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Language book written by foreigners?


drencrom
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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!

Please point me to the linguistics jargon in that sentence. :rolleyes: Epistemology refers the study of knowledge, or how we know what we know. It is only tangentially related to linguistics, and has more to do with that Philosophy 101 course I'm sure you paid attention to.

You said you don't want a textbook. So people assume you want a grammar. But what you're really looking for is a textbook, whether you agree or disagree with the term. Just not necessarily one that's designed for a college course. Well, the best textbooks are going to be those designed for serious students, and therefore those designed for college courses. However, not all of them must be used in a college course, regardless of their authors' intentions. Also, I really don't see what the nationality of the author has to do with anything; if a textbook is good, then it's good.

New Practical Chinese Reader is the standard beginning textbook for college students and autodidacts alike. It's older incarnation, Practical Chinese Reader, is another good choice. For more nontraditional courses, there are two that are better than the rest, IMO. ChinesePod (if you don't mind shelling out money every month for a subscription), and Assimil Chinese With Ease (which will run you about $70 for the whole course). ChinesePod is not a structured course, meaning you pick and choose lessons that you want to listen to in your level, and you move to the next level when they get too easy. For some people that's a great thing, and some people prefer a more linear course. Assimil is more structured, and there's a decent amount of discussion online about adapting the course to make it more effective (I personally find the standard Assimil method just about perfect). And it starts with:

A:你好

B:你好

A:你饿吗?

B:我不饿。

A:你累吗?

B:我不累。

A:好!走!

B:走!

Of course, by the end of the course, the language becomes more advanced. Lesson 103 (out of 105 total), for example, talks about solar energy and such.

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My 2 cents...I studied with the "Chinese Made Easier" series in a school in Tianjin. There are five books in the series and, as of 2003, they were probably the most "foreigner friendly" books out there. Yes, the covers are kind of hoakie looking. The school started out with it thinking it would be a 2 year program but most people finished it in about 14 months - 2.5 months of that off for summer. It is a good choice if oral Chinese is your primary goal but not good if you really want to develop good reading/writing. They are written as a series and are integrated, meaning that vocab and grammar studied in one book are continually used in subsequent book. One of the authors, by the way, is an accountant from England, which explains the systematic approach. The other author is, I believe, a Chinese teacher from Taiwan. The teaching methodology is pretty easy to pick up - it has a very "western" feel to it.

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thus implying the book is designed to be a part of a, well, two-year language course.

How long do you think it takes to learn Chinese? It's not like you can just pick up some book, read it in a weekend and be fluent by Monday.

Anyway, you can see previews of the book here:

http://www.studychineseculture.com/book.asp?id=459

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Also, very much like Modern Chinese Grammar. It definitely reduced my desire to strangle the life out of my well meaning tutors. As a reference book to use along with some other course, it works wonders to get a quick answer to something that the native speakers struggle to explain.

Also recommend the related workbook. I went through those two books intensely for a few months with a tutor and it definitely helped me a great deal. However, in hindsight I don't recommend that for the typical basic level student. Instead, your probably better off with the more well rounded and gradual approach found in the textbooks recommended on this site though I have never really used any of those myself. I have also used Chinesepod with mixed results and may go back to that eventually for the dialogs.

Another illuminating Chinese language book is A Guide to Proper Usage of Spoken Chinese by Tian Shou-he. Not as thorough as the previous grammar book. Instead, it examines about 100 common problem areas most westerns struggle with when learning Chinese and succinctly explains and corrects these mistakes. The author isn't a westerner but he really does an excellent job of tackling the problems from the perspective of a native English speaker in a way native speakers typically can not.

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Please point me to the linguistics jargon in that sentence. Epistemology refers the study of knowledge, or how we know what we know. It is only tangentially related to linguistics, and has more to do with that Philosophy 101 course I'm sure you paid attention to.

Yeah, this is exactly the insulated attitude I'm talking about. "It's obvious to me, therefore it's obvious to everyone!" The style of writing is very non-accessible to outsiders like me. However, I'm sure it gets good marks in the university.

Well, the best textbooks are going to be those designed for serious students, and therefore those designed for college courses.

Huh? Wait, how'd you get there? The best textbooks are those designed for novices. Something like 95% of the learners of Mandarin Chinese never make it past beginner level, however the textbooks pretend otherwise either out of genuine ignorance or laziness. This isn't surprising if you consider the narrow audience that a linguistics Ph.D is familiar with.

Also, I really don't see what the nationality of the author has to do with anything; if a textbook is good, then it's good.

Native speakers don't viscerally understand how to teach their own language. Ever see a typical English teacher at work?

New Practical Chinese Reader is the standard beginning textbook for college students and autodidacts alike.

