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eshen

More modern version for DeFrancis' Chinese Reader Series?

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eshen

I'm an ABC and was raised speaking colloquial Mandarin at home.  However I never learned to read and want to learn to read. 

 

I've been learning the characters using Heisig's Remember Traditional Hanzi and using Pleco flashcards.  However, I still want to learn words.  I'm finding that my vocabulary is basically limited to stuff you hear growing up - "Time for dinner", "Wash your face".    I want to find a reader to help me develop my vocabulary and provide practice reading Chinese.  I have Beginning Chinese Reader and Intermediate Chinese Reader by John DeFrancis.  However, the series is almost 40 years old and I wonder if there are anything similar that is newer that has uses a more updated vocabulary/usage.

 

I also have Practical Chinese Reader (not NPCR) but I don't see a lot of reading samples. 

The "Mandarin Companion" series looks promising - do they have a dictionary that covers the words that are in their books?

 

What do people use to practice their reading? 

 

Thanks in advance

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stapler

Do you think the DeFrancis series is that out of date? I think most of the vocabulary is still useful.

 

There's a series of books called Chinese Graded Reader (1,2,3 - and which now has 6 volumes and been renamed by the vocabulary size eg; Chinese Graded Reader 3000, 2000, etc) by Sinolingua. They're collections of abridged and short stories, including some famous authors. I actually find the stories vastly more interesting than the normal "beginners" stories about going shopping or basic criminal investigation stories. For example, one of the readers had a short story about a teenager who gets knocked up and later discusses the boredom of marriage by 余華 (which is available online for free, in non-abridged form) - http://www.b111.net/novel/46/46686/4257267.html

.

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character

There's a thread on graded readers with a lot of options.  I don't think there's anything quite like the complete DeFrancis series, especially in Traditional.

 

Since you have Pleco, have you considered supplementing your reading with words from Chinese TV/movie watching?  There are also a few books on modern words/phrases, such as Pop Chinese, Decoding the Chinese Internet, etc.  Searching for "Chinese slang" on amazon lists even more.

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Lu

At some point at university we used a textbook called 'Oh, China' (中国啊,中国), aimed especially at heritage learners. It gives dialogues on a range of subjects, at a higher/more interesting level than 'saying hello' and 'at the bookstore', in both traditional and simplified, and vocabulary. It's intended for people who already have some background in Chinese and might be the thing you're looking for. (And if you were in Holland you could buy my old copy, but since you're in the US that's probably not convenient.)

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eshen

Thanks for the tips. 

 

I don't have any specific reasons to think DeFrancis is out-of-date.  I suppose printed word doesn't go out of date as fast as verbal communication (right daddy-o? :-) ).    It's not as if it's reading something a hundred years ago.

 

I did read the thread about the graded readers.  My reluctance in picking up a graded reader is my concern is about learning random words in a book rather than some formal structure like a textbook.  I admit that learning random words are the way that kids learn - they pick up a book and learn the unfamiliar words they see.  I guess my goal-driven brain is having a hard time just learning words as I come across them.  I would prefer to have a methodical approach as learning new words.  That's why I like BCR and RTH so much - I know how much progress I'm making.

 

Lu - Is this the book you were referring to?  http://www.amazon.com/Oh-China-Elementary-Beginners-Princeton/dp/0691153086

 

 

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character

I don't have any specific reasons to think DeFrancis is out-of-date.

I've noticed some things, such as frequent sentences mentioning the female students are pretty, which probably wouldn't appear in a modern text. However forward-looking its educational design, it is certainly a product of its time, and perhaps should be viewed as learning Chinese during the Mad Men era. :) I still think DeFrancis is the best.

 

My reluctance in picking up a graded reader is my concern is about learning random words in a book rather than some formal structure like a textbook.

I think that concern might more apply to much more advanced graded readers. In beginning/intermediate readers (below the 2000 character level, say) it is unlikely that there will be a lot of rare words. If you want, you can steer clear of readers with a fantasy theme or set in ancient times, as those might have more rare words.

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Lu

Lu - Is this the book you were referring to? http://www.amazon.co...n/dp/0691153086

Yes, that's the one. Read the first dialogue if you can - I just reread it and it's hilarious how it deals with the Taiwan issue.

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stapler

The only thing that made me feel like DeFrancis is old, funnily enough, was talking about stuff like nuclear power. I guess nuclear power also goes into that whole Mad Men period.

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edd

Are there many books that focus specifically on speaking + pinyin? Or better yet, does anyone know of books that do speaking and then teach reading/writing?

 

I'm pretty new to Mandarin Chinese and my plan is to follow the DeFrancis approach and learn pronunciation, grammar, and vocab first. After that I think pinyin input on computers and some basic knowledge of characters + computer translators would be enough literacy for me. Actually reading and writing chinese by hand at the level of a native speaker looks like an almost insurmountable goal, lol.  :P 

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Flickserve

I did see one book recently that put in a lot of dialogue in only pinyin and no chinese characters so it does exist. Unfortunately, I didn't take note of the title as I find it is easier to get a feel of the word or sentence when it is written out in Chinese. I read a pinyin sentence out loud in a very emotionless or robotic style.

Reading is almost a seperate skill to writing. I would definitely advise knowing how to read 400 common characters and then move on from there. You know, a lot of native speakers themselves forget how to write characters!

