Once you have evaluated your goals, finalized options of where to study, whether to study in a 1on1 setting or in a group setting, and at which school, it is now time to decide on a curriculum to follow.
Most foreigners, when arriving to China and starting language study, are very ambitious about surviving in China and thereby very eager to converse in Chinese. Therefore, the goal is to explore the most effective textbooks that are widely used to get one speaking and understanding Mandarin. In universities, most will employ books published by their own institution. For example, Tsinghua University will select textbooks published by Tsinghua University.
At our 1on1 Mandarin language school, popular textbooks for beginner and intermediate level learners are Chinese Made Easier, New Practical Chinese Reader, and Step By Step Chinese.
New Practical Chinese Reader aims to balance conversation, reading, writing, and listening. A good choice for the learner that wants to learn all aspects of the Chinese language with equal focus. Some students mention that the book can be quite boring and systematic.
Step By Step Chinese is an excellent choice for those that want to not only focus on oral communication but also want to sound like a local; in that they start learning some colloquial terminology or phrases. There is a lot more character recognition required with these series of books, so the student will also have a lot of reading practice.
Chinese Made Easier focuses a lot on oral communication, but not so much on reading and writing. Characters are introduced but at a slower pace than other textbooks as to not overwhelm the language learner. The grammar is also explained very clearly so that it becomes easy to understand how grammar structures are used. Many students also appreciate the textbook for how systematic it is. Although this would be a downfall for those who don’t like predicatability and routine methods of study. Another caution with Chinese Made Easier is that once your proficiency level advances, you may find it difficult to find advanced level textbooks that are suitable because almost all textbooks are in characters and have no pinyin.
It would be a great idea to get some feedback from other experienced language students also on what curricula they recommend.