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dreamon

Beginner's Questions

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OneEye

Thanks for explaining what a grammar book is. Or at least what you think it is. :rolleyes:

Let's take a look at Schaum's Outline of Chinese Grammar, which is standard issue for beginners and intermediates. It has exactly what you're looking for. For instance:

Chapter 12 PHRASE AND CLAUSE CONNECTION

Important Features of phrase and clause connection

Addition

Disjunction

Sequence and Simultaneity

Contrast

Conditionality

Cause-and-effect

Since "if...then..." is a conditional phrase, turn to the "Conditionality" page. The very first subtitle under "CONDITIONALITY" is "if...then..." followed by different words for "if" and a bunch of examples. Bingo. Just what you need.

Next time, "thanks" is a bit more appropriate than spouting off. Or you could even ask questions, like "Are you sure a grammar is what I need? I was under the impression that a grammar book is ___________." Remember, you asked for help. The help may not always come in the form you expect, but most people aren't going to purposefully steer you in the wrong direction.

You're welcome. :)

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dreamon

OneEye> Let's take a look at Schaum's Outline of Chinese Grammar, which is standard issue for beginners and intermediates. It has exactly what you're looking for.

OK, thanks! Perhaps this grammar book has a pattern dictionary as its part.

OneEye> Next time, "thanks" is a bit more appropriate than spouting off. ... Remember, you asked for help.

Sorry, I didn't realize I should view this interaction within the teacher-pupil framework. May I ask: was it just my impoliteness, or was there also a cultural difference?

The idea of a pattern dictionary comes from a curious textbook, in Russian, that teaches English to a middle-aged working mathematician from the former Soviet Union who suddenly found him/herself in need to write papers in English. Here is the link. You don't need to know Russian, just scroll down slowly and see the patterns.

It still seems to me that a comprehensive, dictionary-style list of sentence patterns with examples could be quite useful, in addition to a grammar book.

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OneEye

I may have come across a bit more irritated than I actually was.

I'm not good enough to be anyone's teacher yet, my gripe was more about the tone of your post when help was offered. I'm sure everyone has done something like that at some point (I'm guilty of it too). No hard feelings. :)

A list of patterns would indeed be helpful. Unfortunately I know of none. There may be one somewhere, but Schaum's will serve you very well in the meantime. Are there no books in Russian that fit the bill? I'd imagine there are a good number of books for Russian-speaking learners of Chinese (though I may be wrong).

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jbradfor

@dreamon

coming essentially unchanged from the ancient world

Ummmmmmmmmmm

You sure about that?

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SiMaKe

@dreamon

If you are open to print media, I just received this ad from Chinabooks that looks like it might be something of interest to you. Unfortunately, information and detail are lacking but maybe someone on here has used this text.

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dreamon

@SiMaKe:

The book sounds very interesting, thank you! I'll look at it closer and possibly buy, together with the new DeFrancis' dictionary to make the free shipping threshold. BTW, did anyone see that dictionary, is it small enough to be portable?

@jbradfor:

Even the face of the Moon has changed: there are some footsteps and some scrap metal. But it looked the same then as now, more or less. Just think of that when you see it next time.

@OneEye: Are there no books in Russian that fit the bill? I'd imagine there are a good number of books for Russian-speaking learners of Chinese ...

I am in the U.S. now, it is difficult/expensive to buy Russian books from here. But more importantly, it is confusing to learn Chinese starting from both English and Russian at the same time, at least at the beginner level.

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SiMaKe

@dreamon

While the dictionary hasn't been published yet, it is advertised as student-oriented with "more" illustrative/explanatory material, indications of frequency/importance according PRC graded vocab lists, and tone sandhi.

In case you haven't come across this, here's the website.

They provide an email address so you could contact them directly with your questions.

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马盖云

Try to look at "Modern Mandarin Chinese Grammar - a Practical Guide" by Claudia Ross and Jing-heng Sheng Ma (ISBN 0-415-70010-8 paperback version)

While being a sort of traditional grammar book, it has a focus on sentence constructions for all sorts of typical things- check the table of contents online at amazon or such. It is not quite a 'style manual' like Shrunk and White or whatever the English standard is, but it has similar tendencies (how to format a letter, business card, etc, also)

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dreamon

Thank you all for advice!

