Book reviews

Mongolia Monday- New Mongolian Grammar Book

I got an email a month or so ago from one Munkhbayar Barmunkh, with a link to the Amazon page which offered the above book- a new, as of Sept. 2009, Mongolian grammar textbook. He turns out to be the publisher. I ordered it immediately.

The author, Khatantuul Baatarsukh,  has a BA in International Relations and Slavic Studies from the School of Foreign Services at the National University of Mongolia. It was clearly a labor of love. She says in the Preface, “Writing this book was a daring project, for it has many critics. My motivating force was the love and fascination of the art of language. My inspiration comes from life.”

As some of you know, I’m trying to teach myself Mongolian. I’m using: a Transparent Language course ; listening to Mongolian music via both CDs I’ve purchased and TsahimRadio, an internet radio station run by a Mongolian Facebook friend; and asking Mongol friends to translate words and phrases for me. I also have the Lonely Planet phrase book, which is dated in some unfortunate ways, but still very useful; and Mongolian/English and English/Mongolian dictionaries that I brought back in July.

I just bought Bento, the Mac-based consumer datebase app. I’m going to do my own word list since I need a specialized vocabulary of art and craft terms so that I can start to communicate with the felt craft coop ladies.

There doesn’t seem to be much else available that isn’t either really expensive or doesn’t fit my needs. I haven’t diagrammed a sentence since 8th grade (am I dating myself?), but I think this book will be quite helpful.

Mongolian is structured differently than English. The word order is more like German: Subject, object, verb. Verbs are modified by endings, so while I can look up a verb’s root word in the dictionary, I’ve had no idea how to use it correctly in a sentence. One exception is “gui”, which creates a negative. So, “chadakh” means “can” and “chadakhgui” means “cannot”.

The main problem that I have in learning a language is that I have a visual memory. That is, I store and retrieve information in images, for the most part. It makes remembering things like strings of numbers interesting. So, I find it difficult to make sense out of the terms for cases and how to relate them to anything. I’m hoping this grammar will help me sort that out, one way or another. I may just have to learn it by rote, which is ok, too.

All the text is in English and Mongolian cyrillic, which is almost, but not quite, the same as the Russian alphabet. There are lots of practice exercises, with a key at the back.

This book is not for beginning language students. I know just enough to start to beat my way through some of it. It will go with me on my next trip, though.

I invite both the author and publisher to add more information or comments, along with anyone else who has the book or would like to offer ideas/comments about the Mongolian language.

5 replies »

  1. I am a self-learner of English, so it was important for me to approach this book from that stand and point of view. Once you tackle the basic grammar (the stem and root of a plant), the rest should be an easy ride (flowers and leaves). Although each particular skill of a foreign language, such as reading, speaking, vocabulary, and writing, targets and serves specific purposes, it is my personal belief that the foundation of any language lies in its grammar. Therefore, I wanted to put it out there the first thing. Grammar terms are given and mentioned for general purposes. I know from my own experiences that what makes it work is practice, practice, and practice, so there are plenty of exercises that reflect sentences from everyday conversation. There are texts and sentences from Mongolian classic literature as well which will show the beauty and richness of Mongolian language. I recommend using this book along with dictionaries.

    Like

  2. You said: “I just bought Bento, the Mac-based consumer datebase app. I’m going to do my own word list since I need a specialized vocabulary of art and craft terms so that I can start to communicate with the felt craft coop ladies.”

    You might try Anki = http://ichi2.net/anki/

    Works great on a Mac and you can create your own words lists (you can add pictures and sound too besides just text). Open Source so it’s free but a very professionally done program.

    Just an idea…

    Jim bagsh
    ESL Teacher / Ulaanbaatar Mongolia

    Like

  3. Thank You very much for your review of the book, and comments about your efforts to learn Mongolian. Very sad how few resources there are available.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s