Best book for learning spoken mandarin?

i don’t want to learn any of those chicken scratches, so what’s the best book I can use to help with my spoken? it would be supplementing the pimsleur mandarin series, although i think that clarification won’t make any difference…

The Practical Audio Visual course (available at many fine bookstores) is pretty good. However, by the second book you’re pretty much required to be able to read some of those “chicken scratches” as you so charmingly refer to them. :astonished:

Thanks for your advice! Any books without that requirement would be far more appealing? Got any other suggestions?


Hunt up an old copy of DeFrancis’ Chinese series. It comes in separate volumes: the blue book for characters, the green book for Romanization only.

Plus, DeFrancis leans heavily on audio-visual approach, which was big in the 60s. For self-learning, DeFrancis is great – lots of repetition of basic patterns. I’ve never met a learner who started with DeFrancis who had any trouble with grammar.

Expensive but probably worth if it your alternative is a poorly-designed text focusing on writing. DeFrancis is a classic. Just don’t believe him about saying “jiu3yang” to people you’re just met, unless they’re really super-famous. :smiley:


Expensive but probably worth if it your alternative is a poorly-designed text focusing on writing. [/quote]

Are you saying that the ShiDa PA-V books are this?


Expensive but probably worth if it your alternative is a poorly-designed text focusing on writing. [/quote]

Are you saying that the Shi-Da PA-V books are this?[/quote]

Dunno if they’re writing-focused (well, they are since they require characters, I guess) but I can’t imagine anyone denying that they are poorly designed. Repetition? What’s that??

Anyway, I’ve commented before on the AV-C series on this board. Haven’t changed my mind much since then. :smiley:

Anyway, I’ve commented before on the AV-C series on this board. Haven’t changed my mind much since then. :smiley:[/quote]

I think you are just grumpy that back when you started Chinese there was no AVC-series around and you had to learn Chinese the hard way. You know, folk stories, Tang poems and all that stuff.
And today when you see a young and hopeful picking up AVC, you swing your cane at him and mutter “all that new crap ain’t no good. back in my days we learned our characters from oracle bones and the only repetition we got was the daily dose of slaps to the back of our heads when we messed up our tones”. :smiley:

Back to topic, AVC is a good start I think, but if you really don’t want to learn any characters just use the first book and maybe some of the second.

I may be grumpy, but I know something about language acquisition and what makes a textbook learner-friendly. AVC lacks many of those features, prime among them being interesting material, repetition of key elements, controlled introduction of controlled quantities of vocab, etc. etc. I could go on and on. Oh, I already have, elsewhere. :smiley:

Yeah, swing that cane baby, WOHOOOOO! :smiley:

You know you love it…

In defense of the A/V series (that I’ve used for some time now), I’d like to dispute some of your claims about the books.

You wrote [quote]AVC lacks[/quote]

I think they are very interesting, especially the books after book one. The books include discussions on Taiwan life, history and politics. Materials are presented in a variety of interesting ways. There are interesting dialogues, little handwritten letters and comic strips throughout the books.

They absolutely do. New vocab items appear in a chapter’s main text (Ke4wen2) and pratice exercises multiple times. They appear in subsequent chapters’ materials too. I’ve found the repitition of elements to be more than sufficient for me to acheive mastery of new vocab items easily.

Once again, yes they do. The books teach a set number of new items in a chapter, based around the topic in the text. New vocabs are presented in “high frequency first style arrangement.” The earlier chapters of the first book present extremely common and useful words with little wasted (except maybe some old and mainland useages as the author of the first book is both old and from the mainland). By the end of the first book in the series, the student should be conversant at a basic level because most of the highest frequency words and structures have already been covered.

I’m at best described as an effort minimalizer. These books are turning me into a pretty good reader of the language as well as a speaker with very little effort (okay, they are not my only resource, but one I have used a lot). Thta ought to tell you the books aren’t half bad.

this is all well and good but can I get some recommendations for non reading Chinese? from what I understand even book one contains some reading, and if I wanted to continue the series I would be screwed.
that book the cane swinger recommends is reviewed by amazon as hopelessly out of touch.
anything else?
thanks alot guys, i might buy practical av based on this argument , and I know anecdotal evidence is next to useless :slight_smile:


Book one has everyhing in Pinyin and is enough to get you to a good level of speaking (I think). I met a guy that was pretty damn fluent and only used the Pimsluer CDs (actually, I think he just used level 1 of 3).

Just start studying something. Don’t waste your time looking for the “perfect” book/learning technique. I have a shelf full of Chinese learning books and dictionaries and I wouldn’t recommend any one of them by theirself (I have the whole A/V series as well).

One thing about the A/V series is they have VCDs that go with them. I converted the book 1 VCDs to a format that’d work on my Palm and watched them whenever I was out.

There’s a million ways to go about tackling this language. Find some that works for you.

May I recommend Pimsleur and Rosetta Stone? These are programs for PC. Pimsleur is strictly audio. Rosetta stone is Audio/visual, but can be set to Hanyu pinyin. Both are pretty good and will work on the skills you seem to want. Beyond that, I’d recommend speaking and listening practice till the cows come home. Not sure how useful books are, considering you have no interest in the reading component (recognition can be learned at almost the same rate as litening speaking).