How to speak Mandarin

My friend circle is literally 90% chinese and because of this, I am considering learning Chinese (simplified).

To learn Chinese, the first step would probably be RSH, but I can't think of what to do afterwords to learn pronunciations, grammar and vocabulary.
Edited: 2012-01-28, 12:16 am
Possible ideas

- Buy a textbook
- Take a course
- Get a tutor
move to Harbin, date a local
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Do RSH then work through this deck:

You'll need a grammar guide, but you can find a few decent ones online.
Personally I have found decks to be not so good for outright learning of vocab. I toiled for a year with one such deck for Japanese and still had rather lack luster comprehension.

Now with Chinese I do use decks only for review and now after 3 months I am doing much better with Chinese comprehension, tones included.

I would reccomend Chinese with Ease by Assimil, though you may want to use audactiy to cut out the pauses. It does start out slow but approaches practically native speed by around lesson 40 something. I am not too fond of pimsleur however it is ok for some early production practice, but I find self talk much more effective in this regard.
If you plan to learn to read/write hanzi, take a look at
There's a lot of good articles on the process of learning chinese at

If I was doing it all over again I would do it this way:
1. Burn through RTH 1&2 (traditional definitely the way to go) in 2-3 months
2. Do one lesson every couple of days from a textbook series like New Practical Chinese Reader or Practical Audio Visual Chinese (3-6 months)
3. SRS everything with Anki but ideally use Pleco for making flashcards since it has example sentences
4. Start reading native material like manga (which is freely available online) and watching tv
5. Keep working through more advanced textbooks

Mix in conversation with your friends, podcasts, HSK vocab cramming, etc as you like. You could do all this in 1.5 years probably and be on your way to reading newspapers etc.
That would be a really solid plan, actually. I might suggest doing RTH and PAVC at the same time, but that would totally depend on the person.

I'd also recommend using other textbooks, either in addition to or instead of PAVC. For instance, Taiwan Today (今日台灣) is outstanding for teaching you to read Chinese as it's actually written, rather than as it's spoken (as they do in PAVC). It's about the level of PAVC 4 or so. There are also some good introductions to newspaper reading published by my school, MTC at National Taiwan Normal University, called Reading Chinese with Newspaper (I-III) that should be available throughout Taiwan.

For the more culturally or academically-minded, there's a series of intermediate readers called Supplementary Chinese Readers (Chinese Moral Tales, Chinese Customs and Traditions, Stories from Chinese History I-II) that start from around the level you'd reach at the end of PAVC III and proceed to introduce vocab using all of the 3000 most common characters used in newspapers. Other traditional character books for these types would include Thought and Society (more advanced) and The Independent Reader (much more advanced), and both are excellent. By this point you should also learn at least a little bit of Classical Chinese (but more is better), but that's a topic for another thread, I think.

There's also a book I'd recommend called Mini Radio Plays. The plays themselves are really over the top and melodramatic, but the book is supposed to be excellent for listening comprehension. I've looked and a few lessons so far, but I'm taking it in class next term. I've heard from people who have taken this course at my school that by the end they're able to listen to the radio here with no problem. One person told me he's now able to attend academic lectures in his field and understand essentially everything, which of course is no small feat. The whole book is in Chinese, so you need to be at a level to understand explanations of vocab and usage in Chinese. The preface says they assume a student who has finished either PAVC IV or Taiwan Today, or the equivalent.

If you're more interested in news or media Chinese, then after the newspaper series I mentioned there's also a book called News and Views, published by the ICLP program (and one of the few books by them that's actually available for purchase by people not studying there, another being Thought and Society above), which looks quite good.

If you're in Taiwan, then toward the end of PAVC III (ish), you should start buying copies of 國語日報 to work through. They're 10NT at 7-11, and they're newspapers written for elementary and middle school kids. The bopomofo is next to every character in the body of every article. They're really great for learning new vocab and chengyu that any kid in Taiwan will know (so you ought to, too). After PAVC IV or Taiwan Today, you may be ready to start working through the first Harry Potter book (哈利波特·神秘的魔法石) or something similar on the side, but I think a good textbook is still indispensable.

I know that last statement won't be very popular at this site, but I really think a good textbook (actually, several) is the best thing you can use, maybe aside from an SRS.
bflatnine, can you name a 7-11 or two in Taipei that carries 國語日報? I haven't been able to find any in the 7-11's near me. Thx.

NM - I found a search here:

in case anyone is also looking.
Edited: 2013-09-17, 3:36 am