Beginner’s Chinese with 2 Audio CDs (Second Edition)
April 29, 2013
Author Yong Ho
Publisher Hippocrene Books
Publication Date 2010
Skill Level Beginner
This book by Yong Ho is for beginners, but I decided I needed to do a bunch of Pimsleur Chinese audio lessons first, before starting it, and I’m glad I did. Despite its inviting name, Beginner’s Chinese would have been too hard for me if I hadn’t already mastered at least some Mandarin.
Beginner’s Chinese became even more accessible once I had completed the first couple of levels of Fluenz Mandarin, a multimedia application that focuses heavily on pinyin writing skills.
Once I acquired a little Chinese background, I really ended up liking this book, for a number of reasons.
First, examples are provided in both Chinese characters and in pinyin, allowing students who know only pinyin to focus on that, while permitting those who are learning the characters to benefit on a more advanced level. It is not easy to set up dual-option structures like this, and for achieving it so elegantly, I commend Mr. Ho. Since I don’t know the Chinese characters, I used the pinyin, but it was nice to have the Chinese loitering in the background, giving me a goal for the future.
The book’s 10 chapters are devoted to topics such as “Places,” “Family,” “Time,” “Travel,” and “Weather,” and alongside the grammar content, they include brief but thoughtful essays providing cultural context for the reader’s language studies. The grammatical explanations are well-paced, and the exercises are effective and relevant. Mr. Ho also includes useful information on resources for further study.
Unlike many language-learning books these days, the content is not in any way dumbed down. The grammar content is clear but demanding.
Some not terribly significant gripes: there are too many exercises that are subjective, where you respond in terms of your own experience, and that therefore have no answers. I like exercises to have answers in the back, since I do not live with a Chinese teacher who can check what I have done!
In addition, I often found myself hunting through the pages of Beginner’s Chinese for vocabulary that I knew had been included in the text, somewhere, but that for some reason didn’t make it into the glossary. Besides feeling incomplete, the glossary doesn’t offer an English-to-Chinese option; instead it goes only from Chinese to English. I feel it should have both.
I didn’t use the two accompanying CDs (because I was already spending so much time on Pimsleur’s audio lessons), but I see that they offer practice with the sounds and tones of Chinese.
Should you make your way through Beginner’s Chinese, the author also wrote a successor: Intermediate Chinese with Audio CD.