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Sam Songs book 'Learn Chinese The Easy Way' is a book devoted to teaching the comprehension and writing of Chinese characters, both traditional and simplified. Sam does so through a series of popular Chinese stories that are written in English and then the important vocabulary is translated into the traditional Mandarin characters. The idea is that you will slowly come to learn how to read the somewhat baffling Chinese pictographs with greater ease. Let's face it, for most non-native Mandarin speakers, the Chinese character system is at once mysterious and mystifying. You learn to decipher what the characters mean and in turn learn the correct stroke order so that you can write them correctly. The book is also accompanied by free downloadable audios from the author's website. This ensures that, while you learn to read and write, you also learn to speak a little. There are three levels, each bought separately, which progress from beginner level through to intermediate level Mandarin.
'Learn Chinese The Easy Way' is a good introduction to the complex subject of Chinese Mandarin writing. Few books deal with this subject in such detail. Indeed, very few computer software programs deal with this subject in as much detail as this book does. If you are primarily focused on learning the writing system then this book is worth your consideration. At less than fifteen dollars, this book provides you with a sophisticated yet accessible explanation of the formation of written characters. It uses a context based learning method. The context is given through reading popular Chinese stories in this case Two Men and The Bear' and 'The Wind and The Sun.' First, vocabulary is explained in English accompanied by Chinese character diagrams that show how the character is formed. There is also pin yin translation to help with pronunciation. The book slowly builds upon your understanding by explaining words and phrases relevant to the story and works you toward reading the entire story. There is also a page that reminds you to now go and listen to the audio on the website to connect with the learning so far. The stories are short and designed to help you understand vocabulary and sentence structure.
'Learn Chinese The Easy Way' is an ambitious attempt at explaining and teaching basic Chinese Mandarin character writing. But the language focus is extremely limited in that the language relates only to the stories. Also, having to download the audio from a website is quite tiresome as the downloads seem to be in no logical order (it would be better to include an audio CD which is more organized and logical). It is also quite confusing to shift between traditional and simplified Chinese characters. Surely a beginner should focus on one or the other and not be confused by both? It is clear that 'Learn Chinese The Easy Way' has a limited focus and might only be worth purchasing if you are on a budget and want to have a resource that supplements other resources.
Overall, 'Learn Chinese The Easy Way' is a great book to introduce you to the complexities of writing Mandarin characters but it has a limited focus. So those who wish to learn to speak Mandarin, should steer clear; this is for those wanting to study the complexities of Chinese writing not for someone simply wanting to learn survival Mandarin. This book is more suited to a student who wants to find a resource to supplement other learning material. That said, the book does have great illustrations and will indeed give you great insight into the mysterious subject of Chinese writing; if you need to learn to read and write in Mandarin, this book is a good start!
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