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Language book written by foreigners?


drencrom
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Are there any language books of any kind out there that are written by foreigners, for foreigners? I am sick and tired of crappy books that assume that the learner is a full-time student at a Beijing university attending a 4-year course majoring in Chinese. The last time I was in Japan I was amazed at the great quality books that are available now. In ten minutes I picked up a part of grammar that I had never been able to understand when I lived there, and the reason was because the book was written by a foreigner.

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You could do worse than listening to people's suggestions rather than dismissing them out of hand based on your own assumptions.

Chinese Made Easier. Textbook or no, it was written by a foreigner, for foreigners, and although it is split up into various different lessons, I imagine it's easy enough to follow on your own without a teacher.

If it's straight up grammar you're after, you might also look at books such as Chinese - A comprehensive grammar by Yip Po-Ching and Don Rimmington - or any other books by these two authors.

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(EDIT: I see others have posted while I was typing, and mentioned a few of the books I have, but I'll leave my post as is!).

But some of the best (text)books around were originally developed for university sutudents (who need something more detailed than a book aimed at a more general audience), and at least co-authored with a foreigner: in Britain, the original Colloquial Chinese course by T'ung & Pollard springs to mind; in America, there have been quite a few pretty good university-level textbooks and/or series released over the years.

But avoiding 'textbooks' then, there are quite a few reasonably comprehensive grammars say, (co-)written by foreigners for foreigners: http://www.chinese-forums.com/index.php?/topic/10932-best-chinese-grammar-book/page__view__findpost__p__237767

Then, there are general surveys of the language(s) of China (Ramsey's The Languages of China; Sun's Chinese: A Linguistic Introduction; Norman's Chinese; etc(?)*) that include hopefully not-too-trivial amounts of grammar-based discussion, examples and notes, but these may not be quite what you're looking for either.

*Kane's The Chinese Language is a bit of a miss-and-miss miscellany IMHO, and ultimately seems to be a glorified annotated bibliography directing to actual resources, but there may be a few explanations in it that click for one reader rather than another, and the chapter on pronunciation certainly didn't seem bad from a quick browse. Anyway, it has garnered generally positive reviews on Amazon, and isn't so expensive that getting it would prove too costly/bad value for money.

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Thanks for the tips, everyone.

CMEweb.jpgWell, as there's no preview, it might be good, there's no way to tell. Honestly, the cover design doesn't give me any confidence. The website's vibrating blue text on top of a red background is an elementary design error. This random page I clicked on says, "When we finish the two-year language course, there is a strong temptation to be content with the level we have reached" thus implying the book is designed to be a part of a, well, two-year language course.

"Chinese - A comprehensive grammar" is certainly for professional linguists. Chapter 1, lesson 1, page 1 is "Nouns and Nominalisations", simply assuming the learner knows what a nominialisation is. Sample sentence: "They are rather products of human epistemology, being convenient, summary labels used holistically to refer to complex or sophisticated situations, experiences, processes, qualities, or phenomena in diverse areas of human endevaour." Holy linguistics jargon, Batman! I was thinking more along the lines of "where's the bathroom" for lesson 1. I just want to learn how to drive a car, and this wants to teach me how to repair a fuel injector.

I suppose the number of books for mere mortals like myself is limited even more severely than I thought. As much as I would love to take several years out of my life to go back to school full-time, I simply can't afford the opportunity cost.

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Is everyone a linguistics major or otherwise hardcore academic types?

You don't have to be either of those types to study Chinese, but to really progess and ultimately succeed (not that I have quite yet) it probably helps! Anyway, it is quite hard to know what book to recommend to you Drencom, if everything that's been mentioned so far doesn't take your fancy. (If only there were a Ladybird book of Chinese Grammar! :P B) ;) ).

Basically, learning a new language as an adult to any appreciable level isn't the easiest of things to do, and a bit of jargon every now and then (such as that 'nominalization') can help make the overall task easier rather than harder, if only because it helps avoid any of the potentially lengthy paraphrase once you've learnt the term (and there is always Google when a glossary is lacking!). And in my experience, generally the more sophisticated a book is, the better (but you'll perhaps only understand what I mean when you've had to discard a few unsophisticated and unambitious books, those "impulse" buys, along the way).

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Not exactly sure what the original poster hopes to find, but I know that I get very tired of Chinese textbooks assuming I'm a 19 year old college student with a burning desire to master campus vocabulary such as "Where is the dorm?" and "How did you do on the mid-term exam?" I accept those books only as a means to an end, grit my teeth and slog on through.

I just spent about half an hour reading the instruction manual for the washing machine in my new apartment so that I will be able to launder my clothes. That's the sort of daily life language I really want to know, not "你常去图书馆吗?"

However, I accept the reality that not everything is going to be just wrapped up nicely and handed to me in a textbook, written by a foreigner or not. I also accept the reality that it's necessary to build a foundation and then add to it by application of individual energy.

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Sounds like the TY Chinese book by Scurfield might hit the spot.

Not exactly sure what the original poster hopes to find, but I know that I get very tired of Chinese textbooks assuming I'm a 19 year old college student with a burning desire to master campus vocabulary such as "Where is the dorm?" and "How did you do on the mid-term exam?"

Must be annoying, when you are so keen to learn about ethnic minorities and Chinese festivals.

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Yup, TYC sounds about right for the OP (though personally I'd always opt for the original Colloquial Chinese first, for its more comprehensive and succinct grammar notes and exercises, its more realistic dialogues and audio material, and its fantastic Character text (sold separately, but well worth getting to supplement the Pinyin-only main coursebook)).

Hmm, 你常去图书馆/书店吗 is probably exactly the sort of question that should be asked of Drencom at this precise moment in time!:D:wink:

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Picture book building? Oh, bookstore. No, the only bookstore here in Ningbo is Xinhua bookstore, and we all know what crap that place is. The only Chinese books they have are those horrors from Beijing university press that I was talking about in my first post.

It's just that I really struggled with Japanese, only to find that later (too late) that the problem wasn't me. The problem was the awful books written by Japanese linguistics Ph.D's who had no conception of how foreign adult learners learn their language. The last time I was there, obviously some evolution had occurred and new books had a new approach that was far more effective. They were colorful, taught phrases in modern usage instead your grandparent's Japanese, were written by foreigners, assumed no previous knowledge, and used a breezy, inclusive tone. If the book used a word like epistemology, it made sure to define it right there in the text instead of blithely assuming that the reader already knew. In addition, the books assumed that the learner was NOT a full-time student, but rather someone learning Japanese for their own personal edification. From what everyone is saying here, I suppose a similar revolution in Chinese teaching is still another 5-10 years away. More's the pity.

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New Practical Chinese Reader has Canadian editors. No significant English language errors spotted in levels 3 & 4. I really appreciate not struggling through an endless stream of mistranslated vocabulary terms. Also, excellent gramatical explanations, useful tips on common idiomatic expressions, and helpful materials included on DVD.

A Practical Chinese Grammar by Samuel Hung-nin Cheung, Sze-yun Liu, and Li-lin Shih is an accessible explanation of Chinese grammar.

ChinesePod also has lessons for reinforcing the listening components.

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I definitely sympathize with you, not being able to find books that teach me the way I learn best, though coming from English I probably can't recommend any books, the books that I'm working with are "Learn Chinese in 48 hours, a Crash course of Elementary Chinese" Parts one and two, I like it because it covers the basics, without being touristy (trying to learn phrases like "Where's the Bathroom?" before learning basic grammar structures like measure words) yet it progresses into functional language rather quick.

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