Review of Book “Basic Spoken Chinese” by Cornelius C. Kubler

I have been reading and studying a fairly new set of Mandarin Language textbooks known as the “Tuttle Basic Chinese Series” that can be used in the AP level High School or College classroom or by people studying on their own. I will only review the first book in the series “Basic Spoken Chinese” BSC at this time. At later times I will review other volumes in the “Tuttle Basic Chinese Series”.

Full Title and Publishing Information:

“Basic Spoken Chinese, Introduction to Speaking and Listening for Beginners” by Cornelius C. Kubler ( Tuttle Publishing 2011 www.tuttlepublishing,com , North Clarendon VT USA 05759-9436 ) is a great introduction to the modern Mandarin language. Professor Kubler teaches at Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts. His web site and the Chinese Department at Williams website.

There is a “Look Inside” of selected pages at the book's Amazon page.

This is an introduction to beginning spoken Chinese. There is a separate volume for beginning written Chinese ( In this Youtube link Professor Kubler explains why he believes in the two track language system: ).( An there is also dual track intermediate volumes and accompanying exercise volumes called “Practice Essentials” for each volume ). The notes to the Youtube video explain in one short paragraph the usefulness of the two track system:

“ The Basic Chinese Series constitutes an introductory course in modern Chinese (Mandarin), the language with the largest number of native speakers in the world, the official language of mainland China and Taiwan, and one of the official languages of Singapore. The focus of this course, which is designed for adult English-speaking learners, is on communicating in Chinese in practical, everyday situations. The series employs a revolutionary approach of two separate but integrated tracts in spoken and written Chinese designed to have students quickly speaking, writing and comprehending Mandarin Chinese. “

It is obvious that the author, Kubler, has much experience in understanding the problems faced by beginning students of Mandarin who are native English speakers. Professor Kubler in a detailed manner explains the structure of Mandarin sentences and does a good job comparing Mandarin sentences with the corresponding English ones, highlighting many of the pitfalls faced by the average English speakers trying to learn Chinese. There is a companion volume with exercises is an optional good thing to have to fully benefit from this volume. I have used this book as a primary learning reader for a while now and I continuously use the book for review of topics I find hard to understand and I also use it as a reference.

One of the features that I really like about this book is that there is a list of abbreviations on page 70 that are defined and explained on pages 354 – 364. I have read the section on a few occasions learning something new each time. On page 362 we have the important and always a pitfall for the English language native speaker, the “stative verb”.

I will describe chapter 8 ( of 10 chapters called Units) to give you a feel of how the book is structured after the reader has gone through the usual introduction to tones and Pinyin pronunciation covered earlier in the book. Unit 8 Part 1 “Getting Around Beijing” has 8 basic conversation sentences between an American and a Beijing pedestrian. A “Build Up” section covers new words and patterns in each of the sentences. Next there is a “Supplementary Vocabulary”[SV] section and a “Grammatical and Cultural Notes” section. Subsections are classified in outline form where the number {1A,1B,...}corresponds to the sentence number. Subsections pertaining to the “Supplementary Vocabulary”[SV] section have an SV before the outline number, for example {SV1A, SV1B,...}. In one of the subsections of Unit 8 Part 1 we have about a whole page devoted to the “lí ” ( from ) coverb pattern when used with the stative verbs “yuǎn” ( to be far from ) and “jìn” ( to be close ) so that [ N = noun, PW = Place Word]

N lí PW yuǎn    means    N is far from PW


N lí PW jìn      means     N is close to PW

I was not even aware before reading this that “yuǎn” ( to be far from ) and “jìn” ( to be close ) are stative verbs and that the Mandarin verb to be is not needed when using these two verbs. “lí ” can still be thought of as meaning “from” and the Mandarin verb to be need not be used because we can do a literal but a bit awkward translations thusly:

N lí PW yuǎn      means     N from PW far


N lí PW jìn      means      N from PW close.

Audio and video files can be played/used on all subsections that are labeled to have a file on CD/DVD.

In summary I find BSC to be a great Mandarin learning tool.

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