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Has anybody else used Colloquial Chinese for beginners by Ken Qian.

And which one... I've read that Channamasala used it, but there seem to be three versions ranging in price from around $20 to $55.

They seem to have around the same number of pages and all three are with tapes, but apart from the ISBN numbers and one of them being called "The Complete Complete Course for Beginners" and the others "A Complete Language Course" I can't see the difference...

Any help or other recommendations for a complete beginner would be great...

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  • 1 month later...
Guest christopherpriest

Colloquial chinese publised by routlege comes in two flavours. The original by P.C. T'ung and D.E. Pollard is wonderful, funny and well written. The cover and some of the content is pro communist so it was rewritten by Qian.

The two books are totally different and only share the publisher and name. I find Qian pedantic and so lacking in humour that I could not use it.

Both books are written in Pin Yin. ie. Chinese written in Roman characters except for a very small introduction to characters. This is fine to get started but I found there is a limit to the use of Pin Yin. There are so many synonyms in chinese when written in Pin Yin that reading becomes difficult. When the same story is written in characters, the characters are different and the meaning is clear.

Somehow, when speaking the synonym issue does not arise. When speaking you will hear a charifier word added on the first use of a word that would be confusing. Also you can ask when confused and you can't ask a book.

This would be like a conversation about chocolate milk. Once everyone is clear we are talking about chocolate milk, we can drop the word chocolate and from then on we only talk about the milk. If you come to the conversation late then you would think the topic was white milk.

Christopher Priest

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  • 1 month later...

I did use it, sorry I haven't been on this forum in awhile. Mine did not come with a tape, but I bought it in Hong Kong. I have "The Complete Course for Beginners", which I believe is the cheaper one. (BTW, if youda PMed me I would have gotten an email about it and responded sooner).

I liked it - it was a terrific book to get me started...well, I'd gotten started before I used it, but it helped me out with what was my most significant problem at the time - grammar. I couldn't learn grammar without a textbook, and I don't see how I could have been expected to, even if I was picking up the basics plus new vocab on my own in China. The explanations of grammar notes are beautifully sensible and comprehensible. It makes everything make sense. Most language textbooks, I've found, require someone to explain the content to me, because the writer does a poor job of it. Qian wrote a book that I could use independently. The vocabulary is useful, but you'll need some sort of supplement to learn more than what's in the book if you're a fast learner and serious about learning Chinese.

I can't review the tapes, but I got a lot from the book without them.

Another poster was right, though. It lacks humor. It's not witty or funny at all. But it is useful, and I don't need humor to keep me interested in Chinese, I love it of its own right.

My one complaint was that it didn't force me to learn characters. Therefore, being so focused on learning to speak, and therefore function where I was living, I never did learn, and am now rushing to catch up AS I TRAVEL, which is insane. I turned down beer with a group of travelers the other night to study - now that's dedication. Anyway, I suggest buying another book (What's in A Chinese Character and Simple Way To Learn Chinese Characters - An Elementary Exercise Book are two that I saw and liked, I bought the latter) and starting straight away with characters. You'll regret it later if you don't.

Along the same format lines as Colloquial Chinese is Teach Yourself Chinese, which Roddy said he used. I have it and am skimming it these days, since I can't yet read my intermediate book and I need SOMETHING to sink my teeth into. It is of course far below my level since i've already completed a beginner book...it is also good, but I find the conversations silly and the things taught not as useful (although in the end I think they teach the same things at different points in the respective texts). But mostly, the grammatical explanations weren't as clear and understandable as Qian's.

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