Essentials of Georgian Grammar by Kurtsikidze - Review

Fear_a_Phléasc
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Essentials of Georgian Grammar by Kurtsikidze - Review

Postby Fear_a_Phléasc » 2014-01-29, 6:15

This thread used to be a cry for help seeking a copy of this book. Now that I have it, I decided the thread should be used to talk about the book itself and some observations I have after going through the first dozen lessons. I know that, for what few Georgian learners there are, there is a lot of buzz and curiosity about this book, especially because of its 250 verb conjugation tables. It's also more expensive and hard to find than most of the other Georgian instructional material out there.

Most learners have probably stumbled upon Aronson's book, which seems to be freely available now online, so that is the natural book to compare this too. They are each their own book and Aronson's book does not, I feel, purport to do the same exact thing as Kurtsikidze's book. His is, even in title, a reader's grammar. Kurtsikidze's seems to be geared more towards those looking for a more natural approach to actually learning to speak the language. But I will be comparing the two here simply because they are the ones I have experience with and seem to be the ones that are the most comprehensive according to reviews I have read.

So what is this book actually like? Well, it's a mixed bag, so far. On the positive side, the lessons are quite a bit more digestible than Aronson's. With his book, I found myself writing them out again myself in much more simplified manner, in list form, rather than paragraph form, summarizing the main points again for myself. With this book, that doesn't seem half as necessary. The main points are laid out somewhat more concisely.

The lessons are also shorter which makes them easier to work on one at a time and assimilate before moving onto the next. Aronson's lessons are very long and contain a lot of information which you have to absorb before proceeding onto the exercises which then encompass everything you've learned in that lesson. Here the lessons focus on smaller amounts of information at a time. I believe each lesson is meant to be studied over a week, meaning after a year you will presumably have gone through the book at a leisurely pace - a manageable goal, for sure.

The main drawback of this book is that there is no answer key. And a lot of the time you won't need one, but when you do, you will really wish it was there. Even in the first lesson, I encountered something which required me to ask a question on the forums here: დათვი ათია. The corresponding lesson simply lacks explanation that would make the exercise in question soluble. This presumably means "there are ten bears" but, according to all information given up to that point in the book, you would think it means "a/the bear is ten", as they have not explained how numbers work at all, never mind how they are used to count nouns.

Similarly, in one exercise, you are asked to translate the phrase " "ბუ ხის ტოტზეა" before any discussion has been made of the case system. The reader is here expected to be able to identify the genitive case of a word they have previously learned, "ხე", before the genitive case is even introduced.

Each lesson usually accompanies some new vocabulary in both books. Kurtsikidze's word choices often seem very strange. Granted, in the beginning, the word choices seem primarily geared towards exposing you to particular letters. However, given then one is asked specifically to memorize the words, it is a wonder that some more useful words weren't chosen. Does the reader really need to learn the word for "cheetah" in the first lesson? How many times do we talk about cheetahs, after all (are they even native to Georgia?)? Aronson's word choices seem actually seem more relevant to me, overall, especially considering the fact that his book doesn't take a conversational approach to the language. The advantage of Kurtsikidze's word vocabulary is that it starts becoming more thematic, i.e. there are lists for all body parts, etc, which is a good way to learn groups of new material.

There is also the odd sloppy editorial issue: "were is the boy going?" And some issues that are more subversive than that: In one lesson, she lists several verbs that have subjects in the dative case and objects in the nominative. Among these she lists two that she identifies as meaning "to take": "მიტანო" or "მიყვანო". Other verbs include those meaning "to have" (both animate and inanimate), "to love", etc. She then conjugates several of these verbs in a small table. One of them means "to take", which she conjugates "მიმაქვს", "მიგაქვს", "მიაქვს". The problem is that this is the conjugation for the verb "წაღება" which is not mentioned at all on this page, nor is the verb ever identified. To figure out that is the verb the conjugation belongs to at all, the reader would have to comb through the conjugation table and find the forms "მიმაქვს", "მიგაქვს", "მიაქვს" and realize they were in the chart for "წაღება". Otherwise, the reader will naturally assume (as I almost did before realizing what I read made no sense), that these are forms of the verb "მიყვანო", in the context of the lesson.

