Sunday, August 03, 2008

Language Instruction Part 3: Russian Books

There aren't as many good books for Russian instruction, surpassingly considering the Cold War. Saying that I can unqualifiedly recommend Live from Moscow: Russian Stage One. This is the textbook series that I learned from in college so take my recommendation with a grain of salt. The series has a textbook, workbook, audio cassettes, and VHS tapes. The textbook gets the learners toes wet with some loan words before getting into some of the grammatical differences as well as some of the more complicated subjects. The audio is used to reinforce lessons with exercises in conjunction with the workbook. The VHS tapes presents a soap operaesque story of an American visiting Russia. This reinforces the lessons of the textbook and shows how they would be used in conversation.

If you are looking for a comprehensive Russian-English Dictionary you can do much worse than this. They also do a decent job presenting the grammar and basic verbs of Russian.

Fortunately for language learners, Russian has a lot of its greatest writers who are out of copyright. You can find the odd poem by Pushkin on Gutenberg or through the links on Wikipedia. If you are yearning for a dual language printed book this may fit the bill. I personally love Mikhail Kuzmin whose books are pretty expensive if you are looking for them in print but are available on-line. He wrote on of the first gay novels in Russian, Wings.

Community (data) properties

The use of community generated metadata is an interesting example of the potential of social networking. The community can generate terms that are meaningful for them instead of having them generated by an intermediate body such as the Library of Congress does for cataloging.

I'm looking at Delicious, which has revamped their site.

The lack of comma delaminated tagging seems like an oversight and adds to the potential for mislabeling but it can be overcome with a slight redesign. I've used Delicious in its previous incarnation and will check it out further. One of the problems, or at least oddities, that I noticed before is that many of the metadata tags that users create are not that descriptive, relevant, or just plain bad. Tagging a website as cool is useful on an individual basis but not so much on a community basis.

Another site that I'm excited about for a number of reasons, mostly game news related. However they are using community generated content and metadata in a very interesting way in a wiki site.

Video games would seem to be a nightmare to tag. Some of the problems such as the widely creative staff sizes and similar titles have been solved in relation to movies. Some of the issues such as repeated themes, character archetypes etc. have been solved in literature. The means of interaction however is unique. It will be interesting to see how much of a distinction, if any, is made between approaches to linear story telling for example. There are linear games that go from A to B, branching games where on decision effects chooses later on, and there are free roaming games. Some games have a mix of all three. It is always interesting to see how an untrained person approaches metadata creation and descriptive analysis.