Pera Pera’s Top 10 Books for Learning Chinese

大家好!The good folks over at Pera Pera listed their top ten favorite books for learning Chinese. I haven’t used any of the ten personally, but I certainly have used and benefited greatly from Pera Pera’s free Firefox add-on (a sweet, Chinese-English-Pinyin pop-up dictionary). Based solely on that positive experience alone, I am willing to bet their suggestions are helpful. (I plan to write soon about how I use the Pera Pera dictionary in my sermon-prep workflow.) For now, check out Pera Pera’s recommended reading for learning Chinese:

Modern Mandarin Chinese Grammar: A Practical Guide

If you buy only one book for Chinese, get this one. Easily the best book I have found for everything. It is split into two parts, Part A for the structure of Chinese and explaining all the grammatical features, and Part B for situational Chinese like how to describe things etc. Explanations are solid, provides tons of example sentences and everything is in Simplified and Traditional characters.

Practical Audio-visual Chinese (Traditional)

My friend in Taiwan swears by this series and he used this at his language school when he studied in Taiwan. He was on book 3 and was at a very impressive level of Chinese. Comes with CDs and has workbooks if you want them. Only Traditional characters and starts with teaching you Zhuyin, but also has all the sentences in Pinyin as well. I am on book 3 now also and have to say it is my favorite course book.

Colloquial Chinese: The Complete Course for Beginners

This was actually the first book I used for Chinese that a friend recommended when I was starting out. A solid beginner course that is lesson based and comes with CDs. Spent a good bit of time with the pronunciation using this one. Another good option if you are looking for a starter course. Also has an intermediate book as well in the series. New Practical Chinese Reader: Textbook 1

If you want more of a course-type book this series is a good introduction. I did the first book in their series using Simplified Characters. Concise and nicely organized. Would recommend it as your first introduction to Chinese and Chinese characters. Especially good if you like the dialog lesson format. Comes with CDs.

Conversational Chinese 301

Bought this one when I was in China. It goes at a faster pace than the above course, but would still say it is good for beginners. Either one of these are a good introduction course. No CD though, so take that into consideration. The Michel Thomas Method: Speak Mandarin Chinese For Beginners

For working on speaking this is probably the best starter course. Harold Goodman does a good job of introducing the tones with concept of colors as an aid for remembering them. I love the Michel Thomas method and have used this series for other languages as well (French, Russian and German!).

Pimsleur Chinese

Pimsleur courses tend to be a little slow for my tastes, but if you are looking to learn a language while exercising or driving this would be the one to get. If you are sitting down and can focus, Michel Method is better and will get you to think more about what you are saying, while Pimsleur kind of hypnotizes you into memorizing, and that’s better than nothing when you cant devote all of you attention.

Remembering Simplified Hanzi: Book 1, How Not to Forget the Meaning and Writing of Chinese Characters

I don’t actually own this book but I’m a big fan of the method and used it to learn all the Kanji in Japanese with the original “Remembering the Kanji” book by the same author (see my Japanese book reviews). Comes in Simplified or Traditional versions.

Tuttle Learning Chinese Characters

Since I did Japanese before Chinese, I had already done my time learning 2000 characters, so I don’t actually own this one either. My friends at a language school love it though, and the method sounds very similar to the “Remembering the Hanzi” mnemonic system. So I would just pick either one and stick with it.

Chinese Demystified: A Self-Teaching Guide

A good overview of the Chinese language. I personally would buy the Modern Chinese Grammar over this one if I could only choose one, but that one can be intimidating since it is rather thick and does read a bit like a textbook with alot of explanations using grammatical terms. If that puts you off and you want a gentler overview of Chinese, but still with solid content, I would recommend this one.

By Francis Campbell. Originally Posted at http://www.perapera.org/best-10-books-for-learning-chinese/

By MARK SHECHTMAN [Attribution], via Wikimedia Commons

My Shifting Values of Higher Education and Dream-Job-Chasing

I recently became a fan of Marty Nemko, and it was the video at the bottom of this page that did it. There is a man who has consumed a lot of higher education and also worked for and in such institutions (both teaching and evaluating, at Berkley), yet he says higher degrees are often unnecessary and indeed a bad choice for many individuals.

This is no new idea; really, it’s very folksy wisdom in some ways.  America is obsessed with chasing dreams (a great thing), and we’re all about “finding one’s passion in life.” There a plenty of business podcasts and tweets telling us to quit our jobs and start our dream coffee shop. To an older generation, though, perhaps this sounds ridiculous.

