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on 31 January 2015
I have found this very helpful (despite the annoying gags which are tiresome on repeated play!) but please note, unlike other courses I have bought, the beginning of this course duplicates the 'Start Mandarin' course - so if you are serious about studying Mandarin and considering the 'Start' course and then this, avoid buying 'Start' or you will end up with two copies of the initial material.
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on 8 April 2016
I've made a few partial runs through these CDs. I've listened to the basic / beginner set (first 8 CDs) three times, and most of the advanced (next 4 CDs) once. I'm on my fourth run currently, and intend to complete them all (mostly out of sheer stubbornness to see it through to completion) and try the vocabulary builder set. My feelings on these CDs are mixed. They were a useful basic introduction to Mandarin for me when I first started, but haven't taken me any further than that and I've gained a lot more subsequently from other resources.

Good points:

- The concepts and words are explained in a very simple and easy to grasp way. There is no difficulty in following the CDs.
- It will help to dispel the myth that Mandarin is an extremely difficult language to learn and you will be pleasantly surprised to learn about things like lack of plurals, lack of verb conjugation, using adverbs as verbs, lack of lots of redundant "filler" words that we have in English, the simple building block nature of many words (e.g. the word for "chinese" is formed by combining "china" and "person"), and the often intuitive word order (e.g. the statement "you are busy" simply becomes "you are busy?" as a question, or "this is what?" is answered with "this is book"). All of these help to boost your confidence and motivation to continue.
- It introduces you to enough of the basics that you will understand the tones, a small selection of words, and some sentence structures (but your pronunciation will be lacking - see below in the bad points).
- Worth doing prior to starting other, better, resources, as it will give you a head start without much effort or time, and you will have lots of "I'm already familiar with this concept" moments when first starting out with other resources.

Neutral points:

- Most of the first CD is fairly tedious, but necessary to get through. The tones are explained in a very long drawn out fashion. On the plus side (and probably why it was done this way), you can't really forget these concepts after you've listened to it, and you can skip these tracks on subsequent listens.
- Sometimes the pronunciation of the students is noticeably bad (which is fair and expected) but not always corrected by the native speaker. The native speaker does however always repeat every line afterwards. It would have been better to correct all mistakes to reduce the risk of misleading the listener into thinking the student's pronunciation was good, and to constantly reinforce through practice. This is only a problem some of the time though and on the whole this aspect is dealt with reasonably well.
- The native speaker pronounces words very carefully and slowly. This is good when you are just starting out, but is not realistic or helpful for when you are exposed to real speakers. On the advanced CDs she repeats it a second time a bit faster, but I would have preferred this to have been the case from the beginning. Towards the end of the beginner set I was feeling like I wasn't really being challenged enough.

Bad points:

- There is hardly any introduction to pinyin. Pronunciation is only explained when you are first introduced to a word (and with the exception of the native speaker, not very adequately), and there is no explanation of initials and finals. Given that there is a fairly small set of initials and finals in Mandarin, and that you can correctly pronounce every single possible syllable once you know them, this is a real missed opportunity and could have easily been covered in around half of a CD's worth (perhaps spread throughout the course, as each sound becomes relevant). I recommend ChinesePod's pinyin course to fill this gap.
- Words are almost never spelled out when they are introduced. Doing so would have only added a few seconds to each word and but would provided enormous benefit. Some sounds are fairly similar to sounds we are used to in English, but some are very different and yet at the same time sound similar to a beginner. Examples are ZH / J (both "similar" to the English J but neither actually the same), CH / Q ("similar" to English CH), and SH / X ("similar" to English SH). Until I had used other resources, I didn't even realise that these distinctions existed, and was pronouncing all of my ZHs and Js as Js etc. Sometimes the mnemonics given by the teacher even deliberately confuse this distinction, which would be fine if the listener knew about it, but actually causes you to pronounce the word incorrectly when you don't. This is a serious issue and I would go so far as to say can actually be harmful once you go beyond basic beginner status to upper beginner / intermediate as you have to spend time and effort unlearning bad habits. This problem could have easily been avoided by (1) introducing the pinyin sounds each time they first occur, and (2) spelling out each word when first introduced, so that you know what pinyin sound to match it to.
- The pinyin R initial is never properly explained. On rare occasions that words are spelt out and start with an R, the listener is left confused when hearing it pronounced as what sounds to a beginner like the S in "treasure" (when in reality the correct sound is neither like that, nor like an english R). For me, how to attempt pronouncing words like 'rén' was never really clear until I learned about this from other resources.
- The marketing of the various CD sets in this series is highly exaggerated and misleading. You will see descriptions like "Speak Mandarin Chinese Instantly", and "Speak and understand perfectly". This is far from the truth. What you will get is a very basic beginner level introduction. You will still be a beginner when the complete the course, and will NOT be able to go to China and easily have a conversation just from doing 10 or 20 hours worth of audio - there is no course that will do this for you. To achieve that you will need a much bigger vocabulary, a lot of practice, and exposure to a variety of naturally-speaking Mandarin natives, as opposed to the artificially slow and correct speech you will hear on these CDs.
- The 4 "advanced" CDs are not anywhere near advanced level (or even intermediate) and should be thought of as merely a continuation of the beginner level content you will hear on the first 8 CDs. I would describe the first 8 as basic beginner level and the next 4 as mid/upper beginner level.

