FSI Chinese is actually pretty good

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

I generally don't look at English course materials for East Asian languages as Korean and Japanese generally have better materials - languages like Chinese, Mongolian, even Turkish and Uzbek are often better learned using those languages if you can. But a few days ago I had a listen to the FSI Chinese language course for the first time, and it's very good for a certain type of student. The student is:

- a person who wants to solely, or mostly, listen and learn
- a person who either is not interested in learning to write or has another source to learn it with

This is because the course:

- only uses Pinyin, and
- is extremely thorough. It goes very slow, but makes sure to explain exactly what one is learning. One early lesson I had a listen to explained the difference between one 了 and two of them in using the past tense - one is used for regular past tense showing a finished action as in 他来 (he came) but you use two in showing how long it has been since action X has occurred, something that is still ongoing. For example: 你来几个月 - how many months have you been here?

The course is from 1979 and is naturally a little bit dated, with people in the PRC calling each other comrade and fairly youthful-sounding people saying that they were born in 1939, but overall it is not awkward at all.

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