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Studying Mandarin - Frances Bea
Studying Mandarin

These are my two favorite items so far in my learning Mandarin Chinese. I've almost completed the 30 half hour audio lessons in Pimsleur Mandarin I. I love this program. It's giving me a great confidence that I know how to pronounce everything correctly, that I can form sentences grammatically, and that this effort is entirely within my ability. I fully intend to follow this up with the Pimsleur Mandarin II and Mandarin III programs, after which I expect to have the mastery to converse... even gossip... in Mandarin. I love that I can use this program during my drives to work (short drives!) and without any commitment of otherwise productive time, and without thought about the program when I am not driving, my learning progresses. This is awesome and it feels to me like the next best thing to the automatic learning Neo got in "The Matrix". How is this less cool? Well, it does admittedly take longer, but I wasn't doing anything else with my driving time.

Read Chinese I am loving too, but I'm only just beginning. I've finished only three lessons. This book has great drills. It takes me hours to get through all the drill questions at the end of each chapter. I copy over the Chinese for each sentence and do my best to translate. These are tough sentences which use the words in interesting and almost (but not quite) idiomatic ways. By the time I decide I'm finished with a chapter and have translated all the sentences I am able to, I have a good grasp of the characters introduced. Good enough that I have already, after three lessons, noticed errors in character representation on multiple Chinese tutorial web sites. I agree with Pimsleur that it is good to have a fluency that outpaces literacy so I am trailing behind in this area, but I'm excited that when I finish this book and have learned only 300 characters I will be able to read the novella "The Lady in the Painting", which I have already purchased in an act of possible over-confidence. The next level book ("Read Chinese, book two") has two books published that can be read with the 700 characters introduced by that point. The only down-side of these books is that they use the Yale romanization standard to represent pronunciation. This is not the standard Pinyin embraced by the Chinese government and the vast majority of modern writers. I personally find Yale romanization more accurate and useful in representing the Mandarin pronunciations, but learning the standard Pinyin is a valuable skill mostly omitted by this program. (Pinyin pronunciations are given, but all exercises use Yale.)


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