Thoughts on New Practical Chinese Reader, Plus Hear Me Practice Reading!

In this post I’m going to share my opinion on New Practical Chinese Reader, and why after only 3 lessons I’m recommending it to anyone learning Chinese!

My very little review here is only based on level 2 of the series, so therefore if you’re thinking about buying NPCR 1 or you’re at a more advanced level and ready for volume 3 and above then obviously not all this is relevant for you.

At the end listen to me butcher a dialogue from the book, if you have any tips for my pronunciation or speaking technique please don’t be afraid to comment. I prefer constructive (or harsh) criticism over feigned praise.

The Good

  • Exclusively uses characters in dialogues and drills, no pinyin. Boosts reading skill
  • Tone marks above characters help to wean you off pinyin but not screw up your tones.
  • Language seems more natural and native-like than Pimsleur
  • Dialogues so far are interesting
  • Just the right amount of new vocabulary covered per lesson
  • Reading comprehension exercise at the end of each lesson, audio included.
  • Excellent audio quality, plays in 2 different speeds

The Bad

  • No English translations of the dialogues or exercises anywhere in the book
  • Grammar rules and sentence structures (seemingly) covered in book 1 are not being explained again from what I can tell
  • The exercises are sometimes hard to understand. I struggle with the fill in the blanks sections.
  • “Key sentences” often include people’s names and names of places.
  • The faster speed of the audio could be a wee bit faster

So based on the above, I’m obviously on the whole very happy with how it’s going so far. My reading speed feels like it has increased quite dramatically over the past two weeks, as before now the only reading I was doing was with Skritter on a word by word basis.

My Chinese Breeze graded reader book which I previously struggled with and left to collect dust, I can now “breeze” through (that’s not really true but the word seemed appropriate). I finished two chapters of that today and knew about 95% of the characters, solidly comprehending around 90% of it.

This felt great and has given me another little boost in confidence that I can actually learn this language! I have to give credit to NPCR for this progress.

At the moment I’m happy with the amount of new vocabulary being introduced per lesson in New Practical Chinese Reader 2. While I can imagine that the words have been chosen based on what has already been covered in the first book, the vocab I have acquired over the past 5 and a half months is serving me well.

Many of the new words popping up I do actually know, but this will likely change as I get through the levels. This is no complaint as it gives me another chance to review and cement them further in my mind.

While on this topic though, it would be nice to see a tad more reviews of grammar that I assume was covered in volume 1, or at least reference where it can be found like Assimil does throughout lessons (even in the second volume referring to lessons in the first)

Last complaint now, promise!

I really wish there was English translations included, not suggesting below each word as that would potentially slow you down (when you watch a movie with simultaneous Chinese and English subs, which of the two do you read more?), but adding them in at the end of each lesson or in the back of the book would be very helpful.

When I’ve encountered sentences I can’t quite grasp the meaning of I turn to Google translate, but occasionally even after running it through there I can’t get the jist of the meaning, or I find it ambiguous, having multiple possible meanings. Thank god I have a Chinese girlfriend to quiz on such matters.

On the Fence?

If you’re anything like I have been, you are probably relying on pinyin too much. I think if you feel you’re pretty happy with your pronunciation (by no means perfect) then it’s time to cut ties with it.

Along with moving onto NPCR I have also been going through my Anki flashcards and removing all the pinyin too. I didn’t quite understand all the people that have expressed how important reading is for learning. Until I bought this book.

Have a laugh at me

Below is my attempt at reading a short dialogue from the book. I’ve read and listened to the audio for this a few times then decided to give it a go myself.

There’s a bad mistake in the last sentence where I say 喜欢 rather than 想 which is going to bug me now, but whatever, perfection is overrated!

The character I didn’t know at the time of recording was 套

一套 = a suit; a set; a collection

As I work through more of NPCR I will try to remember to post more recordings and I’ll be sure to update this review when I discover more pros and cons of the book.

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