Chinese for Dummies
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  • Chinese for Dummies
  • Wendy Abraham
  • Published by: Wiley Publishing, Inc.
  • Level: Beginner
  • First Published in: 2005

This book offers the absolute beginner student everything they need to know about the basics of the Chinese language and culture. While working with this book, students will go over vocabulary and grammar activities, dialogue examples, listening comprehension, and a wide variety of cultural notes. This book also places a special focus on pronunciation and tone exercises to help students develop proper speaking habits.

REVIEW BY Katie Collum Book EXPERT
Review posted: 08/01/2014
Have you used this book?

I generally tend to avoid the Dummies books at the bookstore. I don’t know why, but there always seems to be a stigma attached to these series and for me I’ve frequently thought that perhaps I really do look like a dummy picking one up. However, any language learner will fully understand that sometimes you have to be willing to make a fool of yourself in the pursuit of higher learning, and curiosity won out when I spotted Chinese for Dummies not too long ago, and decided to check it out.

Chinese for Dummies displays a sense of thoroughness right from the beginning. The first chapter opens with a detailed description of the proper pronunciation for pinyin – which is the method of transcription used through much of the book. Fun facts about dialects and the written language in China are dotted along the way like breadcrumbs and allow the student to learn much more outside of just language basics.

"I generally tend to avoid the Dummies books at the bookstore. I don’t know why, but there always seems to be a stigma attached to these series."

Each chapter that follows adheres to the same rudimentary outline: interesting facts are broached, basic grammar is taught, and the chapter is closed out with a section called “Fun & Games” which consists of exercises that are applicable to the previously studied chapter. The pace of the book from chapter to chapter is pretty standard and the student moves from basic pronunciation, to numbers, to weather, and so on. There’s also a CD-ROM which goes along with the book so that anyone, if they are unable to grasp the read pronunciation, can always fall back on the listening to cement it home.

Chinese for Dummies does help the student to learn a little bit of everything, but is it enough to get by for the Mandarin beginner? I would argue that this is where this textbook falls short. Yes there’s a lot to learn here, but I’m simply not convinced that this method of learning is sufficient to make a student a proficient beginner-level speaker. It seems that the book is more concerned with helping the student pick up vocabulary and grammar for situations which the pupil may never encounter, as long as they learn as much as possible in a short amount of time. Of course, one’s expectations for a beginner’s text can’t be too high as it seems most language texts at this level are limited in exactly what they can teach; all the same, I can’t help but wish that Chinese for Dummies took a little more time to truly focus on a few basics as opposed to throwing a bunch of vocabulary and grammar at the student and hoping something sticks.

Chinese for Dummies definitely has its ups and downs. The methods this book uses of humor and a candid approach to language learning is both refreshing and effective. The paragraphs detailing grammar, language facts, and fun games are all meant to make the reader and student feel as if they are sitting down with a good friend to try their hand at Mandarin, which is definitely a nice way of going about it! However, the downside is that this book tries to push too much too soon and in this way may leave the student looking for more.



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