12 September 2012

New Practical Chinese Reader Series….actually not so ‘Practical’

Ok so here is the deal. I have been seriously been trying to learn Chinese Mandarin for about a one and half years now.  While I have made some progress, I am not entirely satisfied with what I have achieved so far. This is the first time for me to learn without being immersed in the language. See here for previous language victories.
One of my main gripes is the set text book “New Practical Chinese Reader”.  It is lauded as one of the better books to learn Chinese, but this text does not really suit me.

Why?  Well some of the topics I find I am never going to use at this stage of my learning.

  • Any of the sports words
  • Chinese Opera
  • Chinese famous novels and famous pieces of music
  • Environmental issues 

  • I don’t really have any interest in Sports, Opera and Environmental Issues in English….so to discuss or know about these things in another language. I do have a strong interest in classical music and literature, however I rarely find someone who wants to talk about these topics.
    I don’t need all the vocabulary that is set in the text. Here are some choice examples of what I am talking about;

    植树节 zhíshù jié Arbour Day

    上联 shànglián the first line of a couplet

    举头望明月jǔtóu wàng míngyuèI raise my head and gaze at the bright moon

    老舍 lǎoshě Lao She (a Chinese modern writer)

    做操 zuòcāo to do gymnastics

    春江花月夜 chūnjiānghuā yuèyè a famous, traditional Chinese music composition

    唐代 tángdài Tang Dynasty 

    南水北调 nánshuǐběidiào  divert water from the south to the north

    两岸猿声啼不住 liǎng'àn yuánshēng tíbuzhù monkeys on both banks keep calling

    I can see the purpose of the vocabulary is to try to encourage an interest in Chinese culture and the arts, so that learners do not end up complete Philistines.  However, I believe it is not really practical be learning such special interest vocabulary at this stage of my learning. I am also culturally aware and know that Chinese people are very proud of their culture and heritage (quite rightly so).

    Previously I have tried to be eclectic in my learning and skip what I don’t need…the danger of this is the word turns up again from  “A long time ago in a lesson, far, far away…”.  So it is difficult to leave out words that I don’t want / need to learn as they “Turn up like a bad penny”.

    After a quick search I have found I am not the only one who is not a fan of the NPCR texts. Here are a number of mixed reviews from Amazon customers. Reviews of NPCR . It seems that other people also have a love hate relationship with the NPCR series of books.


    1. Hello,

      Thank you very much for this article. I can see Chinese is quite tough to learn but coming across articles like this help get some more motivation.


    2. Hi Jonathan,

      I couldn't agree with you more! I too have no interest in the majority of topics we have studied this semester in CHIN202 - and it does make studying for the exam difficult!

      I think the text you used in Xi'an "Chinese Made Easier" by Martin Symonds has more relevant topics for day-to-day life. In addition the grammar is better explained for the individual who is using it as a reference.

      NPCR does not explain grammar very well if you are not a linguist and without our study notes translations - makes it difficult. But even then I think it's difficult without additional examples, which have been lacking from our course notes since about lesson 25.

      Good luck for the exam!

    3. Hi,
      If you complain for NPCR in english you ought to read the spanish version "El nuevo libro de chino practico". A chinese-english-spanish translation... It looks like a work done by amateurs not professionals. Not many alternatives though...


    4. Although I agree with you in some aspects, NPCR is still very good in reference to the long texts, examples and exercises.
      I started using BOYA Chinese textbook and, although I think it is better in some aspects and I am going to continue with that one as soon as I go back to university, NPCR is one of the best ones I´ve found for learning without classes.
      Even though I may not be very interested in sports or Beijin Opera, it is good having those topics in the book, you can always skip them or not learn the vocabulary if you don´t think they fit you.

    5. I agree with this. I think learning Chinese it is really important to have someone to talk to even a little to help with any bad habits.

      How is your Chinese now?

    6. No, the NPCR vocab will NOT turn up as a bad penny. All those fancy sports/culture/Beijing opera words show up once, not to be seen ever again.

      Do yourself a favor, get Integrated Chinese (any edition) or Contemporary Chinese (previous edition). Those two are well suited for self study - all the dialogs are translated in all 4 volumes of both books.


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