Yesterday afternoon lzh and I wandered over to Beiyu (English). I wanted to look at some HSK books. See, the way I see it, sooner or later, and preferably sooner, I'm going to have to sit the HSK (English). And I don't want to fuck around sitting it several times until I get a good score: The highest the score with the least hassle strikes me as being far more efficient. And besides, I'm fast approaching 31. Not old, but still, the time of youthful fucking around should be long gone. I see the HSK as necessary because there's only so long I can go around claiming on my CV to speak pretty decent Chinese with nothing to back up that claim. At least with an HSK certificate, I'd be able to offer potential employers some kind of more or less objective measure of my actual Chinese language abilities. Like I said, I'm fast approaching 31. Time that maybe I should actually do something with my life. Or at least get myself into a better position to be providing for my wife and any possible future children.
So, anyway, we wandered over to Beiyu. Actually, I don't much like Beiyu, but it does have a very nice campus. Pretty convenient campus, too: Pretty much anything you could want or need is on campus, and what isn't can probably be found a short walk away. Unless, of course, it's China you're looking for, but that's a whole different rant. Having stopped to check out a poster for a Teaching Chinese as a Foreign Language course (a future possibility for lzh- at the very least, having such a certificate won't do her any harm, and in fact could open up future career possibilities) we made our way to the bookstore, which is both good for many kinds of language learning and within easy walking distance from our apartment. That walking distance part is important- it's not quite as comprehensive a bookstore as I would like, but it's close and focused on language learning. The 'easy' in 'easy walking distance' is also important- my definition of walking distance encompasses Beida, Qinghe, and other places most people, including lzh, would consider bus-taking distance.
Enough tangents: So we spent a couple of hundred kuai on books for me. This is perfectly normal: I go for very, very long stretches of time without seeing the inside of a bookstore, and then spend a few hundred on a half-dozen books. Anyway, it was HSK books we were looking for, and HSK books we found. The Beiyu bookstore, funnily enough, has a section devoted to HSK books of all kinds- preparation books and mock tests; preparation books focused on each specific section or aspect of the HSK; everything you could think of needing to prepare for HSK. And of course, most of the books were published by the Beiyu Press (English). So we sifted through books, lzh was asked for help by two separate customers (something about her screamed "Staff member! I will help you! apparently), we made a couple of selections, one of which was a bit on the expensive side, and then we went sifting around the rest of the shop seeing what other cool books we could find.
I found another rather expensive book- one so expensive it came with two free CDs (somewhere in the back of my brain something that claims to be Logic is causing a disturbance. Quiet in the cheap seats)- but an expensive book that looked really cool: How to Prepare for the Entrance Examination to the Best Universities in China- Guide and Practice for Foreign Students is the rather clunky English title, which comes with the word Chinese in big, white letters so you don't mistake it for Law or Oenology. The Chinese title is a little better, and clearer: 《外国留学生入学考试指导与训练语文分册》(I hate trying to read Chinese characters in Italic, so I didn't torture you with Chinese characters in Italic. You're welcome). It's also published by the Beiyu Press. And it's so cool it comes with two free CDs (more noise from the cheap seats! Quiet!). Actually, what's great about this book is that it seems to cover all the Chinese language stuff I'd need for HSK AND also covers all the extra bits, like literature and Classical Chinese I'd need if I were to apply to a Chinese university- which is something I may do should lzh and I ever get ourselves into a reasonably sound financial position. The contents page divides this book into six units:
These are followed up with practice tests and similar such things. So I get the language points I need for HSK and a couple of added bonuses. Pretty cool, eh?
So we swapped the HSK book we'd chosen for some cheaper mock HSK tests and took the super-cool book. The two books were too expensive for us to buy both.
I wanted a decent Chinese grammar though. Actually, I wanted a more academic grammar, a kind of reference-y type one, not a textbook. No luck though. We found something close, but it was in those horrible counter revolutionary capitalist roader characters they still insist on using in Hong Kong and Taiwan. Bugger that. Had to settle for an intermediate textbook that the guy recommended for grammar. It looks alright, but it wasn't exactly what I wanted.
And lzh looked at the books for that Teaching Chinese as a Foreign Language course, but they were far too expensive.
So, bookshopping done, we wandered around to the xiaomaibu just up the alley from the Muslim Restaurant, she got an ice cream and a bottle of water, I got a nice cold can of Guinness, we found a bench under a tree, and watched the world go by for a bit. Like I said, it's a nice campus.
But after yesterday's book shopping, I really have to get my lazy arse into some serious language study.
Don't worry, I'm going to stick with wading my way through 《活着》, but I'll now alternate between that and these textbooks and practice tests.