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I would like to know who’s using (or used) what handbook for learning Chinese.

A list of pro’s and con’s for each one could also be practical.

I think the following points should be mentioned:

- how is grammar presented?

- How are characters introduced?

- are the dialogues useful and is their structure well explained?

- Pronunciation (too many technical terms or easy to understand)

- …

I already posted a question on comparing Integrated Chinese with the New Practical Chinese Reader, and those are actually the only two I know, maybe there are even better books on the market.

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Ok, I’ll go first

New PCR (I):

- grammar: is ok, but no better than that. Basic grammatical points are well explained but I feel that there is not enough space reserved for grammar.

There are also not enough good (writing) exercises in the book (and the workbook is useless I think)

- The introduction of characters is adequate, but again could be better. I think similar characters like e.g. 大, 头, 太, 天, etc. should be grouped. Often new words are introduced but not all the components are explained, annoying. E.g. from 照片 - the word picture - 照(=to shine; to take pictures) gets no explanation.

- The subjects for the dialogues with which each chapter starts are useful. Sentence structure that is new for the student gets clarification. But there should be more examples, one example sentence is not enough.

- Pronunciation: many many technical terms (retroflex,…) and too few practical pointers :wink: . I had to look long on the net before I found some good sites that explained everything clearly.

Conclusion: I don't think the NPCR is a bad textbook, but there is definitely room for improvement.

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I've been through a pile of books, but will do the old PCR for now.

Practical Chinese Reader:

Grammar: Covered minimally with technical terminology. If you buy the Practical Chinese Grammar, which follows the first two volumes of the PCR chapter-by-chapter then you get excellent grammar coverage. The PGR was written by a third party who got frustrated with the grammar coverage in the PCR. The PGR is so good I would buy it even if I weren't using the PCR.

Characters: The end of each chapter has stroke order charts. The first volume has an optional separate workbook with background on some of the character components and squares for writing the new characters. I'm not sure there is any specific order for introducing the characters. Like the New PCR, characters with similar forms are not grouped together. I consider this a good thing, though. If I get similar characters at the same time and have to add them to my flashcards I confuse them a lot longer than if I learn them at separate times.

Dialogues: The dialogues are OK. They start out with familiar words and add new ones part way through. Volume one includes pinyin under the characters but after that it is all characters. Following each dialogue is the new vocabulary in character and pinyin form. Idioms and other special usages are explained after the vocabulary.

The dialogue content contains a bit of propaganda, with one of the characters reading an illustrated magazine about industrial production and the elderly working past retirement for the Four Modernizations. You will also learn the useful word tong2zhi4, which I don't think gets used anymore. The propaganda isn't there throughout the dialogues, but just enough to fit with its having been written in 1988.

Pronunciation: This is covered pretty well, especially if you get the accompanying tapes. Not only does it deal with phonemes and tones, but it even deals with pronouncing sentences with the right intonation and stress.

Other stuff: Make sure you get the tapes. They will help a lot with pronunciation and the exercise will make more sense.

Conclusion: The PCR isn't bad if accompanied by the Practical Chinese Grammar book. With reading both books and doing tapes and homework you will be very busy but you will learn a lot. I wish I had started out with it, but it didn't make a good first impression on me. I haven't seen the New PCR, so I don't know which of the two series is better. Bjgodefr's review of the New PCR pretty well describe the old PCR as well so maybe they didn't learn much from the criticisms of the original PCR.

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I'll throw in another review.

Teach Yourself Chinese: A Complete Course for Beginners

Grammar: Covers grammar fairly well and includes examples.

Characters: No characters until chapter 12, where they appear in a reference section. Actual instruction in characters begins with chapter 13. The introduction in chapter 13 is good, and then after that both characters and pinyin are used side-by-side. Aside from giving principles and showing some stroke order in chapter 15, you are on your own for writing characters. It is possible to go through the entire book without learning characters, as I did. If you are learning Chinese specifically for the characters, this is probably not the best book. If you are more interested in the spoken language or just want to know the characters to be functional the book is fine. There is another book in the series that teaches the characters in-depth.

Dialogues: The dialogues are fine. The aren't as goofy as dialogues in other books. They get difficult faster than in most books like the PCR.

Pronunciation: Covered at the beginning. Includes both technical and non-technical descriptions of how to pronouce the characters. For example, x is described as "voiceless, palatal fricative", with the advice "Tongue flat, corners of lips drawn back as far as possible". Once the lessons start you are on your own for pronunciation, although the accompanying tape helps.

Summary: This is the second book I used. Overall it is pretty good and I don't have any serious complaints about it.

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anyone up for reviewing Integrated Chinese?

Come on let's all do the book we studied, that way we might get a different set of opinions than the reviews on amazon where almost every book is "great".

This kind of advice can help people who start studying on their own (or who are improving their knowledge).

