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REVIEW: Berlitz Mandarin Chinese Phrase Book

When I visited China for the first time, I knew that I had to get a Mandarin or Chinese phrase book, dictionary and of course, a travel guide.

Since I spoke NO Mandarin then, I was fearful and I knew that I needed:

  1. a travel guide book to China;
  2. a phrasebook for common phrases I’d use for everyday needs;
  3. a dictionary for me to look up English-Chinese words and less important Chinese-English words. Let’s be real: how on earth would I be able to look something in CHINESE? 😉
  4. an audio book with conversations so I could understand what the local, mainland Chinese said when they’d actually spoke to me.

Berlitz-mandarin-chinese-phrase-book-dictionaryBerlitz Mandarin Chinese Travel Pack was the one we saw prominently on display at bookstores like Borders BUT

If you want to learn how to speak Mandarin Chinese, you will find that the Berlitz Mandarin Chinese phrasebook does NOT use pinyin, which is the romanized version of Chinese. Thus, you can’t read the phrasebook at leisure without listening to the audio CDs at the same time…

2) Mandarin Chinese has “pinyin” Chinese, which comes with the 4 different tones. They help you to pronounce Mandarin words and it’s also the system you will see on signage and road signs in China.

The Berlitz Mandarin Chinese phrase book will create confusion e.g. the Berlitz phrase book lists “water” as “shwee” (sounds like “shh” and “wee”), which sounds really different from the actual pinyin “shui” (sounds like “shh” and “way”).


Since there are no accent symbols (that is found in pinyin), the poor foreigner in China will need to try all the four tones of each word until someone understands what he or she’s getting at!

What’s good 🙂

1) I LOVE the 2 audio cassettes in the Berlitz Mandarin Chinese Travel Pack as they contain ample drills for the 4 tones and various words until you can learn to differentiate them.

The audio CDs were the most helpful because
…I could listen to them while driving to work and
…the kiddo was also exposed to the various sounds of Mandarin Chinese!

Berlitz 1000 Mandarin Chinese Words (1000 Words) is the basic Chinese phrase book that you should start with.

Berlitz 1000 Mandarin Chinese Words (1000 Words) presents illustrated scenes with labels for familiar objects and situations e.g. The Family, In the Kitchen, At the Shopping Center, At the Supermarket, In the Restaurant, In the Hospital, in Mandarin Chinese and English, which will be useful for travelers.

Here are better audio books I found on Amazon:

Mandarin Chinese for Beginners: Learning Conversational Chinese

Mandarin Chinese for Beginners: Learning Conversational Chinese (Fully Romanized and Free Online Audio)

Bite-Sized Mandarin in 10 Minutes

Bite-Sized Mandarin Chinese in Ten Minutes a Day ***entertaining & easy to follow
A trained native Mandarin speaker and language expert Mark Frobose tells you how to speak Mandarin Chinese faster and easier than you ever thought possible, from any location, and during your otherwise wasted down time

Mandarin Chinese Audio Course (Collins Easy Learning Audio Course)
This audio course is the perfect companion for vacations and business trips in China. It’s easy to use—fast, flexible and portable; easy to follow—just listen and speak; and easy to learn—no complex grammar. It teaches you key words for the most important situations and lets you expand your language through a variety of activities.

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