After all, how many accountants ever had a burning desire to do accounting?

I’m not saying people should keep a job they’re miserable with, but I do say:

Finding a job you’re passionate about might not be as important as finding a way to be passionate about your work.

Some say it’s not what you do that matters but how you do it. Perhaps that oversimplifyies things a bit, but you get the point. A recent podcast from The Art of Manliness (Brett McKay) interviewed Cal Newport. Cal and Brett mentioned the research he found for Cal’s book, So Good They Can’t Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love. I listened during breakfast and thoroughly enjoyed it. You can find it here.

Here’s why I care:

I was in college for two or three years (it’s hard to keep count, considering how long I was there), and I had no major. After finally choosing Global Studies, I decided I wanted something more–practical. I wanted to teach, so I changed my major to English, with a minor in Secondary Ed and kept Global Studies as a second minor. By the way, this was after the two photography classes I took that went towards no part of my degree. I then proceeded to accept a scholarship to study Chinese for a year in Hangzhou, which counted nothing toward my degree but was an awesome experience that changed my life. I married my wife there; in fact, she’s one of the main reasons I applied. :)

I now study at Harding School of Theology for a Masters of Divinity and love every class. Nonetheless, I’m 26 years old and married, so I spend much time thinking about work and school. For me, I have to balance the two, and the ratio is always an area I debate in my head: should I work more? Should I study more and finish sooner?  Do I need this big degree or should I go for a shorter M.A.? I can only answer for myself and not for you.

That being said, here’s my two cents:

One shouldn’t go to college just because it’s the next “logical” step for a high school student with good or decent grades. If one does go, unsure of what to study, I recommend choosing a narrow degree in business (if engineering or another topic isn’t clearly calling to you), and sticking with it: Get in, get out. Then, if you realize you want to do something else, pursue a master’s in that field.

If you really are passionate about something that doesn’t make lots of money, pursue it. But ask yourself if you need a degree to start doing that kind of work. If you want to be a writer, I’d suggest you just start writing and save your work. Build a portfolio and present yourself in front of the person you want to work for.

If you decide to go to college, though, spend some serious time studying careers before you start. Don’t lolly-gag. Look at the United States Department of Labor’s free Occupational Outlook Handbook online, and you can find estimates on specific careers (that you’ve never even considered, perhaps!): projected growth rates/demand, salaries,  required training, et cetera. An entire branch of government is dedicated to this research. Take advantage of it.

Watch Marty Nemko’s video. I like his observation that community colleges might be a great value! That’s great news for folks in McMinnville, Tennessee and just about anywhere. Watch the video to hear his thoughts based on experience and researching and working in that field. His job, after all, is to assess these things. Give him a listen and see what you think. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.

This has little to do with intelligence and much more to do with pragmatism. Of course continuing learning is good for everyone, but bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees are not the only route to a smart, successful, and happy lives. Experience, seminars, internships, apprenticeships, certificate programs, trade schools, and community colleges are valuable options for continuing education.

What Colleges and Graduate Students Don’t Want You to Know:

 

Additional Resources: http://www.artofmanliness.com/2014/03/24/is-college-for-everyone-part-ii-the-pros-and-cons-of-attending-a-4-year-college/

Chinese New Year Expressions: 新年快乐

Line Dictionary’s List of Chinese New Year Sayings : 新年快乐.

I found this during my study this morning (for a sermon in Chinese, Sunday), and I thought some of you other Chinese students might benefit from it as well.

Example (but Line’s site has audio):

祝新年快乐,新年幸福。

Zhù jiérì kuàilè, xīnnián xìngfú.

Wishing you happiness during the holidays and throughout the New Year.

Happy New Year!

The Auld Triangle

The Auld Triangle,” is an beautiful Irish song about a man in prison. The old triangle, made of metal, rang every morning to wake the inmates. The song was written for a play about a prisoner in Mountjoy prison and occurred in the play just moments before the prisoner’s impending execution.

Here, some of Ireland’s best singer-songwriters sing together with a great crowd in the Royal Albert Hall, London. Enjoy (or as they might say, “cheers.”)

