Top positive review
84 people found this helpful
Wish I Had It a Year Ago
on June 9, 2003
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.)