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Beginning Chinese: Second Revised Edition [Paperback]

John DeFrancis
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Sept. 10 1976 0300020589 978-0300020588 2nd Revised edition
A complete revision of the first volume in the Yale Linguistic Series, this new version, in pinyin romanization, and aimed at secondary school and college levels, is an introduction to spoken Chinese. It includes dialogues, pronunciation drills, sentence-building exercises, examples of characters, substitution drills, and miscellaneous exercises in the form of games like crossword puzzles. There is a combined glossary-index, supplementary vocabulary for each lesson, notes, and a detailed suggested study guide. John De Francis is research professor of Chinese at Seton Hall University. Yale Linguistics Series, 1.
The features of this introductory text for learning the Chinese language include:
-Pinyin romanization
-Vocabulary of 600 items
-Pronunciation drills, dialogues, sentence-building exercises, pattern drills, substitution tables, games and other learning aids, memorization exercises, and a combined glossary-index
-No characters are used

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Customer Reviews

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not Your Usual Sink-or-Swim Chinese Textbook Jan. 20 2004
By C. Sahu
A few reviewers below have said that the conversations in this text are too old-fashioned and that no one talks this way in China anymore. I haven't shown this book to any Chinese friends but I can't see how the relative colloquialism of these texts would be a big problem. They don't seem very different from others I've read, and the Second Revised Edition (1976) does discuss Revolutionary changes ('airen' versus 'xiansheng' for husband, etc). It seems to be the equivalent of any English text from a few decades ago - people might not talk quite the same way now, but the vast bulk of vocabulary is the same, and anyway, no one ever faults a foreigner for having too bookish or old-fashioned a manner: on the contrary, we often find it charming. Not to mention that Chinese is spoken differently Beijing, Taiwan, Los Angeles, etc. Strikingly, the illustrations, though much superior to the cartoons in other Chinese learning texts, are very old-fashioned: Americans in Western suits and Chinese in silk longcoats. (Though I did see a man dressed like that in an LA supermarket last week!) If the drawings were updated, I bet the texts would not make half so bad an impression.
And the advantages of this work far outweigh the disadvantages. With almost all Chinese language learning texts I've used, I've felt that I had been thrown into a sink-or-swim, suffering-is-good-for-you situation. Brute memorization seems to be the traditional Chinese learning method. In most modern textbooks there is little attempt to explain grammar, and when it is attempted, it is done extremely poorly.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Not Natural Chinese July 6 2002
By A Customer
I really want a book like this, but this isn't good enough. I want a book that gives me a ton of conversational Chinese in Pinyin so I can get a lot of language "practice" with the vocabulary, grammar, etc. used again and again in all kinds of scenarios.
This provides all of that but, frustratingly, it's of no use.
My wife and her family are from China. I let my wife see this book once (the Chinese character edition), and she quickly scrunched up her nose and said, "Nobody talks like this!"
Later, when my wife was out, I tried the same test on my wife's aunt (who doesn't speak any English). She seemed reluctant to comment. I think she was afraid of causing me to lose face, so I showed her another Chinese text that contained hanzi (Chinese for Today, Beijing Languages Institute) and asked which one she thought was better. After about 20 seconds of page scanning she got very excited and said (in Chinese), "Oh, yes, this is the normal way people talk" (yiban de shuofa), and "you should study this one".
Unfortunately, Chinese for Today probably contains less than 10% of the total quantity of example text in Beginning Chinese, with not very useful vocabulary and skimpy grammar explanations, so I'm not a big fan of that one, either.
But despite the wonderful quantity of example material in Beginning Chinese and its sequels, it's of no use to me if what I'm getting so much great practice in is bad Chinese. I can come up with plenty of bad Chinese on my own. ;-)
To be honest, I don't know how much of the "bad" is just the Mainlander's reaction to Taiwanese Mandarin, but my wife and aunt (who like to watch Taiwanese dramas) claim "they don't even talk like this in Taiwan".
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3.0 out of 5 stars Best Known for its Availability July 3 2001
When I studied Chinese back in the 1970's this was the beginning text we used. I was not extremely satisfied with it then, and I am even less satisfied today. Arguably, it covers the subject of Chinese grammar in considerable detail, but my overall impression of the material presented is that it simply isn't the "way that Chinese really speak" - that is, it really doesn't reflect colloquial Chinese as it is actually spoken, even taking into account that it is supposed to be Taiwan Chinese. It is as if there is too much interference from English grammar in the way it is presented.
I am even less satisfied with it nowadays, with the large amount of language study material now available from China. While some of the material printed in China can be a bore, some of it is really extremely good - Beverly Hong's "Situational Chinese" springs to mind as perhaps the best book on colloquial Chinese I have yet found. I'd suggest to the would-be learner to review the material available from Beijing before investing any of the books in the old Yale Asian series.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Still the best July 26 2000
I'm not an academic, so I have no professional qualifications to evaluate this book. But I enjoy learning languages, and I know what works for me.
This is the best learning textbook for Chinese that I've come across. Granted, it's somewhat dated, but the presentation of the grammar is clear, and the drills are first-rate. (important note: buy the tapes that accompany the book; try the language lab at Cornell, or Far Eastern Publications, in Yale. The language lab at Seton Hall University used to sell them as well).
There are 24 lessons, and the common theme throughout is the experiences of an American student in Taiwan. Each lesson begins with a dialogue, and is followed by new vocabulary and what DeFrancis calls "sentence build-up"; the new vocabulary is introduced first in small phrases, then in full sentences. Each lesson introduces 4 or 5 grammatical patterns, with illustrative sentences. The lessons also have pronunciation practice, addditional drills, dialogues, puzzles, etc. Again, the tapes are excellent, and indispensable.
The book is geared toward spoken Mandarin; all the Chinese is in pinyin romanization. If you're interested in the written language as well, there's his 2-part Beginning Chinese Reader that excellent, as well.
If you're serious about learning Chinese, want to know more than a few phrases, and you're willing to invest the time and energy to learn it well, it would be hard to find anything better than this.
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