May I ask also about those modern textbooks that I see being repeatedly mentioned: New Practical Chinese Reader, Integrated Chinese, BOYA, Chinese Made Easier (or was it "Chinese Made Easy"?) etc. How much money does it take to (legally) buy all that is necessary or really useful for each of these courses? Sounds that, for NPCR at least, it is upwards of 1000 dollars. What do these textbooks provide that justifies such spending, in comparison to just having a good grammar book, some graded-reader texts, the Heisig book to learn characters, and audio tapes such as Assimil and (old) Colloquial Chinese? Another concern with buying into a set of textbooks is as follows: if later I decide to take an intermediate-level course, it may turn out that they are using a different set, and I will have to buy the other set as well.

A couple of more concrete questions: (1) There is the 2nd edition of NPCR, is it much different from the 1st edition? (2) It seems that BOYA provides the best price-to-value ratio; are there disadvantages to BOYA in comparison to NPCR or Integrated Chinese?

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deathtrap

@dreamon NPCR is a good series. I'm using it right now, but the biggest problem I see with it is that the exercises after each chapter and the workbooks are quite useless if you aren't doing it with a teacher. The answer keys are only provided in the teacher guide books and those are written completely in chinese for a fluent person.

The second edition of NPCR is much better than the first. Every book includes an MP3 CD for free so you don't have to buy the CD sets as with the first edition which will save you a considerable sum of money. Don't bother with the Video DVDs for the first 4 books because those can readily be found online and downloaded legally.

I see no reason why you couldn't just buy a grammar book and some graded reader texts...etc. I like the textbooks though because it provides structure and a course for me to follow. I like order :P I bought Graded Chinese Reader 3 and tried to do the first story before I completed NPCR 1. It was doable but VEEEERRRRYYYY slow. The whole read 1 word -> grab dictionary -> read 2nd word -> dictionary...etc. got tedious fast. So I spent a day transcribing the first story in MS Word and exported it to html so I could use it with Pera-pera-kun :P

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putonghua73

This thread is a prime example of why I enjoy spending time on this forum due a seemingly simple (ha!) series of questions triggering stimulating and thoughtful debate, that actively encourages one to take time to think about how one studies Chinese, but also the challenges and pleasures of learning this language.

When I started learning Chinese for the 2nd time (I regarded my intiial 6 months as a taster i.e. introduction) at a different college, the focus was on reading and writing hanzi. I believe spending time initially learning the strokes and hand-writing characters cemented learning and understanding, and helped to form a solid foundation - I also include absolutely nailing the tones when one first starts (preferably with a teacher to avoid picking up bad habits that will be difficult to cast aside later), as well as understanding basic grammar patterns.

A few weeks after I arrived in China at the start of April to study 1-2-1 for 4 hours a day, I made the conscious decision to dispense with practicing writing, and focus more on reading to improve my comprehension, usage of words [cultural context e.g. idioms, particularly 四词成语], as well as identifying and understanding grammar patterns. My Chinese has improved as a result because I've spent more time understanding the context in which words occur and are used in sentence patterns [context], to gain a feel for how to use words. Like Renzhe, I hardly ever hand-write, instead prefering to type.

I do believe that hand-writing characters - as opposed to typing - helped me deconstruct and analyse characters and their radicals, and provided me with a much deeper understanding. The problem is that this approach is intensely time-consuming, and I've found that this deconstruction and analysing naturally occurs when (if!) I read a wide range of material as I mentally process words, sentence and grammar patterns. As Renzhe inferred, it's repetition i.e. seeing these words, sentence and grammar patterns occur over and over again that really cement the associations and connexions that begets deeper understanding.

With regards to which textbook series, read opinions on this forum, reviews on Amazon, and take a trip to your local bookstore to compare the various series for yourself. I was happy using Chinese in Steps (official text used by SOAS) up to lower elementary. By the time I finished Vol 3, I was bored with the format and switched to BOYA for 准中级 because the series focuses more on reading, and uses a wider vocabularly - although arguably less useful for day to day conversations - than Chinese in Steps, which I found too narrow. The difference in format and style took me a chapter or two and some hard study to successfully adapt (I was initially having to look up every 3rd word - tedious beyond belief - now it's approx every 10th word), but worthwhile because I feel the articles and stories are much richer and complex. The audio is a disappointment because it only features new words for each chapter and a (fast!) reading of the articles in each chapter. None of the exercises are contained in the audio files.

