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Looking for book recommendations


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Hey everybody,

Looking for some suggestions on books:

Can anyone suggest a good book on Chinese grammar? I'm looking for something that will give me a good foundation as I haven't formally studied Chinese grammar and I'm finding that my progress is being held back as a result of not firmly understanding the fundamentals. I would prefer something with the explanations and grammatical terms in English.

I'm also looking for a good oral Chinese book for intermediate to advanced students. The book I have in mind would be organized by topic, introduce vocabulary relevant to the topic and perhaps even provide questions for discussion. Something designed for one-on-one would be ideal.

It's been my experience that the best Chinese books for foreigners come from Hong Kong or foreign-based publishers. By best I guess I mean most learner-friendly and relevant. What's your experience?


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If you are anything like me, a grammar textbook might not be the best solution to your problem. I know my grammar fairy well, so sentences like "when a verb is negated, unstressed personal pronouns are placed between the negative particle and the verb" are not problematic per se. What is the problem is that the passive grammatical knowledge you get out of reading a grammar book will not be the kind of knowledge you need to use the grammar on-the-fly when deciphering texts and and speaking correct Chinese. Learning how to do that is something that I at least am not able to do with grammar books. I found that what I needed was massive exposure to the language. Start with simple texts/TV-programs and start listening for sentence patterns in context. I think learning what an "immediacy-了" is something you will forget after a couple of days or weeks if you read it in a textbook, but something that will become second nature if you just go out in the field and listen. You will soon note that "...快要..." is always followed by a "了" or that 我走了 is a common expression, and by internalizing those and similar phrases you learn the grammatical function of it.

You might say that a grammar book might be a useful supplement, but I think that depends. I've got several of them, and even though I used them vigorously at some point, they weren't useful to me exactly because of the reason above. The passive grammatical knowledge I got quickly leaked out of my brain. I think its an experience many learners have that grammar books tend to end up collecting dust on a shelf. If you want to learn the basics, I would suggest finding a collection of easy-reading/easy-listening material and going through it. Try to consciously think about what every sentence means, and how it is expressed. After a while, the grammatical structures will get lodged in your brain by themselves.

That is at least a technique that I have found works better for me than the "formal grammar"-approach. Of course, you will have to find a strategy that works for you.

But on to the recommendations :mrgreen: If you really want a grammar book, Claudia Ross' book might be what you are looking for.

For a great book on spoken Chinese at the intermediate level, I'd recommend Streetwise Mandarin Chinese. It's a great book with good colloquial language and sentence structures. Disregard some of the curmudgeonly reviews on Amazon. Just be aware that there is not much pinyin to be found, except for in the glossary.

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Hey guys,

First, thanks for help!


thanks for all the info. I'm studying in a Chinese university now at an intermediate level but I didn't begin my Chinese study formally so in the classroom I sometimes find myself a bit confused by the teacher's explanation of Chinese grammar in a way that assumes I know the fundamental laws. I guess some of the main questions I have are related to "why" I or other people speak the way they do rather than "how". I'll check out that Ross book.

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