Language Books

I visited a gem of a bookstore hidden within the confines of an apartment building off of Jinzhang st. here in Taipei. To be completely honest, I gave up looking when I first tried and came back to my apartment to look up the address, again. Anyway I got there! It’s quite an amazing place that is literally filled with amazing books that can be found in closets and sinks. Rumor has it that all of the serious academics shop here. Well, given my poor reading skills I picked up a new dictionary that goes alongside the Far East Everyday Chinese series. It has the 3000 most common characters seen in print media, good place to start indeed.

The dictionary purchase and an upcoming placement exam at ICLP got me thinking about reading materials for language students. I had talked to a young man living at the hostel I used to stay at called the Chocolate Box Backpacker. He has three almost four languages under his belt and stated that learning German as a first language made his life easier, “It would have taken forever to pick it up later on in life.” The language skills of a child? Isn’t that where most 100 level students (myself included) sit at? We can’t really read any material and have very small vocabularies at best, at worst we are mostly speechless and just know how to make the sounds. Given the child like abilities, I’ve been considering the possibility of actually looking into purchasing some children’s books in Mandarin. How are kids in China/Taiwan being taught their own language? I think it might prove to be more valuable than you realize. The advantage is that grammatical concepts would be introduced in a very easy way, possibly using the native language to describe the grammar, which has the potential up of getting you able to explain concepts in Chinese. The immediately obvious downside is the type of vocabulary may not be at all what say a marketing expert needs to get by.

When there are tons and tons of language books flooding a market, how do you know which book is the right one? I used to think Integrated Chinese, a standard in lots of universities, was the best choice. However my introduction to other textbooks has shifted my paradigm away from a course taught completely out of one text. What are your thoughts? How would you go about teaching a language course that creates well rounded students with a solid handle on not only vocabulary but also grammar? Is my interest in Chinese children books absurd?

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