In closing, I have obviously not finished the book, but I feel I have read enough of it to get a general sense of its strengths and weaknesses. That is to say, it has some strengths, but the weaknesses to me make it hard to justify the price. The conjugation tables are useful, without a doubt, however one has to ask themselves personally whether they want to buy over $100 worth of conjugation tables. If the answer is "no", then one might consider continuing to use Aronson's book. After reading 100 pages of that, I don't think I encountered a single editorial issue or anything that didn't make more sense after reading the answer key. Overall, I do think the book is a great resource, but it is difficult to get so excited about it given the combination of obvious flaws and hefty price. I say this not out of spite (to be clear, I don't regret my purchase) but out of mild disappointment and caution to those thinking of making the investment.

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Re: Essentials of Georgian Grammar by Kurtsikidze - Review

Postby HoneyBuzzard » 2014-01-29, 23:05

Thanks for the review. A lot of people are interested in this book as you say. I've thought about picking it up myself for the conjugation tables, but as a learner's grammar it sounds like it isn't going to make any waves, and the lack of a key makes we wonder if it was intended primarily for class-room study.

Aronson's word choices seem actually seem more relevant to me


I always thought Aronson's Reading Grammar needed a restructuring exactly because of the vocabulary. I remember struggling to memorize long words like მასწავლებელი and later being surprised to learn methods of derivation to explain them, e.g., მასწავლებელი is agentive მ- -ელი and causative (ა-) -ებ on a root *სწავლ learn. Particularly for a book so heavy in vocabulary it would have been better if he had discussed rules of derivation early on instead of postponing it for the later chapters. Does Essentials of Georgian Grammar go into derivation? Sounds like it might mostly have non-derived words like terms for body parts.

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Re: Essentials of Georgian Grammar by Kurtsikidze - Review

Postby Fear_a_Phléasc » 2014-01-30, 21:36

Yes, there is a section on derived words (I think lesson 12). With any language, you will have points of grammar or words you will have to expose people to before you really give them adequate explanation. This is one of the conundrums in general with Georgian grammar in particular. In the most obvious aspect, the verbs that are used to talk about the most common things (i.e. liking, having, loving) require the most knowledge grammatically. So it creates the problem of what to introduce first: the stuff people will use more or the stuff they are more likely to understand the explanation for. So far it seems, Georgian books have had to make a compromise in that regard in one way or the other. Aronson seems to discuss first the most basic points of grammar in terms of simplicity, whereas Kurtsikidze fairly early begins talking about verbs whose subjects and objects appear in the opposite cases from what would be expected. In the case of words like "mastsavlebeli", I think those are often deemed to be important enough to learn regardless of whether you understand how it was formed.

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Re: Essentials of Georgian Grammar by Kurtsikidze - Review

Postby Fear_a_Phléasc » 2014-01-31, 16:00

I thought I should add that I've traded a couple of e-mails with the author wherein I outlayed some of my criticisms of the book. She was very reception, friendly and professional. She took all my criticisms in the best possible spirit and that such corrections could indeed be useful if a second edition were ever printed (though due to business, she doesn't that planned in the immediate future but would like to do someday).

So as an addendum, I suppose, I can say that my review of the author herself is a lovely intelligent woman who is also approachable (although she seems busy, so probably don't turn to her for questions that someone else would be able to answer just as easily) and takes both comment and criticism in a healthy way.

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Re: Essentials of Georgian Grammar by Kurtsikidze - Review

Postby HoneyBuzzard » 2014-01-31, 18:03

Fear_a_Phléasc wrote:In the case of words like "mastsavlebeli", I think those are often deemed to be important enough to learn regardless of whether you understand how it was formed.


Sure, but he does explain how they are formed, and Georgian has enough simplex words that I think it would have been feasible to postpone the introduction of long, highly derived forms. He explains the agentive circumfix in chapter five for example, and it's only in chapter five that he introduces real Georgian texts, i.e., all the exercises up to that point were written specifically for the book.

You're right though, there's always going to be some vocabulary that's both basic and complex.

