Labyrinth of Life (W Labiryncie)

Wieslaw Oleksy and Oscar E. Swan
xiv + 378

An innovative, multi-faceted textbook of Polish which takes a popular Polish television soap opera as its basis, this textbook is aimed above all at advanced learners, but may be used, by adapting classroom activities appropriately, as a supplement to all levels of study, from the beginning on. W labiryncie, which the authors, trying to be faithful to American soap-opera conventions, translate as "Labyrinth of Life," is a multi-media textbook written to further the study of Polish in an accurate linguistic and cultural setting. In promoting the study of language in its communicative and socially interactive function, the present work relies on image, sound, and print in order to bring the study of Polish to new levels of realism and quality. Based upon a condensation of a popular television program which has run over the course of several years in Poland, the present work offers a view into contemporary social relations and customs which, as in any soap opera, is condensed and stylized, but at the same time highly revealing culturally. The language used for the serial is the main reason this particular television work was selected. Colloquial yet stylistically careful, reflective of the standard speech of educated speakers of contemporary Warsaw Polish, the language of W labiryncie represents exactly the speech norm that should be emulated by the foreign learner of the language. In their adaptation of W labiryncie for teaching purposes, the authors have given primacy to the text itself. They have not tampered with individual segments, but have endeavored to highlight, by separate commentary, those linguistic and cultural elements in the text which might escape the notice of the non-native learner. Each lesson is designed to be covered in one week of a three-hour-per-week course. Each lesson's viewing segment is around ten to fifteen minutes in length, broken up into smaller scenes. Lessons consist of: 1) a recap of the preceding action; 2) the main video script, transcribed from the segments for viewing; 3) questions for discussion; 4) condensed versions of the video script, presented in the form of a short, memorizable dialogue; 5) mini-dialogues: brief, instantly memorizable four-line exchanges based upon the lesson's phraseological material; 6) scenarios: suggested situations for enactment in class, based upon creative use of the lesson's material; 7) language commentary, directing attention to grammatical features of the text; 8) grammar exercises, practicing various grammatical points suggested by the material; 9) viewing for gist, segments for relaxed watching, from which only the main aspects of the action need be extracted; 10) cultural notes, consisting of a brief discourse touching on one or another culturally significant topic raised by the week's installment.

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"Thus, they view their book as a contribution to state-of-the-art, proficiency-based instruction, and, as such, it succeeds admirably. The care and competence of the authors are evident throughout..." (MLJ) "On the whole, this creative contribution to the teaching of advanced Polish should be applauded for its presentation of authentic language material in an organized, goal-directed fashion and for its real glimpse into Polish everyday culture, both as a subject and the context within which W labiryncie was created." (SEEJ)