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Practical Audio-Visual Chinese

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Title: 實用視聽華語
Year: 2008

Arriving in Taiwan in September 2008, I first encountered Practical Audio-Visual Chinese at Chunghua University in Xinzhu. I had studied one year of Chinese and jumped straight into book three, which was quite a challenge at the time. Still, a semester later, we had finished book three, half of Taiwan Today and had also started on this book, being number four in a series of five books in total. Moving to Gaoxiong in the spring, I started with book five, which means that I had to study book four on my own, which I did quite a long time ago, even though this review is quite late.

There isn’t much new to say about the book as such, since it more or less follows the same pattern used in the first three books. It is by far the best series I’ve seen and book four gives no reason whatsoever to change that. I have only one complaint. I realise that vocabulary becomes more and more specific as the learner advances, but some vocabulary in this book is, frankly speaking, utterly ludicrous (like “nose cancer”, ever needed to use that?). This is quite a minor disadvantage though, so don’t let it stop you (the other series I’ve seen have been far worse in this regard, especially the Far Eastern Everyday Chinese).

As usual, I have also compiled word lists for ZDT for book four. This time I’ve been a lot more careful, entering vocabulary almost verbatim. There probably are some mistakes in there and by reporting them to me, you can help me helping other people to learn correct Chinese. The file can be imported to ZDT via the “Restore data” function (in other words, do not use “Import”). Since I’ve now skipped most of book five, striving even higher, it will probably be quite some time before I review that book and publish my word lists, but that day will come, too. In the meantime, have some fun with the vocabulary for book four!

Important: The lists for ZDT will still be here, but no longer updated. The vocabulary can and should be accessed from the Anki software, which is far superior to ZDT. If youh aven’t changed already, you should do so now.

Download ZDT word lists for Practical Audio-Visual Chinese 4

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Visit Hacking Chinese instead: This post about studying Chinese is partly or completely obsolete. A revised version, along with much more related to language learning can be found at Hacking Chinese. This post is kept here for the sake of consistency.

Most people who have studied a foreign language in a classroom situation (which should be most of us, I think) have depended on a series of textbooks, or a number of them, since different institutions and different levels might use different textbooks. The only situations I know of where textbooks aren’t used at all in a classroom are when the students have very special needs (no text book is applicable) or the students are too advanced. In these cases, the teacher might decide that the class is better off using a freer form of teaching. What I’m going to discuss here, mostly from a learner’s perspective, but also from a teacher’s, is the value of using additional textbooks as a resource for more comprehensive language learning.

Before even beginning to discuss the various benefits that using additional textbooks entails, it’s necessary to take a closer look at what a textbook can do in the first place. I’m convinced that textbooks are useful, but used alone, they will never lead to mastery of a language. Textbooks are good for a number of reasons. First, the authors have chosen vocabulary that they think is suitable for students. These lists are valuable, because the authors’ guesses are a lot better than yours and they also know not to use overly complicated language that might be a waste of time at a student’s particular level. Second, textbooks explain the language, which is crucial for some learners (myself included). I cannot simply learn a language efficiently only by everyday conversations, I need a top-down approach for some elements, including but not limited to grammar. That being said, there are of course lots of things textbooks can’t teach, but that’s not the subject of this article. Also, I should mention that I prefer as challenging environments as possible for my main courses, but that’s something completely different from what I’m talking about here.

Let us look closer at vocabulary for a moment, the essence of language learning. Repeating what I explained above, a textbook can be said to be the your guide in an unfamiliar landscape after having parachuted from the sky. It indicates a direction and leads you along a path of ever increasing difficulty as the topics gradually becomes more difficult as the starting point vanishes beyond the horizon behind you. However, you mustn’t fool yourself into thinking that being able to walk a distance in one direction means that you can do the same in another. A new language is a huge landscape and even the easier parts are vast. Approaching more difficult challenges doesn’t mean that the easier ones are all mastered. This is where additional textbooks come in, but before I explain how, I shall illustrate with an example.

Consider my Chinese studies. As textbooks, I’ve primarily used the Practical Audio-Visual Chinese (although I did use Short-term Spoken Chinese for my first year). This means than when I landed in alien territory, those books took me around a carefully guided tour, introducing various subjects and topics. Perhaps this guide also resulted in a false sense of security, because even though my vocabulary and grammar is now pretty advanced in some fields, I can fail very basic vocabulary tests for areas I simply haven’t visited yet (this is true for English as well, please don’t ask me about word for cooking or cars!).

So, how might additional textbooks be used here? The thing is that they constitute new and different guided tours through the landscape, which by now should be at least partly familiar. The vocabulary is chosen by different authors with slightly different perspectives, leading to another set of words somebody thinks you really should know. Of course, no author can include all words they want, so they have to choose, but if you choose more than one author, you can learn an enormous amount of extremely useful words (this also applies to grammar, but let’s continue using vocabulary as an example). The alternative would be to choose words that you encounter in everyday life, but they might be very far from universal or not even common at all; deciding which to learn and which to ignore is almost impossible. Since you can select textbooks already at your level or below, you can expand vocabulary and strengthen fundamental grammar in quite a relaxed manner.

