An Elementary Course in Scientific Chinese - Review


Thanks to the Sinolingua book review giveaway, I received a copy of “An Elementary Course in Scientific Chinese.” I have not had time to go through the entire book, but here I will post a review of my initial impressions and thoughts.


I live in the USA, but am of Chinese heritage. I’ve grown up around parents that speak Chinese, and I took some weekend Chinese school classes as a child. I did not continue Chinese education since then, but have decided to start learning on my own while I was in graduate school. I’ve done about 2 years of self study on and off, teaching myself to read characters, as I am comfortable listening and speaking. As for my science background, I have a BS in Chemistry, will be completing a PhD in immunology, and continuing to medical school this fall. I chose to review “An Elementary Course in Scientific Chinese” because I thought it would benefit my scientific and medical background.

I will be reviewing only the first book in the listening and speaking series. There was an MP3 included with my review book. I actually did not use the MP3 CD, as I used the book as a reading text rather than a listening exercise. There is a second volume of listening and speaking and two volumes of reading comprehension. I will refer you to lechuan’s review for further information on other books in the series.


The book is divided into 30 lessons. Each lesson begins with a short text written in chinese. I think that beginner-intermediate knowledge of Chinese characters is required to understand the texts, but they are not too difficult. The text discusses basic scientific concepts, and are designed to introduce the proper use of scientific vocabulary and grammar.


Followed by the text is a section on new vocabulary words. This section lists the Chinese characters, pinyin, and definition of each new vocab word in the order encountered in the text. The vocabulary that is introduced comes from physical science and chemistry concepts. Examples include vocab for carbon dioxide, steam, evaporation, radius, gravity, symmetry, laboratory, atom, celestial body, refraction, etc. There are also lessons on mathematics, technology, and machinery. Example of vocab in these lessons include: hydraulic press, compressor, formula, surface area, semiconductor, optical fiber, etc. There is a vocabulary index in the back of the book.


Each lesson has 1-2 pages of grammar notes. The grammar notes are useful but may be hard to understand if you have not had Chinese education with formal grammar training. Having a supplemental grammar book would be useful. There is a grammar index in the back of the book.


I have not done many of the exercises in the book, but it appears that they are mostly focus on grammar. Eg: complete the sentences with this particular type of construction, make sentences following the given example, rewrite sentences with this type of construction, choose the sentences that are correct, etc.


I think the text is a good introduction if you are interested in learning to discuss concepts in the physical sciences (physics, chemistry, etc) and technological sciences. This book will not be very helpful if you are more interested in the biological sciences or medicine, as the vocabulary and practice texts are not geared toward biology.

I think it is a good series, provided you are the target audience. Most people will probably have little to know interest in learning scientific vocabulary and grammar. But for those that are interested in the physical sciences or technology, this is a very good elementary book.