Software and books for learning Chinese?
May 2, 2005 3:06 PM   Subscribe

What are the best software (Windows XP) and books for learning Chinese?

I know absolutely no Chinese and I have no access to native speakers or Chinese teachers.
posted by pracowity to Writing & Language (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
A friend of mine has been learning Mandarin and lists these links on the subject.

You'll pretty quickly have to get more specific than just Chinese -- there are several different spoken languages sharing a written language (to way oversimplify.) Mandarin's the official language of the PRC and closer to a Chinese lingua franca than the others (many Chinese natives and immigrants speak it as a second language even if it's not their native tongue,) but depending on your particular purposes, you might want to pursue another.
posted by Zed_Lopez at 3:56 PM on May 2, 2005

My comments apply to learning Beijing-style Mandarin (China's "official" language);

I've used both Practical Chinese Reader and Integrated Chinese, I have to say I preferred the former, as the vocabulary in the latter tended to focus mostly on school/student life as opposed to everyday life (I was a night student and Mandarin was my only class, so I found it difficult to apply the vocabulary I was learning to my everyday life, and therefore found it difficult to retain the vocabulary).

I will say that both had fairly decent tapes. The tapes for PCR were particularly good for an introduction to pronunciation. I still haven't found a M-E / E-M dictionary that works for me, but there are lots out there, and it may just be that I am being picky.

I've also started watching the Mandarin dramas in the evenings to sharpen my recognition of words and grammar, but from your profile and question it looks like you won't find any of those locally. Downloads, maybe? Perhaps a kind Mefite in Hong Kong or Indonesia might send you some cheap DVD's?

For me, it's been too difficult to learn the spoken and written language at the same time, so I'm starting with the spoken, and studying in pinyin.
posted by vignettist at 5:16 PM on May 2, 2005

I recommend the Pimsleur Mandarin tapes. I am not good at languages, but my wife says my Mandarin has got steadily better since starting with the Pimsleur. Got the Mandarin Chinese I set at Overstock, for much less than list.

They are also available on CDs, but that doesn't work as well, because you can't back up just a little on the CD.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 6:26 PM on May 2, 2005

First, I want to know why you're learning [Mandarin]?
I studied Mandarin for three years in college, including a semester at Fudan University, Shanghai.

Although it's hard to recommend a book without knowing what you need (business trip, personal interest, etc.), I have some general advice. First, I wouldn't advise learning pinyin and characters separately. You have to learn them together, it makes reading much much easier in the long run (although if you never want to read or write go ahead and skip the characters). Second, when looking through books, there are some things to look out for. Most textbooks I've worked with have not had a glossary, which would be extremely helpful. Look for books that explain sentence construction well-- once you have that down, Chinese becomes a lot easier. Also be aware of whether you want to learn simple or complex characters. Most writing in China today is simple, but if you want to learn for an academic purpose, complex is the way to go. I learned complex first, and it was much easier for me to learn simple than my colleagues who only knew simple characters from the beginning to learn complex.

When looking at dictionaries, you want as comprehensive as possible. For E-M, you want both pinyin and characters in the entry. I have to also not yet found a good E-M/ M-E dictionary, although for more advanced Chinese study, there are some multi-volume dictionaries out there that are pretty good.
posted by weiailei at 10:50 AM on May 3, 2005

> They are also available on CDs, but that doesn't work as well, because you
> can't back up just a little on the CD.

I too am using a Pimsleur Mandarin audio course. I solved the can't-back-up-just-a-little problem by ripping the CDs to .mp3 and practicing with an mp3 player, which allows you to bump the track back a few seconds easily. But, having gotten fairly well into it now, I find that I really don't need to back up that often. The Pimsleur design strategy is lots of repetition with variation and if I don't get something the first time, I generally just wait a few minutes until the phrase comes up again.
posted by jfuller at 12:09 PM on May 3, 2005

the Rosetta Stone series is available online, and runs in your browser for a subscription fee.

You really need to be able to hear it and talk in Chinese to improve. I recommend getting some online chat software like Skype and finding some Chinese people online.

I used to talk with several teachers at a school in southern China, and they were as keen to speak English as I was to inflict my knowledge of Chinese upon them.
posted by tomble at 5:09 PM on May 3, 2005

« Older facial characteristics   |   Bonjour MontrĂ©al! Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.