Customer Review

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Reasonably useless and ridden with errors, October 28, 2009
This review is from: 250 Essential Chinese Characters for Everyday Use, Vol. 1 (Paperback)
The overall size of the book and the fonts chosen make this book easy to read. The book is surprisingly riddled with errors. I was surprised to find this in an academically written book.

Examples:

pg vii stroke SP, is identified as P
pg viii stroke SZG, is named WG
pg viii several strokes do not follow the ISO name taxonomy
pgxii the pronunciation of x is given as "see"

There are also stroke order errors.

Examples:

page 111 character #98
page 136 character #116
page 278 character #236

The grammar examples are certainly not beginner level and many are not typical of Standard Mandarin Chinese. Many of the characters and associated Hanyu Pinyin are not referenced and the reader is left guessing as to the meaning. A beginner would have a better learning experience with Topic/Comment grammar construction and placement of temporal adverbs in the sentence initial position.

Particularily lacking are common verbs. Three of the most common, "give", "take" and "want" are not given as examples. I would have thought the 250 characters would be drawn from the commonly circulating list of the 3000 most common characters.

The translations take great liberty and scramble word order frequently. A beginner would not be able to intuitively construct novel sentences from this book's examples.

There are diacratic tone marker errors on the Hanyu Pinyin.

The main problems with this boook that prevent it from being useful are thus:

1) Most of the characters and Pinyin used are not indexed and the reader has no idea what the example sentences mean or what the individual characters mean.

2) The rules of stroke order are inaccurate and include, the examples are named wrong, the named strokes wrong, not using ISO taxonomy for naming strokes.

3) The example sentence are very inaccurately translated.

4) Perhaps the first drill which uses the character for number one typifies the entire book.23 character are introduced and in the entire book there is no reference for what they mean.Oddly the index only cross references Chinese Characters and Pinyin, with no English meaning.

This book is of no use to a beginner. It covers all the essentials very superficially and inaccurately.It would take a dictionary and a half day to translate the first practice drill.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Nov 2, 2010 8:35:55 AM PDT
Long says:
When considering D Mo Huzi's (translation "Big Hairy Monkey" -- go figure -- why does he not use his real name?) reviews you really need to consider the source. Please note that his book's (published by the unknown press -- Monkey Monk Publications -- have you ever heard of it?) average Amazon Bestsellers Rank is
#1,973,450 in Books!!

And for the record I am not related to nor have I ever met the author.

ps I am sure he will have a long response about how his books are too academic to be sold on Amazon.com, yet other academic books in his field like "Modern Mandarin Chinese Grammar: A Practical Guide" by Ross and Ma (published by an academic press) sell pretty well and are ranked pretty high in terms of sales on Amazon.com (this book is ranked about # 115,000). I also imagine he will say he does not write books for money.........

Posted on Oct 28, 2011 11:20:41 AM PDT
jd in bj says:
I was not a beginner coming to the book, but found it at a public library and checked it out as a refresher. Given the way it is written (the example sentences are well above beginner level for the most part), it clearly was not intended as an introductory text for a Mandarin newbie, but as a start-learning-characters book for someone with intermediate knowledge of spoken Mandarin. I found the inclusion of many idiomatic expressions in the examples quite helpful, though I often had to supplement this book with a dictionary in order to really use the examples.

As for the "inaccurate translations", I found them on the whole to capture the *meaning* more closely and naturally than a word-for-word translation would. Chinese word order is often very different from English, so when looking at the examples, you have to break apart the pieces and (sometimes) use a process of elimination to fill in an unfamiliar character or two.

That being said, I would not necessarily recommend this book for anyone not in my situation. I too would expect certain more commonly used characters to show up in the first 250. It is definitely not a good tool for someone just beginning to learn characters, but as a review tool for someone who already knows the majority of them, it's fine.
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