Jump to content
Learn Chinese in China


Best Course to Start

Recommended Posts


Hi all,


I've studied Mandarin off and on since college, and never made too much progress. However, this year my mother-in-law is coming to stay with us for a month, so I feel obligated to buckle down and actually develop some linguistic capabilities.


With that in mind, I'm torn between NPCR and Integrated Chinese. We used IC in college, and I liked it, but NPCR seems to have a few plusses, like a much larger vocabulary (over 5k, according to Skritter, as opposed to ~2k for IC).


I've seen a few topics on the forums about this, but I wanted to ask anew and see what people's thoughts are. I plan to learn traditional characters, and will be interacting primarily with Taiwanese culture, if that makes any difference. Below is the curriculum I've hobbled together, based off of my old university curriculum, and some things I've found online. The only change I think I might make is to swap out IC with NPCR, depending on what people think.


Any help is greatly appreciated. Thanks!


  1. Anki (self Made Deck)

     1b. Integrated Chinese, Volume 1

     1c. Assimil Chinese with Ease 1

  1. Integrated Chinese, Volume 2

     2b. Assimil Chinese with Ease 2

  1. Integrated Chinese, Volume 3

  2. Integrated Chinese, Volume 4

  3. Chinese Pod

     5b. Taiwan Today

  1. Talks on Chinese Culture

     6b. iTalki

  1. Thought and Society

  2. Mini Radio Plays

     8b. An Introduction to Literary Chinese

  1. China’s Peril and Promise

  2. A Reader in Post-Cultural Revolution Chinese Literature

  3. The Independent Reader

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites
Site Sponsors:
Pleco for iPhone / Android iPhone & Android Chinese dictionary: camera & hand- writing input, flashcards, audio.
Study Chinese in Kunming 1-1 classes, qualified teachers and unique teaching methods in the Spring City.
Learn Chinese Characters Learn 2289 Chinese Characters in 90 Days with a Unique Flash Card System.
Hacking Chinese Tips and strategies for how to learn Chinese more efficiently
Popup Chinese Translator Understand Chinese inside any Windows application, website or PDF.
Chinese Grammar Wiki All Chinese grammar, organised by level, all in one place.

  1. What is your current level?
  2. How long do you have?
  3. How much time per week can you dedicate to studying?

Your plan looks nice, but doesn't make a lot of sense to me.  You start with an entry level textbook in (1b), but by (9) you're on a fourth year undergraduate level reader in Chinese literature - a reader... as in: there is nothing except the text, no grammar points or explanations.  Also, that particular reader focuses on Chinese literature and has excerpts from 鲁迅 and 巴金 and the like.  What is the thinking behind this?


What is your goal here?  To converse with your mother-in-law?  Does she have an interest in Classical Chinese?  If not, then why (8b)?  Have you studied Classical Chinese before?  The learning curve of An Introduction to Literary Chinese is incredibly steep.  If you're a beginner (and learning Classical Chinese is absolutely necessary, or you have a great interest in it), then I would recommend the infinitely more accessible New Practical Primer for Classical Chinese - although that still took me eight months of fairly dedicated study.


So yeah, what's your goal?  Converse with a relative, or get a degree in Chinese?  Because this list looks a lot like one, and not much like the other.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks for the suggestion, agewisdom! I downloaded it and it looks great.



  1. I haven't studied in years, but I was around A2ish in college, and I imagine I could get back to that point fairly quickly, although I want to revisit the fundamentals.
  2. My mother-in-law will be visiting in July, but this  study plan wasn't meant to be completed by then. I expect to get through the IC series and Assimil by the time she comes to visit.
  3. I'll have about ~1.5 hours/day to study.

This text book order is taken from a mix of the curriculum my college uses and what I could find online from MTC. The reason Classical Chinese is in there, is because it's a pre-req for later books. My understanding is that Classical Chinese knowledge is useful for reading newspapers and academic texts to some extent.


As for my goals, I want to be able to read and have conversations. The conversations portion will be for family, and the reading is for me. I learned Spanish in college, and reading newspapers and books is primarily how I keep up with the language, so I want to do something similar in Mandarin.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites
On 12/17/2018 at 11:01 AM, MixedUpCody said:

so I feel obligated to buckle down and actually develop some linguistic capabilities.


This means you only have to talk to her, right? 


Given that you have a bit of experience with the language, I actually think your best bet starting off is to have real life short, simple sentences and learn them off by heart.


Something like...




外面很冷,要穿外套。 Etc




Notice that these show concern for well being. 


You will need vocabulary for household things like washing machine, dish washer, steps, running water, hot water, cook breakfast lunch and dinner, garage, bus numbers and time, asking what program she wants to watch. All these things are practical for your day to day life since she is going to stay with you. 


  • Like 1

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

I agree with Flickserve - you have a very well defined goal and a strict time limit within which to complete it.  If Imron was here he'd be telling you to practice the skill you want to achieve (although I recently read some research which disagrees with this, but thats for another day), so you could start by discussing housework etc. with your wife in Chinese (assuming she speaks Chinese, although if she doesn't then maybe she should be learning as well).


Some more examples:








After all, these are going to be the most useful things for your mother-in-law - she probably won't be bothered about your ability to check into a hotel, or navigate the great wall, but her ability to extract simple yet important information from you while she is in a foreign country will be invaluable.


As for Classical Chinese being useful for newspapers... I've read both New Practical Primer in Literary Chinese and Introduction to Literary Chinese and have found them to have close to zero effect when it comes to reading newspapers.  However, that's not to say it wasn't enjoyable, in fact, I'd say that learning Classical Chinese (albeit to a fairly elementary level) has been one of the most satisfying experiences I've had in learning Chinese.  Do it if you're interested, but not because you think it's going to benefit some other skill.  Instead of 'Peril and Promise', you might want to consider "China's Own Critics' which focuses more on 20th century culture and society - but it depends what you're interested in really as by that point the content will largely dictate what you want to read.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Hey all,


Thanks for the great advice. I really appreciate the time everyone took to provide great feedback about my plan.




My wife speaks her dialect with her mom, but she was never educated in Mandarin, so she understands very little. My mother-in-law, however, did K-12 in Mandarin. Because of this I can't practice with my wife too much, and will be using mostly iTalki.


Thanks again, everyone!

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and select your username and password later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Click here to reply. Select text to quote.

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Create New...