26 Mar 2007

Rapid Chinese

This is a CD, to teach Chinese. It is marketed as a revolutionary new method, but let us skip lightly over the hyperbole: it is a native Chinese woman speaker, with an English-speaking man, and there is a music track in the background. The 10 lessons are phrase book stuff, aimed at tourists; grammar is not introduced explicitly, just through example sentences. The music is nothing special but is easy to listen to.

I liked this CD, and have listened to it a lot. I think what I like best is that it is easy to have on while I am working: sometimes I listen actively, but most of the time it is just playing and does not distract me. Whether it is directly entering my subconscious or not I do not know. But I am as happy as if I had the radio on. Another thing that appeals is that I have sometimes played this CD while eating dinner with my family, and my children have picked up some phrases.

My opinion is that anyone learning Chinese should invest the effort in learning pinyin but unfortunately the pronunciation guide that comes with the CD instead uses its own English-like guide. To get pinyin and hanzi they have a PDF online that you can download. That PDF is riddled with errors: it was mostly wrong tones that I noticed. I intend to pass my list of errors on to them, and hopefully they will fix them quickly.

What else didn't I like? It is a little bit pricey. Also I do not think you will learn to speak the language using just this CD, as there are no quizzes or opportunities to speak. That is fine, it is outside the scope they are aiming at, but you should regard it as a support for a main course rather than self-contained. A guide to pronunciation would have been helpful, e.g. things like "qing" is pronounced like "ching" but with your tongue touching the back of your bottom teeth; for sh, zh, ch and r curl your tongue back until it almost touches the top of your mouth (try it - it is amazing how Chinese you suddenly sound!). This wouldn't fit the style of the CD but would be a nice addition to the PDF file.

Compared to ChinesePod.com the language taught on this CD is quite polite. I am not able to judge if the phrases are natural or not. I would love to hear from someone who is able to judge that.

They do other languages (see http://earwormslearning.com) and I intend to try the German CD soon. When volume 2 for Chinese comes out I will likely try that too. Immodestly, I hope and assume the Japanese CDs will be too easy for me, so I have not tried them. You can hear short samples of each on the earworms web site.

Rapid Chinese: Amazon UK, Amazon JP

Rapid German: Amazon UK, Amazon JP

Rapid Japanese, Vol 1: Amazon UK, Amazon JP

Rapid Japanese, Vol 2: Amazon UK, Amazon JP

1 comment:

darren said...

Here is a useful pronunciation guide, that explains where to put the tongue:
http://www.sinosplice.com/lang/pronunciation/04/

The whole article is worth reading, starting here:
http://www.sinosplice.com/lang/pronunciation/