Mandarin Starter Kit

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MorkTheFiddle
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Mandarin Starter Kit

Postby MorkTheFiddle » Fri Jun 28, 2019 12:24 am

What do I need to get started with Mandarin?
Start with writing. Should I learn pinyin first? Some say yes, some argue against it. If I learn pinyin, how do I use it with Windows 10 and Word and LibreOffice, or with Linux and LibreOffice?
Or should I learn Zhuyin instead?
And do I go with modern or with traditional pinyin, Zhuyin or characters?
Is there a kind of Mandarin todoku, a set of graded readers starting from scratch?
I want to start off hearing the language spoken at street speed, obviously just a few words at a time. What is a good source?
Mandarin seems like a great candidate for L-R. How can I find out if there is a faithful translation + audiobook of Moby Dick? What do the words Moby and Dick look like in Mandarin (characters, pinyin, traditional, or modern)? What does "Call me Ismael" look like?
There is gBoard for my android phone, but the names of the keyboards come at the end of a list and, not knowing Mandarin, I have no idea which keyboard is which. :? Any help here?
For the record, I recently bought John DeFrancis' set of texts for Beginning Chinese. After industrious study for a couple of weeks, I now recognize the characters for man/person, knife, and power. :D
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Re: Mandarin Starter Kit

Postby iguanamon » Fri Jun 28, 2019 1:17 am

Why not start at the beginning with Genesis? I found an online version of the Bible in pinyin, with characters and mouse over English translation- and it has audio as well. I always thought I'd use it if I ever set out to learn Mandarin one day.

As a backsliding Baptist, I am not pushing religion, but it did give me a familiarity with the OT. I consider Genesis to have fairly simple language and common vocabulary. I have no idea how up to date this version is, but I love being able to mouse over and have a literal English translation come up for something with which I am quite familiar.

Combined with a course it could be a way for me to use my multi-track approach... or maybe I'm barking up the wrong tree.

1 Qǐchū起初shén神chuàngzào创造tiāndì天地。
2 De地shì是kōngxū空虚hùndùn混沌。Yuān渊miàn面hēi’àn黑暗。Shén神de的líng灵yùnxíng运行zài在shuǐmiàn水面shàng上。
3 Shén神shuō说,yàoyǒu要有guāng光,jiù就yǒu有le了guāng光。
4 Shén神kàn看guāngshì光是hǎode好的,jiù就bǎ把guāng光àn暗fēnkāi分开le了。
5 Shén神chēng称guāng光wéi为zhòu昼,chēng称àn暗wéi为yè夜。Yǒu有wǎnshang晚上,yǒu有zǎochén早晨,zhè这shì是tóu头yī一rì日。


Imagine it with mouse over definitions in English, audio and parallel text.
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Re: Mandarin Starter Kit

Postby samothin » Fri Jun 28, 2019 3:02 am

The best approach in my opinion (without considering the politics etc)

1. Start with FSI + HSK1-3 word lists
2. Pinyin + Simplified. More resources. Unless there's personal connection to Taiwan, then use Zhuyin + Traditional
3. Pinyin is essential in modern Chinese. You need it to type etc. People usually caution others not to let it become a crutch and delay your characters learning.
4. Windows 10 has language preferences option at the taskbar
5. There's a Mandarin Companion Reader which has great reviews. I've never used them personally (budget issue)
6. FSI. The biggest hurdle in listening at the beginning is you can't parse the language well.
7. For dialogues + transcript + translation, check out hanyufanting.com
8. Select Chinese (Simplified). If it's in Chinese, select 简体中文 (中国). If you're looking for Traditional, select 繁体中文 (台湾).
9. Good luck and have fun!
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Re: Mandarin Starter Kit

Postby Ser » Fri Jun 28, 2019 4:26 am

I'm not such a fan of FSI, and I found other coursebooks were okay. Colloquial Chinese 1 and 2 was okay, and the recordings did reach normal (fast) speed by around the 3rd unit of the 2nd volume. Contemporary Chinese was also okay, if a little too cheesy. So were Yong Ho's rather raw, grammar-happy books...

Windows 10 comes with Chinese pinyin input. Just go to the language settings in the Control Panel, as you do with other languages. (Samothin mentioned the taskbar, but the language settings do not appear there by default if you only have one language.)

