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Living Language Mandarin Chinese, Complete Edition: Beginner through advanced course, including 3 coursebooks, 9 audio CDs, Chinese character guide, and free online learning Audio CD – Unabridged, October 18, 2011
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I've started and stopped studying Chinese probably a dozen times over as many years, mostly because the language and the instructional materials for it have proved so opaque and impenetrable. I finally broke through with the Living Language program. I did not expect a popular market product like this to be both so serious and so effective. It led me in so gently that I didn't realize how quickly and smoothly I was progressing, and in retrospect, the specific vocabulary and grammar it was teaching me was 100% spot on (HSK levels 1 and 2 are a piece of cake after this program).
From absolute zero, the program led me into the thicket of Chinese--both spoken and written--and before I knew it, I was hacking away into the next and the next areas of the jungle. The vocabulary introduced is largely the same as the most popular 1st year college Chinese textbooks, and this program's introduction to characters is better than any of the dozen or so other programs I've tried and/or am now using. In less than a year, I've started emailing and speaking to a Chinese colleague in Chinese, in addition to my main and most daunting goal, doing research in Chinese on modern legal developments. I obviously have a good way to go, but after finishing the Living Language program, I am totally comfortable navigating intermediate-level material, and I am totally confident of the path forward.
The next step seems to be picking up with Integrated Chinese Level 2 or the equivalent (IC seems to be the best product available now to get me where I want in terms of grammar and key vocabulary development), but I would recommend that anyone facing the juggernaut of Chinese begin to attack it with the shockingly inexpensive and yet extremely effective Living Language materials.
A purely audio approach such as Pimsleur is not the easiest method for learning correct pronunciation of Mandarin. A more standard approach is to first learn the Romanized writing system for Mandarin that uses the same Latin alphabet that’s used for writing English and other European languages. The books that are included with this Living Language product use Pin Yin for writing Mandarin words and sentences. Learning Pin Yin is helpful, because it will help you to distinguish between sounds that are otherwise easily confused. Also, the process of learning Pin Yin will help you to learn the differences between English and Mandarin pronunciation of sounds that a native English speaker will otherwise pronounce with a heavy accent. If you don’t have a private tutor to teach you the correct pronunciation of those easily confused sounds, then you can find lots of helpful Pin Yin lessons on YouTube that demonstrate the correct pronunciation of each letter of the Pin Yin alphabet.
Living Language is the best starting point, and Pimsleur is a great place to continue with challenging audio exercises.
This course is a great value, and I highly recommend it.
Don't buy this if you aren't motivated, though. You need to take initiative to learn, and this program is not something to take lightly. If you do not continue to practice, you will not learn plain and simple. But that should go without saying for any language, let alone Mandarin Chinese, one of the most difficult languages to learn.
If you are completely new to Chinese, I would recommend taking an actual class as well and use this program as a study tool. That would be the best way to use it, in my opinion.
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The accompanying CD is also great. You can use it on its own, and you can practice your listening and speaking skills anywhere. However, it's also great in following along the book. All sections of the book tell you which audio section to listen to. So, it is easy to follow, and you won't get lost.
The book uses Simplified Characters and Pinyin. If I want to locate a character's traditional version, I just either use google or the Reading and Writing Chinese book, both locating the character using the pinyin.
So, if you want to have a good start, and have a good Mandarin foundation, this book is great for you. By 2/3 of the essential book, you'll be very familiar with the frequently used characters and know it's meaning when you see them and also know how to count to the hundreds, and thousands.
(Even something as simple as how to pronounce two 3rd tone words together because they change when they follow eachother, this wasnt even mentioned)
Often the words you use in any language change depending on the context or what follows in the sentence, but they just teach you a one way tunnel vision type of dialogue.
The editing is really sad, there are many mistakes and the layout of the books is a disaster. Tables split on two pages, answers under the question, some dont even have answers printed or space to answer the question. :/
The audio is okay i guess, the only positive thing i can say. The speakers speak well and clearly.
You cant teach yourself with books that are full of errors, badly formatted, and dont explain anything.
Zero stars. Plenty of better options out there, which are cheaper, or even free.
I am able to use the CDs even without having to refer to the text. I get learn quite a bit while driving to and from work.
I am confident of my ability to become proficient in this language. Then the next time I am asked about fruit or eggs by a Chinese person at the grocery store because I look Chinese although I am not, I hope to respond directly.
Riguardo all'apprendimento della lingua scritta il punto di riferimento resta il New Practical Chinese Reader.