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Learn Chinese in China

My FluentU review.


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Hello! If you've been following my thread,
You probably already know that my weapons of choice include:the book Colloquial Chinese and CDs (the 80's edition), QQ, WeChat, Pleco dictionary, the tv show Happy Chinese**, and my recently acquired Assimil Chinese with Ease Vol 2.


** which can be accessed through CCTV's website and youtube, 



I also have Langenscheidt Pocket Mandarin Chinese Dictionary and Teach yourself Chinese along with its CDs, but I've only reviewed the first 3 lessons. I stopped using it because the first lessons seem to be tailored to "a married man with a family". I've listened to the first Pimsleur Chinese lessons at my local library. it seems that they assumes the complete opposite; that you are "a single man/woman looking for some love"



Right now, let me talk about FluentU.


Note this is based on my Quora reply that can be found here:


If you are interested in learning online for free or at a cheap price. I recommend Language Immersion Online | Learn a Language with Videos | FluentU 
FluentU, originally started as a Chinese Mandarin learning website, but they are now covering Spanish and French. You can explore multiple levels at different fluency levels or follow specific courses that deal with a topic you are interested in: family, traveling, night life, etc.

The videos contains everyday typical situations with English, Simplified/Traditional, and Pinyin subtitles but you can turn either one off and test your listening skills at any moment. Unlike Rosetta Stone and Livemocha, you won't find pointless phrases like "this is an apple" or see isolated pictures with single words and no cultural references, you will see real people from Mainland China and Taiwan simply expressing themselves in realistic scenarios. Trust me you'll do way better listening and learning from genuine Chinese and Taiwanese. Have you ever tried the website, busuu | Learn Spanish, French, English and other languages for free? Did you notice how generic and robotic their voices sound? 

After watching a video about a topic, FluentU will test your vocabulary by giving you more video examples on how to use the words and expressions. They will show you different video fragments from: soap operas, sketches, movies, music videos, etc. What's important is that the cultural context is present through these videos and that language and culture go hand-in-hand. Exposure to the culture will allow you to immerse yourself and learn quicker. 

Once you understand how a certain word or phrase works, you can click on "already know", and you will never be bothered again. I think this is an important aspect to mention because other websites like Duolingo (which does not offer Chinese, btw), will NOT let you advance to other lessons unless you spell the words right. I think that is unnecessary because in real life, you CAN misspell or mispronounce words and still be understood! This was a problem I was having with Duolingo while learning Portuguese; however, my friends from Brazil are still able to understand me =-p

Me speaking Portuguese with a friend from Brazil

If you would like to use books to study,highlight content, and write notes next to key-points, don't worry, FluentU also allows you to print the script of their videos along with detailed grammar explanations. This is the first website I've seen with this feature.However if you want to buy a book, I recommend you: Colloquial Chinese, either one the 80's* or the new one; Teach Yourself Chinese, Assimil Chinese with Ease.


*The 80's version does not have Chinese characters, but it is a great resource to learn how to speak and increase the spoken language comprehension.


I DON'T recommend you the Berlitz Basic Mandarin Chinese book and CD combo. A friend of mine purchased it and was disappointed. They used an extra large font and multiple spacing between the lines (less content), and they basically ask you to write down what you listen on every exercise. He also bought Chineasy, which is a very colorful and creative way to learn characters; however, I did notice it did not have stroke order. I don't know how to write Chinese so I don't know how important is stroke order. I will have to convince him to create an account and write a review of the products himself.



By the way, did you know that FluentU contains index cards with vocabulary from popular Chinese books and the HSK? This can save you time and jump straight to the action.

Just to end my review, I always think that somebody that recommends a product must actually show you his or her results (you wouldn't buy diet pills from a fat person, would you?); therefore, I invite you to see my youtube videos. I speak 5 languages: English, Spanish, Portuguese, Esperanto, and I'm still learning Mandarin!


