Friday, September 28, 2012

Intermediate Chinese Reader (Parts I and II) by John DeFrancis

Excellent, effective instruction
If you're reading this, I’ll assume you’ve already worked your way through DeFrancis’s Beginning Chinese Reader, or are in the process of doing so. If not, see my review for that book. The Intermediate volumes in the series are structured a little bit differently than the Beginning. Instead of ten characters per chapter there are sixteen, and there are a lot more combinations, probably over 100 in each chapter. Because of the increase in volume of information, it’s more difficult to get through than the Beginning volumes. You will find the first few lessons to be rather hard, but eventually you just get used to it. Every sixth lesson is still a review lesson. There are 30 lessons in all, so both volumes of the Intermediate Chinese Reader combined give you a total of 400 characters.

As you learn more characters, the scope of subjects you are able to cover broadens dramatically. Whereas in the Beginning Reader you were reading about England and America, in the Intermediate Reader you are reading about the Inner Mongolian Autonomous Region and the United Nations General Assembly. In Beginning you learned the word for democracy, here you’re reading paragraphs discussing the differences between liberalism, conservatism, and imperialism.

The last time my Taiwanese in-laws came to the States, they were very impressed when I started writing out paragraphs in traditional Chinese characters. They were shocked when I told them that I was learning on my own without the help of an instructor. What’s more, they even complimented me on my grammar.

The DeFrancis system works. Obviously the more time you put into it the more you will learn and the better you will read and write. I am looking forward to working through the Advanced volume, but I already feel that from the first four volumes I have acquired a foundation of knowledge sufficient to enable me to study other texts and dictionaries and expand my Chinese vocabulary through independent study.

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