Moby Dick is called bái jīng 'The White Whale' in Chinese (simplified: 白鲸, traditional: 白鯨). I haven't looked into many translations of the book, but I found one online made in China who knows when by who knows who, and it actually skips some lines, including the classic "Call me Ishmael"! It also skips the third line ("It is a way I have of driving off the spleen and regulating the circulation."), and presumably various others.
iguanamon wrote:
1 Qǐchū起初shén神chuàngzào创造tiāndì天地。
2 De地shì是kōngxū空虚hùndùn混沌。Yuān渊miàn面hēi’àn黑暗。Shén神de的líng灵yùnxíng运行zài在shuǐmiàn水面shàng上。
3 Shén神shuō说,yàoyǒu要有guāng光,jiù就yǒu有le了guāng光。
4 Shén神kàn看guāngshì光是hǎode好的,jiù就bǎ把guāng光àn暗fēnkāi分开le了。
5 Shén神chēng称guāng光wéi为zhòu昼,chēng称àn暗wéi为yè夜。Yǒu有wǎnshang晚上,yǒu有zǎochén早晨,zhè这shì是tóu头yī一rì日。


Imagine it with mouse over definitions in English, audio and parallel text.

A resource of this type could be very nice and useful, but I would not recommend this particular one. This website you linked to has had all data automatically parsed and generated, with no further editing, which means there's lots of mistakes. In verse 2, 地 should be "dì", not "de". In verse 4, 光是 'only' should be separated as 光 'light' and 是 'be'. In verse 5, 头 tóu is glossed as 'head' where it should be 'end'...
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Re: Mandarin Starter Kit

Postby rdearman » Fri Jun 28, 2019 12:30 pm

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Re: Mandarin Starter Kit

Postby Polish Paralysis » Fri Jun 28, 2019 1:27 pm

I highly recommend you check out Scott Young's method of learning Chinese (https://www.scotthyoung.com/blog/myproj ... english-2/). It is what I used and I can safely say that I was able to comfortably chat to my co-workers in Chinese by the end of 6 months. Granted I worked in a Chinese hotel during that time and slept, ate and drank Chinese, I still felt that the method was a good one.

In short it consisted of learning thousands of sentences using anki (I guess Glossika could be a good substitute). I also recommend Chinesepod. I was more interested in speaking than being able to read and write, so I chose to forego the learning of characters because those can be easily tagged on at a later stage.

As far as pronunciation goes I highly recommend you try Vladimir Skultety's approach to learning Chinese with a sound only approach (https://www.foreverastudent.com/2011/10 ... -only.html). Luca Lampariello makes a similar argument about the "absurdity" of learning one tone at a time (my word not his).

Good luck

Edited to include links
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Re: Mandarin Starter Kit

Postby wanqu » Fri Jun 28, 2019 9:38 pm

I suggest you to learn speaking Mandarin first. This is the best way and the most effective way to learn it. I just set up a blog for Mandarin learners. If you follow me to learn a sentence a day, I promise you will communicate freely with Chinese in one year. I am from Beijing, and speak pure Mandarin. Believe it or not, try it and see if it's true: https://learn-to-speak-mandarin.blog/
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Re: Mandarin Starter Kit

Postby MorkTheFiddle » Sat Jun 29, 2019 12:39 am

Wow! Music to my ears! I feel like a kid at Christmas. Thanks to all for taking the time to put together your advice and post it here. Anybody else out there should feel free to add your 2 cents, as well.
I know this is not going to be a walk in the park, but now I have a path, or several paths.

iguanamon wrote:Why not start at the beginning with Genesis? I found an online version of the Bible in pinyin, with characters and mouse over English translation- and it has audio as well. I always thought I'd use it if I ever set out to learn Mandarin one day.
As a backsliding Baptist, I am not pushing religion, but it did give me a familiarity with the OT. I consider Genesis to have fairly simple language and common vocabulary. I have no idea how up to date this version is, but I love being able to mouse over and have a literal English translation come up for something with which I am quite familiar.
Combined with a course it could be a way for me to use my multi-track approach... or maybe I'm barking up the wrong tree.
1 Qǐchū起初shén神chuàngzào创造tiāndì天地。....

Imagine it with mouse over definitions in English, audio and parallel text.

As a backslid Presbyterian, I hear you. Genesis is oh so familiar with lots of interesting stories. I look forward to seeing how Chinese works with them.

samothin wrote:The best approach in my opinion (without considering the politics etc)

1. Start with FSI + HSK1-3 word lists
2. Pinyin + Simplified. More resources. Unless there's personal connection to Taiwan, then use Zhuyin + Traditional
3. Pinyin is essential in modern Chinese. You need it to type etc. People usually caution others not to let it become a crutch and delay your characters learning.
4. Windows 10 has language preferences option at the taskbar
5. There's a Mandarin Companion Reader which has great reviews. I've never used them personally (budget issue)
6. FSI. The biggest hurdle in listening at the beginning is you can't parse the language well.
7. For dialogues + transcript + translation, check out hanyufanting.com
8. Select Chinese (Simplified). If it's in Chinese, select 简体中文 (中国). If you're looking for Traditional, select 繁体中文 (台湾).
9. Good luck and have fun!

