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Learn Chinese in China

The Textbook debate

Textbooks - Yes? No?  

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  1. 1. Textbooks?

    • Textbooks - Useful?
    • Textbooks - Useful up to a point?
    • Textbooks - Not useful at all?

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Larry Language Lover

He started with easier textbooks and asked me questions out of those and toward the end of the class decided on HSK 3.    I think in that textbook, however, there were too many Hanzi that I do not know at all.

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It really depends on what your goals are. I studied Japanese a long time ago. I eventually broke Japanese study into three areas: (1) grammar and vocabulary, as found in textbooks (2) conversational speaking and (3) Chinese characters. There is quite a difference between (1) and (2).


The question of learning Hanzi can be a difficult one. I had one Chinese teacher who thought all of my time with him should be spent learning Hanzi. (He wasn’t my teacher for very long.) There is a tendency with Chinese teachers to push, push, push the learning of Hanzi.


I eventually figured out how much of a balance I wanted between the three. (What I actually did was decide on which of the three I wanted to study at that very moment, and then I would study that.) I actually enjoy studying Hanzi, but I have seen how I can go off-track and spend too much time on Hanzi. The answer was for me to become good at portioning out my time for studying Hanzi and time not for studying Hanzi.


It is crucial that you figure out how you will balance your time spent on these types of study activities. Getting the balance of how much time you will spend on Hanzi is especially crucial. (I know foreigners who want to learn Chinese but absolutely refuse to spend any time learning Hanzi.)


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Larry Language Lover

How far did you get in Japanese? That's another very difficult language.  I once met a guy in a French chat that was in his 20s and said he had C1 level in both Japanese and Chinese.

His method was very much speaking with native speakers, even in the beginning when he had to constantly use the dictionary.


I want to concentrate especially on listening as well as speaking.  That's the method that has worked for me with other languages.  But I do really want Hanzi because for me it's not complete Chinese without it and it is so interesting.  But my first goals are understanding and being understood.

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For me, i feel like i learn hanzi better on my own. i like a teacher for speaking and live listening interaction. The chance to get pronunciation or grammar corrected that i didnt notice.

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I started this topic because I am a great believer in textbooks for the beginner and intermediate and to some degree higher levels.


@Larry Language Lover I would highly recommend the text book New Practical Chinese Reader.  This is a complete course with textbook, workbook and audio and video (on YouTube).

One reason I like textbooks is because they are well paced and present you with the information in a sensible order. In my opinion the NPCR does this very well. You will learn Pinyin, then Characters, and speaking, listening, reading and writing.


It is good for self study as it is very popular and there are lots of ready made apps etc with word/character lists. ie: Tofu learn for writing characters, Pleco for flashcards and also an excellent dictionary platform. There are many more.


Have a look on my blog (see link below) Two articles are about NPCR and how I use it. There are also reviews on several useful apps.


I can't emphasis enough how important I think it is to follow a text book for a couple of years at least to form a solid base to work from and as @DavyJonesLocker

says - So, in my view textbooks are the ingredients of the cake but native material is the binder that keeps it all together.


So a very important part but not the only part, and as you learn, the ratio of textbooks to native material will change.


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3 hours ago, Larry Language Lover said:

How far did you get in Japanese?


I tell everyone I speak Japanese at the intermediate level. But because I have concentrated heavily on conversational Japanese, I sometimes surprise Japanese people by what I can say.


3 hours ago, Larry Language Lover said:

I want to concentrate especially on listening as well as speaking. 


Then your priorities right now are speaking and listening. Use my method. Everything I do is question and answer. Start writing out questions and answers. Don’t worry about Hanzi, stick to Pinyin for now. Write everything out on paper. If you are working with a teacher who is a Chinese person, you tell them the English and they will tell you the Chinese. If you do this online, they can text you the Chinese versions.


Here are some very basic questions and answers. Start with greetings. Work with a teacher or partner where first you go through all of these while looking at the paper, then go through them again without looking at the paper. Make sure you practice answering the questions and asking the questions. The goal is to be able to ask and answer the questions without looking at the paper. This will require a lot of hard work but there is no getting around it. Practice, practice, practice!


Hello. 你好。 Ní hăo.
How are you? 你好吗? Ní hăo ma?
I’m fine. 我很好。 Wǒ hěn hăo.
Thank you. 谢谢。 Xìe xie.
And you? 你呢? Ní ne?
I’m fine too. 我也很好。 Wǒ yě hěn hăo.


