Pimsleur Mandarin 1

Pimsleur Mandarin Chinese 1 ★★★★
I have found the 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 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 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 an 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 venture 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 reviews 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 a 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.