Michel Thomas Method: Speak Mandarin Chinese for Beginners

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Summary

It teaches four tones systematically. By focusing on the understanding of grammatical structure, it develops the ability to think & express and leads to effortless recall of vocabulary. Effective and fun for beginner.

Classroom setup with two students, a native speaker and the instructor, Harold Goodman. You will learn common mistakes made by English speakers through the learning proess of the students.


Descriptions

Developed based on Michel Thomas Method, Harold Goodman begins the audio program with lesson on Four Tones.

Four Tones for beginners

Many Mandarin recorded programs choose to ignore the teaching of Four Tones or simply leave the learners to pick up "naturally". Four Tones is important in speaking mandarin. Most non native speakers find it difficult to even distinguish one tone from another.

Four tones is in fact easy to learn if it is properly explained. In Speak Mandarin Chinese For Beginners The Michel Thomas Method, Harold Goodman deploys kinesthetic memory aids to associate every tone in the four tones with colors and finger patterns.

I was impressed by Harold Goodman’s observations that English speaking people use four tones all the time. He pointed out how these tones appear and are used in English. It helps in developing students’ ability to recognize and to speak the tones as I can see the results from my friends.

 

Focus of the program

Like all Michel Thomas Language Audio Programs, Speak Mandarin Chinese For Beginners focuses on the learning of language structure that enables learners to express in Mandarin with correct tones and grammar.

 

Format of the teaching

Harold introduces vocabulary to be formed in short sentences. Once words are introduced, Harold would guide the students on language structure and asks "How would you say...?" Initially Harold would guide the translation from English. The students are required to think from what he had learned and form the sentences correctly.

In the 5th CD, the lady student is learning to say, "Is your male teacher at home now?" She rearranges the English words based on Chinese grammar, "Your male teacher is now at home, eh?" and therefore "Ni de nan lao shi zai jia ma?"

Such method leverage on the students' understanding of English in order to introduce the language structure of Mandarin.

There are two students in the audio program, you are the third student. When Harold guided the translation or asked "How would you say...?", you would pause the player and attempt to answer. You start the player again and to listen to the answer of the other student. Jintao Tong, the native speaker will provide the final and correct answer.

This is the format of teaching of all Michel Thomas Language Course. Such format of teaching also enables you to realize common mistakes of Chinese Language made by English speakers.

 

Benefits

"You are trying to remember, please don't." - Michel Thomas

The sentences introduced would become longer and more complex as Harold Goodman touches on more language structure of Mandarin. The repetition of vocabulary used and your concentration on thinking enables effortless memorizing of vocabulary.

The students' focus is on forming the correct sentences using the words. The words, therefore, requires little efforts to be remembered.

While Harold leads the pace of the program, it is Jintao Tong, the native Mandarin speaker, handles the pronunciation and provides a reliable native speaker's accent.

This audio program covers most basic and important grammar of Mandarin. It provides the learners a framework of the language and a good foundation of learning.

If you are a beginner or were struggled with Chinese Language for many years, Michel Thomas Method Speak Mandarin Chinese for Beginners is a great starting point.

"...Goodman's approach is wonderful - good humoured, always entertaining and well-paced. I recommend the method highly.

A couple of weeks after buying the introductory course, I trained a delegation of Chinese local government officials. They greeted my first forays into Mandarin with delight saying it was rare for a Westerner even to try it. They were complimentary about my accent and understanding of tones and their replies suggested they understood everything I said..."

D. A. Cotton "David Cotton" (Cheshire, England)

"...Firstly, as a native English speaker we are culturally programmed to believe that Mandarin is almost impossible for us to learn because it is a language which employs tones. The author totally dispels this myth in the first few minutes of the course. He takes English words and then lays a tone over the top to illustrate what they are and how they work. I thought this was very clever because I immediately felt more relaxed with the whole idea of learning Chinese after he did this."

"...I'm a teacher of Finance and I recently had a Mandarin speaking student on one of the courses I was presenting. I thought to myself `I wonder if she will understand me if I use some of the Chinese I know'. So I gave it a try. She immediately played back to me what I had said to her in English to show that she understood and commented that my use of the tones was perfect. When she asked how long I'd been learning she refused to believe that it was only a few hours. This was a real boost to my confidence that in such a short period I was communicating relatively complex ideas and being understood by native speakers..."

Languagelover (Manchester, England)

 

Weaknesses

There is an interesting minor error in the program. In one CD the lady student asked whether the "tai" that refers to "too (much/ little)" is the same as "tai tai" that refers to wife. Harold responded that they are different words and characters. Well, he made a small mistake here. The fact is they are the same word and character. In Mandarin, you double the "too" (tai x 2) and you will end up with a wife (taitai). :-)

The lady students in the audio program are a good learner and has asked some very good questions to clear doubts. We do find at times, Harold's explanations are not very satisfactory. But overall they lead to correct conclusions.

In Michel Thomas method, learners are first guided to know the content before express the content in Mandarin. There is very little practice in listening to Mandarin without first knowing the content.

The skills required to translate what we want to say from English to Mandarin, are quite different from the skills required to understand what others say without first having any preconceived ideas of the content. In their first real life Mandarin conversation, it may take a while for the learners to get use to listening without first knowing the content.

Another common complaint from the reviewers of Michel Thomas method is on replies of the native speakers. Since the learners are usually able to express in Mandarin properly with correct grammar, the native speakers would not realized they are talking to a novice. They would respond in Mandarin without lowering the standard of Mandarin and with difficult vocabulary.

 

Vocabulary Issue

Some users complain about the lack of "usefulness" of the vocabulary as they did not learn how to make hotel reservation, negotiate for cheaper price, or other day to day words.

We disagree. Like all Michel Thomas Language Program, the 8-hour foundation CDs focus on the usage of important vocabulary, i.e. but, and, because, why, is/are/am, yes, no and other negations, also, various pronouns, this, that, here, there, now/past/future, etc. that are commonly used and form the backbone of the language.

It lays the foundation. So when you learn the words "reservation" and "hotel", you will be able to tell the hotel receptionist with proper sentence, "I would like to make a reservation." instead of "Hotel! reservation! Do!"

Recommendation

Like all Michel Thomas Language Courses, "Michel Thomas Method: Speak Mandarin Chinese For Beginners" is particularly effective for beginners or those who are struggling in:

  1. four tones
  2. basic usage of Mandarin grammar

If you are comfortable with four tones and are able to speak Mandarin with proper grammar, but looking to build your Mandarin vocabulary and language structure further, this course may not be sufficient for you. You may want to try the complete Chinese Mandarin I, II & III by Pimsleur Language Program.

If you just want to learn a few greeting or traveling Mandarin phrases for your coming trip to China, you may want to try phrase books like Berlitz Mandarin Phrase Book and Dictionary.

 

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More Facts

Format

8-hour Audio CDs for Beginners program.

Focuses

Teach & guide beginners on four tones, grammar & important vocabulary.

Skill sets

Vocabulary: Cover the essentials for proper grammar
Grammar: Explicitly explained
Four tones: Guided throughout the course
Pinyin: No
Read Chinese characters: No
Practice to listen & understand: Little
Practice to translate & express: Good

Publisher

McGraw-Hill

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