Volume 29, No.4 - Winter 1983
Editor of this issue: Antanas Klimas
ISSN 0024-5089
Copyright © 1983 LITUANUS Foundation, Inc.

Marija Danguolė Tamulionytė. Lietuviais norime ir būt. 

Lithuanian for English Speakers. Lithuanian Educational Council of the U.S.A., Inc., Chicago, 1982. Large format, hard bound, glossy paper, profusely illustrated. Drawings, many in color, by Nijolė Palubinskas (Palubinskienė). 392 p. $22.00.

Several years ago, when the present writer briefly reviewed the textbooks for learning Lithuanian, there were very few books available. (Cf. Lituanus, vol. 15 (1969), No. 3, pp. 76-79). Even until today (=Fall, 1983) the only full grammar of Lithuanian, written in English remains the Introduction to Modern Lithuanian (cf. Lituanus, op. cit., p. 77). In the meantime, two more editions of this book had been published, the second edition in 1972, and the third edition in 1980. However, the Introduction is basically intended for adults, University students, and scholars (linguists, primarily) who want to get acquainted with the complete grammatical structure of Modern Lithuanian.

The book under review here, Lietuviais norime ir būt ("Lithuanians we want to be, to remain," or: "Lithuanians we shall be"), written by Dr. Tamulionis, is unique and pioneering. First of all, it is intended for children; it is profusely illustrated, full of all kinds of oral and written exercises, and it presents the various points, or questions, of the very complicated and complex grammar of Lithuanian in beautifully graded easy steps, or stages.

The book contains 30 chapters, and each chapter is divided into four parts: A, B, C, and D.

Part A presents some point of grammar, but not formally, but by the use of very simple phrases cum appropriate drawings illustrating the basic grammar structure. E.g. in Chapter V, several nouns of the Lithuanians 1st Declension ending in -ys (like mokinys 'pupil/male'; arklys 'horse', etc.) are presented in several sequenced "circles" first in short phrases, then their pictures are given.

In Part B — more grammar; again, not formally, but "playfully". In Chapter V, for example, the present tense of two verbs: šokti 'to dance; to jump', and miegoti 'to sleep'. Both verbs are from the 1st Conjugation, both completely regular. Each person, i.e., from 'I' to 'jos' 'they/female' is illustrated by a parallel schematic but clear drawing. Finally, the negative form of the verb is explained very vividly, both in these schematic drawings as well as in schematic linear writing.

Part C of each chapter, throughout the book, is really very unusual. To my knowledge, very few introductory language textbooks use this kind of approach. In Chapter V, for example, Part C informs one, in English, about the ancient (IX-XIV centuries) Lithuanian weapons and fortresses (castles). It is heavily illustrated with drawings and photographs. The readings, in English, as mentioned above, throughout these 30 Chapters, cover, more or less, the whole Lithuanian history, all the way from very ancient times, through the medieval Lithuanian Kingdom, into the present day.

Part D usually contains very attractive color illustrations, with some exercises. Then it may have a short nursery — like song, or game, or a song cum a game, a short, simple dialogue, or, further along, it could also contain a connected easy story of interest to children — in Lithuanian.

Since this textbook is intended, primarily, for the Lithuanian Saturday Schools as they exist now in the U.S. and Canada and since these schools usually meet for about 30 Saturdays in the school year, the reason for the exact number of 30 Chapters is clear: each chapter is intended for one school day (or, rather, morning . . .) the whole textbook — for one school year. As a matter of fact (cf. pp. 9'11), the author gives an exact and methodical plan for covering one chapter, in this instance, Chapter V. She also suggests possible variations, the use of the audio-visual means, etc.

Before writing this impressive book, Dr. Tamulionis had tried out her method both in the United States as well as in South America. There, she used the same method in teaching Spanish-speaking children (mainly of Lithuanian descent) to speak Lithuanian. Her success there and the urging of the Lithuanian Educational Council led her to write and publish this very unusual book.

Naturally, even in the book of this size intended primarily for young children, only the initial, the basic "stages" as it were, of the Lithuanian grammar are covered. Speaking in general terms, only about one-fourth of the Lithuanian grammar is touched upon. Obviously, if the author has plans to write two or three books of continuous succession, then this is only the first volume, or the first part, or the first book. One would need, indeed, about three more books of the same "tempo" to cover the remainder of the Lithuanian grammar. Whether the author intends to do it, remains unknown. It would be a tremendous undertaking.

