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Road To Success a good series of books?


suMMit
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I'm an absolute beginner. I'm going to start a Mandarin class one to one with a native speaker. The book I've been given is Road To Success - Threshold. Does anyone have experience with this book? Is it recommended? My goals are primarily spkg/list with rdg secondary.

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I'm a student at BLCU in Beijing, and here all 1-year students use the Road to Success series of books. The first book is Threshold, followed by Lower Elementary, Elementary and so on. Threshold is the only book to only use pinyin(the official way of writing chinese words with the latin alphabet in the mainland), and introduces pronunciation and tones, also teaching you a few simpler phrases ("I like apples" "He is a teacher"). The focus is mostly on pronunciation, and after finishing the book your chinese probably even won't be at survival level. Lower Elementary has characters and pinyin, and from Elementary on it's only characters. I have looked at Short Term Chinese and compared to those books I prefer Road to Sucess. The dialogues in Lower Elementary and Elementary cover the regular topics(shopping, hobbies, eating in a restaurant, the obvious superiority of chinese culture), and I think the choice of vocabulary is quite good. At first the exercises are mostly copy and paste from the book, but they get more complex. Unfortunately the grammar explanations are very short, with only a couple of sentences in english for an explanation and 4-5 example sentences. Really understanding how to use the elementary grammar from the book and it's exercises will be hard unless you have a teacher who is good at teaching it. I guess a lot of books have this shortcoming, but the New Practical Chinese Reader series who are popular on here seem to do better here from what I gather. I think the main question is how long you plan to put off characters for. You will need to be able to read them to get past the elementary level unless you were living in China, I would argue(and then you would only learn speaking and listening of course). If you want to focus on speaking and listening first, maybe something like Colloquial Chinese will suit you better. While you can read the texts in RtS in pinyin, example sentences for grammar are in characters, and so are the exercises, so in that case it might not be an optimal choice.

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  • 1 year later...

This series of books is my personal recommendation to anyone getting into textbooks.

 

Advantages over other series (particularly beyond the threshold level):

  • 21 book series - a long, gradual learning process with lots of reinforcement in each lesson.
  • Stricter labeling of levels - I'd guess that lower intermediate of RtS is about the end of the NPCR series (based on difficulty, maybe not word/character count). While not a great feature per se, I think it sets more realistic expectations about how much material a student will need to get through to have a decent level of spoken Chinese or literacy.
  • Endless exercises - about half of which are pretty quick for those that want a easy review, the rest of which are more nuanced/include composition and will require a tutor or friend to look over. Good options for both independent and formal students.
  • My feeling is that the texts are relatively more interesting than those in other series.
  • Similarly, my feeling is that the vocabulary on average is more practical than in NPCR.
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How easy are they to get hold of outside China though?

I got RtS Elementary from a Polish online bookstore that specializes in textbooks for Asian languages. I saw that they also have the Upper Elementary books, which makes me very happy, because I will be getting those too eventually. Also, I do believe that many Chinese bookstores ship outside China, so getting the books is not really a problem, the problem is that shipping is usually twice as much as the book itself :D

 

I only just started the first Elementary book, but I'm really enjoying it. I find the texts quite interesting and the exercises very useful. I do wish there was a seperate workbook though, I really like that about NPCR. 

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Some are listed on the publishers site with 'Worksheet' - anyone know what that is?

 

The worsksheets are exercises on seperate sheets of paper (hence the name), but there are only about 40 pages of them per book and I wish there was more. Plus seperate sheets are not very convenient. But of course I'd rather have that than not have anything at all :D

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I thought I'd add my reflections on the Upper Elementary level books. Apart from reading the texts in the first Lower Elementary book, this is as far down this 成功之路 that I've ventured so far, but I'd like to finish the whole series sometime in the future, mainly for the purpose of consolidating the Chinese I've acquired through less formal methods. 

This level is the only one(or was when I was at BLCU) that comes with supplementary books for 听和说 and 读和写. There's also three volumes of the main book, which gives you quite a bit of material(at BLCU we only covered about half of this material in the second semester). 

Main book:

The main book consists of twelve chapter per book, with one main text(1-2 pages). You get translations of the new words(around 40-50 per chapter), example sentences for about five words(4-5 sentences each) and explanations(in both English and Chinese) of another 4-5 grammar points. These grammar points can be sentence structures, adverbs, particles etc, and are of course taken from the main text. Following this there are exercises(pick the right word, make a sentence, 听力, read a paragraph and answer questions, write a short text describing what happens in this sequence of three pictures). They vary from chapter to chapter, but the first four in my list are always present. 

