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What does it cost to start learning Chinese well


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I'd get a Sony E Series MP3 Player ($100). It has a language learning function which allows you to rewind 5 seconds by pressing one button. A physical button, not a fiddly touch screen. I've found this function very very useful.

 

You might as well spend a bit of money on a good MP3 player, you are going to be using it a lot.

 

 

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Bad Cao Cao

Cpod + popup - $14 + $99 download all (mandarin only) dialogues, smash input listening and reading, ignore everything else on these sites

pleco - free or cheapest option to get the basic pleco reader

aichinese - free or splurge around $40 for some packages

italki - burn some cash - $200 - when you are ready to go, and don't forget to make lots of free skype contacts

 

Scrap the rest - waste of time and money, transition (from cpod and popup) to free native dialogues and transcripts as soon as possible, pay the minimum only.

 

If you pay more than a few hundred dollars to get fluent in mandarin (in around 6-12 months), in this day and age, you have done something wrong.

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Shelley

I would be inclined to suggest that for the beginner it would be better not to try and have to many things too choose from.

 

I would definitely suggest New Chinese Practical Readers,  the Workbooks, and the teachers key books (so the self learner can check their answers and it has some more in depth explanations if needed) and the audio mp3s that accompanies the series . On YouTube are also accompanying Videos. This will provide a comprehensive "starter pack"

 

One reason I like NCPR is because it covers vocabulary, grammar, and writing characters.

 

I would also invest in the best Pleco package that you can afford, with the stroke order and handwriting add ons you can very effectively practice and study characters. Also for character practice there is the great program HanZi grids that is a good way to study and practice characters for the price of paper and pen.

 

 

 

All the other things you mention roddy are great but I don't feel they absolutely necessary to start with, as one gets more in to learning these things would be lovely extras.

 

When I started learning there was so little to choose from, nowadays the choice is almost overwhelming. I started with the BBC get by in Chinese book and tapes, and then Practical Chinese Reader with tapes, workbook and key book which was the only real option and it proved to be excellent in my opinion.

 

I think investing in tablet or phablet is a very useful extra. I had Pleco on my phone but the screen was quite small. The instant I upgraded to a tablet 9.7" Pleco sprang into life. So many things were so much better in the large format.

 

Also the beginner (and others) can find some very useful help here on Chinese Forums. :)

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imron

Dictionary:

 

Pleco professional bundle, $99 on Iphone. I think the Basic might be a false economy - get the best dictionary, get it early.

I agree with this.

 

pleco - free or cheapest option to get the basic pleco reader

This I disagree with.

 

How much does the pro version add beyond that?

I don't count free pleco as real pleco.  At a minimum, the flashcards and a good dictionary are important.  ABC Comprehensive C-E dictionary if you are a beginner and Guifan C-C dictionary if you are comfortable doing Chinese only.

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Shelley

@daveonhols  where do I start :)

 

The free version is great but the paid add ons are really worth the money. Go check out the website and see what is on offer and you may see what I mean.

 

Pleco is the only Chinese learning app that I have spent money on and I have never regretted it,

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imron
If you pay more than a few hundred dollars to get fluent in mandarin (in around 6-12 months), in this day and age, you have done something wrong.

I think you can make a lot of progress in 6-12 months, but I don't think you can get fluent, unless you only have a very basic definition of fluent.

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I don't find the Pleco flashcards all that useful (but I think I already mentioned that). I use Anki and it's free (unless you want it on an iPhone and then it's expensive).

I would recommend a beginner to get a tutor. Online can work, but IRL might be even better. Costs will vary with location and quality of tutor.

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renzhe

If you DO become fluent in Mandarin in only 6 months, then you definitely did something wrong :)

On topic, I'd invest in a good textbook and a good teacher in the beginning. For pinyin, pronunciation, tone drills and general questions so many of us have when first starting. This is sufficient in the beginning, and will lay a solid foundation.

The remaining things should be considered once you have some idea of what you're doing, where you are, and what you're struggling with.

I think that each of these resources are worth the money individually, but all of them together would certainly blow my budget. There are OK alternatives for free for most of them, only spend on the stuff that I feel really needs the extra quality.

This is how I spent my money:

- Complete NPCR + some additional textbooks

- A teacher for a few months, once I ran out of free courses at the university

- A beefy paper dictionary

- some books for reading

These are the things I did without paying:

- Online dictionaries

- Flashcard programs

- Language partners

- Podcasts -- plenty of free ones available

- Grammar and language questions are taken care of by the significant other

If I felt that I really needed better podcasts, I'd pay for them, and if I wanted to learn to write, I'd consider a skritter subscription. But I see these as optional, and something you only invest in if you feel the need, and are not happy with the free resources.