Chinese Mandarin





And well, I'm an American Hispanic, so my Spanish and English are fluent. No need to brag about those; however, if you'd like to hear my Méxican accent, you can search for "el cuarto día.wmv (day four.wmv demo)" on youtube by Pokarface7, it's a scary story I translated from English into Spanish. I also have a Spanish lesson titled, "Common greetings & slang in Spanish" in my other youtube channel, Spanish in 30 lessons. Leave a comment if you have other questions or would like to share language learning tips. I'm quite experienced! =-P

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I'd think twice before getting Chineasy. I can't remember which I saw first, the book itself in a bookstore or the rather scathing piece on Language Log (here http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=11109 ), but it does look a bit thin and probably won't teach you that much ultimately (or little that couldn't be learnt elsewhere...still, it seems cheap enough and might make a nice coffee table addition at least LOL). You'd likely be better to simply get the Character Text for Colloquial Chinese (the original 80s edition has such a supplement, which details around 800-1000 characters as opposed to the later edition's couple of hundred at most. I find the later Kan Qian edition of the CC course inferior in every way to the original T'ung and Pollard, search for my comments if interested. Mind you, some might not want to invest in split pinyin versus character texts, preferring the single though IMHO thin Kan Qian volume as it has "a bit of both", even though there are again probably better works around such as Scurfield's Teach Yourself Chinese/Complete Mandarin Chinese), and/or McNaughton's Reading & Writing Chinese. It's probably best to get the traditional character versions of such works (though Tuttle with their latest/Third edition of McNaughton may have opted to print only a single version now, that prioritizes the presentation of primarily the simplified), as you'll probably need or eventually want more guidance on writing traditional than simplified forms (and the traditional version of the CC Character Text provides stroke order breakdowns for the simplified forms too anyway, don't think the traditional character version of the Second edition of McNaughton does though (it just shows the whole simplified character tucked away in each corner without detailing its strokes, as there isn't really space)). The CC Character Text thus presents more in the way of stroke orders for both sets of characters, while the Second edition of McNaughton details one or the other while devoting some space to explicit explanations of the graphical building blocks of each character. It'd be good then to have both books! But you can find at least simplified stroke-order animations in several dictionaries online, most notably nciku, so perhaps the greatest value of the CC Character Text is that it makes a sort of aural-oral "reader" for the Pinyin-only coursebook. In other words, it allows you to learn to read and write everything you've learnt to say. (And there are many things you can do with its large A4- format text: add Pinyin above the characters, note tone sandhi, transcribe the relevant traditional characters into their simplified forms and vice-versa, etc).

By the way, you might find the various gifs I've posted in the threads "Dictionary look-up skills: a crash course" and "Guide to Simplified Radicals" of some use and interest.

Oh, and TBH your pronunciation/initials at least (going by a quick zip through that YT clip) could do with a bit more work, so keep reviewing the Colloquial Chinese course's Sounds of Mandarin Chinese section. But keep it up, you're doing pretty well!

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Hey Gharial! Thanks for your reply! Chineasy is a book my friend bought. I noticed the lack of stroke order because they constantly talk about stroke order in this forum. Otherwise, I wouldn't have noticed. It shows you a couple of character of combinations, but I'm sure the resources you've reviewed surpass this book. I remember reading a review on Amazon about the original Colloquial Chinese by T'ung and Pollard (the one I have), that agrees with this version being better than the new one. In fact, reading the Amazon review convinced me of buying the old version!


Indeed, I'll read your threads out of curiosity since I haven't started learning how to write and right now I can't even produce different "shì" and "zhù" sounds (as herd on my video!). I think I have the "ch" sound under control now; it's like doing a "q" without getting it out of your mouth. I know there's terms like, voiced labiodental fricativebut I honestly don't know how to use such terms to learn. I just go with the flow.

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The difficult consonants and what I think when I pronounce them:


x = Somebody told me to hold something with my teeth while trying to pronounce it in order to practice this sound.


ch =  I think I have the "ch" sound under control now; it's like doing a "q" without getting the sound out of my mouth.


q = like the English language "ch" consonant. I think it is a difficult consonant because you might see words like Qìchē (car), and as a beginner you must work on not getting those consonants mixed.


zh = The most difficult of all. I feel that my tongue is touching my palete, but I still sound like I do in my videos. I think I stop touching my palate before I produce the "ZH" sound and that's why it ends up sounding like that. 


sh = I feel like both edges of my tongue roll up to make a "u" shape and touch my palete.

To a lesser extent, like this:


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Hiya Pokarface, I forgot to say Welcome to the forums!


