There was a time when I was writing a lot of posts about Russian textbooks, because I went through several. I knew that Penguin was easily the best for me, but I couldn’t really explain why. Well two days ago I read an article by a Russian teacher about how to tell time in Russian. It was well written, and covered basic time telling. But I didn’t really like it for some reason. It reminded me of the Princeton course. Then I started to think of the differences between Penguin and Princeton, and suddenly the difference became clear to me, as well as the reason I prefer Penguin. Princeton lessons presented a topic, gave you a very brief glance at grammar, and gave the student the opportunity to memorize the specific grammar for that specific topic. The next topic would give a little more grammar, and the same opportunity would present itself. Some patterns repeated, and I would get the feeling of having covered that grammar before, but the link was really weak. So after many lessons, although I’d memorized lots of grammar, the structure wasn’t well established or connected in my brain. And even though they had consolidating lessons where they covered the grammar again, it was sort of too little too late. The primary thrust behind the teaching of the grammar was to teach it in bite-sized chunks, and hope the student would assemble good solid structure in his brain. Well I found out that just doesn’t work well for me, and I would suspect for most people. Grammar-wise, Penguin lessons are designed to establish logical structure from the very beginning. I know the concerns about doing this. People like short lessons about a specific topic because they are very useful right off the bat. It’s easy to write dialogues and such for them, and the context is very memorable. People think that the only other way to get well-organized structure is to memorize grammar tables. But it doesn’t have to be that way. A Penguin lesson contains key expressions, grammar with sample sentences and exercises, vocabulary, text and or dialogues and comprehension exercises. For the most part, organization is grammar driven, and grammar points are covered as completely as practical at every step. Just because they aren’t topic driven doesn’t mean the lessons are drier. They understand how important it is to have that logical structure in the student’s brain, and the order they teach in makes building it much easier. Penguin is by no means perfect, but they have the basic concept down, which is more than I can say for any of the other Russian textbooks I’ve used. Now that I’ve finally figured out how much better this type of organization works, I’d like to look for similar texts in all new languages I study. This is going to be hard, because it almost requires that I know the language to select a textbook. I will look at reviews, and ask questions like “Is the organization of this text driven by grammar or topic?” Other than that, does anyone have suggestions on how to find such texts?