Generally, I'm quite satisfied with the texts. They cover a wide variety of subjects, are decently written, and it generally feels worthwhile to learn the words. You could argue what it's silly to learn words like 吸引 when you still don't know how to say "peach", but words in the second category are utlimately quite easy to learn on one's own. The book is a great help in bridging the gap between survival Chinese and the more formal language, both spoken and written. The exercises are good, and quite comprehensive, but I'd need a teacher/tutor to get the most out of them. A lot of the exercises are about word selection, and the sometimes subtle differences between similar words are not always explained all too clearly. The difference between 遗憾 and 后悔, for example, was discussed by my teacher, but not really by the book. 

 

"Reading and writing"-book:

A lot of texts, with exercises(true or false, questions on the content, difference between words). More formal and denser language, with sometimes a bit tricky questions and more unknown words that you don't get translations of. Also some writing exercises. I thought these two books were quite great. Some of the texts were a bit stiff, but there were lot's of interesting stuff too. The creators of the book want you to train your ability to guess unknown words or sentence structures form context, and I think this is a great skill to have. The choice of 生词 isn't as well thought out as in the main book, however. Some seem quite obscure, but more often the problem is that you're given a translation of words that are quite unimportant to understand the text, while a really important adverb is missing, for example. This doesn't feel deliberate, but rather like an omission. However this is the case in a minority of cases.

"Listening and speaking"-book:
 

Two books, with a lot of 听力 and some speaking exercises. I didn't really like these. There's too much focus on the listening part, and unfortunately this part isn't all that good either. I thought the difficulty level varied too much(sometimes almost lower elementary level, sometimes dense formal language where I had trouble even figuring out the transcript), and often a bit odd topic selections(listing every airline in China, or every different type of train, including the color and abbreviation of each). I borrowed my girlfriends Short Term Listening Chinese and I liked those much better. 
 

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The Elementary books are very similar in their format, except that the texts/dialogues are a little shorter, but other than that everything is more or less the same. I really am enjoying the first Elementary book and I intend to get higher levels when the time comes. But for now I still have 2 Elementary books and NPCR 2 to go through :D

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As a book seller but not a Chinese learner, I cannot give advice from the sight of learner, but from the sale amount, obviously New Practical Chinese Reader and Chinese Made Easier are more popular than Road To Success, which may be caused by the propaganda dynamics of the publishers towards the different series, or other reasons. But once a customer bought some books of the series of Road To Success, he tended to buy all of them later, I think it means the series of Road To Success are attractive and really useful.

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I'm also a fan of the Road to Success series.

 

I started with "Upper Elementary", having previously studied with a variety of other books, up to the "end of elementary grammar" stage (i.e. aspects, "ba" and "bei" sentences, resultative and potential complements, etc).  This is the equivalent of the end of the "Elementary" stage of Road to Success, or probably about NPCR vol 4.

 

I have found the Upper Elementary main series of 3 books to be extremely good.

  • The series is new (2011), and the authors claimed to have taken some of the lessons learned from researching people using other textbooks, when planning their teaching strategy for Road to Success.
  • The book is entirely in characters, except for translations of new words, and some brief explanation of major grammar points
  • There are 12 texts in each volume, covering a wide range of cultural, historical, legendary subjects.  I have found that it has been a very good way to get an appreciation of Chinese culture.
  • Each text has around 40 new words in volume 1, 50 in volume 2 and 60 in volume 3.
  • After the text, there are usage examples for usually 5 of the key words, with 4 example sentences for each (one of which would come from the main set) - I usually add these example sentences to my Anki deck
  • There is then explanation for 4 grammar points that came up in the lesson
  • The grammar at this level is mainly about learning "phrase grammar" - i.e. various set phrase patterns such as "it will not <A>, on the contrary <B>".  I have found that the "Common Chinese Patterns 330" is a good accompaniment to the Upper Elementary books.
  • There are a wide range of exercises, ranging from the simple (but surprisingly useful), such as "which word fits in this gap" and "arrange these words in order to make a sentence", to having to write sentences including some of the new words / grammar, to questions about a second short text (which might include words that haven't been met up to now).

I have found it a very useful text to have with a 1-1 teacher, and think that I could actually do about 80% as self-study, as I seem to be relying on the teacher mainly for pronunciation, how to sound like I am reading like a native, and to mark the exercises.  (Of course, I use the teacher for general chatting as well...) 

 

In summary, I would definitely recommend this level for people who know the elementary grammar, and understand characters.

 

 

I have taken a brief look at the "Elementary" series, and found it to also be good - the texts seem reasonable, and the grammar explanations are good.  It is certainly better than the book that I originally took for that level ("An easy approach to Chinese"), however Road to Success Elementary is in characters, which I didn't learn in my early stage of learning.

 

 

I think that it is worth mentioning that each "sub-series" of Road to Success is self-contained.  So it is entirely possible for you to start off with one series, and then switch to Road to Success later (or vice versa).

 

 

 

   Best wishes,

 

             Paul

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