Again returning to studying Chinese, I’ve recently started looking into a second series of text books called Far Eastern Everyday Chinese, which is the other major textbook series used in Taiwan, and I have also used Taiwan Today: An Intermediate Course (this was what gave the impetus that resulted in this article). All the chapters studied in these books can be said to be below my level of Chinese, but that’s the whole point. Studying these chapters, I found that I knew about two thirds of the words and most grammar, but the elements I didn’t know were truly interesting. The topics chosen in these books do of course differed from the ones in Practical Audio-Visual Chinese, so some specialised vocabulary were new (one book might have a chapter on going to the swimming pool, another about playing football, for instance). Some of these I could safely ignore, but I always found lots of words I didn’t realise I was lacking before I saw them, or expressions that are genuinely useful although I had never thought of them. Continuously reading more and more challenging texts is a very inefficient way of mastering basic language skills and doesn’t ensure a complete map of the most essential parts of a foreign language.

By way of conclusion, I would like to recommend people to use more than one textbook. You don’t necessarily need to study it carefully, but do at least make sure you know the grammar and the relevant words (ignore those that are too specific in areas you have no interest in). It’s an efficient way of strengthening basic language skills and makes sure that you cover as much of the truly essential language as possible. Which textbooks to use is of course impossible to give general advice about, but for Chinese, the Taiwan Today: An Intermediate Course is an excellent choice. Good luck!

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Title: 實用視聽華語
Year: 2008

Practical Audio-Visual Chinese is the second series of Chinese text books I encounter, the first being the one I studied in Sweden, namely Short-Term Spoken Chinese (see reviews of Threshold and Elementary volumes). When I first came to Taiwan, our class started from book three, but I covered the previous two volumes on my own to make sure I didn’t miss anything important. On the whole, I think these first three books are outstandingly good, especially when compared to my previous text books. Of course, they are far from perfect, but they have no obvious and major flaws.

Each chapter is structured around a text (fairly normal, focused on dialogue), and then the vocabulary is presented, each of the more complicated or non-obvious words having one or more sentences to clarify usage and meaning. Although the English is sometimes a bit odd, the overall impression is very good. These examples contain almost no characters the student doesn’t know from earlier chapters (which was a serious problem with Short-Term Spoken Chinese). For a complete list of the vocabulary used in the first three volumes of Practical Audio-Visual Chinese, please refer to this post.

After the vocabulary comes a comprehensive and intelligible explanation of relevant grammar, nothing fancy, but it works. Sometimes, the exercises deviate a lot from the explanations, leaving a solitary student clueless (having a teacher doesn’t always help either!). Also, a few more examples would have been useful, since it is difficult to know the right answer without a teacher. Still, they are worthwhile. At the end of each chapter there is a supplementary text, which we didn’t spend too much time on, but they are the whole quite interesting. Since the main texts always are dialogue, the extra texts (which are usually in some other format) are good to vary reading material a bit.

On the whole, I have nothing much to complain about, and that is very high praise when it comes to Chinese text books. The authors know what they’re doing and they have done good job. In addition to this, the layout is neat and pleasant to the eye. I can recommend this series to anyone who is interested in learning Chinese (using traditional characters, of course), or who want a supplement to another series (a very good idea, in my opinion). The books are a bit expensive compared to others, but they are also thicker, containing a total of roughly 1100 pages. I’m currently studying book five in class and book four on my own and even though the vocabulary gets rather non-practical after a while, Practical Audio-Visual Chinese is a good series throughout!

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Important: I no longer use ZDT to learn Chinese. The lists for ZDT will still be here, but no longer updated. The vocabulary can and should be accessed from the Anki software, which is far superior to ZDT. If you haven’t changed already, you should do so now. Please visit Hacking Chinese to read more about how to learn Chinese more efficiently!

Since I came to Taiwan, I have been studying a series of books called Practical Audio-Visual Chinese, 2nd Edition. I have over the past three months assembled a complete list of all the new words from the first three volumes in this series. Before I present the links to the files, there are a couple of things I would like to say. To begin with, these are my personal lists, which means that they are not proof to mistakes or misunderstandings. I take no responsibility whatsoever for the accuracy of the definition, although I am fairly sure they are mostly correct (most of them are identical to the book). Since this series of text books use traditional characters, I have made no attempt to type in correct simplified alternatives. Also, since the characters from book one were much too easy for me, I have not been very careful with the English translation (most of the time is straight from the dictionary). Please use with caution. If you find any other mistakes, please let me know so that I can update these lists.

Second, the format I present these lists in is the ZDT backup format. This program is a wonderful help to learn Chinese and I have spent many hundreds of hours using it (the website is here and the program can be downloaded from here). Please refer to my article about revision in order to learn the advantages of ZDT’s time filter. You can use these lists in two ways. First, simply download and install ZDT, then use File >> Restore Data and select the files listed below (please check the box name Ignore stats, because otherwise my stats will disrupt the filters you use). Second, open the backup file in a text editor or spreadsheet software, and use the lists for whatever purpose you desire; the backup format is in plain text, so the lists should be useful even if for those who do not wish to use ZDT.

Finally, here are the three word lists; I hope they will help you study Chinese more efficiently!

Practical Audio-Visual Chinese 1
Practical Audio-Visual Chinese 2
Practical Audio-Visual Chinese 3

Link to words from book four, along with a review

Update: The word lists have been moved, but the links should be working properly now. I’ve also added a link to book four.

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