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Review of Sinolingua's "Speak Business Chinese Fluently" 商务口语流利说

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This is a preliminary review of the book

Business Chinese Series—Speak Business Chinese Fluently + MP3


edited by Sinolingua.

I received this book today as part of the 2014 "Free Chinese Books (Second Round)".

Many thanks to Sinolingua, Elina and Roddy.



Summary: suitable for an intermediate/advanced business Chinese speaking class with a teacher. It does require good reading skills in simplified characters. (at least 2nd year at a Chinese uni I'd say).
If studying by yourself, you can still learn a lot of useful words and sentences etc. and shadow the audio recordings. But obviously you can't really practice speaking by yourself without anyone to correct your mistakes and interact with you...

This looks like a university textbook, fairly recent - the first edition is dated 2013 although the foreword is dated 2011.
It contains 15 lessons so it is probably intended for a semester long class. It looks rather austere with mostly Chinese text and no illustrations.

This book is all in Chinese - there's hardly a word in English inside.
The explanations, samples sentences, vocabulary, dialogues, exercises are all in Simplified Chinese. There is no pinyin transcription of the sentences, dialogues, or exercises ... The vocabulary list does have pinyin, that's all.
This book is definitely not for beginners, rather for intermediate/advanced levels.
I'm somewhere just below new HSK 5 level and I can recognize about 2000 characters. I'd say this book is still challenging - there are easier business Chinese books out there that you may wish to use before tackling this one. I'd recommend it for people who are around HSK5 level already and working towards HSK6. Although it also depends on whether you have a teacher too...

Also due to the lack of translation, it is not really aimed at people who want to be translators, rather at people who need to use the Chinese language for business purposes directly.
On the other hand it can be used whatever your mother tongue is ;) provided that you have a good enough grasp of Chinese. And unlike some books edited outside of China, it won't contain sentences or situations that are obviously foreign and just translated into Chinese.
One drawback is that even though there are both Chinese and foreign names in the book, the foreign names are only shown in Chinese transliteration such as 马丁·佩雷斯 - I think it would have been legitimate and possibly useful to provide the latin alphabet names too? But that's a very minor detail.

It comes with an MP3 CD which contains the sample sentences and the dialogues. As far as I can tell the pronunciation is standard and spoken at normal speed (i.e. relatively fast but not faster than normal speech in TV shows, and possibly slower than radio or TV news) but without slurring or accents as would happen in a real situation - it's still a textbook audio track.
The sound quality is very good (also unlike real life :P ).

Since this is a speaking (kouyu) textbook, it is obviously intended to be used with a teacher or tutor, because you will need someone to correct your mistakes when you do the speaking tasks.


Chapters structure:

Each chapter starts with 2-5 discussion topics such as:  你有过找工作的经历吗?请谈谈当时的情况 - I assume this is for in-class activity or perhaps it could be used as homework to prepare for the lesson.
Then there are a bunch of sample sentences related to the chapter's topic. These are recorded in the MP3 file too.

The main activity consists in creating a dialogue according to indications given in the next 3 parts: 任务,要求,相关背景资料.
The "task" part describes the circumstances.
The "requirements" explain the desired tone and main points to address.
The "background info" is somewhat longer, half a page or more, and could be used as both reading practice and material for the dialogues you will come up with with your classmates. There are no drawings, pictures, tables, charts, etc. like what you might find in Western textbooks though, it's just mostly Chinese-style text. (I mean, with the numbered 1. ... 2. ... paragraphs, not sure what this is called in English.) Occasionally you might encounter an English word in this part when they focus on business notions inspired by Western practices.

The next part consists in a reference dialogue 范例 which is recorded in the MP3 and fully transcribed in the textbook in simplified characters with a length of 1 to 2 pages. Even though the sentences are not as complex as in 书面语, some are still rather long (well, the objective is fluency...) such as 现在我们公司渐渐有了些影响力,我认为我们应该带头努力回馈社会,帮助那些有需要的人,这些公益活动我们一定会继续做下去的,也希望越来越多的公司和个人能加入到我们的行列中来.

Then there is a part called 范例话语分析. It sorts some of the sentences from the example dialogue into categories according to their purpose, for instance
招聘方的言语策略 :让应聘者多介绍自己,询问应聘者的要求,...
I guess this would be useful in order to know what to focus on, both in class for practical speaking exercises, and also for review with or without a tutor.

Next there is a single sentence that asks you to compare the dialogue you came up with with the reference dialogue, and discuss word and sentence usage, the tone/mood of the conversation etc. I guess this is a class activity.

The next part is a vocabulary list with pinyin, word category (动词/名词/...) and explanation in Chinese. About 6 to 15 words per chapter. However, my feeling is that more expressions and words used in the book will need to be looked up or explained by the teacher...


Lastly there are a bunch of exercises:

Vocabulary exercises
 You're asked to explain some expressions in your own words. Some are in the vocabulary list, some are not. I guess either a teacher or a dictionary are needed.
 There's also an exercise which asks you what other word or expression would fit either before or after a given word (I think this is called collocation?).

Sentence exercises
 Reorder words to make sentences. This is similar to the new HSK exercise.
 Complete the dialogues: you're given either the question or the answer and have to come up with the other one.

Comprehension exercises
 Based on the reference dialogue, check whether some assertions are true or false.
 Answer some questions about the people and situations in the dialogue (Could be written or oral I guess)

Speaking exercise: this is a classroom exercise performed by student pairs, explaining what happens in the reference dialogue and asking/answering questions.
Well, it's just there so that the teacher remembers to have you do it, it does not contain text beyond the explanation of what you have to do.

Case studies: for instance, a text explains the interview practices used by several different companies, then you have to explain how you would prepare for an interview at these companies.

The exercises don't have a key (there are no answers), and since most of them are spoken exercises to be answered in your own words, it makes sense that you need a teacher for best results. Or at least a tutor or a language exchange partner. (If you're by yourself I guess Lang-8 would help).

There is a vocabulary index at the end of the book, ordered by pinyin.

There are sample pages on Elina's website, see the link at the top of this post.

I'll try to post a short MP3 extract sometime so you get an idea of the quality and speed...

2 MP3 extracts attached.


That's all for today, if you have specific questions I'll try to answer them, and I might add some more thoughts after I've had time to play with it for a while.



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I attached two MP3 files. As you can hear, there are male and female voices, and all characters don't speak at the same speed.

In this dialogue, the applicant is supposed to be a foreigner fluent in Chinese, I find he speaks somewhat more slowly than the HR guy.

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