Learning the Language

Excepting mathematics - another beautiful subject - there are few disciplines more horribly taught than Chinese. Everything is an effort to confuse and contradict: which it need not be. The basic premise of most Chinese language teachers is that no one can learn and then they set out to prove it. The items listed below are not just aids, but life preservers for the drowning (aspiring) student.

NEW!! Readers: One of the best ways to learn a language is through simple but interesting readers in the target language. The dififculty is to pick texts which are interesting, of appropriate level and well structured. With this section we suggest the following...

Ancient Chinese Mililtary Stories

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#CLB93 Ancient China Military Stories
Zhongguo Gudai Junshi Gushi
US $6.95 150 pages, softbound, simplified Chinese, English and pinyin

This book is part of a well designed series for the beginning/intermediate student of Chinese. Each story (averaging about five pages each) is written in modern simplified characters with parallel lines of pinyin and tone marks. At the end of the Chinese section a one-page recap in English briefly translates the story into Engish. This not-quite-word-for-word method is an excellent way to encourage the student to read for overall meaning instead of stumbling through exact translation. An inexpensive, well presented series. In this case all the stories are taken from famous military incidents and strategies which enhance the overall knowledge of Chinese culture. The English translation is quite good and readable.

Dictionaries: This covers a variety of texts. You have English/Chinese, Chinese/English and both. You also have character finders. Dictionaries should give some examples of the word bound into bi-syllabic form so you can truly understand its meaning in context.
Wushu dictionary

#EKF47 Wushu Dictionary
Chinese/English, English/Chinese
Chief Editors: Duan Pin & Zheng Shouzi
401 pages, US $26.95, some illustrations, color plates

This book from the mainland is an excellent reference for those interested in Wushu research. The focus in on translation and explanation of common movements and terms in Chinese martial arts. There is also an extended section on the biographies of famous teachers and fighters mostly following the Ming Dynasty. Other valuable sections include discussions of styles, principles, basics for hands and weapons, a bibliography and more. Note: This is a translation of Simplified Chinese characters.


#CLB93 Pocket Oxford Chinese Dictionary
US $17.95 PLUM "Hurt Book" PRICE!! $8.95, 600+ pages, softbound, simplified (" What is a "hurt book"?

One of the better dictionaries for the price. There is some explanation of grammatical terms and words are accompanied with multiple definitions. Example sentences are given to help with word understand. Pinyin is given (surprisingly, many dictionaries don't give any romanization to accompany the Chinese examples) to assist with the character definitions. This will be a cornerstone especially when you are beginning with the language


#CLB91 Harper Collins Pocket Chinese Dictionary
US $13.95, softbound, simplified PLUM
"Hurt Book" PRICE!! $6.95 (" What is a "hurt book"?)

No matter how many large books on Chinese you have you will want a smaller edition for quickly looking up words. This H-C book if one of the better ones with colored type making it easier to read characters.



#CLB89 Chinese Character Fast Finder
edited by Laurence Matthews
US $19.95, softbound, PLUM "Hurt Book" PRICE!! $9.95
(" What is a "hurt book"?)

Think about this. You are looking up a word in the dictionary but there is no alphabet. How do you accomplish this? There are a number of systems including this one. In this method, unlike most dictionaries, you look up the word based on its shape without using radicals or counting strokes. This book contains 3200 characters. Once each characters is located all the salient variables are listed beside it. This is a particularly good system if you are just getting into Chinese. The shape-locater feature makes the job considerably easier. There are a number of extras, too. For instance there's a handy margin system (you literally clip the pages yourself) where you can easily flip to the section needed. Also, all characters that are different in traditional from their simplified cousins are listed in a special appendix.



All things considered there are astonishing few good, inexpensive grammars for Chinese. This is partly because the translation of certain concepts into the Western equivalents has taken decades to decide. Below are books that are absolutely vital for an understanding of the language.

#CLB94 A Concise Chinese Grammar
by Guo Zhen Hua
US $12.95, 244 pages, softbound, simplified

Worth every penny and more. There are SO many stumbling blocks to the study of Chinese that you need all the help you can get. This book is written as a grammar text for foreign students who have about two or three years of training. It outlines Chinese grammar and includes a rather comprehensive discussion on syntax as it relates to Chinese language. This book is absolutely essential because it directly relates to grammatical constructions which are common in Chinese but can be misleading. It outlines the five basic types of sentences then goes on to show how complex sentence formations are create from these. Words like "de" the most common word in the language are handled with breakdowns on how it forms a possessive and when it is needed. Some people like grammar, some hate it. But this at least gives you a handle on those stray little phrases than can truly confuse.


on Function Words

FUNCTION WORDS covers a wide range of function words, containing about 1000 entries. Provides both the Chinese and English explanations Explicit and simple examples accompanied by pinyin A-Z listing of entries for quick location Intended for foreign learners of Chinese

#CLB95 A NEW Chinese-English Dictionary of Function Words
edited by Wang Hai, various
US $29.95, 772 pages, softbound, simplified

FUNCTION WORDS Covers a wide range of function words, containing about 1000 entries. Provides both the Chinese and English explanations Explicit and simple examples accompanied by pinyin A-Z listing of entries for quick location Intended for foreign learners of Chinese, also valuable for teachers and linguists The entries of this dictionary include all the functions words and function phrases of modern Chinese. There are altogether 947 entries including: 565 adverbs, 59 propositions, 139 conjunctions, 44 particles, 38 interjections, 66 structures. Anyone familiar with Chinese knows that the "function" words can be a long staircase with loose steps. Chinese words often twist into new shapes when used in slightly different manners. How many forms of "wei" are there anywei?


Writing Chinese

Writing the Chinese language takes some skill. It can also be one of the greatest joys this language has to offer. The key is don't be afraid. Go ahead and try your hand.
#CLB92 The First 100 Chinese Characters
edited by Wang Hai, various
US $14.95, 128 pages, softbound, simplified
, PLUM "Hurt Book" PRICE!! $7.95 (" What is a "hurt book"?)

This is a modern text based on the time tested and proven method the Chinese themselves use to memorize characters. Each of these 100 Simplified Characters is given along with Pinyin pronunciation and stroke order for writing. Then the remainder of the page has many practice boxes so you can try your hand at copying the character with the model on the same page in finished and sequential forms. There are two indexes with alphabetical English definitions and Pinyin romanization at the back of the book. A fun way to jump in and start writing Chinese characters.
Character Studies

Learning about this ancient and wonderful language, how its constructed, what the characters mean, how they fit together, can be greatly aided by all sorts of books. Some give the romance, others the history. Some are structural and others are cultural. Use everything you can and your understanding and appreciation will only deepen. Don't look don't on children's books and "cartoon" books because they can be of great help.

#CLB90 What's in a Chinese Character?
Tan Huay Peng
US $18.95, 127 pages, softbound, simplified

This book shows the "story' behind each of its Chinese characters. This is a big aid in memorizing the meanings . Each small cartoon and paragraph description is accompanied by the character used in bi-syllabic forms one of the best ways to fix these characters in memory. A little history of the character shape is often shown.The Hanyu Pinyin pronunciation and information on the type of stroke is given. At the bottom of each character is a stroke-order series for writing the characters. Though traditional is often given in the text the basis of the book is Simplified Characters.



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