Book review: Chinese for Beginners

Chinese for Beginners is an introductory book for busy learners starting out with Chinese. I previously enjoyed using its Korean language counterpart by the same publisher (reviewed here). What follows is my review of the Chinese version.

Easy-to-follow structure

The book is split into 16 chapters with a couple of dialogues for each. The situations given are typical for a beginner course, ranging from greeting a new person in Chinese to eating in a restaurant.

Full of interesting cultural information

I really liked how the book is packed with cultural details. It’s a nice touch that gives you some background knowledge about Chinese culture. Indeed, I was impressed to see Chinese poems from the Tang dynasty appearing at the end of most chapters! The below is a famous example from chapter 1 of the book:

Thoughts for a Quiet Night – Li Bai

The bright beams shine

across my coverlet,

Reminding me of frost

covering the ground.

I gaze up at the bright moon,

then bow my head,

And suddenly think of home.

Of course, the book includes the Chinese for the poem. The audio for is also included on the attached CD. Very cool.

Basic grammar notes

There are also some notes explaining new language points, but I thought these could have been a little more detailed. It’s a little bit curious that while the cultural sections are packed with information, the authors are relatively silent regarding explanations of the various linguistic patterns. That said, this may be a positive point for newbies who are easily overwhelmed by technical explanations and who would prefer a simpler book.

Other details

Chinese for Beginners retails at $12 on Amazon and comes with a CD with 190 audio files included – very reasonable as language books go. Interestingly, there is also a Kindle version available with the audio available for download online. Up until now, not many publishers of language resources have gone the e-book route, but perhaps this is a sign of more to come. My long-suffering bookshelf certainly hopes so.

Conclusion

All in all, I found Chinese for Beginners to be a gradual but useful introduction to the Chinese language. It’s not going to take you to an advanced level, but it’s a good start for learners who like to take things a little more slowly and would like a glimpse into Chinese culture.

If you want something a little more challenging, I recommend picking up the excellent Assimil Chinese course. That’s all for now. Watch this space for more reviews of Chinese learning materials in future!

Full disclosure: We received a free review copy of Chinese for Beginners from Tuttle Publishing. If you have also used this resource, why not leave your review in the comments below? We’d love to hear your opinions!

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