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Beijing Made Easy Recommended Books to Learn Chinese

Beijing Made Easy reviews Beijing and China related books: books set in China or Beijing, books about China, books about Chinese culture and history, books about the Chinese language and Beijing and China travel guides.

Authors and Publishers who wish to have their works reviews by Beijing Made Easy should contact us to arrange for a review copy to be sent to us.

Fun With Chinese Characters: The Straits Times Collection

by Tan Huay Peng

This is a wonderful, quirky introduction to Chinese characters which has enjoyed enduring popularity with Chinese learners. Chinese characters are fascinating things. Some are literally pictures of the things they represent, for example: (turtle!), others represent ideas, others combine pictographs with elements which represent the pronunciation of characters.

The Chinese character for wife is a picture of a woman and a hand holding a broom – in other words, the woman who does the sweeping is the wife!

Fun With Chinese Characters introduces the readers to some of the most interesting Chinese characters one by one. The best bit is the cartoons – delightful illustrations of how Chinese characters represent their meanings, and of how they evolved over time.

Strongly reccomended. It also gives examples of words each character is used in, and a short sentence using it. In spite of this though, if you want to learn Chinese then these books are probably best in conjunction with a more practical grammar guide and phrasebook.

I Can Read That! A Traveller’s Introduction to Chinese Characters

by Julie Mazel Suzman

This is a great little book for getting to know a few Chinese characters. An ideal present for a language buff, or a useful tool for anyone planning to go to China.

Sussman introduces 72 of the most common and useful characters to the reader, and gives examples of where you can see the characters – through photos of signs, adverts etc. At the end there’s also a section for testing what you’ve learnt.

The best thing about it is that she manages to make learning characters really interesting, partly by choosing simple characters, but mainly by showing examples of how they’re used. She also shows you how to make new words from the basic characters that you’ve learnt – so you end up with a much bigger vocabulary than just the 72 characters.

This book will whet your appetite for learning the Chinese language, and also be of practical use during your trip to China – things like recognising the characters for male and female toilet (rather useful).

Most of all though, this book is great fun. Chinese characters are very interesting to read, and it’s great when you can start recognising some. It’ll make you feel really Chinese!

NB – This book is over ten years old – but the Chinese language has hardly changed in thousands of years – and this is one of the best introductions there is to learning Chinese characters.


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