I'm studying chinese.. any tips on how to study it?

I've been mostly memorizing the verbs and the general structure of sentences. I'm using this book called Getting Around in China, it's mostly a reference book but it has some teaching elements in it. I've been writing the symbols down and repeating them everyday for the past 2 weeks. I was wondering if there's a specifically efficient way of studying chinese. By the way, it's Mandarin. I'm also using the nciku.com dictionary and the pleco software on the iphone to sound out some of the words phonetically. It's going pretty slowly since the memorization is pretty rough but definitely rewarding. Any tips would be appreciated.
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Hi albertgilmore,

my best tip is that you try to develop a certain degree of independence. How do you achieve independence? You have to find out the merits and downsides of a particular learning strategy yourself for your case, since like with clothing, there is no learning strategy that fits everyone. So I think the key is to develop the ability of finding out what learning strategy fits you, and then the motivation and endurance to keep at it.

The best way of finding out the merits and downsides of a learning strategy is to keep practicing the one you currently have for a few weeks, without changing it much. After a few weeks, you will know what parts of it were good and what parts of it less so. Then, you can make an informed decision on what new things may be worth trying. After another few weeks, you evaluate the learning strategy again, and introduce new elements and drop others. Actually, it's the normal trial-and-error learning process that applies to most things. For Chinese, it may just be a little less obvious because the individual steps take time, and sound judgments on what you're doing take time to materialize. So, patience may also be needed at first, to try to notice what is actually working and what isn't.

There are many books and podcasts, I recommend also here that you try different ones. Here are a few quite good ones:

- Textbook: Hanyu Jiaocheng 汉语教程 (non-full-time)
- Textbook: New Practical Chinese Reader / Xin Shiyong Hanyu Keben 新实用汉语课本 (full-time, a three-year course of study)
- Podcast: ChinesePod.com (the older episodes)
- and many more



PS: @mikelove, could you perhaps move this thread to the Chinese Language section?
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Hi albertgilmore,
- Textbook: New Practical Chinese Reader / Xin Shiyong Hanyu Keben 新实用汉语课本
I’m using NPCR for a teacher-led class. We are now in the middle of Volume 2, so I feel well-versed in how the material is structured.

I’m just going to throw an opinion out there, that I’m sure many will disagree with.

NPCR is pretty bad for new English learners with no experience in Mandarin and who do not have “somebody at home to help me”. (English edition)

It is cheap, so that’s where it’s advantage is. But it has very contorted definitions of terms, poor use of English when describing grammatical terms (uses words you do not find in American English grammar books, at least), and most (yes, MOST OF THE BOOK) of the Mandarin terms/phrases in the book do not include any English explanations nor meanings.

Sure, it gives you definitions of individual characters, but then when it puts together phrases that have different meanings, you are on your own. Many times the phrases and grammatical structure had subtle changes in use and meaning, but without translations, you don’t get that from reading it. I found this to be extremely frustrating. But, it’s a very economical choice.

If you are taking a class where a teacher can explain every non-defined item in the book, you may be okay. But it feels very oriented to a “remember this as rote memorization and just regurgitate it”, which is very much a common learning style in China.

I don’t think it works well for an adult, non-native speaker, learning on their own. (But did I mention it’s CHEAP!?)

“Integrated Chinese” is far superior in presentation (now in the 4th Ed which I own copies of) but EXTREMELY expensive.

If you pair NPCR with a lot of supplementary material and time spent on your own, I think it can work. But it’s not a book that’s going to launch you well, IMO. It’s just too information-dense with too little explanation.


Hi JD,

it's very interesting that you have a negative impression of NPCR. I agree that its style is very concise, information-dense, but always to a high standard. I also liked the rote learning, with the exception of the prepared phrases and sentences that one was supposed to learn by heart for each lesson. I think its English is pretty OK; the Chinese team cooperated with a Canadian team, IIRC. But I 自学'd it a long time ago, from 2007-2011, perhaps the current edition is much worse?

So I revise my recommendation. NPCR is only good if you have plenty of other material, and/or if you like close reading of every sentence in NPCR. If so, its six volumes should give you plenty of language insight.

All six volumes of NPCR will set you back around $200-300 over the course of the years, including DVDs of students performing the lesson scenes, CDs (with very clear and authentic upper-class Chinese pronunciation) and exercise books. I don't know "Integrated Chinese" at all, but yes, it looks like that one costs about 2-3 times as much, about $60 per textbook.


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