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New Practical Chinese Reader - good books!


klortho
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NPCR is one of the best, if not the best Chinese textbooks, IMHO, vocab, exercises, audio - most students are happy. Learning Chinese without audio is useless. I am starting volume 5.

EDIT:

I posted the message above from mobile, a bit hard to type. Anyway, there are many threads about NPCR here. There are videos, full transcripts (soft copies), vocab lists, etc. The vocab selection is very good and useful, grammar presented in a good way with examples and pattern drills.

Anyway, the less useful words won't stay in memory and won't be repeated - the text is quite big on vocabulary and grammar.

Edited by atitarev
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Well, i've already said I am a repeat customer, but I believe having a diversity of opinions will be much more useful for the readers of this forum. All the more reason to post my criticisms.

Studying Chinese without audio may be "useless", I don't know. But, I get listening practice everyday, so if you were trying to imply that my criticism was off-base because I (or my lack of a CD ROM) am the problem (and the NPCR has no problems), then I don't think that's the case :)

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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 feel your pain. I was dragged through the first two books. For someone just arriving in China, with limited language ability, I found these books to be very impractical.

How about some MODERN Chinese culture? What's up with all the opera and folk dancing? These books make it seem like every Chinese person digs this stuff. My wife is Chinese and doesn't like either. How about a chapter on Chinese punk rock and slam dancing!

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

I prefer Chinese Made Easier. I've worked through three of the books (there are five), and I find it more practical than NPCR.

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Yes, agreed. I should have added "unless you have already mastered the Chinese phonetics". Still, those dialogues come to life when listening to them. I really like those just for listening. Readers speak clearly, have good voices and a good standard accent.

In the volume of texts you find useful and less useful words, you filter out out yourself what you need to remember but memory is such a thing that if a word is not used again it will be forgotten anyway. I also disagree with you that expressions like 敲锣打鼓 are not important.

Of course, you may say your criticism, so I may say my counter-criticism. :) There's always room for improvement, of course. Words 手, 老人,上班, 早上 may have been reintroduced, not introduced as new.

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How about a chapter on Chinese punk rock and slam dancing!

You don't really expect to read about this stuff in a language textbook, surely?

That sort of stuff is something you have to dig up on your own. And you'll find that Chinese punk rock and slam dancing is far less relevant to most Chinese than 嫦娥 and 阿弥陀佛.

I'm yet to find a Chinese person who wants to discuss punk rock with me. All of them want to talk about the Spring Festival, and I'm sure that most of them could tell me the story of 嫦娥.

These books make it seem like every Chinese person digs this stuff.

No, but every Chinese person knows this stuff.

It's true that most Chinese textbooks go on and on about this cultural that, that cultural this etc, and that it's sometimes overdone. But there's lots of cultural stuff that you have to learn if you want to function in a society.

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@ Renzhe:

You don't really expect to read about this stuff in a language textbook, surely?

Surely. I do. Why not? Why should I expect to read about opera in a language textbook? Why is opera more "cultural" than punk rock, or any other CONTEMPORARY genre of music? Because opera is "high culture" and punk rock is "low culture"?

I'm yet to find a Chinese person who wants to discuss punk rock with me.

And I'm yet to find someone who wants to discuss Chinese opera with me, or meet someone who actually likes it. I guess we're talking to different people.

But there's lots of cultural stuff that you have to learn if you want to function in a society.

I agree. It's important to learn "lots of cultural stuff". It would be nice if textbook publishers could broaden their definition of "cultural".

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It's really not my goal to berate this textbook. I think it's a good book, and will reiterate (for the 3rd time) that I am a repeat customer, and I obviously like it enough to buy it again. I just hope I can show how it has some weaknesses, for people with goals similar to mine.

It's important to note that I bring the perspective of someone self-studying while living in China. This means that I pick up a lot of words on my own. For people like me, the comment about "ignoring 2-3 unimportant words" isn't really quite right. The lesson I'm on now has 49 words, 22 of which I already knew just from studying word lists and living in China (and more words that I already "sort of knew" or could have guessed). Thus, it is annoying that 9 words out of 27 words that are new for me are words that I consider highly impractical, and I know I will not use, at least for quite a while. (This is the number I subjectively counted)

I agree that it's important to learn about Chang'E etc., and names of Emperors, but I don't agree that this should be called "practical", and that this is the right place to teach it. I have done some reading about Chinese culture, and enjoyed it (in my native language), and I hope that some day my Chinese will reach a level where I can read such material in Chinese. But, for someone who lives in China, and whose language abilities are still so far from being able to actually have a conversation about different dynasties and emperors, it is mostly useless to me. When my ability is higher, my priorities will surely adjust.

It really comes down to an individual's priorities/situation. For someone living in China, a low level language textbook might be an almost trivial way to learn about the culture. Perhaps in book 5/6, more detailed discussions about culture might be great, once I have a solid foundation of vocabulary, etc...

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(Perhaps my point would be easily illustrated by a simple example: In a Chinese 101 class, on the first day, should the teacher start teaching about Chinese opera and folk dancing? Surely not, since there are many more important words, and since such a beginner will lack the ability to actually discuss such complex topics. My point is that even at, for example, level 3, we still really don't know enough to have conversations about opera... so I'd rather learn more functional words, which I can actually use.)

NPCR does offer some discussions of culture/etc. in English, in many chapters... this seems to make a lot more sense to me.

