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What's the best beginner's Text?


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I’m shopping for a good beginners main textbook. I’ve been reading some Amazon reviews. Can you give me opinions on (1) Beginning Chinese by DeFrancis and (2) Situational Chinese by Hong? Also, if you know a better main textbook, please mention it. Thanks.

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Not sure if you are looking for a simplified or traditional text but the two i would recommend are The New Practical Chinese Reader with accompanying textbook and cd's or Integrated Chinese. Both books have a great deal of supplemental material online due to the large number of college courses that uses these books as their beginner text. http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/7561910401/ref=pd_sbs_b_5/104-1124798-5321556?%5Fencoding=UTF8&v=glance&n=283155

and http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0887274609/sr=8-1/qid=1142151195/ref=pd_bbs_1/104-1124798-5321556?%5Fencoding=UTF8

are the amazon pages but i believe you can find them cheaper elsewhere if you plan to buy accompanying workbooks and cds

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Practical Chinese Reader can be found online, i believe

http://www.csulb.edu/~txie/pcr.html has a lot of supplement materials.

http://www.ctcfl.ox.ac.uk/PCR/PCR%20index.htm has the text of the book


Practical Chinese Reader is one of the most boring textbooks ever. it's small (as in, half of A4), printed on that disgusting yellowish paper, is completely black-and-white inside with a rare picture, and just one look at it can kill even the smallest inclination to study.

I liked the book Practical Audio-Visual Chinese


it's A4, less boring than Chinese Readers, AND it has lovely drawings, often fun, that make the book much more enjoyable. The new vocabulary list is well made, having at least one example sentence listed under every new word. good explanation for grammar, if i remember corectly.

the good/bad thing about it is, it's in traditional characters.

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Craig was refering to the New Practical Chinese Reader series published a couple of years ago to completely replace the old yellow-paper Practical Chinese Reader books from the 1970's. The New PCR would be my recommendation and they generally seem to get a lot of praise on this board. About the only thing the two series share in common is that one of the characters in the new book is the son of the two leading characters in the old one. (I'm still reeling from the revelation that Gubo ditched his girlfriend Palanka in order to marry the fit Chinese overseas student, I must have missed some exciting lessons in book 4). Although I admit it's pretty dreadful, the old PCR was my first Chinese textbook and I have a soft spot for its over-earnest students of strangely indeterminate nationality, tales of heroic peasents and total disregard for grammatical explanation.

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I liked the OLD PCR just fine. Like yingguoguy said, there are a few short comings, but the book is excellent. With only a few words, they teach you a whole lot of grammar and sentence structures in the first two volumes. If you know the first two volumes in and out, that gets you a looong way. But then, I don’t really have any comparison to any other textbooks that were my FIRST. Guess nobody does, because there can only be one that’s the first. How sad…

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Didn't mean to hurt anyones feelings.

Though it's a bit off-topic, but still: old PRC probably does teach a lot of grammar with a few words, but the problem is, that those words mainly are 复习,预习,钢笔,铅笔 and others of the kind.

I sometimes look through the books for beginners in the stores, but none seems to be nice enough. they're either on the boring side, or overly colourfull, picture/text ratio being 10/1, and pretty useless. I wish Chinese was easier to learn, otherwise it takes waaaaay too long till you can get to something more or less interesting to read.

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I'd suggest email to instructors at some top universities. Ask what text they use for intro courses.

Some titles I used or heard of

Spoken Standard Chinese/Written Standard Chinese vols 1, 2 Huang and Stimson

(I used this in the 80s, and it was used at Yale, where it was written, as recently as 6 years ago)

Integrated Chinese

Chinese Odyssey

Author: Xueying Wang, Li-chuang Chi, and Liping Feng

I haven't looked at so I have no opinion of Integrated Chinese, or Chinese Odyssey.

This would be a good project, which I don't have that much interest or time to do:

Assemble a list of texts used in years 1, 2, and 3 at various universities

Columbia, Yale, Middlebury, Seton Hall, Michigan, etc.

Noted added: Actually I've started this project, sent some emails. I'll post when I have a useful table

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Here is the detailed information of New Practical Chinese Reader for reference.

New Practical Chinese Reader Textbook (1)


New Practical Chinese Reader Textbook (2)


New Practical Chinese Reader Textbook (3)


New Practical Chinese Reader Textbook (4)


New Practical Chinese Reader Textbook (5)


Hello lau

Do you have the address of the website of the publisher of the Practical Audio-Visual Chinese?

The site given by lau shows: For further information' date=' please browse Cheng Chung Book Co.'s website:[url']http://www.ccbc.com.tw[/url], E-mail: service@ccbc.com.tw. But I cannot open it in Beijing, I think it is blocked here.

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I'm enjoying Practical Audio-Visual Chinese. I have the textbook and vcd set for level 1. I'm only on lesson 8, but I have been watching "Meteor Garden" and I am surprised at how much of the dialogues and characters I know. I think I've already learned more useful words then I did in all 3 levels of Pimsleur Mandarin.