Then start with the verb to be. Make yes questions, no questions, and wh- questions.


Is this a pen?            这是笔吗?         Zhè shì bǐ ma?
Yes, this is a pen.         是的,这是笔。        Shì de, zhè shì bǐ.
Is this a textbook?        这是课本吗?        Zhè shì kèběn ma?
No, it isn’t.             不是课本。        Bú shì kèběn.            
What’s this?             这是什么?              Zhè shì shénme?
It’s a cellphone.            是手机。        Shì shǒujī


Then start with verbs.


Do you study? 你学习吗? Ní xuéxí ma?
Yes, I do. 是的,我学习。 Shì de, wǒ xuéxí.
No, I don’t 不,我不学习。 Bù, wǒ bù xuéxí.
Do you walk? 你走路吗? Ní zǒulù ma?
Yes, I do. 是的,我走路。 Shì de, wǒ zǒulù.
No, I don’t 不,我不走路。 Bù, wǒ bù zǒulù.
Do you run? 你跑步吗? Nǐ pǎobù ma?
Yes, I do. 是的,我跑步。 Shì de, wǒ pǎobù.
No, I don’t 不,我不跑步。 Bù, wǒ bù pǎobù.
Do you teach? 你教吗? Nǐ jiào ma?
Do you cook? 你烹饪吗? Nǐ pēngrèn ma?
Do you smoke? 你抽烟吗? Nǐ chōuyān ma?


Add direct objects.


Do you eat vegetables? 你吃蔬菜吗? Nǐ chī shūcài ma?
Yes, I do. 是的,我吃蔬菜 。 Shì de, wǒ chī shūcài.
Do you eat cabbage? 你吃卷心菜吗? Nǐ chī juǎnxīncài ma?
Yes, I do. 是的,我吃卷心菜。 Shì de, wǒ chī juǎnxīncài.
Do you eat spinach? 你吃菠菜吗? Nǐ chī bōcài ma?
No, I don’t. 不,我不吃菠菜。 Bù, wǒ bù chī bōcài.
What kind of vegetables do you eat? 你吃什么种类的蔬菜? Nǐ chī shénme zhǒnglèi de shūcài?
I eat lettuce, cabbage, and celery. 我吃卷心菜,卷心菜和芹菜。
Wǒ chī juǎnxīncài, juǎnxīncài hé qíncài.


Slowly add dialogs with indirect objects, prepositional phrases, multiple prepositional phrases, it-for-to sentences, present perfect, subjunctive mood, on and on, until ending up with very complicated questions and answers.


When you get to the intermediate level, you can start concentrating on topics instead of grammar. Here are a few questions about sports.


[x] Do you like sports?     你喜欢运动吗?        Nǐ xǐhuan yùndòng ma?
Do you mean play sports or watch sports?        你意思是做运动或是观看运动项目?
Nǐ yìsi shì zuò yùndòng huò shì guānkàn yùndòng xiàngmù?
I mean play sports. Do you like to play sports?    我意思是做运动. 你喜欢做运动吗?
       Wǒ yìsi shì zuò yùndòng. Nǐ xǐhuān zuò yùndòng ma?
Yes, I do.             是的,我喜欢做运动。    Shì de, wǒ xǐhuān zuò yùndòng.
I’m too old to play sports.         我太老了,不能体育运动。  Wǒ tài lǎo le, bùnéng tǐyù yùndòng.    
I have a physical limitation.    我是生理缺陷。        Wǒ shì shēnglǐ quēxiàn.



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  • 10 months later...
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Well, I am a native mandarin speaker and I just find this forums.

Take me as example, I speak two languages, mandarin and english. I start learn english since I was eight, but I look do not have much talent on that. I start from the textbook, try to remember as much volcabulary as I can, working on the grammar. I did good job in the test. But I still do not feel comfortable when I come to a high school in Canada. 

The way that natvie speaker is speaking is totally different from the textbook. I realized that the best way to learn a new language is to communicate with natvie speakers. Textbooks can help, that is true, but do not rely on it. 

If you want find someone to chat with in mandarin, you can come with me. I am bored so I want to have someone to chat with. You can send message to my ins " tristyliu0722".

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