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Mandarin Phrasebook (Lonely Planet Phrasebook) Paperback – 1 Sep 2006
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National Geographic Traveler, September 2006'Lonely Planet Phrasebooks. Portable, pocket-size, cheap, and available for almost any country you might want to visit...'
The essential tool for the Beijing Olympics 2008. Now includes Pinyin pronounciation guide to help travelers translate Chinese characters into English.
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I lived in Shanghai for two years and found this little book useful when dealing with banks and post offices, where when my pronunciation and accents weren't correct the person I was speaking to could take the book and look at the Chinese characters.
However for dealing with the majority of people I would suggest an audio guide instead, where if your pronunciation isn't perfect you can let someone else listen to the phrase you want to say as reading the information is not always possible for some Chinese people.
In truth, at places like airports staff there will speak English and signs will be written in English. In Beijing airport I was even able to ask a janitor a question in English and he understood me. In more rural China (specifically I went to Fujian province) it's very unlikely that you'll come across someone that can speak English, but places still have some signs in English.
Following on from my previous point, the writing system will pose a problem and is one this book cannot solve, not that it aims to. Rather you will just have to be adventurous and hope for the best. Restaurant menus are a good example. If you're not the adventurous type or you don't fancy risking it in a restaurant, don't rely on this book for getting around.
When it comes to speaking, however, this book does a fairly good job when taken into consideration how hard Mandarin pronunciation is for beginners. The phonetic pronunciation in the book is not too far off the correct pronunciation and if you do get misunderstood (which will happen) you can just point at the Chinese version of the phrase/word.
One problem the book has which I would not have known about is that the phrases and translations given are not exact. I had a Chinese native translator with me who told me the book was 'not very good'. Apparently the translations provided for each phrase in English/Chinese are not particularly accurate and could be misinterpreted.
Overall, it's a handy book to take with you and a starting point for people with no knowledge of the language. Thanks to the uniform writing system, it's good in Hong Kong too as you can still point at the Chinese!
The dictionary at the back is good, while the phrases are cut into three sections: practical, social and food is also very useful. Favourite part of the book was the illustrated hand signals for numbers.
Good to carry around in China, but not sufficient for learning the language; a CD or teacher is needed.
However, the author has attempted to replace Pinyin (the Romanised written form of Mandarin) with a pronounciation guide which is sadly, a little off the mark. There are also some mistakes in the written translations. Although some work, there are other examples that definatley do not work as some of the u, e and a sounds are a bit mixed up.
This book will however get you around in what is a challenging place to visit short or long term due to the complex language.
Great as a phrasebook (except for the small mistakes)...but to actually learn the language from, not overly useful.
I would actually recommend the previous edition of this very book if you can get your hands on a copy.
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Most recent customer reviews
He says it has come in very useful and is easy to use.It has been a great help helping him to learn the language