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Wow, thanks everybody. I think I'll try to get the one recommended by Lau. Sounds like a perfect match for me. I wrote a letter to the email address, asking for info in English, because I don't read any Chinese. I'm just trying to find out which products to order, how much they cost, and how to order them.

Hello elina

I live in W-Europe. But somehow I can reach now the http://www.ccbc.com.tw ... thru/in your post. But I could not .. in the address which lau gave!!

Yeah ... I did not have any experience with blocked url ...

Thank you for your help.

I had the exact same problem, from the US. I noticed, for some reason, the first link inserts an extra period (full stop) at the end, and makes the link fail. I delete the period, and it works. Wierd.

I'm enjoying Practical Audio-Visual Chinese. I have the textbook and vcd set for level 1. I'm only on lesson 8, but I have been watching "Meteor Garden" and I am surprised at how much of the dialogues and characters I know. I think I've already learned more useful words then I did in all 3 levels of Pimsleur Mandarin.

Owshawng, so would it be correct to assume that the textbook and vcd set for level 1 is what I need to get started? How about the exercise book(s) - recommended?



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The Practical audio-visual chinese textbook I have has exercises in it. The Chinese bookstore I bought mine from said that there isn't a separate workbook, the workbook is part of the textbook. You should definitley get either the vcds or the audio tapes. I prefer the vcds since the locations and the actors actions help reinforce the dialogue for me. Plus I like seeing places in Taiwan that I've visited.

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My Practical audio-visual Chinese DID have a workbook. Though You would need someone to correct your mistakes to have any use for the workbook, because it does not have answers, as such.

as far as i know the book itself is made by National Taiwan Normal University, so maybe it's worth contacting them to find out how to get it. www.ntnu.edu.tw must have an e-mail somewhere.

The book does have a more practical vocabulary, there is nothing about hutongs and pretty places in it, and the second book has a chapter on elections, taiwan fruit export industry and safe sex.

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You should definitley get either the vcds or the audio tapes

I found a site, in English, that carries the books, audio tapes and video casettes. By vcds I assume you mean video cds? They don't have those, but I guess I don't have a problem with video casettes. Do the audio tapes cover the same material as the video? If so, I'll just get the videos.

Why it's better than f.e. Primsleur? Can someone explain it more?

I didn't get the impression that owshawng was saying this should be a replacement for pimsleur. I think he was just saying the vocabulary was more useful. Correct me if I'm wrong, but pimsleur fulfills a different function. My plan is to do pimsleur first, or concurrently with higher priority on pimsleur until it's done.

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Pimsleur I is defintiely useful for a beginner and II was also helpful especially for learning the tones, but I would not recommend Pimsleur III though. I found it to be very boring, annoying, and many of the words are useless. Pimsleur III was teaching words like Boston, San Francisco, Tai Chi, microphone. I think the big problem with Pimsleur is that the pace and number of new words per lesson doesn't increase from Level I to III so if you have the will to get through the first 1 or 2 levels you will probably have outgrown the Pimsleur method.

Practical Audio-visual Chinese teaches words that are used in everyday conversations and the words reappear in later lessons in either the dialogues or sentences when they are using the new vocabulary in an example sentence. Plus the dialogues are spoken at a more normal conversational speed then Pimsleur. The speakers also speak at different rates of speed so you can listen to different speech patterns.

I started using Practical Audio-Visual Chinese about a month ago. I liked it so much that I was using Pimsleur III only as a secondary source and I had to force myself to listen to Pimsleur a few times a week to finish the course. I should be on lesson 9 or 10 of Practical Audioi-visual Chineseby now, but I spent the weekend watching Meteor Garden. So addictive.

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Meteor Garden is a Taiwanese drama series based on a Japanese comic book. It's a soap opera set on a college campus. I was really surprised at how many of the words used in the series were also in Practical Audio-visual Chinese. That's another reason why I think Practical Audio-Visual Chinese is better then Pimsleur. Pimsleur teaches you how to pronounce the tones very well, but a lot of the phrases are more textbook like and not how people really speak.

PAVC use more of an immersion method for everyday speech. Unlike Pimsleur, the video cds are entirely spoken in mandarin. They are also much shorter then Pimsleur, around 8 to 12 minutes per lesson. The textbooks are designed so you read the dialogues in traditional chinese. The new words have a number above them to show you it is a new word and what number in that chapter's vocabulary list it is. You then turn the page and will find the next dialogue on the left page and bo po mo for both on the right page. You then have to turn the page again to find the pinyin on the left page and the english translation on the right page. This way you can't cheat and read the pinyin at the same time you're looking at the characters. After that comes the vocabulary list showing the character, pinyin and english translation with usually at least 1 sentence using the new word i it. If two characters are used to make one word the text will also separate the characters to show how to pronounce them and what their english meaning is individually. Then comes the exercise sections.

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