 

Hope from Isaiah 32:1-8

See, a king will reign in righteousness,
and princes will rule with justice.
Each will be like a hiding place from the wind,
a covert from the tempest,
like streams of water in a dry place,
like the shade of a great rock in a weary land.
Then the eyes of those who have sight will not be closed,
and the ears of those who have hearing will listen.
The minds of the rash will have good judgment,
and the tongues of stammerers will speak readily and distinctly.
A fool will no longer be called noble,
nor a villain said to be honorable.
For fools speak folly,
and their minds plot iniquity:
to practice ungodliness,
to utter error concerning the LORD,
to leave the craving of the hungry unsatisfied,
and to deprive the thirsty of drink.
The villainies of villains are evil;
they devise wicked devices
to ruin the poor with lying words,
even when the plea of the needy is right.
But those who are noble plan noble things,
and by noble things they stand.

(Isaiah 32:1-8)

Whatever needs you have–and we all have them–Christ Jesus can fill them. Many among us are poor, weary, and thirsty. He gives them drink and shade. Some are so tense or nervous they can’t speak a coherent thought. Christ relieves them and sets them at ease–gives them rest. Liars plant trip-wires and false accusations, but justice will flow like a mighty river at the feet of King Jesus.

God is good. Christ is King. Some submit but others rebel. So he asks us, “what about you? Who do you say I am?” (Matt 16:15)

 

Two Quotes from Jerome

On the benefit of obeying Jesus’ words to the rich young man in Matthew 19:

“It is an act of apostolic perfection and of perfect virtue to sell all one has and to give to the poor—thus becoming weightless and unimpeded and flying up with Christ toward heavenly delights.”-Jerome, in Bonaventure, Defense of the Mecidants, ch.7.

And on preaching what we ourselves have not done:

“I exalt virginity to heaven, not because it is mine, but because I more greatly admire what I do not have. Preaching to others a quality lacking in oneself, this indeed amounts to a frank and embarrassing confession. But if I am held down to earth by the weight of my body, is this reason enough not to admire the flight of birds?” (Jerome in letter to Pammachius, qtd in Bonaventure ch.7, p.141)

Source: Bonaventure, Defense of the Mendicants, in The Works of Bonaventure,
trans. José de Vinck, v. 4: Defense of the Mendicants.

Origen on Windows in Scripture

“And as for the apostolic epistles, what man who is skilled in literary interpretation would think them to be plain and easily understood, when even in them there are thousands of passages that provide, as if through a window, a narrow opening leading to multitudes of the deepest thoughts?”
Origen,  On First Principles

Love (III): “Know you not,” says Love, “Who bore the blame?”

Jim McGuiggan introduced to me a poem by George Herbert, called “Love (III).” I might’ve read some Herbert briefly in an English Lit class in college, but none of it stuck with me the way it did after hearing McGuiggan read it in his audio message, “God and Timid Sinners.”

I downloaded that file and listened to McGuiggan many times during daily commutes in Hangzhou.

“If you like religious poetry, you may not like George Herbert’s work, but if you love it, you’ll devour his material…about timid sinners too conscious of their sin to be fully aware of the profound, fathomless love of God toward us.

So please do not let the word “sinners” deter you from savoring this sweet poem. Oh yes, we have sin, and that’s the point: some of it is all too real for some of us, and we never forget our moral failures. Something might be said of the benefit of remember our sin. Absolutely. However,  the point of this poem, I think is to invite those who can’t forgive themselves, to accept the healing and salvation God offers.

***English-to-English translation note: The poem itself is in italics to stand apart from my words on this page. However, I’ve removed italics for emphasis, actually (which is risky behavior, since its reversed as per usual). I added quotation marks to help clarify the discussion taking place in the poem and emboldened (really, blog-ified) two lines that tell–in a way only poems can–of God’s scandalous and matchless will to forgive us (you!): perfectly displayed in the death, burial, and resurrection of His son Jesus the Messiah, our Lord and King.

Without further ado:

Love (III)

by George Herbert

Love bade me welcome. Yet my soul drew back
                              guilty of dust and sin.
But quick-eyed Love, observing me grow slack
                             from my first entrance in,
drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning,
                             if I lacked any thing.
 
“A guest,” I answered, “worthy to be here:”
                             Love said, “You shall be he.”
I the unkind, ungrateful? Ah my dear,
                             I cannot look on thee.”
Love took my hand, and smiling did reply,
                             “Who made the eyes but I?”
 
“Truth Lord, but I have marred them: let my shame
                             Go where it doth deserve.”
And know you not, says Love, who bore the blame?
                            “My dear, then I will serve.”
“You must sit down, says Love, and taste my meat”:
                             So I did sit and eat.