various skills in their target language. Last year, we covered the main series of Teach Yourself language coursebooks, the Complete series, breaking down the review into selected components such as introduction to the writing system and audio integration.
Today, we will talk about the Enjoy language series, another series of coursebooks by Teach Yourself. So, you have gained some conversational competence from your experiences with either the Teach Yourself Complete series or the Routledge Colloquial series, or through some other methods. But when advancing towards fluency, you find yourself hitting a brick wall. Should you continue relying on textbooks, or to use other language learning methods to achieve fluency in your target language? Fret not, the Teach Yourself Enjoy language series is here, as a plausible choice to further your language learning in intermediate to advanced stages. A remake of the previous editions of the Teach Yourself Perfect Your language coursebook series, the Enjoy language series is meant for learners who have developed at least a conversational competence in their target languages.
As with the rest of the Teach Yourself language coursebooks, the back of these books often feature a skill tier system, intended to show the targeted level of competency one can hope to achieve through the course. Some are meant for absolute beginners with zero prior knowledge, while there are more advanced ones that focus more on fluency in reading, writing and conversing. More recent prints feature how each series matches up against the CEFR standard, though this guide is not always accurate. These books often include audio CDs, or online audio for playback to listen to sample conversations or monologues covered in the book. The Enjoy series hopes learners to achieve an advanced or fluent level of competency in the target language, or just about the CEFR C1/C2 standard.
Included in the set are audio discs containing recordings, although in some cases they come at an extra cost. Alternatively, local libraries may have these books, but the discs may require a separate loan, and subject to availability for loans. Also, you may find older editions of the books, in particular, the Perfect Your language series, which can differ in content and dialogues. However, our main focus will be on the newer books, which still preserve the aims and objectives of the courses.
As with many language coursebooks, some sections of the books have supported audio, for learners to pick up standard intonation, pronunciation and other phonetic features which are difficult to simplify and explain in plain text. Crucial sections include the pronunciation guide, which appears to be included for almost all supported language courses, and the main dialogues. One will also encounter listening exercises, with text accompaniment similar to some listening comprehension practice systems. However, the overall integration of audio appears to be rather toned down compared to that in the Complete language series. While the primary focus of audio integration is to familiarise learners with colloquial speech, speaking and listening, I find these aspects to be less extensively covered in the Enjoy series, even though the demands to perfect these aspects are staggeringly high, especially if the learner wishes to attain a CEFR C1 or near-native level fluency.
In the Enjoy series, there is not much to be said about the pronunciation guide, as it expects learners to have a decent background in the target language in terms of speaking, pronunciation and phonetics. Thus, it is expected that such sections only consist of a couple of pages at most in the books.
The Enjoy series has introduced some dialects or language variants, including some elements of colloquial speech not covered in the Complete language series. Although not quite extensively covered, this has nonetheless given learners some introduction on dialects and linguistic variants on the target language, even though the main focus of these books is still in the standard spoken language like Bokmål, for Norwegian, and maybe Berlin for German. Swiss German and Austrian German can differ wildly from the High German spoken in some regions of Germany, and being introduced to these variants will undoubtedly help learners understand how German varies from region to region, like the differences between the German spoken in Bonn and that in Munich.
At this stage, learners should or would have had a solid grasp on fundamental conjugations of verbs, nouns and cases wherever applicable, but they would only be exposed to a limited set of uses for grammatical expressions. In more advanced levels, the course would aim to introduce more uses for such expressions, and tie in how these changes in expressions would impact the overall meaning of sentences. Foreign-sounding grammatical aspects like verb forms in Norwegian, or subjunctive mood in, say, Spanish and Italian, would also be more readily introduced to enable learners to grasp more complex concepts.
The main focus of such courses would tend to shift away from the construction of a sentence, and towards the structuring of entire texts, and essays. In writing assessments, it is common for examinations to feature full-length texts and articles in reading sections, and asking learners to construct a full essay surrounding a choice of given topics. Cohesion, logic, and crucial elements of essay writing would be examined, in addition to application of grammatical patterns that learners would have covered since the beginning of their language learning experiences. As a result, discourse and the like would have, and should become the focus of grammar and syntax in these more advanced books, compared to grammar drills like tense perfection and cloze tests.
In this regard, the Enjoy series of books seems to be more focused on building and perfecting the grammatical concepts learners have built up over their journey in their target language, leaving several severe grey areas in textual discourse. This might heavily hamper the progress towards gaining the ability to write complex, analytical or other types of essays which demonstrate logical flow, transition and cohesion the examiners would be looking out for.