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I used Integrated Chinese (level 2) for about 6 months last year. It was great for general reading practice, plus grammar points. The workbook really made you work hard on your writing. The main problem is that even though the main textbook is in both simplified and traditional, the workbook is only traditional. It meant I picked up lots of traditional characters, but it was a distraction, and made things just a bit more hardgoing than was necessary... I did post about this ages ago. A lecturer in USA has a website with extra material (including the listenings), and corrections of the typos in the original (another flaw of the book). I linked to this in the old post.

Now I'm doing more HSK related work I am using 'A New Chinese Course' (book 2). I can't speak highly enough. The readings are about social issues (changes in family sizes, marriage, population control, gender discrimination, Aids, etc) and the vocab is all tested in the HSK. A grammar and vocab section follows each reading, and the workbook gives you a chance to use the new vocab, plus provides writing and speaking topics.

I'd recommend it for those of you who have already mastered the characters of everyday conversation, and want to move onto controlled reading practice. Also good for people who want to take HSK, but don't fancy always doing test practice.

Since using this book I have found I can follow more news programmes on TV, get into authentic newspaper articles, and (importantly) have much more interesting and involved discussions with my Chinese friends about society, politics, and culture.

It is available in the Wangfujing bookshops in Beijing.


ISBN 7-80103-133-4

75 Kuai


ISBN 7-80103-132-6

25 Kuai

There are also some tapes (for HSK mock tests at the back of the workbook), but I didn't get them.

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did post about this ages ago. A lecturer in USA has a website with extra material (including the listenings), and corrections of the typos in the original (another flaw of the book). I linked to this in the old post.


I think this the post akdn is talking about. Thanks for your review.

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I can't believe anyone hasn't thrown in the John deFrancis books. There is also another one I'm currently using called New Text for Modern Chinese. If anyone is curious, I could give a brief overview of those, but I am sure the deFrancis' books have already been covered somewhere in the forum.

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I found on this forum only one review of deFrancis’ Beginning Chinese Reader, but please submit your own thoughts about these books shi rui'en, that’s what this post is about.


And here is a link to an overview of deFrancis' works:


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  • 5 months later...


For a first reader I'm trying to decide between DeFrancis's 'Beginning Chinese Reader'


and Fred Wang's 'Read Chinese: A Beginning Text in the Chinese Character, Book One'


I've ruled out the New Practical Chinese Reader because supposedly it doesn't have the repetition of the Wang or DeFrancis books, which I'd want. Plus I prefer Wang, & DeFrancis' use of traditional.

Has anyone used both and can compare?


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  • 2 weeks later...

The Teach Yourself Chinese Complete Course...when the characters are finally introduced, are they traditional or simplified? I am looking for a fast-paced book because I'm not a total beginner, but I'm mostly interested in simplified characters.

I am also looking into Schaum's Outline of Chinese Grammar, anyone have any comments?

I have read the first few units in Basic Chinese by Yip Po-Ching and Don Rimmington as these books are available in my school library. Since no one has posted anything about this book, I can give my two cents from about the first 10 units (out of 25).

Grammar: A very good grammar book I feel. Every grammar point comes with a few examples, and each unit tries and seemingly succeeds in introducing one point. It tries to explain everything on that point however, and this can sometimes be distracting to a beginning learner.

Vocabulary: Jesus...tons of vocabulary. The first unit introduces somewhere around 80 new words (and more characters since most are disyllabic). This is the only flaw in this book I feel. The example sentences for each grammar point are good, but every sentence seems to introduce a few new words, and sometimes the entire sentence is new. For example: in the first unit, one learns gong1cheng2shi1 (engineer). This does not belong in unit 1. One can skip the vocabulary and simply learn the grammar points, but the exercises at the end of each unit are largely based on the vocabulary learned.

Exercises: LOTS of exercises at the end of every unit with answers in the back (including full sentence translations in almost every unit). Aside from vocabulary, a very strong point.

Dialogues/Readings: none, just example sentences

This book is very good if one is good at not getting distracted by a large number of vocabulary introduced, and you are more interested in pure grammar learning, rather than applying what you learn through reading passages. (not sarcastic, is a very good book)

There is also an Intermdeiate Chinese book by the same authors which has an additional 25 units. I have mearly flipped through this book out of curiousity, but it can be assumed it has a similar format.

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Basic Chinese by Yip Po-Ching and Don Rimmington.....

There is also an Intermdeiate Chinese book by the same authors which has an additional 25 units.

Just to add that if you decide to buy one, don't forget to get also the other since many topics you'll be looking up are as likely to be in the other volume that you haven't got!

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Could someone please post a reaction to DeFrancis's books or any other books anyone has found useful. I am trying to decide on a book to study, and Basic Chinese (review above) is too character intensive for me (not that I don't understand it, but more that I would rather study how to actually speak the language then be burdened with the characters at this point).

Teach Yourself Chinese seems intriguing to me, but I would also like to hear about some other books. (if there are characters...simplified is a preferred choice for me). Thanks

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