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Beginning Chinese Reader (Beginning Chinese Reader, Part I) (Paperback)

Beginning Chinese Reader (Beginning Chinese Reader, Part I) (Paperback)
Author/Publisher: John DeFrancis
Format: paperback
Emphasis: Reader
Level: Beginning
List Price: $44

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Detailed information
Editorial Reviews
Language Notes
Text: English, Chinese

Product Details
  • Paperback: 539 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press; 2nd edition (September 10, 1977)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN: 0300020600
  • Product Dimensions: 9.9 x 6.9 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.1 pounds.
  • Average Customer Review: based on 11 reviews.

Spotlight Reviews

25 of 25 people found the following review helpful:

Excellent - best to get both volumes, December 24, 1999

Reviewer: "loreb" (U.S.)

Excellent book to learn how to read Chinese characters. The excellence stems from several features: 1) the emphasis on combinations rather than characters alone - during every lesson you learn about ten characters but many more words (combinations of two or more characters); 2) large size of the characters - very, very useful for the beginner; 3) systematic repetition -- characters from one lesson are used in the following lessons in a systematic way that helps to build and keep your vocabulary. I can't think of any other book available on Amazon that shares these features. If you get the book, I suggest you buy both volumes together because the appendices with stroke order and simplified characters are at the end of the second volume.


16 of 16 people found the following review helpful:

Intelligent, Accomodating Method to Learn the Writing, January 29, 2002

Reviewer: Thomas F. Ogara (Monticello, Florida United States)

The DeFrancis series of books on Chinese includes "Beginning Chinese", "Character Text for Beginning Chinese", the two volumes of "Beginning Chinese Reader", and I think an intermediate book as well. While I am not thrilled with "Beginning Chinese" as a text (you can read my review on that book), I think that the readers are admirable. They are designed to teach the writing system on its own, independent of the course material in "Beginning Chinese", and yet there is a certain thematic continuity between the two books, so that they can be used as a supplement to each other. The Yale series used the same process in their earlier set of books, which are something of a classic in the field.

The books start off teaching you ten characters a lesson. They build up from the simpler ones to the more complicated, and also drill you on forming words from the characters you already know (most Chinese "words", if you can use the term, consist of two characters, each with a meaning of its own).

DeFrancis apparently produced the book "Character Text for Beginning Chinese" in addition to the Readers because some educators balk at the system of teaching the writing system independently, preferring to teach their students the words they learn to speak as they go along. I've tried both ways, and I really believe that it's a mistake not to treat the writing system as a separate subject with beginners.

You can probably teach yourself to write from these books without too much trouble. However, learning to write Chinese is an aesthetic experience as well as a linguistic one, and I don't know how authentic your handwriting will be without a teacher. DeFrancis takes it about as far as you can in a book, reviewing the traditional ways that Chinese children are taught to write the component parts in a balanced way. The grammatical demands are minimal, since it's assumed that you're using other material for that part of the learning process. On the whole, a very creditable effort, which is no doubt one reason why it has survived as a standard text for so long.


Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:

Not for use by itself., April 2, 2003

Reviewer: "hilshire" (Phoenix, AZ USA)

This book is an excellent means of practicing reading Mandarin chinese in Traditional characters, but has little to no guidance on grammar, pronunciation, or traditional uses. While some self-study types like myself would be tempted to try using just one book at a time, I'd say this would best be used in conjunction with the other books in the series, or one of the software/tape systems for spoken and grammatical chinese.


6 of 6 people found the following review helpful:

good, January 26, 2003

Reviewer: esseyo (Jersey City, NJ United States)

I'm not going to repeat what has already been said but DeFrancis states that this book and volume 2 combined contains 120,000 characters of running text using just 400-500 distinct characters!!! It is this repetition and various presentation of characters in different contexts that I find the most valuable. I am not sure where else you can find such a large number of what is essentially graded readings for beginners.

As many have mentioned before, this is bested used as a supplement to a grammar text.


11 of 12 people found the following review helpful:

Learn to Read Chinese, August 4, 2001

Reviewer: Dale Dellinger

This book is good for learning Chinese characters. Ten characters are introduced each lesson and then combined with ones learned in previous lessons. Chinese is often mistakenly called a monosyllabic language and this book shows the true way by showing how the characters can be combined different ways to form usable words. The characters introduced in this two book series are those most frequently used so by the end of the second book the author says you can recognize two-thirds of the characters used even though that is a small fraction of all Chinese characters. The font used in the book is especially big and clear so it's easy on the eyes. This book uses only the traditional form of the characters used in Taiwan and overseas; not the simplified form used in Mainland China.


14 of 15 people found the following review helpful:

Practice, practice, practice!, December 11, 2000

Reviewer: Richard A. Weaver (lawrenceville, GA United States)

First off, don't think that this 2-volume set will teach you to read Chinese by itself; it's designed as a companion to his "Beginning Chinese". Each of the 48 lessons is matched to a lesson in his "Beginning Chinese"; for example, before you study Lesson 10 in Beginning Chinese Reader, you need to have learned the grammar in Lesson 8 of "Beginning Chinese".

The author stresses a couple of key points: Learning characters has to come AFTER the sound system and after at least some grammar has been introduced. And secondly, the number of characters you know is not nearly as important as the number of character combinations that you've learned, and the amount of practice that you've had with the characters.

Each lesson introduces 10 new characters, and 20 to 40 character combinations built up from the new characters and characters previously learned. All the new characters are used in "Illustrative Sentences", which are translated into English at the end of the chapter. The bulk of each lesson consists of readings, both in dialogue form and expository prose.

By the end of the 2 books, you will have learned app. 400 characters, and about 1,200 character compounds. But these are the most frequently utilized 400 characters; according to a study cited, these 400 characters account for 73% of all the characters found in books, periodicals, and other sources.

The book uses traditional characters, although in the back of volume 2, the authors gives the simplified versions, and a small bit of practice using these. Like the companion "Beginning Chinese", the topics are somewhat dated ... you constantly read about so-and-so not having enough money to send his children to college. But overall, if you're seriously interested in the Chinese language, and you're willing to invest the time and energy to do it right, the DeFrancis series is the surest way to get a sound foundation in Chinese.


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