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Paulb84

Best absolute beginner textbook for self study

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Paulb84

Hello

 

I am considering learning Mandarin, I like to have some kind of structure so was thinking of getting a textbook to start with and was wondering from other members experiences which is the best one for absolute beginners, I’ve read reviews of Integrated Chinese and New Practical Chinese Reader and these two seem to be two of the most popular, I’m planning on self studying but in the future I may get some Skype lessons with a teacher to track progress and practice with.

 

Again has anyone had any experiences with the two books mentioned above and are they a good starting point or could recommend the best textbook for a self studying beginner

 

Thanks in advance Paul

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Shelley

Hello and welcome to the forums.

 

I would recommend NPCR, have a read of my blog (link below) it goes into depth about how I use and get the best out of it.

 

Integrated Chinese would be my second choice so its a hard choice, but there is so much more out there free and paid for NPCR that it has always been my first choice and I think it teaches Chinese in well paced and thorough way.

 

You have made good move by finding the forums, they are a friendly, helpful and knowledgeable bunch who are usually only too happy to help.

 

Welcome to wonderful journey that is learning Chinese.

 

 

 

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Bigdumogre

I second the npcr books - I found them to be really good in structure , vocabulary, reading and writing. Also there is YouTube videos to go with every chapter. I would recommend getting the textbook and the workbook. 

I also have assimil Chinese and find it good for learning phrases and find it to be a good supplement book wise with audio. But also do not just rely on one book or one method - tons of free apps (pleco is a must) plus great audio like pimsluers is amazing and can get it from your local library 

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mungouk

Welcome to the forums @Paulb84!

 

I started with Integrated Chinese (with a teacher) and then moved to the HSK standard textbooks. I can't complain.  It's good to have books with audio content so you can listen to how things are supposed to sound.  

 

But I would suggest finding a 1:1 teacher or a group class as soon as possible, so that your pronunciation is correct (and it's far from easy).

 

 

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Flickserve

Don’t underestimate getting lessons on how to pronounce chinese properly. Ever heard a chinese person speak English badly? That’s how many chinese learners sound speaking Chinese to chinese people. 

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murrayjames

Like @Shelley and @Bigdumogre, I recommend New Practical Chinese Reader.

 

The structure of the first few books of the series is well thought out. The version I used introduces all of the phonemes in Mandarin, and their tones, within the first six lessons or so. It also introduces Chinese characters right from the beginning. Dialogues in the first few lessons of Book 1 contain pinyin (with tone marks) above and Chinese characters underneath. For the remaining lessons of Book 1, the order is reversed (i.e., Chinese characters on top). Dialogues in Book 2 contain Chinese characters with tone marks, but no pinyin. In Book 3, dialogues contain only Chinese characters. No tone marks, no pinyin. While the early focus on sounds and characters makes NPCR more difficult than some other Chinese textbook series, it provides an excellent foundation for later study.

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Paulb84

Thanks for the replies! I’ve heard Pleco is a must, I was in my local bookstore today and was going to pickup NPCR however it was an older edition (I’ve heard there is a newer third edition that has been released) does anyone know if this is the best version to get or is their not much differences between the two.  Thanks, Paul

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Shelley

I would say the 2nd edition is probably the one with most "extras" out there.

This is the ISBN of the volume I use:

ISBN 978-7-5619-2895-0

 

https://www.amazon.co.uk/New-Practical-Chinese-Reader-vol-2/dp/7561928955/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=ISBN+978-7-5619-2895-0&qid=1563052395&s=books&sr=1-1

 

I would definitely get the workbook and the teacher's book too if you are self studying.

Make sure you have chosen Traditional or simplified and to start with stick to it, but later you may want absorb the other one.

 

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Tomsima
2 hours ago, Lu said:

leaves China by boat.


I learnt so much about what it used to mean to go to China and learn Chinese back in the day! The demands of the defrancis textbooks seem to be in proportion with the difficulties of travel and pre-computer language learning.

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murrayjames
7 hours ago, Paulb84 said:

I was in my local bookstore today and was going to pickup NPCR however it was an older edition

 

It’s probably the same version those recommending NPCR to you used.

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Flickserve

The new NCPR version is in colour and therefore more attractive. On a quick glance, I think it does have some slight differences but in the context of learning mandarin, it really is not going to make a difference. The content is vastly the same. 

 

@Lu my old Cantonese book also mentioned boats. 

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Shelley

There is not much between the 1st and 2nd editions of the New Practical Chinese Reader (NPCR) but there is a world of difference between the original Practical Chinese Reader (PCR) and the NPCR.

Between 1st and 2nd editions  of NPCR the lesson are the same and the layout is much the same, the 2nd edition has some more colour but its not in colour.  The latest newest 3rd edition is in full colour and is completely different in its layout and the lesson content.

 

I think that all three editions in the end give the same information, just not in the same way. 

 

The 2nd edition is probably the best as it has been tried and tested and is used by quite a lot of people. 

 

I would take Lu's advice just buy the one you have seen and start learning. Once you have been learning for awhile you will discover more learning materials and apps.

 

Pleco is an absolute must, get the basic package, as a beginner this is perfectly adequate, later you will know if you need more.

 

Again I point you to my blog which has a lot about learning Chinese materials.

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Gharial

There may not be a best, one-size-suits-all textbook, but there are definitely differences in terms of density and thus "speed", which may frustrate different learners in different ways.

 

From the previews I've seen of certainly the First edition of NPCR it still looked a little too thin, spread-out and softly-softly plodding for my tastes, at least in the first volume (e.g. Lesson 1 is Ni hao!, Lesson 2 is Ni mang ma?, thus adding ma? to such stative verbs or adjectives or whatever they're termed in NPCR, and so on one slowly shuffles), while IC in comparison offers more in terms of dialogue(s), items introduced etc (I've looked at samples of the 4th edition).

