This is a really excellent, well-structured package that will quickly get you to a level where you can improvise basic conversations and read a few signs. The accompanying audio is included on CDs AND on tapes, which means you've got no excuse not to be listening to it wherever you are. At first I was a bit scared as the book does throw you in at the deep end somewhat, but you soon learn to go with it and trust that it will all become clear. The learning curve is quite consistent after this - there are no horrendous jumps where you suddenly want to give up. The author introduces things cleverly, for instance an example conversation will be structured to include both meanings of a new word, so that you don't learn one only to get confused by another in the next unit. As the name suggests, the tone is colloquial and natural. I never worry, as I do with some other Chinese books (especially ones from China!) that I am learning something a bit stilted and formal. The main focus is on listening, but each chapter ends by teaching you how to write a few characters, and as the units progress there is more reliance on characters and less on English (although pinyin is provided throughout so you don't have to learnt the characters if you don't want to). I have been using this book in conjunction with a few lessons, and I would recommend that anyone wanting to learn Chinese invests in half a dozen lessons to get their pronunciation off to a good start. But after that, you can work alone with this book and it'll keep you going for a good few months.