Mandarin Starter Kit

All about language programs, courses, websites and other learning resources
User avatar
Random Review
Green Belt
Posts: 404
Joined: Tue Jul 21, 2015 8:41 pm
Location: UK/Spain/China
Languages: En (N), Es (int), De (pre-int), Pt (pre-int), Zh-CN (beg), El (beg), yid (beg)
Language Log: https://forum.language-learners.org/vie ... 75#p123375
x 757

Re: Mandarin Starter Kit

Postby Random Review » Sun Jun 30, 2019 6:41 am

If I can just share my personal experience, I wish I had started with (almost) FSI. I wouldn't underrate it as (almost) your first main resource.

1) Like DeFrancis and unlike most resources, it explicitly marks tone changes as they come up in the audio. Most resources don't do this and it can be very confusing when you are trying to learn the tones. There are several obligatory tone changes that are nearly always (bu, yi, 3-3 --> 2-3, etc) or quite often (third to half third before any other tone) explained in courses; what beginners might not realise is that there are a bunch of other tone changes happening (especially full tones becoming neutral tones in certain words or when in unstressed words in a sentences and second tones often becoming first tones in certain 3-tone sequences).

Presumably the logic of not teaching these tone changes in most resources is that they aren't obligatory and not all native speakers will do it for a given word. The problem with that for me is that I found it stressful and confusing trying to make my pronunciation match both the audio and what I thought the tones were. I had a lot of "aha" moments when I finally got round to seriously doing FSI. I strongly regret not doing it earlier.

2) The audio pace. Your ability to mimic fast audio may be better than mine, but FWIW my experience with resources were either that that they were easy to mimic but unnaturally slow (e.g. Pimsleur, Assimil, Intensive Spoken Chinese, etc, etc, etc) or natural but too fast for me to accurately imitate, especially because fast, natural speech will tend to include those tone changes I mentioned above (examples include Glossika and DeFrancis). FSI is the only resource I know of for Mandarin that is both just fast and natural enough to be a decent model and slow and careful enough to be imitable by a relative beginner.

FWIW:

What I actually did:

Gabriel Wyner's minimal pair deck** and FSI Phonology section --> Pimsleur 1-5, Assimil, Intensive Spoken Chinese, and Michel Thomas* (with an aborted, failed attempt at Glossika) and then finally FSI and comprehensible input. I'm taking a break from Chinese, but when I stopped a couple of months ago, I was working through DeFrancis.

What I wish I had done (and you can take this as being what I would recommend for the spoken language, based on my mistakes).

FSI phonology (but more thoroughly and adding the drills to Anki- I did eventually add some much later)
---> then Pimsleur 1 and 2 only (I gave them a good review at the time and I stand by that)
---> next the first 5 or so FSI modules and tons of comprehensible input (as of current date, you can PM me if you want some advice on finding the latter, because it's not actually easy)
---> De Francis or Glossika and start to learn to read

* I'm a big fan of Michel Thomas, but this course does not successfully follow his method and is also full of errors. I hate to say it, because Harold Goodman seems a lovely guy, but I hated this course and personally thought it was awful. If you like the Michel Thomas method of teaching, the nearest current equivalent is Paul Nobel (I prefer Michel Thomas's method, but that is not available for Mandarin and actually Noble's course was not half bad- kind of like Michel Thomas and Pimsluer had a love child). Mihalis of languagetransfer had plans to release a Mandarin course that I'm sure will be pretty epic if he does it; but that could be years away if at all.

** This was a really good idea, but there aren't enough examples and some of the examples contain audio with different tones from what is marked in the pinyin (as I confirmed by asking natives what they heard), due to dialect and some of the tone changes I mentioned above. If you know someone who speaks Standard Chinese and can help you fix it, it's a good resource and reasonably priced.
6 x
German input 100 hours by 30-06: 4 / 100
Spanish input 200 hours by 30-06: 0 / 200
German study 50 hours by 30-06: 3 / 100
Spanish study 200 hours by 30-06: 0 / 200
Spanish conversation 100 hours by 30-06: 0 / 100

User avatar
Jean-Luc
Yellow Belt
Posts: 95
Joined: Tue Feb 28, 2017 9:12 am
Location: Europe
Languages: French (N), English & German (C), Italien & Spanish (B), Russian (A) Chinese & others (beginner)
x 96
Contact:

Re: Mandarin Starter Kit

Postby Jean-Luc » Sun Jun 30, 2019 7:21 am

My tools:

