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New Practical Chinese Reader - good books!


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Yeah, you're going to need to learn to read the characters, at the very least. After book one, there's no more pinyin in the texts, it's in the vocab lists only. Also, you don't really need to learn the supplementary characters, but it does help as they often pop up in later lessons.

atitarev - I personally find the vocab less than insanely useful. It could just be my personal circumstances (I'd like a lot more technology-related words, for example), but I see words which I consider to be not excessively helpful. e.g. I don't drink coffee, so being able to say 我不要咖啡 is nice, but not excessively helpful. Also, most of the words related to studying are much less practical if you're studying by yourself, which I will be soon (I graduate from University at the end of this year). But meh. They do seem to get a bit better as the texts progress, but I think it might work better if they changed the content of various chapters around. But that's just me.

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ipsi(), even if you don't like coffee, you will agree that the phrase is quite common and should be learned early on. If you don't drink coffee, just say 我不要喝咖啡 and 我要喝+ (your drink) :wink:

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That general pattern is very useful, sure :) I just think some of the vocab could do with shifting. I actually find 我不喝啤酒 to be more useful, for instance. :) (Not that I'm advocating teaching students how to ask for beer as one of the first things they learn!)

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For those looking for sample of the CDs, I'm attaching part of a dialog segment from a chapter in NPCR Book 4. Note that they also do pattern drills etc.

The audio quality of NPCR materials is outstanding. To me it does sound too slow to be natural speed now but it didn't seem that way when I was working through it so I'll take that as a sign of progress, and I guess a 2nd year textbook shouldn't be zinging along to quickly.


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  • 1 month later...

I read that the NPCR stops using Pinyin after the first or second book. I wanted to start using this series of books, but how would I learn to pronounce the words if there is no Pinyin? Are all of the characters in the latter books combinations of old characters? I am new to this all, so sorry if I am missing something obvious.


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It stops using Pinyin for the texts at the start of each chapter that introduce new words in context. There's still a list after each chapter which details how to pronounce each word, and what that word means (often with some examples).

Thus, in book one it might have

你 好

nǐ hǎo

but in book two it would only have


Does that make sense?

On a vaguely related topic, can anyone point me to some Chinese OCR software? Free is good (if not exactly realistic), as I'd like to be able to copy the texts of each dialog onto my computer, so I can, for example, put them on my Treo, or convert them so there's only Pinyin versions of the text. Anyone have any good suggestions? I could type them up, like I did with NPCR 1, but I'd like to have the texts before I start using NPCRs 3 and 4, and that makes it rather hard to type them up without learning Wubi or something similar.

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To reiterate above, the text won't have the pinyin underteath it, but the vocab list at the end of the chapter will.

This is good, as even if you can read/recognise the character, your brain will just focus on the pinyin underneath the text if it's there.

I used a piece of paper to cover up the pinyin, and slid it down as I read, when using the first book.

I used the original PCR books rather than the new ones, but I'm sure it's the same format.

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  • 5 weeks later...

atitarev writes he does not use the workbook because it is useless without the teacher. true, but if someone is trying to go through the excercises alone, here are the answers for the first Workbook.



i have used the book one, and even though the texts are nice and clear, and workbook excercises are rather good starting from lesson 6 or 7, the book does not really explain grammar (or rather sentence patterns). it as if mentions the grammar points, but thats it. no examples, no nothing.

i am used to books that drill at least one sentence pattern every lesson, but NPCR keeps on using simple sentence structures only. that might be good in a way, i guess, because it makes stuff easier for those who try to use the book for self study, but if that is the intention, then why not add a good grammar explanation with loads of examples as well?

i would also agree with another comment - i find the book slow going too. all the lessons 1-6 were all about 你好, 您贵姓 really. at a rate 1 lesson per week it's one and a half months used on learning how to greet people (only to find out in a year or two, that it's 你吃了没 anyway). and i do not always like their choice of vocabulary. yeah, sure, incorporating chinese culture stuff in a textbook is great and everything, but why on earth do they think that learning how to say 京剧 and 北京烤鸭 has to be included in the first few lessons?

then the book wastes a lot of pages on explaining how to write every single character. I would have put it all in the workbook. there are lot of pages/programms online giving stroke order for characters, even the NPCR official website has very nice and clear stroke order animations. the book would be just as fine without them. having the writing part in the textbook itself just makes the book heavy to carry to class. and those pages are exactly the ones a student would look at only once or twice, at home, while learning to write the new words.

i'd choose having a translation for the dialogues provided. having it has drawbacks, but it helps those utterly lost.

and the last complaint from my side would be that having pinyin right under the 汉字 is not at all a good idea. of course it makes the book readable for the beginner, but i prefer the dialogue in chinese characters and the pinyin transcription being printed seperate. the reason is quite simple - if there's pinyin, then it's pinyin that will be read, not the characters. but that flaw can be fixed easily - one of the forum members has put the NPCR text in 汉字 online, so all there's to it is to print it out and use for reading (not pinyin) practice.

what i like about the book is the layout, the cute and unobtrustive drawings, clear and big enough fonts, good quality audio. all these things are very important for the learner. the book just feels nice to have.

i have been supplementing NPCR with matching chapters from the Integrated Chinese book, and i rather like the result. IC has shorter dialogues, less chance for listening and reading practice, but a very nice and well thought out grammar section. adding a sentence pattern or two to the rather dry way the NPCR puts sentences, can spice up the life a bit.

unlike IC, NPCR bases some of their workbook excercises on the HSK pattern, and getting familiar with the way chinese examine is not a bad idea. you never know when that can come in handy. moreover, i like the "choose the right character/word" type of excercises, if you get yourself to get them right at a first glance, it's a big step forward.

all in all, NPCR voulme 1 is a good choice, but it needs crutches, be it a teacher, good grammar book, or another textbook.