In summary, this course is worth it to get you started, but needs to be followed by a lot of other content. I recommend one or two decent textbooks (e.g. Integrated Chinese, New Practical Chinese Reader, HSK), more varied and realistic audio (e.g. ChinesePod), spaced repetition apps (Memrise, Anki, Skritter), and immersion techniques (plaster your home with labels, have access to audio everywhere so that you're listening constantly, etc.). I also wouldn't recommend bothering to run through these CDs more than once (I am only doing it because I never completed it the first times) as you will get much better value for your time using other resources beyond the first listen.
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on 28 December 2012
When I decided to purchase this course I had already been offered the "Start Mandarin" course so I already was aware of the "mechanics" behind it. I have now completed 5 of the 8 CDs and I feel confident in trying out some simple sentences from time to time (I live in Singapore). It's not a course that will make you speak like you were born in China and it requires some work and investment in time. Some of the mnemonics are useful, others quite convoluted and, strangely, for some words there are no mnemonics at all (the case for "student" - "xuéshēng" - is notorious, as it's not an easy word to pronounce and easily forgotten). Some of the words taught are also (according to my Chinese girlfriend) no longer in use. Such are the cases for "wife" - taught as the very formal "tàitài" instead of the modern "qīzi" - or, more notorious for being a bit rude, "toilet", taught as "cèsuǒ" (latrine), rather than "wèishēngjiān" (washroom)... I feel, as my girlfriend is learning my own language using another of Michel Thomas courses (Portuguese), that she makes progress faster than me, which is inevitable for such a course, taught in English, for a non-Latin-based language. Bottom line, the course will allow you to have a (as far as I can tell from the first 5 CDs...) grasp on the (spoken) language but it will not make you an instant expert.
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on 28 September 2013
I am over half way through these CD's and finding it a very accessible way to learn chinese.
It even painlessly manages to get you to handle the chinese tones.
The Michel Thomas method works by conducting lessons with 2 students where you become the 3rd student in the group. Some students find this irritating, but I think it is a huge help to the learning process to have students mis-pronoucing words etc and being corrected. On these CD's the teacher seems quite lenient on how accurate the specific sounds have to be, but I presume this is because they are close enough to be understood. However I have not put it to the test yet.
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on 20 February 2012
I am a fan of the Michel Thomas method as an itroduction to language learning, I've completed the French, German & Spanish including the language builders. I gave the French & German 5 stars.

I recently bought the Manadarin Chinese Total course, as I am off to China to do an English teaching internship in 6 months time, so I am a motivated learner.

I've plodded through the 1st CD, and quite frankly it is just learning my rote. I am finding it very difficult to enjoy, even though I have motivation to learn and am enthusiastic about the the Michel Thomas method.

Hopefully, as I progress I can update with a more favourable rating, but at the moment, very tedious.
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on 3 January 2014
I imagine, like many more people, I was happy to try this CD course having benefitted from the Michel Thomas courses on French, German, Italian and Spanish.
This is one of the new language courses added by those who have bought out the rights to the Michel Thomas method language school following the great man's death in 2005.
Goodman does not have that unique combination of teaching ablity and charm of Michel Thomas. At times he drove me mad with his endless repititions of "One ! I ordered two !". But the basic syntax and word construction of Chinese is reasonably well presented and his two "students" play their parts fairly.
Although the MT method is no-books-and-no-notes teaching, it is beneficial to have some basic Mandarin starter text to help consolidate the vowel accents and memorize the spelling of key words.

I doubt if this pack of CDs could be worth the £100 + retail price tag that is put on it.
But if you can rifle a loan of it from a friend - or a library - then do so.
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on 31 January 2017
Not what I found understand to be a 'foundation course'. The CD starts with saying it assumes you already know the basics, which is what I really needed. '
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on 5 October 2014
good learning technique
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on 17 September 2014
A good resource.
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on 23 November 2012
Very good. Up to CD4 and finding the course v engaging. Mr Goodman's no Michel Thomas, but he does his best, which is pretty good
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