Moving up the skill ladder from conversational topics to more diverse ones, the learner would be expected to be able to handle conversing, comprehending and articulating themself in various social issues like education and some politics, to more technical ones like geography, and literary topics like books and publications. This is an extremely broad range, since at fluency, one would be expected to be able to talk about, or write about such issues, or review articles surrounding these topics, in their target language. It is indeed a huge step up from the everyday conversation topics like the weather and shopping. When presented with the Teach Yourself Enjoy language series, the question that comes to the learner’s mind would definitely be, how will this help me in achieving my language goals, and does this actually help?
When I used the Enjoy Norwegian book to gain more insights on Norwegian culture and geography, one thing I noticed was the focus of passages, texts and scripted interviews on the general topic discussed, giving little depth in certain social issues. I believe that it encourages the learner to look up more updated articles in the news about the topic, to be more well-read, while providing the bare basics of a topic at hand. Therefore, it would be quite an explicit way to signify that the Enjoy language series of books should not be used as a standalone, but with the primary methods of exposure to a wide variety of news topics and publications to build up experiences in these topics. This way, such coupling would actually help the learner to progress towards fluency, given effort, commitment and practice.
While these units introduce the learner to new vocabulary for use, these new words are usually just the basic terms, leaving learners to pick up more complex words and jargon on their own accord, to their needs. The course does however, provide a starting point for learners who are lost, or undecided on how to progress towards fluency. This then progresses towards a more independent approach in gathering words, ideas and concepts on the topics covered in each unit. In this regard, the Enjoy series appears to perform satisfactorily.
There are only four Enjoy improver courses in publication today, but there are a couple more Perfect Your language series books. The Enjoy series currently only has Norwegian, Spanish, German and Italian, with French joining the series fairly soon. Perfect Your French may still be available in libraries or some bookstores, but they are fairly difficult to come by.
As compared to the Complete language series, it is evident that the Enjoy series has substantially fewer languages, which may omit even those commonly learnt languages like Arabic. This lack of diversity may be slowly patched in time to come, encompassing more commonly learnt languages in due time such as Russian, almost like what Routledge has done with their Colloquial 2 series.
The requirements to meet the CEFR C1/C2 levels are undoubtedly, staggeringly high. Being able to articulate oneself in almost all conversational topics of nearly all complexities, as well as understanding local colloquialisms, are extremely difficult to achieve when learners embark on the leg towards almost-perfect fluency. A course that aims to facilitate such a journey would definitely have to be robust, in introducing a wide variety of topics, articles and interviews to the learner, to broaden the thematic vocabulary and range of grammatical expressions. Discourse in reading, textual cohesion in writing, and other such aspects become topics of increasing focus and emphasis as one progresses towards more complex topics and text. A good course would have to deliver all of these.
However, truth to be told, at this stage, one can no longer solely rely on these courses to make that push towards fluency. Reading real world news, articles, and speaking with people will overtake as the primary methods in attaining fluency. Ultimately, what coursebooks like the Enjoy series or the Perfect Your language series can do at most, is to broaden the range of vocabulary, educate more aspects on culture, and highlight extensions of grammatical expressions one would not have quite picked up in their introductory and advancement stages.
In this case, the Enjoy series struggles heavily to deliver the speaking side of affairs, given the focus on self-learning. This method would have to be heavily coupled with primary methods of learning as mentioned, to better help facilitate the push towards fluency. In any case, reliance on coursebooks like this would have to be drastically reduced, to introduce more flexibility and range of topics, compared to the rigidity and concrete structure outlined by the course.
The Language Closet Rating: 4/10
Note: This rating is based on user experience, criticism and evaluation through this post. It is in no way an objective stance, nor is it a static rating.
How would you rate Teach Yourself? How has Teach Yourself shaped your learning experiences? Let us know through the comments!
I have bought two of the four Enjoy language series books, which were the Norwegian and German language courses. I tried using the latter to teach myself some German to perhaps attempt the DSH Certificate examination, the standardised test for German proficiency, similar to DELF/DALF in French, and IELTS/ TOEFL for English. I realised that even despite using this book in conjunction with a couple other methods, I still struggled in my practice attempts for the DSH. This made me wonder about the efficacy of such coursebooks in the more advanced stages in language learning, which may not always be effective when learners try to attain a certain standardised level, or supposed fluency. It undoubtedly takes years of practice, interaction and commitment to achieve such results, and requires a mixture of methods that can complement one another. Or perhaps to some such standards can be achieved in weeks or months. In any case, my take is that practice is absolutely essential, and there is pretty much no shortcuts to this. I hope you have enjoyed reading this review, and I will see you in the next one.