Review of ‘Chinese for Beginners: Mastering Conversational Chinese’

Chinese for Beginners: Mastering Conversational Chinese
For all you Chinese learners out there. (Image: Tuttle)

It goes without saying, China is a huge country with an ancient culture. Our curiosity calls us to explore its many inventions, its 5,000-year history, and its unique customs.

A good way to start this exploration is through language. But the Chinese language is no piece of cake. It’s hard. But there are more effective approaches one can choose.

Chinese for Beginners: Mastering Conversational Chinese offers us its approach. It has all the most common and necessary sentences for basic conversation, and includes a CD for listening and repeating. The authors provide variations in sentences for different situations.

The approach is not totally new. This isn’t the first learning Chinese book and CD combo and won’t be the last. But it does offer a cultural component that you don’t ordinarily see.

Culture notes

Culture notes are sprinkled throughout. (Tuttle)

 

The book’s main author is a teacher of Chinese to adults. Much of what the book contains was influenced by her students and what aspects of the language they wanted to work on. That may be why the authors give us not only knowledge of the language, but knowledge on traditional culture. There are cultural notes throughout the book.

Chinese idioms and phrases are presented as they relate to the topic of the chapter. It is very common for native Chinese speakers to communicate with quotes, proverbs, and sayings of wisdom. It’s these little extras that can push one’s speaking ability past the ordinary.

 

Wang Wei Poem

Tang Dynasty poetry. (Tuttle)

 

One other thing I really enjoyed about this book is the inclusion of traditional Chinese poetry. Before, I never dared approach Chinese poetry, but this book gives me the understanding to read great poems without needing a specialty text. The chapters in this book include poems from Li Bai, Wang Wei, Shao Kangjie, and Du Fu. Most of the poets are from China’s Tang Dynasty (618-907). The Tang Dynasty period is generally regarded as the high point in Chinese civilization.

And that I knew before reading the book.

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