Two great Chinese readers

1. Chinese Breeze

This is a great choice for those starting out reading Chinese. The Chinese Breeze Graded Reader Series was recommended by one of our users in response to our best Chinese books post and I have to say that I am really impressed with it so far. It is published by the Peking University Press. I bought a load of these books during a recent trip to China although it is also available on Amazon and other sites. There are 8 levels in total with level 1 covering 300 characters and level 8 apparently going up to 3500!

The Breeze series is fun and conversational with the audio included on a CD so you can listen while you read. There is both a slow and normal speed audio track for each story which is pretty awesome for building up listening comprehension. One gripe is that there is no pinyin included so it can take me a while to look up the readings for some of the unknown words. Most of the stories are easy to follow though and are much more engaging than the stories in your average readers. It feels like you are reading a real story for entertainment rather than just studying.

2. Beijing Language and Culture University Press Series (Chinese name)

The second series of readers I want to cover is by the Beijing Language and Culture University Press. This series is also a solid choice for improving your Chinese reading although it is much more difficult and more academic than the Chinese Breeze readers. Each book is a series of essays on a given topic such as being a foreign professional working in China. I find myself constantly looking up the new vocabulary. On the plus side, the topics are also pretty interesting and the pinyin equivalents are given for the content covered.If you are looking for some challenging content to read this is a good choice but it is definitely not for beginners.

 

Perapera makes its way to Chrome!

Featured

Thats right, surprise! I have actually been working on this and a pre-release version is now finished and available to download on the Chrome extension site. You can get it here:

Perapera Chinese for Chrome

Yes its only Chinese for now, and some features are missing, but let’s not dwell on whats missing. The main functionality is there and the new themes as well. Features will be added one by one until it is on par with the Firefox version. Install now and you will receive all those updates automatically as they are added. We look forward to your feedback!

We plan to expand this site significantly in the coming weeks and months. Like our Facebook page, or follow us on Twitter to keep up with the latest updates!

Perapera Chinese 9.0 Finished!

You asked for it and now it’s here. After being out for most of the past 6 weeks, finally had some time to sit down and finish the Perapera Chinese 9.0 update. The main update, as expected, is the ability to customize the tone colors. The default ones I put in there were what showed up on my Pleco app, but I know people wanted to use other colors as well, so here it is:

Also in this update:

  • Latest entries from the CC-CEDICT as of 1/7/12
  • Fixed the clipboard copy bug to now copy what you would expect
  • Removed some lingering references to the lookupbar which has long since been removed
It is the Mozilla extension review queue, so should be updating for everyone very soon. Look forward to your feedback!
Update: It’s now approved and available here.

Perapera Chinese 8.0 now live!

The updated version of the Perapera Chinese pop-up dictionary and study tool is finally out and available for Firefox! Download it here.

Basic Features

With Perapera Chinese, you use your mouse over any Chinese words on a webpage and it gives you the pronunciation and definition. English, German, & French dictionaries; Pinyin and Zhuyin supported; Simplified or Traditional characters. You can also save and export words for studying later!

Dictionaries

The plugin comes with Chinese-English already installed, but you can install additional dictionaries with the following links:

How to use

Will be uploading a video later explaining how to use the plugin.

Other Details
  • If you have more than one dictionary, you can cycle through with the SHIFT key
  • Supports Simplified and Traditional characters (display either or both)
  • Pinyin with tone numbers or tone marks or Zhuyin (Bopomofo) for pronunciation
  • Shows the Hanzi using tonal colors (one color for each tone) to aid memorizing
  • Save words to a manageable Wordlist and export them later to Anki etc. for studying

We plan to expand this site significantly in the coming weeks and months. Like our Facebook page, or follow us on Twitter to keep up with the latest updates!

Our 10 best books for learning Chinese

Continuing the book collecting obsession into my Chinese studies, I have amassed around 20 books and courses in Chinese over the past 3 years. Of the ones I’ve purchased, borrowed, or been recommended by friends studying in China and Taiwan, here are what I can say are quality and useful to others.

Modern Mandarin Chinese Grammar: A Practical Guide

If you buy only one book for Chinese, get this one. Easily the best book I have found for everything. It is split into two parts, Part A for the structure of Chinese and explaining all the grammatical features, and Part B for situational Chinese like how to describe things etc. Explanations are solid, provides tons of example sentences and everything is in Simplified and Traditional characters.

Practical Audio-visual Chinese (Traditional)

My friend in Taiwan swears by this series and he used this at his language school when he studied in Taiwan. He was on book 3 and was at a very impressive level of Chinese. Comes with CDs and has workbooks if you want them. Only Traditional characters and starts with teaching you Zhuyin, but also has all the sentences in Pinyin as well. I am on book 3 now also and have to say it is my favorite course book.

Colloquial Chinese: The Complete Course for Beginners

This was actually the first book I used for Chinese that a friend recommended when I was starting out. A solid beginner course that is lesson based and comes with CDs. Spent a good bit of time with the pronunciation using this one. Another good option if you are looking for a starter course. Also has an intermediate book as well in the series.

New Practical Chinese Reader: Textbook 1

If you want more of a course-type book this series is a good introduction. I did the first book in their series using Simplified Characters. Concise and nicely organized. Would recommend it as your first introduction to Chinese and Chinese characters. Especially good if you like the dialog lesson format. Comes with CDs.

Conversational Chinese 301

Bought this one when I was in China. It goes at a faster pace than the above course, but would still say it is good for beginners. Either one of these are a good introduction course. No CD though, so take that into consideration.

The Michel Thomas Method: Speak Mandarin Chinese For Beginners

For working on speaking this is probably the best starter course. Harold Goodman does a good job of introducing the tones with concept of colors as an aid for remembering them. I love the Michel Thomas method and have used this series for other languages as well (French, Russian and German!).