 

The choice between NPCR and IC thus seems somewhat similar to a previous one between possibly the original PCR (at least its vols I and II) and the original Colloquial Chinese course (both compared in my review mentioned here https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/52631-get-the-basics-fast-enough/?tab=comments#comment-405429 ), but as the original CC course is "split" between Pinyin-only main textbook (though that consequently has far more space for examples, explanations and exercises) and supplementary Character Text, both of which are now quite expensive, I'll just leave it at I doubt T'ung & Pollard's explanations, humorous touches etc will ever be bettered.

 

The following might also be of interest:

https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/12680-interactionsconnections-series-indiana-university-press

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DavyJonesLocker

I too used NPCR and really liked it. I checked the 3rd edition in the store last year and compared it with the 2nd edition. There are very slight changes in layout, but text and words are almost the same. A few minor updates to the passages such as changing a date etc

 

However i should point out that although myself and my colleague  liked it a lot of the younger students didn't. They thought is was dated and out of touch. These are valid criticism. There is hardly any mention of  every day life in china such as the app revolution,. cashless pay systems, changes in attitude amongst younger generation  but a lot of focus on traditional chinese culture. If you don't live on China  or have no interest in that it can be a touch tedious. Like almost every chinese book I read it's heavy on propaganda and likes to show China in  artificial light, all loving families, selfless people etc. Its naive and foolish in my view but NPCR is not alone in that, so best practice is to just . 

 

For example they clearly state Mount everest is in china. That is just blatantly misleading no matter how you play with the words.

 

When I read these passages I thought they were way too distant from my world, too cringy, but when I got more ingrained in chinese culture and went to small village for spring festival I was highly surprised! Some passage are nearly word for word acted out (the important of 包饺子, 恭喜发财) and idioms which I thought were just archaic , I heard mentioned over and over again! Even a passage where the father in law explains to the foreigner, why 8 is important and why fish must be served ( 有鱼 ) was freakishly accurate !  I have the same conversation  every year.

 

The passage where some lady goes to a traditional chinese medicine store (同仁堂) I have been to several times 

 

It is the type of book that it's hard to appreciate from afar so I always recommend people to focus on the grammar, sentence structure and especially go through the workbook (google is your friend if you want the answers) ! The actual lack of more popular content can easily be made up easily where. 

 

In regard to your question, it really cannot be answer, you will need a several text books to get a rounded and fuller view to chinese learning. 

 

 

 

On 7/10/2019 at 11:57 PM, mungouk said:

I started with Integrated Chinese (with a teacher) and then moved to the HSK standard textbooks. I can't complain.  It's good to have books with audio content so you can listen to how things are supposed to sound.  

 

 

Both of these are excellent, I wouldn't get concerned that its a ”HSK“ book. The words and grammar are highly relevant and passages up to date. (i..e the one I read yesterday is every buried in the phones and real social contact is diminishing  )

 

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murrayjames
7 hours ago, Gharial said:

From the previews I've seen of certainly the First edition of NPCR it still looked a little too thin, spread-out and softly-softly plodding for my tastes, at least in the first volume (e.g. Lesson 1 is Ni hao!, Lesson 2 is Ni mang ma?, thus adding ma? to such stative verbs or adjectives or whatever they're termed in NPCR, and so on one slowly shuffles)

 

An alternate perspective from someone who used the books:

 

When I read the first edition of NPCR some ten years ago, I appreciated the slow pace. At the time I had zero knowledge of Chinese. I had no understanding of characters or tones, and found Chinese grammar impossibly hard. (把? What is 把?) If the first few lessons of NPCR were more intense, I would have been overwhelmed.

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Wurstmann

Here's a preview lesson from Integrated Chinese book 1. And here's book 4.

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Gharial
On 7/15/2019 at 8:04 AM, murrayjames said:

An alternate perspective from someone who used the books:

 

When I read the first edition of NPCR some ten years ago, I appreciated the slow pace. At the time I had zero knowledge of Chinese. I had no understanding of characters or tones, and found Chinese grammar impossibly hard. (把? What is 把?) If the first few lessons of NPCR were more intense, I would have been overwhelmed.

 

 

I've used (or rather a course I took used) at least the first two volumes of PCR, and feel the overall structuring of NPCR is pretty similar. And I don't know if you noticed but I did say that less plodding courses might be tougher for slower or skittish students. It's admittedly hard though to get an honest picture of the real or imagined challenges of any textbook when 把 is mentioned in almost the same breath as 吗 by an otherwise tight-lipped reviewer.

 

But while we're on the subject of grammar, how does NPCR's sequencing say compare to or differ from that in PCR? I haven't gone back to examine such matters in any detail, plumping in my individual study simply for the likes of the original CC instead (not again that that is in serious contention nowadays, if only due to its now relative expense) and for a whole host of more immediately obvious reasons, but I couldn't help but note things like the following in the Introduction to Cheung et al's A Practical Chinese Grammar (which was written primarily to compensate for the perceived shortcomings certainly grammar-wise of PCR):

 

"However, because of the association with PCR in the format and sequence in which grammar is introduced, we are sometimes limited in our effort to pursue an issue to its fullest extent. For example, although we are not satisfied with the treatment of 了 le in PCR, we have followed the order in which it is introduced in the book, the perfective 了 in Lesson 27 and the new situation 了 in Lesson 33. Such an arrangement makes explanation of the two 了's in Lessons 28 and 31 or the use of the sentence-了 in the pattern of imminence 要...了 in Lesson 29 a most difficult challenge."

 

Of course, syllabus sequences are never the whole acquisitional story, but too haphazard an ordering makes little sense and is a missed opportunity.

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