Everyone’s reason for learning Chinese is different, from going to China for business, moving to Taiwan to teach English, or just to give yourself a challenge. No matter what your reason is, one thing remains the same – before you can progress you need to get the basics down first, as it’s the basics that will allow you to get by in your daily life using only Chinese. Luckily the Taiwanese Ministry of Education provides a free book for learning basic Chinese called Speak Mandarin in 500 Words.
Speak Mandarin in 500 Words differs from most text books in that it’s specifically aimed at Mandarin Chinese for every day tasks and experiences:
This reader has 30 lessons and each lesson has four units: “Text”, “Words and Phrases”, “Review”, and “Extended Practice”. The Text Unit, is practice-oriented, and its materials are drawn from daily life. The materials range from self-introduction to family, school, communication, and daily dialogues.
The lessons included in the book cover basic situations like greeting people in the morning, asking where to buy something and making telephone calls. While these may not seem the most exciting topics they are essential ones, so it’s worth keeping this book around and practicing a few chapters now and then as a supplement to your main studies.
The great thing out the book is that it’s available in many languages, not just English. Portugese, French, Thai, Indonesian, German and Spanich version are available. There is one caveat though – the book is only available in Traditional Chinese and not Simplified. Though, as Pinyin and Zhuyin pronunciations are included this shouldn’t be an issue for people who are learning Simplified and this might even be a good way to start learning some key words in Traditional Chinese.
Download: Speak Mandarin in Five Hundred Words