Mandarin Course and Dictionary Reviews

 – Books, Tapes, & CD’s for Learning Mandarin Chinese


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I have been learning Mandarin/Putonghua on-and-off for a few years. This page contains reviews of the Mandarin courses that I own or have read. These reviews will help you in choosing courses to self-study Mandarin Chinese.

How I’ve Rated The Courses And Dictionaries:

I’ve given each a rating from 1 to 5 stars. The more stars the better. I value audio (cassettes, CDs, etc.) very highly, after all how can someone learn to speak properly if they never hear the language?! I like a sensible lesson ordering – starting with simple commonly-used speech in the first few lessons, then increasing in complexity as the lessons progress. I like course books which perfectly match the audio. I like books without typing mistakes. I like sensible Romanizations.

Listening & Speaking Mandarin Chinese


Title - Author(s), Original publish date (Version date), ISBN (Comments).

Level Rating Good Points Bad Points

Ultimate Mandarin Chinese: Basic-Intermediate - Living Language, 2000, (8 CDs).

Picture of book 'Ultimate Mandarin Chinese' Basic-Intermediate. ****
- Comprehensive and professionally written.
- Comes with around 7½ hours of audio!
- Would be much better if the dialogues had Chinese characters too.
- Every second page has a typo.
- On a few occasions the words on the CD’s don’t match the words in the book.
- The CD’s have clearly been recorded from tape since in places they contain annoying clicks, speed changes, and other tape-related artefacts.
- The aforementioned effects combined with the unnecessarily-fast and unclear speaking in some dialogues, makes some words difficult to hear.

Hanyu for Beginning Students - Peter Chang, Alyce Mackerras, Yu Hsiu-Ching, ???? (Cassettes).
Hanyu for Intermediate Students Stage 1 - Peter Chang, Alyce Mackerras, Yu Hsiu-Ching, 1993 (Cassettes).
Hanyu for Intermediate Students Stage 2 - Peter Chang, Alyce Mackerras, Yu Hsiu-Ching, ???? (Cassettes).
Hanyu for Intermediate Students Stage 3 - Peter Chang, Alyce Mackerras, Yu Hsiu-Ching, ???? (Cassettes).
Hanyu for Senior Students - Peter Chang, Alyce Mackerras, Yu Hsiu-Ching, ???? (Cassettes).

(The review below applies specifically to Stage 1 since it’s the only book I own, but I have seen the others.)
Basic-Intermediate. ***½ - Uses the PinYin Romanization.
- Comes with over 2½ hours of audio.
- Has good sized English and Chinese indices.
- A few typos here and there.

Chinese for Travellers - Berlitz, 1980 (1985), ISBN 0029642108.

Picture of book 'Chinese for Travellers' Basic-Intermediate. *** - Contains thousands of useful English and Mandarin phrases.
- Good for what is was designed for, i.e. a phrase book.
- Small, light, and easy to carry around.
- Useful for basic communication when you speak no Chinese. (Came in handy on a trip to Taiwan many years ago when the taxi driver was driving at double the speed limit down the wrong side of the highway.)
- A few typos here and there.

Mao’s Alphabet Version 1.0 CD ROM - Dark Horse Software Corp, 1996, (CD ROM).

Basic. * - Calligraphy is big and nice.
- Cheap price.
- Only has full form characters even though it’s a Mandarin language program.
- A few typos here and there.
- Clunky user interface.


Title - Author(s), Original publish date (Version date), ISBN (Comments).

Level Rating Good Points Bad Points

A Practical English-Chinese Pronouncing Dictionary - Janey Chen, 1970 (1994), ISBN 0804818770.

Picture of book 'A Practical English-Chinese Pronouncing Dictionary' Advanced. *** - Characters, and Mandarin and Cantonese pronunciation are given for over 15,000 English words - useful for students of Mandarin and Cantonese. - The Yale System of Romanization is an abomination which is used for both Mandarin and Cantonese. A table of conversions to PinYin (Mandarin) and other Cantonese Romanizations is given though.
- The main dictionary, religious appendix, and military appendix should be combined. Such appendices are unnecessary and annoying.

Reading & Writing Mandarin Chinese


Title - Author(s), Original publish date (Version date), ISBN (Comments).

Level Rating Good Points Bad Points

Reading and Writing Chinese - William McNaughton, 1979 (1991), ISBN 0804815846.

Picture of book 'Reading and Writing Chinese' Intermediate. *** - Over 1,000 characters are listed with their full-form stroke order (the simplified forms are also given when appropriate). - The Yale System of Romanization is used instead of PinYin.
- A few typos here and there.

Chinese Etymology - Tienzen (Jeh-Tween) Gong, 2007.

Picture of book 'Chinese Etymology' Intermediate. Review in progress. . - The book is insanely expensive.
- A strange Romanization is used instead of PinYin.
- Incorrect English grammar appears throughout.
- A few typos here and there.

  Section:    Top Listening & Speaking Reading & Writing  
Page:    Cantonese Course and Dictionary Reviews Electronic Handheld Translator Reviews Big Two Card Game Rules Mahjong Rules Yum Cha Menu

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Copyright © 1997 Andrew WhiteCreated: 30 Mar 1997
Page authored by Andrew WhiteUpdated: 08 Nov 2012

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