This web page is intended as a resource for English speakers trying to learn Mandarin and is under construction. It includes information about useful resources such as books, websites, and translators that I have found so far. My knowledge of Mandarin is currently only at an early intermediate level.
The following is an initial list of dictionary-type materials with comments:
B. Yuan & S.K. Church. (2006). Oxford Beginner's Chinese Dictionary. Oxford. ISBN: 0-19-929853-X.
Yong Ho, Chinese-English Frequency Dictionary (2002). Hippocrene Books, NY. ISBN: 0-7818-0842-1. A useful book focusing on the 500 most frequently used characters, but unfortunately the information base is largely limited to words in which those characters appear as the first syllable, and this limits the usefulness of the work.
W. McNaughton. (2005). Reading & Writing Chinese (Simplified Character Edition). Tuttle. ISBN: 0-8048-3509-8. Information about this item is forthcoming.
[Information here not up to date:] Pleco: This is a product of Pleco Software (www.pleco.com) whose owner, Michael Love, seems to be an interesting character. Without any doubt, when combined with the right handheld device, this software constitutes the most useful electronic dictionary available on the market today -- and I have tried many of them. I would be wary of handheld devices claiming `reliable' sentence translation; such claims seem to all be exaggerated although some devices starting to come out of Taiwan bear watching. Incidentally, the feature where devices can `speak' is not particularly useful in the long run. Note that due to the nature of the two languages, electronic devices that meet the needs of English speakers learning Mandarin are different from those designed for Chinese speakers learning English. This is unfortunate because the devices made for Chinese speakers appear to have more advanced capabilities.
The following is an initial list of elementary learning materials with comments:
E. Scurfield and Song Lianyi, Beginner's Chinese. (2003). Teach Yourself, UK. This is one of the better teach-yourself type of books, but it avoids dealing with the characters.
Ultimate Mandarin Chinese -- Beginner-Intermediate (2004). Living Language, Random House. ISBN: 1-4000-2102-2. [One needs to be careful not to confuse this item with other very similar sounding titles produced by this company.] This is definitely one of the better teach-yourself type of books, but it has very minimal emphasis on the characters.
Conversational Chinese 301, by K. Yuhua, L. Siping and Z. Wenjun. Beijing Language and Culture University Press, 2008. ISBN 978-7-5619-0656-9. This is an attractive, nicely organized, and useful study guide that includes Mandarin characters. It is slightly more advanced than the other books mentioned above, so an absolute beginner will need some access to an instructor. [As best as I can make out, this book seems to be a successor to a book titled `Chinese 300' published in 1984 by the Foreign Languages Press, Beijing.]
The following is an initial list of intermediate learning materials with comments:
Intermediate Chinese, by Yong Ho. Hippocrene Books, New York,, 2004. This is a somewhat expensive paperback, but in my opinion is worth it. It is well organized and consists of ten detailed lessons which deal with diverse but useful subjects and includes the characters. While it does take some time to work through these lessons, it's too bad there aren't twice as many in the book. I also find it annoying that the glossary at the back is split into a beginners and an intermediate section, and that it fails to include quite a few important words that appear in the text.
Chinese: An Essential Grammar, 2nd ed., by Yip Po-Ching and D. Rimmington. Routledge, 2006. ISBN: 0-415-37261-5. This expensive, but very much worth-it paperback is an astonishing tour-de-force, and is one of the most interesting, comprehensive, and useful books on language learning ever written. It is an unbelievably useful resource, not only for anyone trying to break though from beginner into intermediate levels of Mandarin and beyond, but also for anyone interested in the more intricate structures of all languages. This is one of my most favourite books on any subject! Routledge has also done an incredibly beautiful job of the typeset.
Google: If one clicks on `Translate' in the Google website one can obtain useful translations from English into Mandarin (both in characters and in pinyin, as well as voice). Although Google's sentence translation is of quite good quality -- and appears to be better than any other available -- it is still often imperfect, and one needs some knowledge of Mandarin to use it effectively.
The following is an initial list of advanced learning materials with comments:
Sorry -- but I haven't gotten that far yet!