While textbook series are good for structured learning, you should incorporate a wide range of material into your studies because textbooks are too narrow to be able to cover everything, and also it becomes boring very quickly if you just focus on textbook learning. The Chinese Breeze graded readers are a great introduction to reading Chinese (sustained narrative), and getting a feel for how words, sentence and grammar patterns are used in different contexts. One of my biggest failings (aside from slacking) is that I do not expose myself to a wide range of material i.e. tv, films, radio, podcasts, etc. One of my friends bought Calvin & Hobbes in Chinese and we were introduced early on to the fantastic phrase 老兄,你是不是想满地找呀?(translation: buddy, do you want to go looking for your teeth? i.e. I'm going to knock your teeth out!)

As an attempt to remedy this dificiency and also stimulate my interest in 成语, I've recently bought 'Chinese Stories Series - Stories from Chinese Idioms' (中华成语故事) that introduces 60 成语 and the classic stories from which they originate, in both Chinese and English, along with a range of exercises for each story. The book is aimed at students who have mastered 800 characters. Other books in the series focus on Chinese folk tales, legends and history, and increase the number of prior mastered characters required for reading.

Cheers!

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SSB

dreamon > The Yali Cheng's sample's rendering is a bit disappointing, because the syllables are cut off before their sound is complete.

I don't remember cutting off any syllables before their sound was complete when I was helping with the editing. But we didn't want to make a voice where all the syllables sound like they are being spoken in isolation with gaps in between, so I asked Yali to speak the syllables in context, and then Cameron and I painstakingly cut them out of their contexts using Audacity. I think we've made the best cuts we can, but if anyone wants to do better I do still have the original recordings somewhere in my cupboard.

One obvious problem in the sample (你好,我是雅丽的声音) is the 好 is a half-third-tone (it was cut from 好的). We didn't have time to record both full-third-tones and half-third-tones, so we went for half-third-tones because that's what they sound like in mid-sentence. Before a comma you should really be using a full third tone, but even many high-end commercial synths use half-third-tones there if appropriate full third tones are not available in their databases. If I had another chance though, I'd like to have recorded both types of tone 3, as well as both types of tone 4 (try getting a native to say two 4th tones together and you'll see what I mean) and more types of neutral tone (the exact pitch depends on what was before it; I tried to kludge this electronically but it would have been nicer to have a fuller set of 轻声). But we only had so much energy to do this: spare a thought for Yali who had to chant through all those syllables to a metronome (we needed to make sure the speed was reasonably constant so that any syllable fits with any other).

I think what we have achieved is a voice that can be fully controlled. Commercial unit-selection voices like MeiLing, Lily, Hui, Lisheng, SinoVoice, iFlyTek et al can be controlled up to a point but sometimes you just can't get them to say the exact syllables you want no matter how hard you try. So I think Yali is better to learn from. A male equivalent would be nice though (Chinese intonation is subtly different between the genders) maybe one day.

Meanwhile I should point out that Gradint can also be used with your own sound recordings. If you are prepared to supply recordings for everything you want to learn, then you don't need the synthetic voice at all (even the prompts can be replaced by recordings if you want). But I cannot distribute most of my recordings due to copyright issues, so you have to make your own. Also, if you have a computer voice which you like, you can use that with Gradint as well.

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Gharial

I didn't really understand the slight harping on (from page 3 onto this one) about "grammar patterns". If one is opposed to learning notional/umbrella terms such as 'Conditionality', but one doesn't know the Chinese for the (range of possible) actual exponents/exemplars for the notion, and would ultimately seem to want a lexical approach/entry-point to the "problem", then probably the best thing to do would be to get an (E-)E-C dictionary and consult the 'if' entry for examples along the lines of the required 'if...then(...)' patterning; I'm sure there'd be at least one such example in most dictionaries, and just how many examples would one need exactly, in order to be able to safely extrapolate from them?

Or, failing that, one could simply invest in a reasonable coursebook! (I know there was some discussion of that too, but I haven't quite read all of that just yet).

By the way, I keep on mentioning English(-Chinese) lexicography because it came on in such leaps and bounds from the mid-eighties onwards, what with the COBUILD project and all that jazz, which made it its mission to reveal functionally-similar lexicogrammatical patterns (similar patterns usually have similar meanings)...which could be "just what the learner ordered"! :wink::)

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