Monday, April 02, 2007

Basic resources for learning Chinese

I mentioned to a fellow blogger who is learning Mandarin that I would pass on the language resources I've found useful, but it seems sensible to make this list available to all.

I have a two hour lesson once per week, when work allows, and we use a book called Chinese Conversation 301. I have little to compare this book to but my impressions are that although it covers all the grammar needed and introduces about 15 new words per lesson, it's a bit drier that it needs to be. I tend to be rather fickle about these things and so without discipline I would simply flick from book to book, being a little dissatisfied with them all.

[Addition: Kevin mentioned his more extensive list of resources in the comments, which are definitely worth checking out here]

I would definitely advise getting a book on Chinese radicals if you're going to learn to read and/or write. A great deal of the complexity of the written language can be broken down when you understand the roots of many words and learning the 100 or so most often used radicals will give a good boost to the seemingly impossible task of learning characters. I have this book, and have found it to be very useful.

I haven't bought any yet but there are many kids books with lots of pictures of objects, animals, foods etc. with the Pinyin written by them. This is probably also a very good source for learning vocab by getting a rather more colourful image in your head.

ZDT is the best flashcard program I've found which allows the user to define several different modes to test yourself on Pinyin, English definitions and Hanzi (characters). There are also audio plugins so you can hear the words read by a Chinese reader. Importantly the format allows you to use word lists from several sources and there are a few which are well worth using, certainly for beginners, here.

Included in the word lists above is mention of the Pimsleur language lessons which I still use regularly and these are probably my best and, importantly, most hassle-free resource. The lessons are half and hour each and highly repetitive. I try and get through 5 or 6 of these lessons a week, though it wouldn't be a stretch to do much more as I potter around the flat or walk to work. I imagine this is the sort of thing you can get in most libraries in the UK and, I guess, in the US.

The Chinese pod lessons are also a useful resource though Pimsleur has taken over on the i-pod for me.

For Chinese dictionaries online I tend to use mostly because it has a useful interface for understanding the links between and roots of words. If it's not in this rather small dictionary then it usually gives an option to check several other dictionaries.

I added Laowai Chinese to my feed reader as soon as it started and although he tends not to post very frequently, this blog has had many interesting articles on different aspects of learning the language and I recommend taking a look and picking up a few words there.

Any other invaluable resources are welcomed in the comments section!


Anonymous said...

It's all Greek to me.

Mystic Bailey has finally got a job in the Smoke and moved himself to Clapham South the weekend before last. Sharing a nice little flat with a Canadian guy also called Dan. I popped over for beers last week - great local pub.

Also, had flashbacks to Shap at the weekend as Buzz and I took the bikes down to the Surrey countryside for a weekend ride. Some proper hills. Some tired legs. Some good fun.

Unknown said...

Good news indeed about Dan, pleased he's found his feet in the big city. I look forward to paying a visit when I'm anywhere nearby.

Ah, memories of Shap still visit me late at night on occasion. The image of Dan slowing down in the howling gale, finally coming to a complete halt, still standing on his bike, and falling over cartoon style are now eternally etched in my mind. Such pain and exhaustion, yet somehow I miss it. I still have distant thoughts of a US trip planted for whenever I have a couple of spare months.

Anonymous said...

This famous falling over story has been removed from my memory at sum point but I'm glad it still gives you guys a chuckle.

I am now at work but drinking beer at the same time. I like it here.

Unknown said...

Seeing as you appeared to be in a condition of stasis at the time I shall put your lack of memory down to the fact that you were actually frozen solid.

I am not drinking beer but a combination of green tea and a Chinese cold remedy. Beer sounds like a good option though.

Chat when you have your broadband up and running.


Anonymous said...

I can't resist the urge to blog pimp, Chinese Study Resources.

Anonymous said...

You can find free Chinese teachers on Beijing Online School of Chinese Language

Anonymous said...

I Love Chinese Free Magazine is also a good site to learn chinese

Learn - Chinese said...

There are some free podcast mp3 Chinese lessons designed by Shanghai East Radio Station on Learn Mandarin. You can try.

William Smith said...

There is a Chinese Practice Corner for foreigners to learn Chinese and Practice Chinese. I met and made some Chinese friends when I visited Beijing last time. The corner is in a bar and they hold Chinese Learning party every evening. The bar is located in San Li Tun of Chao Yang and very close to American Embassy and the other countries embassies. You can ask taxi driver where is San Li Tun and most of drivers and Beijing people know there. Very interesting place to learn mandarin. If you cannot visit Beijing, you also can join from their website 'Voice Connecting China'. You can join party online through phone call or skype.