3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 5 August 2012
This book is a real gem. Even though Heisig stirred a heated debate whether one should really separate learning meanings of Chinese characters and learning their pronunciation, for me it's a question clearly answered.
The book is well done, recall of characters is amazing thanks to mnemonic stories. Learning the characters is a breeze. Comparing to university studies, this book teaches the characters much, much faster. Just for comparison - 4 semesters of Chinese characters lessons get you to 1500 characters. This book can take you halfway there in less time (with full time commitment, the writers promise 4-5 weeks, with just a couple hours of free time daily and more relaxed tempo it's 10-12 weeks).
The title of this book summarizes the whole thing pretty clearly - this course will teach you, how not to forget the meaning and writing of Chinese characters. Pronunciation, on the other hand, is untouched. You will have to find some other course of action for that.
I plan on buying the second part of this book as soon as I'm finished with this one, because knowing 3000 Chinese characters (even if it's just their meaning) is really something you can build on. The choice of selected vocabulary and characters is well explained in the preface of this book, citing good sources and providing the assurance you really learn the most relevant words.
The core of the book is pairing Chinese character with English meaning. The book, however, also provides 5 indexes:
1. hand-drawn characters in their order of appearance paired with Chinese pinyin pronunciation,
2. list of primitive elements used in the book
3. characters by their number of strokes
4. characters listed alphabetically by pronunciations in pinyin
5. characters listed alphabetically by English meaning keywords.
In conclusion, I'm glad I paid the price for this book. It's incredibly useful and practical.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 15 June 2011
So far, after reading the thorough explanation in the authors' Introduction and learning characters from a few lessons, I'm convinced that this is the right (i.e. effective) way for English speakers to learn to read full-form characters. (Writing takes a bit more effort, and some practice with it may help before revising what is learned here.) This is a great aid to learning a vital part of Chinese languages - literacy skills.
The sheer burden of memorising characters is enough to put off many learners of Chinese languages from doing any more than dabbling at the fringes of literacy, but this book systematises learning so that an adult speaker of (a) European language(s) can apply already existing skills to the task. This can give the learner the potent understanding of the written language to the same extent as, say, a Japanese learner of Mandarin has - a sound basis for progress in combining literacy with oral and aural skills.
Is there an effective alternative? Not so far as I have seen: either the involved storytelling disappears up its own posterior, complete with the burden of pronunciation and meaning in Mandarin (as in the Tuttle attempt), or the learner has to face years of mindless drilling as if s/he were a Mandarin-speaking child with 15 or so years of full-time effort to spare to gain competence in literacy (as in most attempts to teach Chinese languages). Of course, you could opt for illiteracy, or the absurd approach of courses which show you Chinese menus in pinyin and assure you you're making progress. (As we say in Scotland, "Aye, right!")
Oh, and the alternatives generally offer simplified characters, which immediately remove many of the links with Chinese literature and culture. (^¤, love, without S, heart, anyone? Truly dystopian.)
This book is highly recommended. (By the way, there are useful Android apps to back up learning.)