Anyways this is all really a matter of what a person's goal is while using the book, and how they are studying, etc... but I have outlined the weaknesses the book has for someone in my situation.

Edited by valikor
Make the post sound less douchey
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Surely. I do. Why not?

Because punk is something you do, not something you read about. Come on, you are interested in it, but it's fringe. Most people in China don't even know what it is. Punk rock and rock in general are certainly culture, but they're not Chinese culture. You'll be hard-pressed to find many Chinese people who could name a rock band other than Hei Bao and Cui Jian. Let alone a Chinese punk band. So why should this stuff be in a language textbook?

Does any English language textbook feature texts about black metal and planespotting? It would be hilarious, but I don't think so :mrgreen:

Sure, endless texts about Chinese opera, Chinese painting, Chinese fashion, Chinese mythology, Chinese everything might get a bit tiring. But there is a trend with language textbooks in general to introduce the society and culture together with the language. This is not unique to Chinese textbooks, and it does add a bit of flavour.

And I'm yet to find someone who wants to discuss Chinese opera with me, or meet someone who actually likes it.

They don't like it, but they can talk about it.

Let me know when you find someone in China who can discuss about Hüsker Dü :)

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But there is a trend with language textbooks in general to introduce the society and culture together with the language. This is not unique to Chinese textbooks, and it does add a bit of flavour.

Agree 100%. I hope it stays that way. It is easier to read about YOUR country and things you know in the language you are studying but you learn more and it's more fun if you read about the country whose language you learning.

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I'm with valikor on this one.

It seems that textbooks are targeted at people that "want to learn a language" in general. I think that is a mistake. I think textbooks, especially ones with "practical" in the title, should be targeted as providing as much useful, day-to-day, ability as possible, subject of course to pedagogical purposes of wanting to provide a good long-term language foundation.

For example, at the beginner level, I'd much rather learn to say "I'd like to make a hotel reservation" or "what type of meat is this?" or "Do you have a western-style toilet" IN CHINESE, than I would like to read about culture IN CHINESE. I'm not saying that learning about culture is not important; rather I'm saying that when it comes to what I want to learn to say/understand, the focus should be on what is used in day-to-day life. Cultural stuff can be read in English at no loss; in fact, it would probably be better to read about cultural stuff in ones native language, especially in the beginning, as more detail can be given.

As an additional bonus, focusing on "real life" vocabulary provides a very obvious way to have students practice talking with each other. e.g. one student takes the role of a hotel clerk, the other takes the role of a tourist.

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Yeah, they are for Chinese.

One of them is 速成汉语 (Speed-up Chinese) by the Beijing University Press. It's not too bad, but definitely below NPCR. I used it as supplementary material.

The other two are for German learners, and are of the old-school Chinese type, and not really recommended. The only reason why they're used is that there are not that many good books in German.

The points you raise (practical things first) are surely important. But it can be hard to balance this against other factors, such as keeping it interesting, keeping the HSK guidelines in mind, covering common characters (and reusing them in other words often, for reinforcement), and introducing some cultural concepts which are important for understanding the people and the language.

I've always felt that NPCR did a great job balancing all that out. Personally, it's my favourite textbook for learning any language, and I've covered literally dozens.

Apparently, not everybody agrees :conf

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Well, all of the support for NPCR at least gives me some reassurance that my studies are being guided properly...

I did finally take a look at those CDs... I find it strange that they offer me videos for everything, but no audio-only files. Still, looks decent.

EDIT: I do find it great when they have discussions about culture which DONT require what is (in my mind) useless vocabulary. For example, they discussed how Chinese people don't open gifts upon receiving them, but rather wait until later... and they talk about the reasons behind the customs of different cultures. This is great because you can learn something about culture without memorizing impractical words, and trudging through numerous dialogs about opera. Please! No more opera!!

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renzhe, i don't mean to ruffle your 唐装, but . . .

Punk rock and rock in general are certainly culture, but they're not Chinese culture.

Um, why not? If they're being created in China by Chinese people then they're Chinese culture.

So why should this stuff be in a language textbook?

For the same reason opera is: because it's Chinese culture.

Check out this from Xinyu Weng's 慢速中文 Slow Mandarin site. Granted it's not a chapter from a language textbook, but it is a short essay about Chinese rock, created for people who are interested in learning more about the language and the culture. Be sure to listen to the audio version as well.

See you in the mosh pit! :clap

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Um, why not? If they're being created in China by Chinese people then they're Chinese culture.

You totally misunderstand me. Sure, punk is slowly making its way into the Chinese consciousness, and there are Chinese bands making uniquely Chinese punk music (even if half of the members are foreign-born), but it's still an absolute fringe. Absolute fringe.

Language textbooks are the most conservative thing there is. It's simply unrealistic to expect them to write about this stuff. It's not that I'm opposed to it, it's just more likely that you'll see the Queen with a mohawk moshing to "God save the Queen" than you are to see an article about punk in an official textbook. I've never seen anything about punk and slamdancing in any textbook for any language, and it's even less likely in Chinese.

When I went to punk concerts in China, the places were filled with foreigners. You could meet more people from obscure European countries than Chinese people. It's a fringe.

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I found NPCR very practical, topics about shopping, haggling, travelling, learning Chinese experience, discussing pronunciation are plenty. The texts have enough balance between cultural and "practical" topics. There are more than enough modern situations and drills.

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