Most helpful critical review
Happy to have the affordable review lessons, but ...
on November 3, 2003
I agree with most of the previously written criticisms for this book and tape set. I came to it as a previous student of the language and found that in many ways this was a useful way to refresh a lot of what I'd previously learned. The cost of the set is outstanding, considering a local Berlitz office wanted $25,000!!! for a 6 month course of one on one training. (I suppose we can thank Gov't contracting for that kind of pricing.) While I haven't scoured this book and tape set, I have put the travel tapes to a lot of use and found this approach to covering the lessons to be a good refresher. However, this product could have made the 4 star rating pretty easily if, as a previous reviewer had mentioned, Ms. Humphries had paid a bit more attention to detail. I don't have any examples written out, but in numerous situations on each side of each of the 4 travel tapes the translations are pretty loose. Using the Pimsleur recordings as a comparison, there is NO room for interp on those - giving a pretty secure feeling that you're getting a solid item-for-item exhange of wording ... whereas the "Ulitmate Mandarin Chinese" taped sentances are often frustratingly broad and sometimes inconsistant with other similar sentances/phrases on the tapes. The ?unintentional? benefit for someone in the reviewing process is it gets you thinking more about the options of how say something ... however, for those coming to this stuff new, this aspect would seem to be a bit problematic.
As for the previously mentioned speaker on the tapes with the rushed, slurred speech ... he's a bit of a departure from your usual "Language Tape" dude, but probably useful in terms of dealing with the language as very possibly encountered around the various parts of the "real" Mandarin speaking world. To that end, a very good intermediate level course to check out is another of the "Living Language" series ... "Conversational English for Chinese Speakers". 4 tapes of Mandarin phrases (w/english tranlations) by a fluent speaker, speaking to other fluent speakers that are sprucing up on their english. Definitely a workout! But it'll give a real sense of how a lot of basic to intermediate vocab/phrasing would really sound up to speed. Think of it as a somewhat more managable (rewindable) version of the same shock you'll get the first time you step off the plane in Beijing and find out that all the Mandarin Language tapes you've been coddled by for so long ("Wo hen hao. Ni ne?")may as well have been Urdu.