To start with
App "les petits mandarins" (soon in English) with writing, pronunciation, grammar,... Rule one, avoiding Pinyin! This app doesn't use Pinyin at first.
https://labdeslangues.blog/2018/10/20/les-petits-mandarins-une-application-dans-la-cour-des-grands/
Tandem course with a Chinese neighbour (conversational using Assimil)
Chinese pad for writing
https://labdeslangues.blog/2018/09/26/language-practice-pad-zen/
Dictionaries and supports online with Chine info (a lot of great tools)
https://labdeslangues.blog/2019/05/17/pour-ceux-qui-aiment-chiner/
To have fun
Lingodeer
https://labdeslangues.blog/2019/04/07/lingodeer-quand-on-est-aux-abois-en-langue/
Hello Chinese
https://labdeslangues.blog/2019/05/14/le-chinois-facile-amusant/
Written Chinese
https://labdeslangues.blog/2017/10/25/lecriture-chinoise-facile/
Viki with Chinese films
Later
Learn with Oliver flashcard
Yabla or fluentU for video
Attachments
mandarin-pad-2.jpg
mandarin-pad-2.jpg (159.12 KiB) Viewed 288 times
Last edited by Jean-Luc on Mon Jul 01, 2019 8:12 am, edited 2 times in total.
2 x

User avatar
MorkTheFiddle
Brown Belt
Posts: 1040
Joined: Sat Jul 18, 2015 8:59 pm
Location: usa
Languages: English (N). Read (only) French and Spanish. Studying Ancient Greek, aiming for mastery by 2424. Studying a bit of Latin and Japanese. Once studied Old Norse. Dabbled in Catalan, Provençal and Italian.
Language Log: https://forum.language-learners.org/vie ... 11#p133911
x 1707

Re: Mandarin Starter Kit

Postby MorkTheFiddle » Sun Jun 30, 2019 9:52 pm

Random Review wrote:If I can just share my personal experience, I wish I had started with (almost) FSI. I wouldn't underrate it as (almost) your first main resource.

Thank your for taking the time to list the details of your recommendation. 8-) Still looking through and mulling over the suggestions members have given me so far, but I can say I reserved a copy of my library's Pimsleur 1. Soon I will take up your offer of helping me find native materials.
0 x
Tu sabes cuando sales pero no sabes cuando regresas.

User avatar
MorkTheFiddle
Brown Belt
Posts: 1040
Joined: Sat Jul 18, 2015 8:59 pm
Location: usa
Languages: English (N). Read (only) French and Spanish. Studying Ancient Greek, aiming for mastery by 2424. Studying a bit of Latin and Japanese. Once studied Old Norse. Dabbled in Catalan, Provençal and Italian.
Language Log: https://forum.language-learners.org/vie ... 11#p133911
x 1707

Re: Mandarin Starter Kit

Postby MorkTheFiddle » Sun Jun 30, 2019 9:58 pm

Jean-Luc wrote:My tools:
To start with
App "les petits mandarins" (soon in English) with writing, pronunciation, grammar,... Rule one, avoiding Pinyin! This app doesn't use Pinyin at first.
Tandem course with a Chinese neighbour (conversational using Assimil)
Chinese pad for writing
Dictionaries and supports online with Chine info (a lot of great tools)
To have fun
Lingodeer
Hello Chinese
Written Chinese
Viki with Chinese films

Thanks for listing all these resources. Lately I made a new subfolder for Mandarin in my Bookmarks, and yours have now taken their place in it.
0 x
Tu sabes cuando sales pero no sabes cuando regresas.

David1917
Green Belt
Posts: 454
Joined: Mon Nov 06, 2017 2:36 am
Languages: English (N), Spanish, Russian, Chinese, Persian, German, French, Old English, Hindi, Arabic, Cornish
x 991

Re: Mandarin Starter Kit

Postby David1917 » Sun Jun 30, 2019 10:24 pm

Step 1 when learning Mandarin: Be not afraid.
Step 2: Materials:

McNaughton's Reading & Writing Chinese is a goldmine if the characters are part of the allure.

Learn to use pinyin, but don't rely on it. I also would suggest avoiding it until you've done some audio work. That way, you're not bogged down with all the obtuse explanations of what each letter sort of sounds like and how to sort of make each tone, not to mention this "tone sandhi" thing which somehow gets its own scary category when it's just basic prosody - something you'll learn in every language.

I wrote more here about why I think it would be worth investing in the introductory subscription to Rosetta Stone (or if you have it free through uni/work, then by all means do that.)