I thought I should add that I've traded a couple of e-mails with the author


Well there's something you don't see every day. :D

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Re: Essentials of Georgian Grammar by Kurtsikidze - Review

Postby Fear_a_Phléasc » 2014-02-02, 5:41

Yeah, I decided to write her because I had seen her email on some page somewhere and given my experience with the first dozen lessons, I felt compelled to give some sort of feedback. On the one hand, I think the book is a unique resource, but the on the other hand I felt disappointed by certain oversights and felt it was almost my responsibility to convey them. As a learner of Irish and now of Georgian, both languages that not many people learn and have relatively few speakers (although Georgian obviously much more than Irish), there is much more of an interaction potential and necessity between the students and teachers, even the published ones ;) She is, first and foremost, an educator, after all. Some of the oversights in this book (such as lack of answer key) I believe stem from the assumption that most people will be using this book as a classroom text. But, despite my initial fear that she would respond defensively to my comments, she seems like a delightful woman and dedicated teacher who is welcome to constructive criticism.

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Re: Essentials of Georgian Grammar by Kurtsikidze - Review

Postby E}{pugnator » 2014-02-03, 14:08

This thread is fascinating! Thanks for the discussion, thank you Fear_a_Phléasc for the review. I feel relieved, because based on your review I don't think I need this book. How to overcome the lack of those 250 verb charts then?

Well, nowadays it's easier to recognize an unknown form thanks to Google Translator. As for coming up with the needed forms, I got the larger dictionaries like Tschenkéli's and Apridonidze's.

I got Basic Georgian and started using it. Based on what you said, it might be better than Kurtsikidze's. The vocabulary choice is quite consistent. Unfortunately, there are no answer keys either and there are several English typoes. Still, the content choice was quite conscious. It does teach what is important first, regardless of the necessary grammar. I had the feeling with Aronson that I needed to know all irregularities of future subjunctive of II conjugation verbs before ever meeting a IV conjugation verb.

EDIT: Corrected author's name
Learning Georgian, Mandarin Chinese, Russian and Papiamentu from scratch. Trying to brush up my Norwegian up to an advanced level.

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Re: Essentials of Georgian Grammar by Kurtsikidze - Review

Postby Fear_a_Phléasc » 2014-02-03, 17:29

You're quite welcome. On the one hand, I hate to discourage anyone from buying the book, because it is good. On the other hand, it's expensive enough that I wouldn't want anyone to buy it with false expectations. Those 250 verb charts certainly are a big selling point; one that may be worth the price alone for some people. I tend to think, though, that once one has learned enough of the language and (as you say) with the advantage of various dictionaries and search engines, they might not be as all-crucial as a beginning learner might think.

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Re: Essentials of Georgian Grammar by Kurtsikidze - Review

Postby Fear_a_Phléasc » 2014-02-12, 5:14

As a slight addendum to my existing thoughts on the book, coming up to the halfway mark, I find myself warming up to it. I stand by pretty much everything I said in my initial review, however there is a point at which it becomes obvious that the main strength of this book is the way it builds upon itself in a natural way - more so than both the Aronson and (rather bad) Hewitt texts. The lack of answer key will probably never be something you get over with this book (by far its primary weakness, in my opinion), but I find myself appreciating more and more the way it is structured.

I have noticed an interesting tendency to challenge the reader, as well. In the course of the lessons, often a form or alternative way of expressing an idea will be presented without any explanation and it will be up to you to think critically about it and how it fits into what you already know. Some might find this annoying and wish there were more explicit explanation, while other more experienced language learners might appreciate this.

The other note I would make is about the conjugation tables: what is nice about them is that before each table there is a sentence for each conjugation that makes it clear what that tense is actually for, i.e. Present Tense (Happening now or in the Present (in general)), Future Subjunctive (If it happens (in future), if it should happen). I think most readers will find this helpful, especially for keeping track of the less common tenses.

One note of criticism I would make about them is that they are alphabetized in each section by the English verb. It would be nice if there were an alphabetized list of the verbs to make them easier to find if you don't know the English translation. As it is, without knowing the English definition, it would be potentially very hard to find a Georgian verb you encounter.

Anyways, I hope not to beat a dead horse regarding this book, but again I feel it is potentially valuable for people to know what the book is really like. It is hard to know if I have been too harsh on it because I have only two other books to compare it too, only one of which is in the same league (Aronson), so I wanted to say more nice things about it, because I do think it is an effective learning tool.


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