What this book presents — as far as the formal grammar is concerned — is, however, basic: the first three declensions of the noun, with the five "basic" cases: Nominative, Accusative, Dative, Genitive, and Locative. As for the adjectives, only the simplest adjectives of the first declension (i.e., ending in -as, -a) are mentioned in a more detailed presentation. And, again, just like the nouns, only in the basic cases. The Instrumental case is not explained.

Of the verbal system, only the three basic indicative tenses are given: the present tense, the (simple) past, and the future tense. Compound tenses, the passive voice, the subjunctive mood, and the very numerous — there are 13 of them — and complex Lithuanian participles are not mentioned, as far as I can judge.

Only a few prepositions are used (like, for example, į, pas, etc.). If any of the "unexplained" forms occur in some of the stories, they are glossed right there — by footnoting.

As always, in a book of such size and type, one can always find some minor discrepancies, or shortcomings. We will mention but a few here, although there are many more.

On p. 161, mention of the Žalgirio mūšis is made. In English, this battle is more frequently than not referred to as "The Battle of Tannenberg", rather than "The Battle of Grunwald". (Cf. Lituanus vol. 29 (1983). No. 3, pp. 73-78).

On page 337, in the Lithuanian-English vocabulary, the non-standard forms amerikonas, amerikonė 'Americans' are used. However, in the English-Lithuanian Vocabulary, on p. 375, the standard forms, amerikietis, amerikietė, are given.

On page 351, the form melski is glossed and explained as follows: "melski (imper. form of MELSTIS) — pray!" But that is not quite correct, in the formal derivations: Melski is not the imperative form of the reflexive verb melstis 'to pray', but it is the imperative form of the non-reflexive verb melsti 'to beg, implore, ask'. True, the "practical" difference here happens to be very slight, but some inexperienced beginners even some novice teachers, may be somewhat confused. The imperative form of the reflexive melstis 'to pray' is melskis. The author may have been confused by the recent changes in the liturgical usage of these two verbs.

There is no doubt in my mind that, given good, well-prepared and lively teachers, this excellent textbook of Lithuanian will be very attractive and successful with young children. The teacher, of course, has to know Lithuanian very well; for example, there is not a word in the book about the stress in Lithuanian. I assume that the author relies here, like in so many instances, on the teacher. I might add here that the Lithuanian stress, or accentuation system, is quite complicated, especially since Lithuanian has a very archaic system of the free (or movable) accent, plus the two types of intonations on all stressed diphthongs and on all stressed long vowels.

As I have mentioned above, this book will be very useful for children. However, there is one part in this book which, no matter how you look at it, is very strange, quite uneven and, in parts, completely wrong. I am referring here to pp. 386-389, the part which is called PRONUNCIATION. We will give just a few examples.

On p. 386, the pronunciation of e is given as follows: Ee (ae) is like a in man, short, e.g. menas (maenas), "art". Now, someone must have had a misprint here, or something because the (letter) e when it is pronounced like (ae) — a real digraph ae was meant here — is always long. One can see that in the example given: in menas 'art', the e, under stress, is always long.

The short e, on the other hand, in standard Literary Lithuanian, in both the loanwords from other languages as well as in inherited Lithuanian words is pronounced exactly the same way. This has already been definitely proven by the late Professor Jonas Kazlauskas, and one should not repeat this unfortunate episode of Lithuanian phonetics. In other words, the short Lithuanian e is pronounced in exactly the same way in such inherited Lithuanian words as mes '(he) will throw', ves '(he) will lead' as well as in such loanwords as Universitetas 'University', generolas 'general', etc.

In addition to the introductory chapters (pp. 7-11), the detailed Table of Contents (pp. 12-15), and the main text of 30 Chapters (pp. 17-321), there are the following parts: Translations of the Readings (pp. 322-333), the rather large Lithuanian-English Vocabulary (pp. 335-373), the limited English-Lithuanian Vocabulary (pp. 375-385), PRONUNCIATION (pp. 386-389), and, finally, the ALPHABETICAL INDEX (pp. 390-392).

For children who are learning Lithuanian, there is now an excellent textbook. Its few very minor "failings" will not even be felt, if it is used by a dedicated and experienced teacher.

The University of Rochester