on December 3, 2003
After finishing Mandarin I, I felt as though I had basic knowledge of the language. After finishing Mandarin II, I felt as though I was able to use this knowledge in basic conversations. Now that I've finished all three levels, I feel that I have a good overall knowledge of Mandarin and that spoken fluency is within my grasp. This intermediate level would have taken years to achieve without Pimsleur, and my pronunciation wouldn't have been nearly as good. The only downside to this method is that you will NOT be fluent by the end, and you will need to finish the language on your own through self-study and conversational practice. For example, Pimsleur Mandarin teaches somewhere between 300 and 400 words, while 3000 - 5000 is required for fluency. Luckily, vocabulary is fairly easy to learn if you make a deck of flashcards. I've made thousands of these cards for Mandarin and other languages. They work. As for word lists, I've been using a few resources, but primarily the two-way dictionary in the back of the Lonely Planet Mandarin Phrasebook, which contains about 2000 common words. I've also been using the Oxford Starter Chinese Dictionary, which is quite good. There are probably other good resources for vocabulary, but whatever you do, DON'T buy Vocabulearn Chinese. The female speaker in the recording has severe pronunciation errors which will damage your Mandarin beyond repair. Stick to the standard pronunciation that you see on television and hear in the Pimsleur series.
I also had a go at learning the writing system, which isn't as difficult as I previously thought. I can now read and write a few hundred characters, but this hasn't been nearly as rewarding as studying vocabulary. Still though, it is fun to be able to read the signs in chinatown. I plan to learn the rest of the characters after I'm fluent.
I've also been watching Mandarin TV shows and I try to catch the Mandarin edition of the news whenever I can. They talk a little fast, but I can usually understand some of what's going on. Conversation is much easier, as Chinese speakers tend to slow down to accommodate learners such as myself. And, if not, I can always politely ask them to slow down, or repeat what they've said.
on July 5, 2003
I had tried several language tapes and software packages before but this is the one that I've had the most success with. I completed Mandarin I and Mandarin II and when I saw that Mandarin III was available, I ordered it immediately.
I won't say that I'm conversing fluently in Mandarin but the entire series is only 45 hours of instruction so I think you have to be realistic in your expectations. For me, Pimsleur is the right approach. I've made genuine progress and I'm told that my pronunciation is reasonably accurate. For someone with moderate skills as far as learning foreign languages go, as well as having started after the age of 40, I'm quite satisfied. I even have a Cantonese speaking friend who borrowed the tapes and used them to improve her Mandarin!
I'd recommend the series to anyone who wants to learn to speak Mandarin. Note that there is no instruction on writing Chinese, only some brief notes on Pinyin. I'd also recommend Modern Chinese from Beijing University for learning Pinyin and the basic components of speech. The Chinese-English Dictionary edited by John DeFrancis is also worth looking into and finally, you can get the Oxford Chinese-English dictionary for Palm OS.
on May 30, 2003
The Pimsleur courses give you the strong foundation in understanding and speaking the language that you can then leverage to fill in the gaps in grammar and vocabulary.
Pimsleur courses immerse you in the language to the extent that you will learn by hearing and speaking.
Said that I must add that at this stage the course should have some written materials to match sound and pinyin and hanzi.
...P>Other books that can help are: "A Key to Chinese Speech and Writing" by Joel Bellassen, "begginer's Chinese" by Jong Ho and finally a good dictionary like "Oxford Chinese-English, English Chinese".
on May 14, 2003
If you've already bought Mandarin I and II, then Mandarin III won't disappoint. III continues where II left off. It builds on what you already learned in the previous two, so it doesn't feel like starting over. III uses the same teaching techniques used in I and II - repeat what the speaker says at different times.
There are also 30 lessons and a supplementary CD. Each lesson introduces about 10 or so new words and a few grammar rules. This allows for a very gentle but progressive learning of new vocabulary. Unlike other language systems (which bombard you with 20-30 words per lesson), this promotes retention and as a result gives the student encouragement and confidence.
The downside of the Pimselur system is that it only teaches listening and speaking skills and no reading or writing skills. This may be fine for European languages, which are mainly phonetic, but with Chinese, it feels like you're learning only 1/2 the language. ...
Nevertheless, Pimsleur is the best non-classroom language system I've tried so far (and I've tried many!) It does its job very well, so I'm willing to forgive the lack of writing or reading lessons.
P.S.: I wouldn't recommend Mandarin III if you are a beginner and haven't listened to I and II yet.
on April 2, 2003
Well, I have bought Pimsleur Mandarin I, II, and III, all at Amazon with lots of buckeroo, but I love this expensive series. Really, I have no regret. After Mandarin I and II, I went solo to China, and I have wonderful time. Really, don't book those tour package. With Pimsleur Mandarin I & II under your belt, you should have no trouble touring in China. smile. I have only one problem. I did have some difficulties ordering food from the restaurant's menu because Pimsleur didn't teach any writting... smile. Back to Mandarin III, I just finished couple of tapes, and it is excellent as previous series. This level III, build on the previous series. About 50% of vocabularies are rehashed from previous series. Other 50% are new vocabularies. Don't be disappointed because Pimsleur teaches you new way of saying things. I bought many other Mandarin materials. Beginner series by lpgroup (0 star), Vocabulearn (0 stars),making connections (3 stars), follow me chinese (0 star), Rosetta stone (0 star), Chinese language30 (3 stars), and instant immersion chinese (4 stars). (notes: there is a max of 1000 words, so don't flame me for grammar ok!) Oh, I also bought Ultimate mandarin from Amazon. smile. You better have pimsleur II under your belt before tackle Ultimate Mandarin because it is really advance stuff. Don't give up ok. The first 4 tapes of ManI and ManII are very tough for me, and then things are getting easier for other tapes. I am very surprise that tape 1 in Man3 is much easier than tape1 in ManI and tape 1 in ManII. Sorry, I haven't got to other tapes yet. (Oh, I forgot, After Man I and II, I am still unable to carry a deep meaningful conversation. But, I have no problem saying in Mandarin what I want such as hotel reservation, direction, get a cab and buses, and shopping. Maybe in couple of months, I will give you the result of this Man 3 series. I am very happy with Man3.)