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Read and Speak ChineseTitle: Read & Speak Chinese For Beginners
Author: Cheng Ma
Copyright: © 2004
Publisher: McGraw-Hill
ISBN: 0-07-143082-2 (includes one audio CD)

Relevance: Ideal for reporters and correspondents who wish to learn Mandarin Chinese from a conversational point of view. Learning to speak Mandarin is a complex matter and Read & Speak Chinese For Beginners makes the process simpler and less of a hassle.

Review: Any beginning student of Chinese knows the difficulty involved in learning a new language -- especially when a non-Western character set is concerned. Russian, Korean, Hebrew and Arabic are some of most difficult languages to pick up and master since newcomers lack a specific frame of reference and a common character set.

Chinese is especially intimidating for many reasons: the strange, new character set; the seemingly endless meanings for each character based on tonal emphasis; and the overall "foreignness" of the culture and reference points for most new learners.

Part of the Read & Speak series from McGraw-Hill, Read & Speak Chinese For Beginners is an ideal book/audio CD set that brings Mandarin -- the most widely understood Chinese dialect -- to life with lots of friendly diagrams and illustrations. The accompanying audio disc also is invaluable to help fine-tune your pronunciation and quicken your learning curve.

While you won't become a native speaker of Mandarin after reading this book, Read & Speak Chinese For Beginners will certainly give you big leg up on others who use text-only based courses and books. Rather than concentrate on huge amounts of Mandarin grammar, Read & Speak Chinese For Beginners emphasizes the enunciation and comprehension of simple, basic phrases.

Read & Speak Chinese For Beginners teaches basic vocabulary and sentence structure based on eight separate phases of traveling.

In Topic 1 -- "What's your name?" the book explains basic greetings and shows you how to say your own name as well as asking for other people's names. After completing Topic 2 -- "Where are you from?" -- you can explain where you live and work, based on the supplied Mandarin words for many of the world's larger countries.

Topic 3 -- "What's this?" -- introduces key question words letting you ask about things you see on your travels as well as ordering drinks and snacks in restaurants and bars. Topic 4 -- "Where is it?" asks where things are, and how to ask for directions to get there. The chapter also introduces the concepts of negation -- and shows two basic ways to do this in Mandarin.

Throughout the book, there are many cross references to the audio CD. This makes it easy to get pointers on pronunciation and usage while you're learning. While not every new phrase is introduced on the audio CD, enough key words are available to give you a wide smattering and keep you interested in learning more.

Topic 5 -- "What's it like?" -- concentrates on adjectives and other descriptive characteristics, while Topic 6 -- "How do I get there?" -- outlines Mandarin words for places around town such as the airport, bank, hotel, school, restaurant and others. The chapter also features transportation-related words and phrases such as "go by train", "go by taxi" "turn", "right" "bus stop" and others.

Topic 7 -- "Who's this?" -- outlines words used to describe your family; possessive pronouns such as "my", "your" and "our", as well as the numbers 1 to 10. The last topic -- "What do you do?" is filled with occupation-related words and phrases.

Two of the best features of Read & Speak Chinese For Beginners are its simplicity and ease of use. Most key topics are introduced with both words and pictures, and many fill-in-the-blank sections underscore the lessons. In addition, the book's flash cards (which readers can remove from the book following pre-scored perforations) make the learning experience more fun.

We were quite impressed with Read & Speak Chinese For Beginners. Belying the book's relatively small page count, readers gain an important understanding of key phrases -- and the pronunciation -- involved in business travel. Recommended for reporters and correspondents who want to be better prepared when traveling in major Chinese cities on assignment or vacation.

Key features:
• Basic phrases are introduced with text, pictures and often, audio
• Activities such as games, puzzles and fill-in-the-blanks add interest
• Flash cards help memorization of key phrases
• 60-minute audio CD reinforces key pronunciation concepts

End of Review

Other books in the Read & Speak series include:
Read & Speak Arabic For Beginners
Read & Speak Japanese For Beginners

Travelers to China might also consider Lonely Planet's Cantonese Phrasebook, a book that contains hundreds of useful phrases for just about any travel situation.

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