Pimsleur Chinese

Pimsleur courses tend to be a little slow for my tastes, but if you are looking to learn a language while exercising or driving this would be the one to get. If you are sitting down and can focus, Michel Method is better and will get you to think more about what you are saying, while Pimsleur kind of hypnotizes you into memorizing, and that’s better than nothing when you cant devote all of you attention.

Remembering Simplified Hanzi: Book 1, How Not to Forget the Meaning and Writing of Chinese Characters

I don’t actually own this book but I’m a big fan of the method and used it to learn all the Kanji in Japanese with the original “Remembering the Kanji” book by the same author (see my Japanese book reviews). Comes in Simplified or Traditional versions.

Tuttle Learning Chinese Characters

Since I did Japanese before Chinese, I had already done my time learning 2000 characters, so I don’t actually own this one either. My friends at a language school love it though, and the method sounds very similar to the “Remembering the Hanzi” mnemonic system. So I would just pick either one and stick with it.

Chinese Demystified: A Self-Teaching Guide

A good overview of the Chinese language. I personally would buy the Modern Chinese Grammar over this one if I could only choose one, but that one can be intimidating since it is rather thick and does read a bit like a textbook with alot of explanations using grammatical terms. If that puts you off and you want a gentler overview of Chinse, but still with solid content, I would recommend this one.

Perapera Chinese 8.0 Submitted!

If Firefox can do it than so can we, announcing Perapera Chinese 8.0!

<rant target=”Firefox”>
It has been a struggle with Firefox over the past year with them releasing a new update every week that breaks this plugin. What was once great browser, I personally find now to be extremely annoying, and this latest penis envy pissing contest that Mozilla has where they have to release a new version every week because Chrome has passed them in a meaningless version number is absolutely absurd. Nobody cares what version you are. That thinking is so old, and you should just stop it because you will feel really dumb when you are blasting adds everywhere for Firefox 27 and nobody cares.
</rant>

OK rant is over. I wanted to say I just submitted the new version of Perapera Chinese (version 8.0) to Mozilla for approval, so everyone should be getting that update automatically very soon. For Japanese the update will come shortly after. Many bugs and broken things are now fixed, and of course some great new features as well. We have been working hard here over the last month to get this out the door, and are pleased to announce this next step in our vision for this plugin. We are also pleased to announce that the team is now more than just 1 person and we have a renewed commitment to this project going forward. We will be releasing updates to all the dictionary files every month with all the new entries and definitions.

Here are a summary of the new features and some teaser screenshots:

The plugin comes with Chinese-English already installed, but you can install additional dictionaries with the following links:

  • Chinese-German HanDeDict Dictionary (optional)
  • Chinese-French CFDICT Dictionary (optional)
  • If you have multiple dictionaries, you can cycle through them with SHIFT key
  • Supports Simplified and Traditional characters (display either or both)
  • Pinyin with tone numbers or tone marks or Zhuyin (Bopomofo) for pronunciation
  • Shows the Hanzi using tonal colors (one color for each tone) to aid memorizing
  • Save words to a manageable Wordlist and export them later to Anki etc. for studying

We will have a YouTube video up in a few days showcasing the features and showing how to use.

Showing Simplified and Tradition characters, using Hanzi Tonal Colors and Pinyin w/ Tone Marks. New “Charcoal” theme.
Showing Simplified and Tradition characters, using Hanzi Tonal Colors and Pinyin w/ Tone Marks. New “Sepia” theme.

Earthquakes, China, and FF 4.0

Hey guys, sorry for such a delay in getting at least a beta out for version 4.0. Live in Japan and everyone I know was ok thru the earthquake, but I did lose my computer. It did a backflip off the desk and was shattered on the floor when I got home.

Shortly after the earthquake I had a long planned business trip to China which I extended to wait out the Fukushima concerns a bit, and just got back last week.

This FF4.0 compatible release is really nothing fancy and I just know the essentials work, so cant guarantee it will work so great but at least its something to use until there I get the time to make it work proper (sometime after I get a new computer).

In other news I will be open sourcing this and making a Github project for it, so if anyone would like to work together to improve this or add other languages etc, let me know.

In FF4.0, here’s where you would find the Perapera-kun icon:

Step1: Right click on the toolbar and click “customize”


Step 2: Drag the Perapera-kun icon over to the toolbar.

Perapera-kun 2.1 Released

Here are the updates for 2.1:

  • Added a checkbox to change to an alternate flag for Chinese in the “Chinese” tab in the add-on’s options dialog
  • Added one click to toggle on/off if only 1 language is installed
  • Added toolbar icons (right click on the toolbar, click ‘customize’ and you can drag them from here to the toolbar)
  • Added a ‘Perapera-kun’ entry to the right-click popup menu, and to the ‘Tools’ menu
  • Fixed issue where all of the Chinese definition wasnt being displayed from the CC-CEDICT
  • Fixed issue where some incorrect meanings were displayed due to some Simplified hanzi having a different meaning in the Traditional character set
  • Tweaked the logo a little bit

I uploaded it to Mozilla today and it usually takes about 2 weeks before it will update everyones automatically so if you don’t want to wait until then, you can get it here:

http://downloads.mozdev.org/peraperakun/Peraperakun2.1.xpi

*Note: Since there were 2 versions existing before I unified Japanese and Chinese in 2.0, if you installed the Chinese version from the addons.mozilla.org site, installing from the above link will cause 2 versions to be installed at once. Simply remove the old one and all will be fine.

Alternative Chinese Flag Poll

Ok, here are the 3 options for the alternative Chinese flag to be incorporated into the next version.

[polldaddy poll=2370178]

Black ‘wen’ on red:

Black ‘zhong’ on red:

Yello ‘zhong’ on red: