I feel like my 2005 copy of Chinese for Dummies is a bit out of date, though apparently the 2013 edition also has a CD inside. (If you ask me, CDs were rightly mocked as obsolete by Nick in Zootopia.)
I’m a fan of the “for Dummies” series published by Wiley. I have dummies books on several topics, and in every case, the information inside is characterized by its simplicity and clarity. The dummies books are an easy first step into any topic, saving readers from needing to understand and evaluate a wide range of available reference books in an unfamiliar niche. Wiley’s got you covered.
This book’s tagline is “Speak Mandarin Chinese the fun and easy way”. Now, no matter how much I like and respect the dummies brand, I do not believe there is any book, or teacher, or class that can make Mandarin Chinese easy for a native speaker of English. That being said, a useful feature of this particular book is the Englishy spelling approximations (e.g., nee how) that are shown alongside the pinyin (e.g., nĭ hăo) to aid pronunciation.
Note that this book teaches readers how to speak Mandarin, not how to read or write it. That’s a totally different thing. This book has no Chinese characters in it anywhere.
Some things it does have:
- a fascinating list of the different names for Chinese in Chinese and where and why they are used
- a list of some Chinese proverbs
- a cartoon for each part of the book
- a verb list separate from the glossary
- practice exercises and answers to them
- bits of cultural knowledge and etiquette advice
Overall the book is fine, but it’s really for absolute beginners, and I’m not one.
Still, I suppose I should learn to say this sentence from page 162:
I really need [to] practice.
Genre: Non-fiction (foreign language)
Date started / date finished: 10-Nov-15 to 22-Mar-16
Originally published in: 2005
Amazon link: Chinese for Dummies