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  • 6 months later...

I have a few questions about the cd's. I'm currently on NPCR 5, and about to purchase the cd's for that volume. I also have the option to purchase the Instructors manual for it. I'm studying it on my own, without a teacher. Questions are:

Are the cd's worth it? Apart from someone speaking the main dialogue, do they also come with solutions for the any of practice questions, or, more importantly, the dialogue spoken for the tingli section?

Is the instructors manual useful? Does it have solutions for questions, fill in the blanks..?

If you have any info about either the cd's or instructors manual, but more importantly the cd's, please reply. Thanks.

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I am only on book 2, but from my experiences the cd's are well worth it.I usually learn all of the new words, then listen to them read the passages without looking at the book the first time, then looking at the book the second time I hear it. This is good for improving listening and not just reading.

As for the teachers manual, I have no clue. I self study with the book and the cds, but I work with chinese people everyday so they help me whenever I have questions. I don'

t know what I will do when I go back to America...

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  • 1 year later...

I bought levels 2 and 3 of this book. I occasionally was frustrated with the 2nd book because I found that it boring to read dialogs about hotpot, and chinese opera, and chinese folk music, and more opera,

I recall finishing one lesson, going to the next and feeling like tearing my hair out when I discovered that there was--in fact--a second lesson about Chinese opera! I had so disliked the first one that I refused to read the dialog, and just browsed the vocab list and new grammar patterns before moving on to the next lesson.

Now i'm on the third book. I find it neither enjoyable nor practical to learn words/phrases such as 嫦娥奔月 "Chang'e (Moon Goddess) flying to the moon"

Or, 仙女, which apparently means "fairy, female immortal".

Really, the readers of these books would probably be better served to read a single, short book about Chinese culture (in their native language). This would probably be much more helpful than oversimplified dialogs about hotpot and opera.

I also never understand how many simple words end up on the word lists... Why wait until the third textbook (that is, lesson 30!) to learn 手, 老人,上班,早上?

(To be fair, this is written in a moment of despair as i move to a new lesson and see a dialog about folk dancing, and I have no desire to learn words like 敲锣打鼓--to beat drums and gongs. The book was obviously at least good enough for me to be a repeat customer, and it's true that many of the lessons are much better..)

I would, however, be open to suggestions about a book to buy after NPCR3... Besides NPCR4. :)

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As for the two chengyu you mention, I think it's good to know to know them. The first one was relayed to the crew of Apollo 11 by mission control:

Houston: Among the large headlines concerning Apollo this morning there's one asking that you watch for a lovely girl with a big rabbit. An ancient legend says a beautiful Chinese girl called Chang-o has been living there for 4000 years. It seems she was banished to the moon because she stole the pill for immortality from her husband. You might also look for her companion, a large Chinese rabbit, who is easy to spot since he is only standing on his hind feet in the shade of a cinnamon tree. The name of the rabbit is not recorded.

Collins: Okay, we'll keep a close eye for the bunny girl.

As for the second, did the NCPR not teach you that it not just means "beat drums and gongs"?

Seriously: as you advance in your studies, you'll have to learn tons of chengyu, and a lot are connected with cultural things you seem to find boring. It just comes with the territory..

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Don't get me wrong... I love learning about the culture. I just don't think this is the best medium for learning it. My reading ability in Chinese is equivalent to a very young child. To learn about something as complex as Chinese history and culture, I'd probably benefit much more from reading material in my own language.

I still think that the phrase "Merciful Buddha preserve us!" is occupying valuable space in my brain, and I'd prefer to replace it with something I can use in a conversation with my friends...

That being said, maybe some people do enjoy learning about the culture this way, and I guess it can be fun to impress Chinese folks by knowing these things -_-

EDIT: I guess I should have made it more explicit: one of my main points was that because the level of language in these books (my level) is still pretty low, the introductions to culture are consequently extremely simplistic and--in my opinion--just not good, so you get the worst of both worlds.

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I don't know how it is presented in the NPCR, so I don't know. Does NPCR integrate other media well, like audio and so on, or is it an old-school type of textbook, with mostly text? Especially old-type textbooks tend to be immensely boring.

Knowing chengyu is not about impressing people, but about getting into the more advanced territory of the language. You can then choose between just learning all these expressions by rote, or trying to learn a bit of the background behind these expressions (I guess at the end of the day you have to cut corners as you can't possibly learn the background to all of these thousands of expressions).

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I have to admit that I don't know about the other media. I believe the books each come with a CD, which I have not used because I don't have a CD-drive :oops: The lessons never make any reference to the CDs or other media, though. The back of the book just says it has "audio CDs"

At my level, I am interested in Chengyu, though not especially concerned about learning it, since people simplify their language when speaking to me, anyways. I do enjoy learning them though, and not just to impress people ;) I think NPCR does a poor job in this regard since nowhere in the books (so far? I don't think?) is the word Chengyu even used, so when they teach me 敲锣打鼓, I don't even know that I'm learning what could be a useful chengyu. It just says "to beat drums and gongs". Not until 20 minutes ago when I read your post did I know that this was a chengyu which I could actually use.

I suppose this would not be a problem if used in a classroom study, where a teacher could fill in the gaps. It seems like a pretty obvious gap though.

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To be fair, this word doesn't strike me as a "core chengyu", and the majority of uses seem to be connected to drums. (Though sometimes when they say "X protested 敲锣打鼓", you don't know if they mean it literally or metaphorically :wink:)

Have a look at this textbook, it might be useful for you. In each lesson, it teaches the background of one chengyu, and explains the Classical Chinese source text, it's a good resource for intermediate learners (it's all in Chinese but geared towards foreign learners).

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