Apr 10

MandarinIPimsleur Mandarin Chinese 1 ★★★★

I have found need to learn Mandarin, since I may be going to China for several months to teach at a medical school. There are many methods and courses out there for learning Mandarin, and in the end opted for this course. The Pimsleur method has many strengths to it, in that it focuses on teaching language like a child may learn a language. It offers the need to continually respond and recall words and phrases learned in the past. It allows one to learn a language while driving a car, or doing other activities. It also overcomes the greatest problem with learning an oriental language, in that it doesn’t waste time doing the most difficult activity, which is learning the writing system. Mandarin is a fundamentally an easy language to learn, in that there is importance to word order, but otherwise, the grammar is very simple. There are no verb tenses, no noun forms, no articles, no genders to learn. There is the problem of many words sounding very similar to western ears, and tonal qualities of the word can completely change the meaning of the word.

I am not giving the Pimsleur series 5 stars for a number of reasons. Even for all of its strengths over such language programs such as Rosetta Stone, it still doesn’t achieve the excellence of  French in Action. There are reasons for this…

1. It ignores the value of the written word. This is problematic because a) I often think in terms of words and sentences, and visualize what I am trying to say by visualizing in my mind the written word. The Pimsleur technique assumes that this sort of thinking doesn’t occur, yet it does as a child learns to read and write. b) The vocabulary of a auditory language problem is going to be limited, and the ability to interact with other language learning means, such as dictionaries (in Pinyin) and other resources becomes impossible unless one ventures outside of Pimsleur and learns Pinyin or written Chinese characters.

2. It doesn’t do well at developing the didactic part of learning a language. It is true that all aspects of a language can be learned by intense use, such as a child would learn a language. But, it is also true that adults can learn a language faster by grasping the rules of the language ahead of time.

3. Because of the absence of written text to accompany the teaching, it is hard to review what one had learned. It is true that review of words and phrases are constantly being mixed in with learning new words, but it is difficult to predict when a review will occur. At minimum, Pimsleur should have a summary review about every 10-15 units, but it doesn’t.

In spite of these shortcomings, I will continue to use Pimsleur all the way through the third section, but will supplement Pimsleur with other Mandarin language texts.

 

 

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3 Responses to “Pimsleur Mandarin 1”

  1. Onkel dennis says:

    Your points about needing the written language as a mental guide for speaking the language are well taken. I recommend that you learn words in pinyin so that you have their spelling (with tones) in your head, to remember how to correctly pronounce them.

    Learning a few of the more frequently-used words is also somewhat helpful in the Chinese environment. If you learn the meaning of some of the radicals, you can use them to etymologically decipher words, to an extent.

    Before you go to China, you should get and take a large pile of books titled God and the Ancient Chinese, by Samuel Wang and Ethel R. Nelson (Read Books Publisher, 1998; ISBN: 0-937869-02-3) Get one or two in English for yourself and the rest for Chinese. Wang and Nelson show the connection between the Bible and the ancient Chinese “philosophers” better than anyone and can open the doors for Chinese to consider the Bible. We have a Chinese version floating around among the Chinese down here. They are receptive to it because it so clearly bridges the gap between the Bible and what is familiar to them – and there are many similarities. Indeed, within Chinese philology one finds the names of Noah, Japtheth, and others. The book covers this.

  2. james morgan says:

    HI – I AM A RESEARCHER, LOOKING INTO THE FEUCHT ANCESTRY OF A FRIEND, CAROLYN YATES. HER 2 GREAT GRANDMOTHER WAS MAGDALENA FEUCHT VALLERY (MARRIED JACOB VALLERY JR. IN PIKE COUNTY, OHIO (CIRCA 1855), SOON AFTER SETTLING IN PLATTSMOUTH NE. MAGDALENA’S PARENTS WERE FREDERICK AND JULIA A (SOHN) FEUCHT, NATIVES OF THE KINGDOM OF WURTEMBERG. DR. HERBERT W. FEUCHT (OF GERMANY) IN 2001 RESPONDED TO AN ANCESTRY.COM POST, THAT REQUESTED MORE INFO ON THE FEUCHTS IN GERMANY. DR. FEUCHT INDICATED HE HAD SOME INFORMATION ON FEUCHTS GOING BACK INTO THE 1500’S. I TRIED TO EMAIL DR. FEUCHT, BUT THE EMAIL ADDRESS HE HAD BACK IN 2001 NO LONGER WORKS. IN TRYING TO FIND MORE ON DR. FEUCHT, I RAN INTO YOUR VERY INTERESTING BLOG. I WONDERED IF YOU STILL HAD COMMUNICATION WITH DR. FEUCHT(CURRENT EMAIL ADDRESS)? I AM THINKING HE IS THE SAME DR. FEUCHT THAT MADE THE ANCESTRY.COM POST YEARS AGO, BUT I AM NOT CERTAIN. THANKS FOR ANYTHING YOU MIGHT HAVE. BEST REGARDS, JAMES

  3. Gaylon says:

    This doesn’t sound like an easy task. You have much more foreign language learning experience than me but in my quest to learn Spanish I recommend going to the iToons store and check out the language learning podcasts. Find, download, burn, and listen to some really good learning CD’s in your car. FOR FREE!! You would need to live there for over a year before getting close to fluent but a lot of listening with good instruction is a great survival start. Good luck!

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