On the other hand, a textbook is a must, IMHO.

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Demonic_Duck

The free version of Pleco is great for the casual learner who's not willing to invest much money into their hobby. However, I definitely agree that at least the basic bundle + a good dictionary are well worth the investment.

 

As for premium lang-8 membership, on the other hand, whilst I guess it'd be nice to have, I would certainly regard it as a non-essential extra. I never have any problems finding people to correct my entries as a free member, and seem to get a constant stream of friends requests whether or not I use my account regularly.

 

Edit: Bad Cao Cao, to me your post reads a lot like this:

lol at anyone who recommends bathing regularly. Couldn't disagree more. Guaranteed to extend the time to finding a mate.
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renzhe

Textbooks are simply practical in the sense that they combine grammar, vocabulary, cultural background, reading and writing, and some basic dialogue, all together and all at the appropriate level.

If you can find a combination of all these things from other sources, then you don't strictly NEED a textbook.

I am quite sceptical about traditional classroom teaching, but I find textbooks to be useful in providing these basics at the very beginning. I go through them at my own speed and move away as soon as I can deal with native materials and proper grammar books.

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Like Renzhe says, it's useful to have some sort of structure in your learning, where you go from easy to gradually more difficult and build up your vocabulary gradually. The advantage of using a textbook is that someone who already knows the language has put thought into putting together such a structure. Which saves you a lot of time and effort that can also be used on actually learning the language. And as such, a mediocre textbook still beats trying to go at it yourself (much as it's better to just get to work on a less-than-perfect flashcard system than first building your own).

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Hofmann

A lot of these things can be done without depending on how cheap you are. The Chrome extension Mouseover Dictionary Framework and accompanying Chinese-English dictionary or Perapera Chinese Popup Dictionary for Firefox would replace Popup Chinese. The free version of Pleco, MDBG, or MOEdict if you're advanced can replace paid dictionaries. Good old pencil and paper and this thread can replace Skritter for handwriting. Anki and such SRS software can be used to reinforce vocabulary, and reading material can be found by Googling. Decent pronunciation can develop through a combination of Wikipedia (unless someone vandalized it), this thread, and various PSC preparation materials online.

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roddy

Curious as to what you think PopupChinese actually is, Hofmann, and which of the dictionaries in the Professional bundle you've actually used. 

 

"A lot of these things can be done without depending on how cheap you are."

 

Lets assume for the purposes of the discussion, you aren't cheap at all. You've got somewhere between a few and several hundred dollars to spend. If anyone wants to suggest free alternatives, all to the good, but perhaps you could also suggest what resources the money would be better spent on.

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kikosun

I agree that textbooks are definitely useful, especially for beginners. People just starting to learn the language need the structure and easy introduction that a textbook provides. Otherwise I can see people getting frustrated and giving up because most material is too hard for beginners. But I also think that once you can start using native material comfortably, you can stop using textbooks if desired.

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Italki has some kind of premium set up, but couldn't see how it works.

The "premium" version of italki just means that you purchased at least $10 USD worth of credits (such as for paid tutoring).

Skritter at $15 a month, that's $180 a year

For what it's worth, you can get discounts for purchasing Skritter subscriptions beyond 1 month. (From my expired account, I can pick the following renewals: $14.99/month, $59.99/6 months ($10.00/month), $99.99/12 months ($8.33/month), $179.99/24 months ($7.50/month) .)

I do like the competitive motivational aspect of classroom instruction. (Although the classes I've taken in the US have been a little slow-paced.)

Is it worth paying for premium membership on language exchange sites? Not sure the budget will stretch to any regular online tutoring.

Oh, and I've found good tutors on italki for as little as $4-5 USD/hr. (That's certainly less than the traditional classes cost me.)

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Hofmann

I just looked at Popup Chinese and it wasn't what I thought it was. I thought it was just a popup dictionary. I could swear I even tried it out long ago too. And of Pleco's Professional bundle, I haven't tried it. I've used ABC Chinese-English on paper, and I thought it was nothing special and actually a bit annoying for being alphabetical by Pinyin. Being able to search alleviates it though so it's just nothing special. I haven't used the 21's Century English-Chinese dictionary. Imron said Guifan. Would that be 現代漢語規範詞典? That's an adequate dictionary, if in electronic form (because it's also by Pinyin on paper) but I don't think it's better than the free MOEdict.

 

So you're not being cheap. In that case I would prioritize a good textbook above everything else.

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