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The Starter Oxford Chinese Dictionary (Paperback)

The Starter Oxford Chinese Dictionary (Paperback)
Author/Publisher: Boping Yuan, Sally K. Church
Format: paperback
Emphasis: Dictionary
Level: Beginning - Intermediate
Note: In Simplified Chinese Characters
List Price: $15.95

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Editorial Reviews
Book Description
This revolutionary new dictionary is designed to give you a comprehensive introduction to Chinese in a completely new way. It covers all the vocabulary learners will need in their first years of study and gives unique guidance to the grammar and usage of the language.
Created specifically for beginners, this dictionary features color headwords and translations; no confusing abbreviations; and warning symbols show potential problem areas. It includes thousands of example phrases drawn from real-life situations and full romanization of the Chinese text with Chinese
script following in simplified characters. It also offers a guide on how to write Chinese characters and provides full guidance on the pronunciation of Mandarin Chinese. Word patterns and constructions from language areas such as dates and telling time are grouped together to show similarities and

Product Details
  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA; 1st edition (December 15, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN: 0198602588
  • Product Dimensions: 7.8 x 5.1 x 1.0 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds.
  • Average Customer Review: based on 26 reviews.

Spotlight Reviews

54 of 54 people found the following review helpful:

Wish I Had It a Year Ago, June 9, 2003

Reviewer: C. Sahu "Cathy Sahu" (Southern California)

I've just completed my first two semesters studying Mandarin and they would have been a lot easier if I had had this dictionary from the beginning. Everyone says how easy Mandarin grammar is and that may be true relative to other languages (and relative to learning Chinese characters!), but you still need to learn quite a bit of Mandarin grammar before you can start formulating sentences. I always felt very uncomfortable doing my homework (translation from English to Chinese) because I didn't know whether I was using the grammar properly or not and had no way of checking. I was worried about accidentally getting into bad grammatical habits without even knowing it, because my textbook (Integrated Chinese) has really very little usage information and neither did the dictionaries I had on hand.

Once I got "The Starter Oxford Dictionary," however, homework became so much easier and I no longer feel insecure about sentence formulation. The emphasis in this dictionary is on usage, so instead of having tons and tons of words (which you can get from a regular dictionary), it has a fewer number of words with their usages very clearly explained and illustrated. For example: the entry for the English word "can": "Oxford Starter" divides "can" into three subcategories: "to have the possibility" (translated as neng); "to know how to" (hui); "to be allowed to" (keyi). The "neng" entry then gives two illustrative sentences "Can he come?/Ta neng lia ma?" and "Where can I buy stamps?/Wo zai nar neng maidao youpiao?" The "hui" subcategory has three such illustrative sentences and the "keyi" has four. There are also two warnings on translating "can," one for "hui" and one for "keyi": "Note that when talking about the ability to speak a language, whether or not "can" is used in English, "hui" is required in Chinese" and "Note that to negate, you have to use "bu neng" rather than "bu keyi."

Odds are, if you're studying Chinese, you're a bibiophile, too, so probably you don't need a lot of convincing to buy yet another Chinese dictionary. But in praise of this work I have to say that, if I could have only one book to help me learn elementary Mandarin, this would be it.

(Note: "The Oxford Started Chinese" does use only simplified characters. However, I am learning with traditional and found it wasn't that difficult to figure out what the traditional equivalents were, especially since the entries are organized by pinyin. It would be nice to have a traditional edition but I still wholeheartedly recommend the simplified.)


30 of 30 people found the following review helpful:

Good Start Starter, December 28, 2002

Reviewer: David Malik "professordavid" (Zionsville, IN USA)

This is a handy companion for the beginning of Chinese study. It includes common words, has large type (very important to me), and lots of cross references and "topical" digressions (languages, dates, special words, etc. referenced with citations). It also has a nice measure word section (some are included with nouns, but not always). It also contains both American and British options in word uses.