I am definitely going with pinyin, then. Probably I won' t let it be a crutch. Much of the allure of Mandarin for me is the characters, just as much of the allure of Ancient Greek is the shape of the letters of the alphabet. I will give a look to both Mandarin Companion Reader and Hanyufanting.com. The help deciphering 简体中文 (中国)

Ser wrote:I'm not such a fan of FSI, and I found other coursebooks were okay. Colloquial Chinese 1 and 2 was okay, and the recordings did reach normal (fast) speed by around the 3rd unit of the 2nd volume. Contemporary Chinese was also okay, if a little too cheesy. So were Yong Ho's rather raw, grammar-happy books...

Windows 10 comes with Chinese pinyin input. Just go to the language settings in the Control Panel, as you do with other languages. (Samothin mentioned the taskbar, but the language settings do not appear there by default if you only have one language.)

Moby Dick is called bái jīng 'The White Whale' in Chinese (simplified: 白鲸, traditional: 白鯨). I haven't looked into many translations of the book, but I found one online made in China who knows when by who knows who, and it actually skips some lines, including the classic "Call me Ishmael"! It also skips the third line ("It is a way I have of driving off the spleen and regulating the circulation."), and presumably various others.


A resource of this type (re Iguanamon) could be very nice and useful, but I would not recommend this particular one. This website you linked to has had all data automatically parsed and generated, with no further editing, which means there's lots of mistakes. In verse 2, 地 should be "dì", not "de". In verse 4, 光是 'only' should be separated as 光 'light' and 是 'be'. In verse 5, 头 tóu is glossed as 'head' where it should be 'end'...

I appreciate the reference to simplified: 白鲸, traditional: 白鯨, which will be my first Mandarin book title learned. Also thanks for the update about Genesis.

rdearman wrote:http://how-to-learn-any-language.com/forum/forum_posts.asp?TID=39014&PN=1

http://how-to-learn-any-language.com/fo ... ?TID=39104

https://forum.language-learners.org/vie ... f=15&t=695

There is a lot of good advice in there which I mostly didn't use. I would also recommend HelloCHinese App.


I already downloaded HelloChinese due to a reference in your log. And I know the threads you give will be very helpful.

Polish Paralysis wrote:I highly recommend you check out Scott Young's method of learning Chinese (https://www.scotthyoung.com/blog/myproj ... english-2/). It is what I used and I can safely say that I was able to comfortably chat to my co-workers in Chinese by the end of 6 months. Granted I worked in a Chinese hotel during that time and slept, ate and drank Chinese, I still felt that the method was a good one.

In short it consisted of learning thousands of sentences using anki (I guess Glossika could be a good substitute). I also recommend Chinesepod. I was more interested in speaking than being able to read and write, so I chose to forego the learning of characters because those can be easily tagged on at a later stage.

As far as pronunciation goes I highly recommend you try Vladimir Skultety's approach to learning Chinese with a sound only approach (https://www.foreverastudent.com/2011/10 ... -only.html). Luca Lampariello makes a similar argument about the "absurdity" of learning one tone at a time (my word not his).

Good luck

Edited to include links

I will scout out all these resources. I took a look at ChinesePod a couple of weeks ago, but I did not know what I was doing, so I' ll definitely look again.
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Re: Mandarin Starter Kit

Postby Flickserve » Sat Jun 29, 2019 1:17 am

MorkTheFiddle wrote:What do I need to get started with Mandarin?
Start with writing. Should I learn pinyin first? Some say yes, some argue against it. If I learn pinyin, how do I use it with Windows 10 and Word and LibreOffice, or with Linux and LibreOffice?
Or should I learn Zhuyin instead?
And do I go with modern or with traditional pinyin, Zhuyin or characters?
Is there a kind of Mandarin todoku, a set of graded readers starting from scratch?
I want to start off hearing the language spoken at street speed, obviously just a few words at a time. What is a good source?
Mandarin seems like a great candidate for L-R. How can I find out if there is a faithful translation + audiobook of Moby Dick? What do the words Moby and Dick look like in Mandarin (characters, pinyin, traditional, or modern)? What does "Call me Ismael" look like?
There is gBoard for my android phone, but the names of the keyboards come at the end of a list and, not knowing Mandarin, I have no idea which keyboard is which. :? Any help here?
For the record, I recently bought John DeFrancis' set of texts for Beginning Chinese. After industrious study for a couple of weeks, I now recognize the characters for man/person, knife, and power. :D


You already have DeFrancis. The audio is available on iTunes. That’s a good start.

What is modern and traditional pinyin? First time I heard of this.
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MorkTheFiddle
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Re: Mandarin Starter Kit

Postby MorkTheFiddle » Sat Jun 29, 2019 11:21 pm

Flickserve wrote:You already have DeFrancis. The audio is available on iTunes. That’s a good start.

What is modern and traditional pinyin? First time I heard of this.

Thanks for the reminder about iTunes.
"Modern" and "Traditional" pinyin. I suspect I misread or misunderstood directions for downloading Mandarin for Windows. Not sure. :oops:
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