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Bigdumogre

Are there many books that focus specifically on speaking + pinyin? Or better yet, does anyone know of books that do speaking and then teach reading/writing?

I'm pretty new to Mandarin Chinese and my plan is to follow the DeFrancis approach and learn pronunciation, grammar, and vocab first. After that I think pinyin input on computers and some basic knowledge of characters + computer translators would be enough literacy for me. Actually reading and writing chinese by hand at the level of a native speaker looks like an almost insurmountable goal, lol. :P

Npcr? Integrated Chinese?

Think both would be solid options for you. I also have a book at home that is in simplified and pinyin underneath each word. Also comes with a grid that can cover pinyin when needed.

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Flickserve

At some point at university we used a textbook called 'Oh, China' (中国啊,中国), aimed especially at heritage learners. It gives dialogues on a range of subjects, at a higher/more interesting level than 'saying hello' and 'at the bookstore', in both traditional and simplified, and vocabulary. It's intended for people who already have some background in Chinese and might be the thing you're looking for. (And if you were in Holland you could buy my old copy, but since you're in the US that's probably not convenient.)

@Lu

Would this book be in the shelves in a China located bookshop?

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Lu

I have no idea. Perhaps check Amazon.cn to see if they have it? It's an American book and some of the things in it are not what a Chinese university would choose to teach its students, but as I recall there's nothing truly objectionable in it either. They calibrated it pretty carefully to not offend anyone with a strong opinion (again, as I recall). If it's not sold in China, that might be for all kinds of reasons, including it being too expensive, too old (by now) or too much of a mafan to order from the US. Or even because apparently the Chinese government is not too keen on Perry Link, one of the authors, even if he didn't do anything wrong in this specific book.

 

Does that answer your question or did you mean something else?

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Flickserve

Thanks. Answered it perfectly. :) The title looks interesting and I am going to Guangzhou for a short trip. I was thinking of trying to go past a bookshop for a quick browse and look for it. In HK, the range of mandarin learning texts found in shops are fairly limited.

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stapler

I bought Oh China! from a university library book sale for $2 (and pretty much every other Chinese reader I've ever heard of for the same price!). Very lucky! There's a whole series that comes from Princeton Uni Press. - Oh China (for beginners) A New China (intermediate), All Things Considered, Anything Goes. They're all pretty expensive new. I haven't actually looked inside them myself so I can't say if they're any good or not.

 

But anyway, I just wanted to say I'm fairly confident you'll not find any of those big expensive US books in China. Your best bet will be to find a second hand copy in the West.

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McKennon

Back in '82, when I learned that I would be spending a year in Taiwan, I checked the DeFrancis Readers out of the local University library and started trying to learn on my own -- huge mistake!

 

The books  were good, maybe too much so, because I kept at it off and on for most of a year, pronouncing words silently to myself as I read them: but as it turned out nearly all in the wrong way.

 

So when I got to Taipei in '83 I found I had to try to forget all my pronunciation and start anew. Fortunately I was able to buy a Sony Walkman cassette player and some Chinese tapes to gradually reprocess my brain. The greater part of what I heard on the street was Taiwanese and at work people spoke English to me rather than Mandarin. Along with that and a defective memory, my progress was not what it should have been.

 

At the time there was a very good book store right near Shi Da (National Taiwan Normal University) which carried the DeFrancis books and I bought the readers. They got lost over time and back in the US I made little additional progress during the ensuing thirty-some years.

 

That old book store is gone now, and I know of no good source of the DeFrancis readers in Taiwan any longer.

 

Circumstances have led me to take up the language again and so I "bit the bullet" yesterday and ordered the readers off the internet: some from Amazon and some from Alibris, but all used and as cheap as I could find them.

 

Strangely enough, although my vocabulary has not increased over the past thirty years (rather the opposite in fact), I have found that now if I try to express a thought in Chinese, I no longer have to pass through English first. Somehow it pops out in Chinese directly (provided the words are there to express it). I am thinking that the DeFrancis books may have had something to do with that.

 

What I loved about the books was the emphasis on how each word was used in different combinations, and the copious examples supplied.

 

I had about two hundred characters in my head when I got to Taipei in the late summer of 1983. I of course recognized some of them in the street and store signs. But putting them together in the correct order was a real challenge. Some went from up to down, some from right to left and some from left to right. Obvious which way to proceed to a native speaker of course, but not to one who had to struggle with nearly every character.

 

One did NOT use pinyin there at the time to indicate proper pronunciation. Most common was bo po mo fo, next was the Wade-Giles system and then sometimes the Yale system.

 

And the dictionaries! There were more different ways to design a Chinese dictionary than one could shake a stick at. And none of them were very efficient for a non-native speaker.

 

That was before digital word processors had given us a way to type characters efficiently. I saw some of the old typewriters where I was working at Tai Da (National Taiwan University) at the time, and I had nothing but respect for those who learned how to operate those things.

 

You who at present are undertaking to learn the language should count your blessings.

 

My immediate goal is to master those 1200 characters of the DeFrancis readers, and my hope is that the repetition therein employed will precipitate de-ossification of the intellect. Stranger things have happened.

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roddy

Excellent story, McKennon, welcome to the site. You might want to have a look at this - great place to introduce yourself and tell us what you're planning to get done. 

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