Aw, jeez louise. This book is the poster child for the ancient style of learning Chinese. The entire first book does not contain the phrase, "where's the bathroom". I'm serious, I went through it page by page. The word "toilet" is mentioned in passing, near the end. Lesson 3 tosses out the bizarro word "sandhi" without ever bothering to explain what this is. Of course, a linguistics major knows, so no explanation is necessary. Duh! Volume 1 openly admits that it is meant to be used as part of a three-year course, and thus teaches you crap that will not pay off until later - much later. It implicitly assumes that the learner's goal is full literacy, after which the learner will obviously want pass the HSK and then graduate to the study of classical Chinese. What the heck do I care that Ding Libo is the son of Gubo and Ding Yun?

All I have to say is that every Chinese book I've used reminds me of the horrid old Japanese book that I struggled with, only to find that the problem wasn't me. Looking back, the problem was that the book was written by insulated professionals for people like themselves instead of a general audience (like me). From what it sounds like, my mythical friendly Chinese book designed for mere mortals doesn't exist. Such books certainly exist for other languages.

PS what the heck is autodidact? I'm guessing it's linguistics jargon?

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This guy is sort of entertaining. Any word with which he is unfamiliar he just assumes is "linguistics jargon." It's great. No recourse to a dictionary needed.

An autodidact is a self-taught person. Again, not a linguistics term.

NPCR is designed for novices. Any text where the first dialogue is "hello, how are you?" "I am fine. How are you?" "I am fine too. Bye!" is aimed at novices. It just also happens to be aimed at serious students who want to improve their Chinese. What are you looking for, here? Do you want the book to stay at that basic level? Then buy a phrasebook and quit whining about the good quality materials that are out there.

Or do you want a book that assumes you're an intelligent person who is willing to put in some work and increase your ability in the language? Then buy one of the many that have been suggested in this thread. And learn to use a dictionary.

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From what it sounds like, my mythical friendly Chinese book designed for mere mortals doesn't exist.

Here's an interesting quote from a thread a few years back from the author of Chinese Made Easier.

As regards Chinese Made Easier, the sort of person I had in mind was a westerner who was living in China and needed a series of textbooks to help him/her survive, live and make friends in China. So CME first & foremost is practical. Hence, CME is of no use for the person who simply wants to either learn to read & write lots of Chinese characters or to take the HSK. In other words, CME is designed primarily for communicating in Chinese, not simply studying the Chinese language.

Despite your misgivings, you may find that this book is actually closer to your mythical friendly Chinese book than you expect - that's certainly the impression I've got from Chinese learners both on and off the forums over the years.

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thus implying the book is designed to be a part of a, well, two-year language course.

How long do you think it takes to learn Chinese? It's not like you can just pick up some book, read it in a weekend and be fluent by Monday.

That was uncalled for.

Let's start with the number of foreigners in China, N.

From this number, take the number of foreigners who want to learn Chinese, P.

Then, consider the number of foreigners who are here as full-time students of Chinese on an X visa, S.

Take the number of working foreigners on Z or F visas who cannot afford to take two years out of their lives, T.

Which group is larger in China, S or T?

From all the responses, I'm guessing that pretty much everyone here is a member of group S. I'm a member of group T. I didn't come to China to learn Chinese, I came here because my company assigned me to live here. While I'm here, I very much would like to speak Chinese. I don't expect to master the language in a weekend, nor do I have the ability nor inclination to take a two year language course. It's a false dichotomy.

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I believe that the words "is living in China" are key, because it forced me, as author, to ask and answer the key question, "What does a westerner, newly arrived in China, need to do fairly immediately to 1. Survive, then 2. Handle daily living needs, and then 3. Make friends with Chinese people ?"

Ah, this sounds like my kind of guy. It's the same book from before, with the horrible photoshop job on the cover. Sorry, I've been in the habit of judging products by their packaging, because it can be an important tip to the quality of the product inside. Packaging typically gets done last and if it's rushed, the product was usually rushed as well.

I find that most textbook series written in China, although stating that they are practical, etc., etc. don't adhere to this principle strictly enough (e.g. Beijing Opera and all the rest appearing too early).

Oh YES! That's another one...Beijing opera in a language textbook. Larf! As if anyone is interested in that moldy old junk. It's like someone learning English so that they can attend Gilbert & Sullivan performances.

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While I'm here, I very much would like to speak Chinese. I don't expect to master the language in a weekend, nor do I have the ability nor inclination to take a two year language course.

imron's right here -- Chinese is a difficult language to learn. You can't learn to speak it well without an investment of at least two years of your time. If you just want to know a few phrases to speak with street vendors and such, pick up a phrasebook. If you want to learn the language, go buy any of the useful, jargon-free books mentioned here and spend a year or two with it. If you're an enterprising sort, you can even do without a book -- memorizing vocabulary and reading free, online grammar guides works just as well.

