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The Beautiful Grassland Is My Home

Spoken Chinese is distinguished by its high level of internal diversity, although all spoken varieties of Chinese are tonal and analytic. There are between seven and thirteen main regional groups of Chinese (depending on classification scheme), of which the most spoken, by far, is Mandarin (about 850 million), followed by Wu (90 million), Min (70 million) and Cantonese (70 million). Most of these groups are mutually unintelligible, although some, like Xiang and the Southwest Mandarin dialects, may share common terms and some degree of intelligibility. Chinese is classified as a macrolanguage with 13 sub-languages in ISO 639-3, though the identification of the varieties of Chinese as multiple "languages" or as "dialects" of a single language is a contentious issue.

 

Assimil Chinese With Ease ( by Assimil) 
Assimil has a glowing reputation for language learning based on their simple two fold approach. The first stage is known as "Passive Learning" which requires you to listen to the lesson, say it aloud (or to yourself) so you get pronunciation right and then to follow it again using the translation conveniently written directly opposite. The second stage is called "Active Phase" and starts approximately half way thorough the book. At this time you carry on doing the Passive phase (daily) then you revert back to the first lesson and translate it yourself without looking at the translation. It is more effective if you approach this as a written exercise rather than trying to recall it in your mind only. Then you do your next passive lesson and go to the second lesson of the book to translate and so on.... Don't worry, though, the instructions are clear and you won't go wrong. You need to do one lesson a day (also a translation when you reach that second stage which adds another half an hour). The dialogues are expertly written and played out by professional voice actors of the country. They are lively and humorous and keep your interest. The lessons are ordered so you build gradually on what you have learnt. Don't be tempted to do more than one lesson a day, there is a reason why it's "little and often" so to maximise your learning capability. This is an approach that will take at least 6 months to complete and by then you will acquire a level of understanding comparable to B2 of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages.  The lessons/stories are different for each language.
 

Complete Mandarin Chinese ( by Elizabeth Scurfield) 
The Teach Yourself range of language learning has improved considerably with the new editions recently published. The Mandarin Chinese course is a big improvement over the last edition, not least of which being in full colour. Each chapter focuses on a theme and the first twelve chapters are presented in Romanised pinyin. There are 25 chapters in total and it's suggested that you spend at least a week on each chapter, revising it and making sure you have understood it. The chapters and conversations do get progressively harder but there is much that you learn from the previous chapter to help you over the initial difficulties. It's very well laid out and as you will see it removes the fear of Chinese, and shows really just how simple it is. The course also caters for the very busy, with short introductions and key principles lasting 5 or 10 minutes. It will take you to B2 of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages.
 

Tell Me More  
Tell Me More is a revolutionary new approach to language learning. The Chinese software has 300 hours of instruction and 1500 exercises especially designed for English speakers and focuses on Mandarin, simplified writing and pinyin. This is not a course for total beginners. Tell Me More will allow you to achieve fluency in Chinese and its not hard work, but really great fun. We especially loved the interactive conversations with the computer! A very addictive course, this will last you a long long time but its an enjoyable way to learn.
 
 

Pimsleur( by Paul Pimsleur) 
Only the first 1-5 lessons of Level 1 (Cantonese) are linked here. You should try these as samples to see if it fits your learning style.Pimsleur Cantonese has only one level so far. The Mandarin version has five levels.Pimsleur Chinese scored very highly in our tests. Myself and another reviewer used this and we both had no previous knowledge of Chinese. This is a good place to start for conversational Chinese. Pimsleur use the linguistic principle of timed repetition to put what you hear into your long term memory effortlessly. You can read about the method here. Download more detailed information on course content here (PDF)

Mandarin Click Here

 
 

Michel Thomas ( by Michel Thomas)  No memorizing, no text books, no drills, no homework!
After Michel Thomas passed away, his method was left to his associates who have produced a large number of great courses BASED on his method. But for Chinese, while the method is generally correct, the reality of the learning is not as good and requires many replays each time. Also the teacher's pronunciation is a bit suspect! Please also look at the reviews others have given. There is now an Advanced course.
 
 

 
Learn in your Car ( by Henry Raymond) 
The Learn in your Car series is a slight improvement on Vocabulearn in that the quality is slightly better and the music has gone! What you have instead are around 10 hours of audio lessons of an American man saying things in English for the sweet Chinese lady to translate it for you. These native speakers are dialect free and the series is great for revising on the go. Like Vocabulearn you play these over and over again, but they do work. I don't recommend them for beginners because they don't give any instruction on verb usage or sentence construction. It is however a very pleasant revision experience. Product shown is for all 3 levels.
 

Rosetta Stone (Mandarin) ( by Rosetta Stone) 
Another language from the expensive Rosetta Stone range. As before there is no translations or explanations and you learn by intuition and association, matching words or sentences to pictures. Chinese is very much a tonal language and you can quickly differentiate the tones here and learn from them. It is quite passive but extremely effective. If you treat it like a game you can learn very fast because  its addictive. It is also structured in such a way as to give a defined progression which is so often lacking in traditional language learning methods. Worth 5 stars but because of the price we gave it 4.
 
 
Vocabulearn ( Penton Overseas Inc) 
These are similar to the Learn in Your Car series by Henry Raymond. At first glance these seem like rather ineffective ways of learning as they generally comprise of an English speaker saying a word or phrase which is followed up by a Chinese lady translating it all to a backdrop of light music. You are essentially learning by rote. As such you play them until you scream! Yes you will learn hundreds of words and phrases but really for beginners this is not a good way because you are not getting an understanding of verb structure or of sentence construction. However this is great for testing yourself while commuting or making use of dead time to revise what you know. There is also Level 2 if you want more advanced learning/testing. New Level 3
 
 

Earworms ( by Marlon Lodge) 
This is a very simple idea that makes learning Chinese fun and easy. Its an English man conversing with a Chinese woman and asking her how to say things in Chinese. All the time there is a rhythmic sound/beat going on to her syllables which is designed to stick in your mind rather like a catchy song. The vocabulary being taught is basic but essential and is a relaxing experience. You don't need to make any real conscious effort as your brain is absorbing it through the beats. There are two cd's in the Chinese range and you can listen to samples by clicking the pictures on the left. Overall a fun and enjoyable experience, reasonably priced and it works, but only for basic survival skills. Image shown is for Level 1. Click here for Level 2
 
 
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