What I don't like. It ONLY has simplified characters (I would like the traditional ones included also with a primary citation). Harbaugh's book focuses on traditional ones but has both; the bigger Oxford (Manser, 2nd Ed.) has both. It does not have a pronunciation guide which, as a beginner, would be helpful to remind us (constrain us?). Some common words are not in there (who's judgement call?). And, some examples would be helpful where the primary citation includes precedent words. For example, look up "qi" and be able to find "tianqi".

On balance: good overwhelm the bad. After all, it's only about $12-15. As other reviewers have commented, "You need several dictionaries anyway." Do I use it all the time. Absolutely. It's also more fun than the bigger Oxford (Manser). But if Oxford could see clear to include "my" downsides, I'd be much happier.


Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:

Well-designed dictionary; a limited vocabulary is the trade-off for clarity , February 27, 2006

Reviewer: Gilbert Elliott

As others have said, this is a very clear and easy to use dictionary. The use of blue type for the headwords makes the layout very clear, and a reasonable size font is helpful, as is the giving of measure words for Chinese nouns in the English-Chinese section. The dictionary also deals helpfully with function words and has a number of breakout "topic-based" entries in the English-Chinese section. For example, the verb to "play" a musical instrument depends in Chinese on how the instrument is played (blown, touched, bowed, for example), and there is an entry on "musical instruments" which summarises this (though not comprehensively, it doesn't extend to instruments which are beaten!), which might otherwise be hard to divine from just looking up "play" in other dictionaries. Other "breakout" sections deal with more functional issues (such as "Quantities" or "Not") and these are cross-referenced by page number from head-word entries.
The Chinese-English section directs you to alternative pronunciations for hanzi with more than one sound (this is not so unusual) but also occasionally warns of traps or difficulties of a "dictionary-ese" nature which an English speaker might easily fall into.
When I was studying in Beijing (at an elementary but not beginner level) this dictionary attracted envy from my classmates. It really is streets ahead of its competitors in concept and design. I never saw it in a book shop in China, probably because it really it is specifically for learners of Chinese, rather than trying to serve equally (as many other dictionaries do) Chinese learners of English. It is a good size for quick class-room reference and also for browsing related words.
The trade-off for this is that the vocabulary is rather limited: you will need to have a more comprehensive dictionary (and possibly a magnifying glass to use it) for reference purposes, but you can probably safely leave that at home until you reach intermediate level.
Because the vocab is limited, there will always be arguments about which words should be included or not. To me, for example, the omission of "Visa" in the English-Chinese section is pretty extraordinary, though it's probably true that in places where you need to talk "visa" the English word will also be known. The point is, this is a useful portable and legible (I don't need glasses for even very small type in English, but those tiny Hanzi are a challenge once they get at all complex so that the "zang" in Xizang=Tibet remains a blur for me in a smaller typeface) dictionary which you can look up quickly.
This dictionary is not an absolute substitute for a fuller dictionary, but compared to the amount of time you will need to spend learning Chinese, the expense of having more than one dictionary is absolutely marginal, and the convenience of this dictionary is well worth it.


2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:

The Mysteries of Mandarin Revealed! THANK YOU!!!, February 21, 2006

Reviewer: Zero (Prescott, AZ United States)

This book is not only practical, but beautiful! To the westerner, the Chinese language can look impossibly intimidating, but the Starter Oxford is laid out in such a spacious, clear manner, that this complex system becomes not just approachable, but inviting. A breath of fresh air in the field of foreign language study. I hope this sets a new standard for reference texts on every subject in every langage.
DUO XIE, Oxford!!!


2 of 8 people found the following review helpful:

Chinese, July 27, 2005

Reviewer: Steve McIntosh (Santa Barbara/Beijing)

Looks like a great dictionery with added sections for date and time, word usage, etc. I great deal for the beginning student.


3 of 7 people found the following review helpful:

Recommended by teacher for College Chinese class, July 23, 2005

Reviewer: Rebecca A. Mueller "mwmsmom" (Janesville, WI USA)


My daughter is takeing a Chinese class at the local college, this is the dictionary the teacher recommended they get :o)

She has no complaints about this one!


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