|7 of 7 people found the following review
Best explanations of Chinese grammar I've found, February 23, 2005
This book is not meant to be a primary textbook -- it's meant to
supplement your main text. It's all in pinyin, though in the back there is
a listing of all the vocabulary's Chinese characters (traditional and
simplified). There is also a Chinese to English and an English to Chinese
glossary. Each chapter has several sets of exercises with the answers in
the back of the book.
The short dialogues that begin each chapter are modern, humorous, and
emphasize the sorts of things you would need to be able to say if you were
visiting China. (I'd like to rent a room, Where is the bathroom?, etc.)
There are lots of notes on cultural points like festivals, food, what it's
like for American Chinese kids coming to visit the Old Country. The book
is pleasant to read.
Best of all, though, and the main emphasis of the book, is the grammar
teaching. It is very, very clear. The authors really understand
comparative English/Chinese grammar. A quote is the best way to illustrate
this. From Chapter 9, on a certain type of verb compound (the Chinese seem
to pile up one verb after another in a sentence -- one of those mysterious
tendencies that drive you crazy when you start studying Chinese):
First they give examples: "Ni ting dong le Yingwen." "Ta kanwan le neiben
shu." Then they explain: "Two independent verbs are sometimes placed
together in a relationship of verb and complement to express a more
specific kind of activity that either verb could express alone. In such a
compound, the first verb is considered the ordinary verb and generally
indicates the major activity being described. The second verb is regarded
as the complement of the first verb and states the result of the major
activity; for these reasons, it is known as the 'resultative complement.'
They then explain the examples: "For instance, the act of understanding,
"dong," can result from either the activity of listening, "ting," as in "tingdong"
(to understand through listening), or the activity of reading, "kan," as
in "kandong" (to understand through reading)...."
They then proceed to explain "tingdedong," "tingbudong," etc.
There are also excellent explanations of the uses of that troublesome
I am presently studying Chinese on my own and am using this book to
supplement my main text, John DeFrancis' "Beginning Chinese" series. I
would recommend both of these texts to anyone who is really motivated to
learn to speak Chinese properly. Note: I took the HSK (Beijing's
Standardized Test for Chinese) last year after studying primarily with the
"Integrated Chinese" series and scored -- ouch -- 63, not even good enough
to earn a Basic Level 1 Certificate. Since then, I've switched over to
DeFrancis and also am using "Chinese: the Easy Way" off and on. In July,
when I get my new score, I'll try to add it to this review so you can see
if these books really are any good!
Note again: Well, it's several months later, and I got a 105 this year on
my HSK. That's not bad (I hope) considering I'm only at Ch. 4 in DeFrancis'
Intermediate Chinese so my vocabulary is still very small. I got low
scores in both oral and reading comprehension (22 and 26), which I think
is because my vocabulary is so poor. My grammar score was much better, at
57. (As far as I can figure out, 57 puts me at the 60th percentile; in
other words, the upper half.) So I'd say my plan of shoring up my grammar
foundation by using "Chinese: The Easy Way" and doing lots of extra
translation with the DeFrancis Series is paying off.