I'd have to know more about your learning style and goals to make specific recommendations, but as others have mentioned since you have DeFrancis, use it. It's a phenomenal reader. The back of Volume 2 has reading sections in simplified as well, so you get both (albeit not as much). One good thing to do would be to take the 25-30 Illustrative Sentences in each chapter, the only thing with full translations in the book, and convert them to an Anki deck in simplified characters.

Since you did mention wanting a reader, the New Practical Reader series is like, pretty good, but it's definitely more of a classroom textbook (that is, many drills suggest you and your partner taking turns with the pattern conversations, etc.) but regardless there are decent dialogues, reading passages, and ample pattern drills - all in simplified.

Apart from that, I should point out there are 2 Colloquials by Routledge - one that is uniform with the rest of the Colloquial series (I think it mostly sucks) and one by Pollard and T'ung, which I've heard only good things about, though you have to get the characters in a separate book. I'd consider the latter. The Teach Yourself offering is surprisingly good.
3 x

User avatar
MorkTheFiddle
Brown Belt
Posts: 1040
Joined: Sat Jul 18, 2015 8:59 pm
Location: usa
Languages: English (N). Read (only) French and Spanish. Studying Ancient Greek, aiming for mastery by 2424. Studying a bit of Latin and Japanese. Once studied Old Norse. Dabbled in Catalan, Provençal and Italian.
Language Log: https://forum.language-learners.org/vie ... 11#p133911
x 1707

Re: Mandarin Starter Kit

Postby MorkTheFiddle » Sun Jun 30, 2019 11:24 pm

David1917 wrote:Step 1 when learning Mandarin: Be not afraid.
:D
I appreciate your taking the time to add to possible resources. I did see your remarks about Rosetta. The only disappointment I had with Rosetta when I used it to refurbish my German was that it did not take me as far as I liked/expected. I do intend to give it a look for Mandarin, though.Thanks.
0 x
Tu sabes cuando sales pero no sabes cuando regresas.

David1917
Green Belt
Posts: 454
Joined: Mon Nov 06, 2017 2:36 am
Languages: English (N), Spanish, Russian, Chinese, Persian, German, French, Old English, Hindi, Arabic, Cornish
x 991

Re: Mandarin Starter Kit

Postby David1917 » Mon Jul 01, 2019 1:05 am

MorkTheFiddle wrote:
David1917 wrote:Step 1 when learning Mandarin: Be not afraid.
:D
I appreciate your taking the time to add to possible resources. I did see your remarks about Rosetta. The only disappointment I had with Rosetta when I used it to refurbish my German was that it did not take me as far as I liked/expected. I do intend to give it a look for Mandarin, though.Thanks.


Yeah, it doesn't get to all the tenses in the 5 levels of German, and some of the vocab it chooses to teach is weird. The Chinese later levels do have great reading practice (as in, the prompt will be for you to read a sentence without hearing it first), but the voice recordings are absurd. Like, one, word, at, a, time. Like I said though, I'd just do the 1 month purchase or whatever so you can get the pronunciation down and move on.
1 x

User avatar
MorkTheFiddle
Brown Belt
Posts: 1040
Joined: Sat Jul 18, 2015 8:59 pm
Location: usa
Languages: English (N). Read (only) French and Spanish. Studying Ancient Greek, aiming for mastery by 2424. Studying a bit of Latin and Japanese. Once studied Old Norse. Dabbled in Catalan, Provençal and Italian.
Language Log: https://forum.language-learners.org/vie ... 11#p133911
x 1707

Re: Mandarin Starter Kit

Postby MorkTheFiddle » Tue Jul 02, 2019 2:21 am

David1917 wrote:
MorkTheFiddle wrote:
David1917 wrote:Step 1 when learning Mandarin: Be not afraid.
:D
I appreciate your taking the time to add to possible resources. I did see your remarks about Rosetta. The only disappointment I had with Rosetta when I used it to refurbish my German was that it did not take me as far as I liked/expected. I do intend to give it a look for Mandarin, though.Thanks.


Yeah, it doesn't get to all the tenses in the 5 levels of German, and some of the vocab it chooses to teach is weird. The Chinese later levels do have great reading practice (as in, the prompt will be for you to read a sentence without hearing it first), but the voice recordings are absurd. Like, one, word, at, a, time. Like I said though, I'd just do the 1 month purchase or whatever so you can get the pronunciation down and move on.

Good advice, I think. Thanks for the tip.
0 x
Tu sabes cuando sales pero no sabes cuando regresas.


Return to “Language Programs and Resources”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest