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Best textbooks for learning to speak Mandarin?

Guest Ch1nam4n

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What are your recommendations as far as textbooks for learning to speak Mandarin? Right now, I'm learning from the Teach Yourself Basic Chinese book. I'm relatively new to learning Chinese, and I want to be able to get a mastery as soon as possible just because I'm so interested in the language and culture. I've been looking on Chinesemall.com and checking out their books. Are they any good?



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My school uses the famous Gubo and Palanka series for it's first four semesters of Chinese. I can't remember the name but I bet someone here knows it. I placed out of those classes, so I never used it myself, but my friends liked it, and my teachers treat it like it's the Chinese Bible. It seems a lot of schools here in the US use it to start off.

I'm just about finished with "A Trip to China: an Intermediate Reader of Modern Chinese," by Der-Lin Chao. It's a nice book, but it focuses on reading mostly, and it's probably a little too advanced if you're just starting out. But keep it in mind for the future.

Good textbooks can be hard to find though. This is the only one I've really liked because it gets away from teaching you how to go to the bank or buy shoes and actually gives some useful conversational vocabulary, even though it's a reading book. If you've never lived in China, you'd probably find it interesting, it depicts life in China from an American perspective fairly accurately I think. It gets into social issues like discrimination, family, the chinese educational system, etc. without really being biased on way or the other.

I didn't care for the texts we were given when I studied in China. They were usually either way too easy or way too boring, or both!. Grammar wasn't really explained clearly either. One of them was on the site you linked http://www.chinesemall.com/liinchspchfo.html. It says right there it's intended for diplomats and their families living in China so I have no idea why they gave it to us, but I really disliked it. It was much too easy for my class, which was low intermediate, and I didn't really need to know how to hire an Ayi anyhow. Even the beginners didn't like it though (yeah, they were teaching the first three classes from the same book, my class asked the teacher to get us new books though and she did). So ... avoid that book!

Ok, so I know that wasn't the world's most helpful response, but there ya go. It's something at least. :wink:

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My school sells a CD with the textbooks for the beginning levels, but I'm not sure if it was something published by the makers of the book, or something the teachers created themselves. For the books I use now we don't have any audio aids.

My friend downloaded the Pimsleur (I think that's how you spell it ...)Mandarin language lessons from kazaa. Not that I advocate using pirated materials, but the series is normally pretty expensive from what I hear. It had a bunch of lessons of varying difficulty.

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I really liked 'Trip to China' too. I noticed that the same publishers do a few others which follow on from that one. One was based on excerpts from Chinese literature and looked quite interesting. Unfortunately, we switched onto a really tedious newspaper reading book after that, so I didn't get to try them out.

Can't help with begining level books though I'm afraid, as I used the Taiwan university ones (which weren't that good anyway).

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I started my Chinese studies using Colloquial Chinese (Qian Kan edition). If you're just into speaking, you shouldn't have many complaints with this book. I thought it was great. Mostly pinyin, though, so characters are pretty much neglected.

See it here:


Then I left China for a few years, and forgot most of my Chinese. When I came back, I came across the first edition of Colloquial Chinese (P.C.Teng).

There's info here:


...but it says it's out of print. I loved this book. A bit dated, but excellent grammar explanations. It's ALL pinyin in the PC Teng book, so I used my dictionary and transcribed it all into characters myself, which was good writing practice.

Finally, someone passed on Level Two of the Integrated Chinese series. I think it's fantastic. I have also found a lot of supplementary materials for this course on the internet (including the listenings, and extra grammar practice). I haven't used Level One, though, so I can't really say how it works out for beginners.

See it here:


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Finally' date=' someone passed on Level Two of the Integrated Chinese series. I think it's fantastic. I have also found a lot of supplementary materials for this course on the internet (including the listenings, and extra grammar practice). I haven't used Level One, though, so I can't really say how it works out for beginners.


I'm using the integrated Chinese, level 1 and I love it. The best grammar explainations I've seen, and the pacing is right on.

Can you give me some of the level 2 stuff you found on the internet? I've only found level 1 supplementary material.

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  • 6 years later...

I just wrote a post covering this topic (well, I should say that I posted a post -- my friend John Pasden wrote it): What's the best textbook for learning Chinese? I tend to agree with his statement, though, that "there are no outstanding textbooks for learning Mandarin Chinese" -- they just don't stack up when compared to texts for more popular languages...

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(Akdn) There was actually a separate Character Text published for the old (T'ung & Pollard) edition of Colloquial Chinese, in either Simplified-character (red cover) or Traditional-character (blue cover) editions (though either edition would include at least the stroke-order breakdown of any character with a S or T equivalent (depending on which edition you'd bought, obviously)), but it is probably out of print nowadays and therefore of only limited availability from Amazon second-hand traders etc (so those books marked as 'New' on Amazon are very likely just 'As new regards condition' rather than 'Newly or recently published': http://www.amazon.co...loquial+chinese ).

I got myself the Traditional edition so I'd get some reading and writing practice with traditonal characters ('cos most materials are mainly or indeed only simplified), and sometimes copied parts out into simplified text. But kudos to you for transcribing the Pinyin-only Routledge coursebook into virtually your very own character text! :)

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