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DeFrancis' Beginning Chinese Reader


winterpromise31
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Hello! 

 

Today I started reading the introduction to DeFrancis' BCR. In it, he talks about the necessity of studying both BCR and Beginning Chinese. Do I really need to buy the other book and study it at the same time? Or would it be sufficient for me to just tackle BCR?

 

Thanks!

Cassandra

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The De Francis reader series and textbooks don't really overlap in terms of coverage of grammar rules and such. While you should use both, if you're a beginner then the Beginning Chinese textbook is more critical than the reader. It's been quite a while, but I don't think I started with the reader until I'd well started on the textbook.

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I finished the beginner and intermediate video series on YoYoChinese. I wouldn't consider myself a beginner but I'm also not sure I'd classify myself as intermediate level. Being able to read and understand written text is my main goal this year. 

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I don't know what the YoYo series covers. However the De Francis series, if you go through it properly, is thorough and comprehensive, though yes, dated in some respects, with a few other small problems, but then Gubo and Palanka have their problems, too. In any event, I wouldn't skip the textbook if I were you.

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I use the reader without the textbook, although when I started I was already at a lower intermediate stage. If you have the book already just try it, no reason to get nervous about it :-) I posted vocab lists on this forum for the whole reader series and the audio is also available online, just use the forum search.

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Do I really need to buy the other book and study it at the same time? Or would it be sufficient for me to just tackle BCR?

You don't need Beginning Chinese specifically, but you will need some textbook or grammar reference.  Searching on this forum will find many recommendations.

 

Many of the DeFrancis books are listed in this thread: http://www.chinese-forums.com/index.php?/topic/44336-graded-readers-by-the-numbers-characterswords-page-count/

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@Winterpromise31

The Defrancis books are a carefully designed learning system. At the beginning level, there is a textbook, Beginning Chinese (pinyin only), a character text (no grammatical explanations, just the text of BC in traditional characters), and a two-volume set of Beginning Chinese Reader (no significant explanation of the grammar required is included). The introductions to the various books explain the the distribution and overlap of both characters and vocabulary items among the set.

Obviously then, BC is the lynchpin of the system. That is the book you should start with, hopefully accompanied at first by the character text for BC. BC is the text on which the rest of the system is built. Keep in mind this is a well-designed and closely integrated set of textbooks.

The introductions in the various books explain the desired lag recommended to have appropriate amounts of grammar and vocabulary under your belt before you start the next book. For example, if I remember correctly, there's a lag of about eight chapters between the start of BC and the start of the character text. Then you can add the reader when you feel up for it.

This may seem like an enormous undertaking, and it is. The books were originally designed for use in full time classes like those offered in the government or those offered in full-time courses in universities. But the overlap of vocabulary and characters, and the constant repetition mean that learning is reinforced without much conscious effort on the part of the student. SRS before there was SRS... All of this is supported by nearly 100% recorded materials available on iTunes. What more could you want!!!

Any other texts can obviously be substituted for BC but in my experience, you lose a good deal of the repetition and reinforcement. But that's your choice to make. There are others here who use only the readers and do just fine. But I started with BC, progressed through the set in order, don't regret it. In fact, I consider myself lucky for persevering through to the end and reaping the considerable benefits of doing so.

As for expense and availability, the Amazon second hand book system is quite trustworthy, with copies offered for as little as one dollar. I will add a comment on it tomorrow.

Just my personal experience and opinions...

TBZ

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Thanks for the recommendations! I will go ahead and order a copy of the Beginning Chinese textbook. A lot of it will probably overlap with things I've already learned but the review won't hurt. Plus it'll fill in any holes. My budget is extremely tight, which is why I was hoping I could get by on BCR alone... but I'll buy a used copy of BC. Thanks again!

 

I'm so glad the audio is online! Now if I can just figure out how to use iTunes... ;) I'm an Android girl.

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I think it's perfectly fine to use the Defrancis readers alongside any textbook you like. There's not much in terms of specific tie-ins between the Defrancis textbook and Defrancis reader. The reader can definitely stand on its own.

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I agree, as I said before, that any textbook can be used alongside the readers. But the BC text book goes to great lengths to give character counts (about 1200 or so) and distributions (including counts of characters used in this book, but not in that one, etc.) for the entire set. It is the heart of the repetition built into the system. But as the books are packed away in a closet somewhere, I can't quote you chapter and verse. So yes, any textbook will do, but perhaps BC may do it better. 

 

In any case, what I wanted to mention today was the second-hand book market on Amazon (both US and UK) that I promised to talk about in an earlier post. As I said, I have had very good luck with buying second-hand books from Amazon. In fact, now I never buy the Amazon new offer if there is a better new offer from a reseller. I have found that the description of books closely matches the actual books that I receive. I have also found that when there is a problem, the sellers will often contact me independently to rectify it so that I don't give them a down-vote, as they depend on their reputations for their livelihood. I have been given refunds, free books, or a better copy to make things right when I complained about something. 

 

When you buy, buy by the price, the evaluation, and description of the actual copy listed which is often included under the evaluation.  Be sure to read the description of each category: New, Like new, Very good, Good, Acceptable, etc.  ALWAYS look at the alternative offers to new book prices. When the book is supposed to have a CD or DVD, if the description doesn't mention whether there is one included, contact the seller and ask before you buy. I have found the sellers to be honest in their ratings of the books, and have been pleasantly surprised that the books can often turn out better than the description. For example, recently I bought a copy of volume 2 of Home with Children for $0.01 (one cent) to have a junk copy I could risk on a trip. When I got it, it was in better condition than the one I bought new, and 2 unopened DVDs were bound into the spine. 

 

There are caveats. For example, with the Defrancis books, the tags used by the database to track the books: Beginning versus Beginners Chinese, for example can miss lots of different offers. And booksellers don't know about the less expensive reprints the Defrancis books seem to have undergone, so this will be luck of the draw. And there is no way to guarantee whether the download user numbers in some text books have been already been used unless the seller says that they haven't ("Unused, still in original shrink-wrap," or something like that.)  But it is definitely best to spend a bit of time trying different names or categories before you make your choice. In the Chinese book market, there are a number of sellers (usually in China) who charge sometimes very hefty prices ($900.00!!!) for something you may want bad enough to pay, but look around first. Others seem to charge an awful lot for shipping, so be careful about this, too. 

 

All in all, though, I am happy buying from Amazon-backed resellers. I will be happy to try to answer questions based on my experience, so if you have any, don't hesitate (Maybe I should put this in its own thread???)

 

TBZ

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My copy of Beginning Chinese arrived yesterday. I eagerly tore into it but found that it's all in pinyin. Did I buy the wrong version? I've been learning characters since the beginning and this feels like a massive step backwards. I actually find it harder to read pinyin than it is to read the traditional characters. 

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Did I buy the wrong version?

No, that's just a way of teaching Chinese used by some authors.  There is a Beginning Chinese: Character Text which has the characters (but not the explanations, etc. in the pinyin volume). I see several used copies for $2 + $4 for shipping on Amazon.
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Is it worth buying another book or is it easy enough to get used to reading just pinyin again?

I think it's worth it, as you can use the Character Text as sort of a graded reader, only referring to the Beginning Chinese pinyin book for new words and grammar.
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