Can you give an example of a Japanese book you really like?

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I'm guessing that pretty much everyone here is a member of group S

And you'd be wrong.

Almost none (or none?) of the regular or semi-regular posters here are full-time students (of Chinese language) currently living in China. Many / most of us are not even in China, and almost all of us have full time jobs.

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So which specific Japanese books would you recommend?

You're coming at this with a bunch of assumptions and attitudes which are going to hold you back from actually learning Chinese. Fortunately not everyone reading the topic will be so unlucky.

Seriously, a phrasebook sounds about right at the moment - I had one way back, I think the Rough Guide's, with a decent grammar section as well. I also don't see why TY Chinese doesn't fit the bill.

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I'm not exactly sure what sort of textbook the OP is looking for, but I have a few recommendations.

I'm assuming that the OP wants a textbook that is colourful and has relatively simple explanations. In short, books that are inviting and not too overwhelming with its seemingly traditional/rigid teaching style. The only thing is that these books are aimed a younger demographic (although I don't know how old you are).

But it also sounds like you are looking for "survival" Chinese (correct me if I'm wrong). If so, textbooks aren't what you want because they aim to build a good foundation for any future language learning. I have no experience textbook-wise with survival Chinese, but I know that there are a few ChinesePod and ChineseClass101 lessons which cater to this (and which I've looked at, think are good, and which I think is what you're also looking for). But truthfully, if you're planning to live in China for a while, you probably should build a good foundation.

Anyway, here are the textbooks. They all have preview chapters, so go and see if that's the sort of textbook you're looking for. Otherwise, I have other recommendations as well.

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You're coming at this with a bunch of assumptions and attitudes which are going to hold you back from actually learning Chinese.

Actually, no. I can sort of speak some Chinese and can read around 500 characters. Martin Symonds said it best: "What type of student did the authors of these textbook series have in mind when they designed their textbooks? It would be interesting to hear from the authors of NPCR as to whom they had in mind." Obviously they didn't imagine a student like me. I know I'm not alone, tons of foreigners in my town are in the same boat. Hence the original question.

I wish I could remember the book I was talking about. I was on a layover at Narita and got engrossed in it for about an hour. It was amazing. Concepts which were always troublesome to me suddenly became clear. The book was written in an accessible, breezy style with lots of colors, sidebars, and cartoon characters. Even places where I knew they "should" have used a technical term, they avoided it and instead explained the concept in a different way which the non-technical reader could understand. The author was a foreigner who clearly knew what he was talking about. It was unlike any other language book I had seen until that time. There were a couple others like it in the rack, but for Japanese speakers to learn English.

I'm off to find Chinese Made Easy, thanks for the advice, helpful people! And no thanks to anyone who took the opportunity to act condescending

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From all the responses, I'm guessing that pretty much everyone here is a member of group S.

Well, if you spend more time here, you'll actually find out that it's more like what jbrador said.

I don't expect to master the language in a weekend, nor do I have the ability nor inclination to take a two year language course.

Do you have the time or the inclination to spend 30min to an hour a day studying on your own? Just because a book is used in a classroom setting doesn't mean it can't be used outside of the classroom just as effectively if you have the right drive and motivation.

If you can't spend that much time, you'll find you probably won't make much progess, and perhaps a phrasebook is better suited to your needs.

I'm off to find Chinese Made Easy, thanks for the advice,

Be sure to come back and provide a review -either good or bad- at some time in the future :)

P.S. if you can't find it in the bookstores, you can order it online at the link provided previously.

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Have you looked into private schools, one-on-one schools, ETC? Many of them have come up with their own materials and have various non-traditional methods of teaching the language (using stories, pictures, real-life situations, yada yada). I'm at an advanced level but am attending one of these schools and have browsed their materials. They seem a lot closer to what you're looking for... also, some of them appear to have been heavily influenced by and/or written by native English speakers. I think it's because the director at my school is married to one. (Also, they cater to professionals, expats, and expat families.)

Which reminds me, have you looked at the FSI training materials online? They've all been made available freely to the public. Not bad, I have to say. Issues? Sure. But they are free and progress fairly quickly with realistic scenarios for professionals (not college students) who will need to use the language ASAP.

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Another idea is to ditch the book centric approach entirely. Instead, hire a dedicated tutor to use a comprehensible input approach whereby you first focus on listening and responding to circular questions and thereby never (well at least in the beginning) overtly study grammar, vocabulary, characters and such stuff. The typical tutor won't know how to do that though so finding one or teaching them how to do it will be an added difficulty.

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