Mandarin Resources — DeFrancis and Huang/Stimson

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Mandarin Resources — DeFrancis and Huang/Stimson

Postby n_j_f » Mon Jan 14, 2019 11:49 am

Hi all

I'm in the process of gathering resources for Mandarin — arguably the most fun part of starting any new language — and was recommended the Beginning Chinese series by John DeFrancis which certainly looks exhaustive if nothing else. When browsing the Yale University Press website, I came across what appears to be a similar and equally exhaustive series, Spoken Standard Chinese by Huang, Stimson with a companion Written Standard Chinese.

Has anyone used either or both of these resources and can share their opinion, especially on how the two series compare. The audio for the John DeFrancis series is available on the Yale website, but the Huang/Stimson series is out of print and does not appear to have been upgraded beyond cassettes. My search for the audio of the latter series came up empty, so if anyone could point me in the right direction it would be much appreciated.

Lastly, any similar courses to the above to recommend?
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Re: Mandarin Resources — DeFrancis and Huang/Stimson

Postby rdearman » Mon Jan 14, 2019 12:08 pm

You might like these textbooks for overseas Chinese children. If you can't read Chinese, just start with the one on the top left and work your way down. :)

There are lots of pictures, so you can quickly get the idea. There is no audio, but helps a lot with character recognition.
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Re: Mandarin Resources — DeFrancis and Huang/Stimson

Postby David1917 » Mon Jan 14, 2019 3:42 pm

The DeFrancis series is fantastic. The courses are good and definitely exhaustive with pattern and substitution drills. It follows
a narrative of someone going to China to study Mandarin. The corollary readers to each level of the course provide running text amounting to tens of thousands of characters. It goes above and beyond any other beginner's course for any language that I've seen in this regard. The characters chosen are based on studies of the Chinese corpus, so that the first volume covers the 400 most common characters, the Intermediate the next 400 and so on. The readers culminate in an annotated reader of Chairman Mao's Little Red Book.

The caveat, however, is that it is all taught in traditional, and the readers are 90% traditional. Each lesson in the reader has a few passages in simplified at the back of book 2, but overall you have to be willing to learn traditional. I think every learner of Chinese "should" in some holistic sense, but some might prefer to work with only simplified for awhile. Moreover, there are supplementary reading books which are abridged versions of classic Chinese stories. The first of these comes after Lesson 36 in the Reader (which is maybe Lesson 10 or 11 in the course? I don't have it in front of me.) These are in simplified characters, though they are handwritten and can sometimes be awkward to read. For the characters not already introduced in the lessons there is a glossary.

Moreover, each level has 2 books you need to buy - one which is in all pinyin and has all the examples, and the other is all the characters. Much like the highly regarded Pollard/Tung "Colloquial Chinese."

As far as similar courses to DeFrancis, if you want only simplified, you can try the New Practical Chinese Reader series. It has dialogues that follow students in China, pattern drills, writing practice, etc. It's all inclusive in the one book for each level (6 total), but each book only has 12 lessons in it. It also has some exercises like "ask your partner where they're from" so it's clearly designed for classroom use in that sense, but it does not leave anything out where you would need an instructor. It comes with audio which includes the dialogues and I think the pattern exercises as well. It also does a great job of weaning you off of pinyin. The first 6 lessons have pinyin on the main line, characters below. The second 6 have characters in the main and pinyin below. Book 2 begins then with only characters, using pinyin only in the vocabulary list for each lesson. Compare this to Assimil which uses pinyin throughout the entirety of the course.

I have not worked with the Pollard/Tung course (note: this is released by Routledge, but is not part of the same "Colloquial" series we are used to seeing - those "Colloquial Chinese" books are the opposite of thorough or comprehensive), but many seem to like it. Again though, 2 books.

Finally, apart from courses like the DeFrancis, I'm actually pleasantly surprised by the Teach Yourself course. As opposed to the Colloquial offerings, there are plenty of longer passages towards the end. I haven't checked out the audio, though. Assimil and Linguaphone both offer good courses. And most importantly, I'd recommend McNaughton's "Reading & Writing Chinese." This book is indispensable.

EDIT: Added info on supplementary readings.
Last edited by David1917 on Tue Jan 15, 2019 1:33 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Mandarin Resources — DeFrancis and Huang/Stimson

Postby Daristani » Mon Jan 14, 2019 11:34 pm

Here's another recent thread on the DeFrancis series, with very positive comments: ... d-readers/
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