Yeah, strokes are pretty important, and not only for aesthetic reasons: you'll need to become pretty familiar with them to stand much chance of using dictionaries (even electronic ones with handwriting input) efficiently when looking up characters you don't know the pronunciation of. There are of course ways to get around this perennial look-up problem, such as mouse-over pop-up dictionaries when reading e-text, OCR when reading paper text, and various innovative print dictionaries (albeit with non-standard systems, which rather limits you to just the contents of those works [unless you don't then mind doing further searches using most obviously Pinyin in other works] if those particular systems are all that you get good at), but the worst-case scenario is still that you're stuck with no OCR but rather just a standard dictionary or handwriting input whilst urgently needing to decipher some of those Chinese chicken scratchings on yonder sign/menu/piece of printed paper...


You don't need to know linguistic~phonetic terms like complementary or contrastive distribution, palatals, glides/medials, retroflexes, dental sibilants etc, but you should at least be aware of the oppositions between sets such as j- q- x- versus zh- ch- sh- and jia qia xia vs zha cha sha, then jian qian xian vs zhan chan shan etc. I've found it's easier to plot such complementary or contrastive "gaps" on tables arranged more by the western alphabet (see attachment) than by the bo po mo fo de te ne le etc order (though the Chinese order is a good anatomical-articulatory, consonantal/initial tour back through the mouth, starting at the front with the lips [labials] and working back until the retroflexes).


Then, you can work on combinations containing similar sounds e.g. 出去 chūqù versus 去处 qùchù (the ABC ECCE dictionary, with its primary full alphabetical ordering and relative frequency indications, is very handy for stuff like this).


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Heh, you're welcome. =* I'm sure there are similar but with audio to be found on the net (maybe at pinyin.info or sinosplice.com?). I'll try to revise and post the pronunciation package I wrote, should give the folks here a laugh! :) (I've already noticed a few things that need changing in this table alone! That is, the er could do with a (-)r right alongside it, and the ong should be square-bracketed thus [ong], as it isnt an independent sound).


BTW I'm about to post some scans of the CC Character Text (I haven't seen or been able to find any online to direct people to).

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  • 1 year later...

Can I ask who downvoted post #7 above to a red -1, and for what possible reason in the context of this thread at least?


I suspect a bit of tit-for-tat downvoting may be going here (I've been dropped a point somewhere else too, but can't be bothered to find where, and only came across this one by chance), and that it may have something to do with our recent newcomer Boctulus' penchant for pushy questions, general dismissiveness and eyeroll emoticons when people don't immediately stump up the "required" answers, but I'll leave the mods to sort out the exact whys and wherefores.


Personally I'd prefer not to have this points system, though it does admittedly have its uses for venting displeasure (especially of this completely unjustified, retaliatory type) without going to the bother of thrashing things out in even halfway-adult discussion.


That is, if you're going to downvote and thereby apparently take further issue with people, can you at least do it to their faces and in the "discussions" concerned, otherwise you're just compounding your rudeness. Thanks. :roll:

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Thanks, Pokarface. Maybe somebody can do the same for Boctulus in his or her 'Measure words origin' thread, as it may help soothe and smooth over the downvote (albeit a somewhat more justified and open one IMHO) that I awarded him or her there. I'll admit that I also downvoted another of B's posts in a recent thread on how to begin studying Mandarin, as B's post pretty much disregarded the OP's clearly-stated disinterest in "necessarily" learning hanzi, but at least it gave me a chance to show a more appropriate use of the eyeroll emoticon. [/sarcasm] :P

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Oh dear, yet more anonymous rankers taking issue with my daring to take issue with issues of general forum conduct and impoliteness, ingratitude, senses of entitlement, blah blah blah. Bring the minus points on, they shouldn't stop anyone from taking rude people to task if (thankfully not too often) there's a need to. Either way, don't shoot the messenger. Still, maybe I've got it completely wrong and eyeroll emoticons and the like used for no good reason should just be accepted and passed over in complete silence. Anyway, I've brought this to the explicit attention of the mods now, so hopefully they'll nip it in the bud. Personally I would get rid of downvoting entirely (upvotes though are fine), as it can be abused in precisely this way.

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Looks like you made a lot of progress quite quickly. Thanks for the review. However, I have to offer some constructive criticism. You really need to work on your basic sounds. It sounds like you're making several basic sounds (e.g pinyin zh sound) completely wrong. I had a really hard time understanding you, and that's not a vocab issue on my end. Based on context I had to just assume you were saying certain words. Without context I would have no clue what you were saying :(. That said, that's a ton of progress in about 3 months! Wow! Great job keep up the good work.

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