Monday, August 8, 2011

Azerbaijani Textbook Reviews - Azərbaycan Dili üçün Dərsliklərin Rəyləri

A reader wrote to me yesterday asking for advice on the best textbooks for learning Azeri for English speakers. Here some options with their pros and cons.

Elementary Azerbaijani by Kurtuluş Öztopçu
Summary: This book contains chapters covering most Azerbaijani grammar. In this sense it is a bit more than strictly elementary. A student wishing to acquire Azeri to an upper intermediate level will find this book helpful. Overall I recommend this book to beginners and intermediate students, particularly those interested in learning the Azeri Cyrillic alphabet, with the caveat that vocabulary and idiomatic expressions should not always be assumed to be accurate.
- Provides good exercises with an answer key at the end of the book.
- Readily available for purchase in the United States.
- Audio CDs can be purchased separately to enhance pronunciation practice
- Introduces both the current Latin alphabet and the former Cyrillic alphabet. This is particularly helpful if you are interested in doing any archival work.
- Contains a useful glossary at the end of the book.
- While the book claims to be teaching the Azeri spoken by the majority of people in the Republic of Azerbaijan, there are multiple instances where vocabulary and idiomatic expressions from Turkish are presented as if they were Azeri. This can be very confusing because while the languages share many words, they often have radically different (occasionally vulgar) meanings.
- Grammar is not covered comprehensively and students will need to seek out either a tutor or another book if they wish to reach an advanced level.

Teach Yourself Azeri by Telman Khudazarov
Summary: This is the most comprehensive Azeri grammar that I have found. It contains very useful exercises with an answer key and explains all of the basics of Azerbaijani grammar, including all verb tenses and moods. Its vocabulary and expressions are accurate. It is somewhat less user friendly than Öztopçu’s book in that it assumes a certain familiarity with grammatical terms and moves rather briskly into very complicated grammar. I highly recommend this book for intermediate or advanced students, though it is unfortunately very difficult to find in the United States.
- Excellent exercises with an answer key.
- Comprehensive and accurate grammar and vocabulary.
- Does not include any auditory aids.
- Difficult to find in the United States. (I would recommend using interlibrary loan to get your hands on it. Alternatively, it is very easy to find in any bookshop in Baku and from what I remember costs around $10 or $15.)
- The Azeri Cyrillic alphabet is not introduced.
- There are many typos in English and inaccurate translations in the answer keys.

Basic Course in Azerbaijani by Fred Walter Householder and Mansour Lotfi
Summary: I have not personally used this textbook because it is for the Iranian dialect of Azerbaijani, which in its everyday vocabulary and expressions is markedly different from the Azeri spoken in the Republic of Azerbaijan. Even though I have not used it I probably would not recommend it for the main reason that the Arabic/Persian alphabet is never introduced and students are forced to grapple with very idiosyncratic transliterations. I suppose it could be a useful resource for English speakers who just want to learn spoken Iranian Azeri.
- The only textbook in English that I know of that teaches the Iranian dialect of Azeri.
- Does not introduce the Arabic/Persian alphabet.
- Not particularly useful for students of the Azeri spoken in the Republic of Azerbaijan.
- Difficult to find.

Unfortunately, some of the best language materials for elementary students of Azerbaijani are produced privately by the International Learning Center in Baku. I used their materials when I began studying and I highly recommend their school for anyone looking to learn Azeri in Baku, both for their original learning materials and for their excellent teachers. It has been a number of years since I was a student there but perhaps if they were contacted directly they would sell or share their materials to students outside of Baku.


  1. I completely agree with your views on the last book. No audio, the transliteration doesn't help, it is somewhat dated, and NO recordings... Overall I was very disappointed with it. Unfortunately, there aren't many resources for the Iranian dialect of Azerbaijan out there at the moment. There are books available in Iran, but they are mainly designed for native speakers who would like to learn how to read and write their language and use it properly - or to teach some Azerbaijani to Persian speakers.

    Not learning the script is negligible given that a vast majority of the Iranian speakers of Azerbaijani are illiterate in the language, but definitely there should be at least an appendix teaching the basics of the writing system.

    Thank you very much for your detailed blog entry and I will try to contact the International Language Center in Baku.

  2. You can visit There are Azerbaijani lessons with video and some grammar notes.

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