Looking for a more or less comprehensive overview of learning resources for Mandarin Chinese? I hope this list can help you to find the tools you need or try out something new. It’s the product of my own experience learning Chinese and blogging here on Kaohongshu.
PS. Of course this list isn’t complete and it probably never will be. Please let me know if any relevant resources are missing or if I should correct any information provided here.
Table Of Contents
- Listening Material (podcasts, music, audiobooks)
- TV & Video
- YouTube channels
- Textbooks for Mandarin
- Books about learning Mandarin
- Reading Material (graded readers)
- Flashcards & Vocabulary Training
- Writing Characters
- Apps for Mandarin Chinese
- Online Tutors and Language Partners
Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. They help me to support this blog, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a small commission if you click through and make a purchase.
“Speaking Chinese but without the tones”? Just kidding. If you’re working on your pronunciation, these links can help.
- Hacking Chinese – A practical guide to Pinyin by Mandarin expert and teacher Olle Linge, explaining common traps and pitfalls. [free]
- Mandarin Chinese Tone Pair Drills – Progressive method that helps elementary and intermediate students practice tone pairs, designed by John Pasden. [free]
- Yoyo Chinese Introduction to Mandarin tones and tone pairs [free]
- Mandarin Tone Trainer – Online exercises to train recognition and pronunciation of Mandarin tones. [free / $$$]
- ViewVoice – Chinese app that allows you to record your voice and compare your pronunciation to that of native speakers. [free / $$$]
- Pinyin Master – Gamified app that helps improve pronunciation and listening skills by comparing similar sounding words which are easily mistaken. [free]
- SpeakGoodChinese – Browser application to train Mandarin tones, offers instant visual feedback and tips for your pronunciation. Voice settings can be problematic. [free]
The good news: there’s an overabundance of Chinese spoken audio. The bad news: it’s hard to find “comprehensible input” that fits your interests and language level. Here’s an overview of podcasts, Chinese music and audiobooks.
- Mandarin Corner – YouTube channel and website [free/donation]
- Learn Chinese through stories – Short stories with separate explanation [free/donation]
- Popup Chinese – Chinese podcasts sorted by language level [free / $$$]
- Learn Chinese – Easy Situational Mandarin Chinese Audio Lessons – Limited number of short dialogues with vocabulary introductions [free]
- Zero to Hero Chinese library: YouTube videos with transcripts for listening practice [free / $$$]
- Slow Chinese: Cultural podcast for advanced learners. Website offline, audio-files still accessible [free]
- Chinese Colloquialised – Weekly podcast about cultural topics, transcripts included [free]
- MandarinPod – Podcast for advanced Mandarin learners by Sishu Mandarin from NYC.
Music is probably the most pleasant form of language immersion. Tastes differ though, here are some random suggestions.
- Kaohongshu Music Library – My private selection with song lyrics.
- Top Chinese Songs 2020 YouTube Playlist – Recent hit songs.
- Top Chinese Songs 2019 – Recent hit songs.
- Top Chinese Songs 2018 – Recent hit songs.
- Chinese hit songs (very long list) – Compiled by a Chinese music fan on YouTube.
- Teresa Teng greatest hits – A little cliché but surprisingly accessible music for Mandarin beginners.
- Xiami Music – Discover Chinese music.
Here’s an overview of Mandarin spoken audiobooks. Most of them definitely qualify for advanced listening. For learners that haven’t reached that level yet listening to the audio of graded readers might proof a better choice in most cases.
- Ximalaya – The audiobooks from the Chinese website Ximalaya are mostly free of charge. You can find books like children’s tale The Little Prince, the best-seller The Alchemist or the famous Chinese novel To Live and even oral Chinese class listening material. Mostly advanced listening. [free / $$$]
- lrts.me – Like Ximalaya this website is entirely in Hanzi, but you can enjoy an impressive supply of audiobooks like Sherlock holmes and Franz Kafka. [free]
- Pingshu8 – Another Hanzi-only website with a large collection of Chinese audiobooks (Star Wars, 1001 Nights, The Old Man and the Sea, Chinese children’s stories), mostly advanced listening. [free]
- diantai.ifeng – Collection of classics and more modern works of Chinese literature, advanced listening. [free]
- LibriVox – Chinese audiobook collection, advanced listening. [free]
- Loyalbooks – Here you find some Chinese classics by Lu Xun and other works, advanced listening. [free]
- Audible Chinese audiobook collection – Audible collection of Chinese audiobooks, plenty of choice and probably easier to find what you’re looking for, mostly advanced listening. [free / $$$]
TV & Video
Chinese TV & video platforms
The following video platforms offer an overload of Mandarin content, their websites mostly are Hanzi-only.
- youku.com – Mainland Chinese online video and streaming service platform similar to YouTube with its own streaming services for TV shows and movies. [free / $$$]
- tv.cctv.com/live – Watch live Mainland Chinese television just like you’re in China. [free]
- iQiyi – Mainland Chinese video platform based in Beijing. [free / $$$]
- Tencent Video – Mainland Chinese video streaming website, also available in English. [free / $$$]
- viki.com – American video streaming website that specializes on Asian TV shows and movies, with English subtitles. [free / $$$]
- tv.sohu.com – Mainland Chinese video platform based in Beijing. [free / $$$]
- ifvod.tv – Movies, series, documentaries and more, usually lacking English subtitles for Chinese. Many “non-Chinese” content with Mandarin subtitles. [free]
- PPTV – Mainland Chinese video streaming website. [free / $$$]
- 56.com and Tudou – Mainland Chinese video sharing websites, both headquartered in Shanghai, where users can upload, view and share video clips. [free]
List of TV shows and series
This is a very random selection of Mandarin spoken TV shows and series.
- Peppa pig in Chinese – The well-known British preschool cartoon in Chinese
- Baby bus – Cartoons for children in Chinese
- Chinese Songs for children
- Chinese Stories for Children: Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, Three little pigs, Journey to the West
- 爸爸去哪儿 – popular TV-series called “Dad where are we going?”
- 外国人在中国 – CCTV docuseries about foreigners living in China
- 爱情保卫战 – Mainland Chinese live-show where couples fight out their problems on stage (2010)
- Happy Chinese – educational melodrama produced by the Chinese TV channel CCTV to teach Mandarin to foreigners (2009)
- 新葫蘆兄弟 – newer adaptation of the Chinese cartoon “Huluwa” (2016)
- 惹上冷殿下 – Mainland Chinese “idol drama” called “Accidentally in Love” (2018)
- 绅探 – Detective series set in Shanghai in the 30s called “Detective L” (2019)
- 我的前半生 – Mainland Chinese drama series called “The First Half of my Life” (2017)
- 欢乐颂 – A Mainland Chinese drama about five women who live on the 22nd floor of an apartment complex in Shanghai called “Ode To Joy” (2016)
- 爱情公寓 – a sitcom from Mainland China called “iPartment” (2009)
- 下一站是幸福 – Mainland Chinese television series about a love story between an accomplished career woman and a younger man, English title: “Find yourself” (2020)
- 我只喜欢你 – Mainland Chinese TV-series called “Le Coup De Foudre” (2019)
- 世界青年说 – Mainland Chinese talk-show that hosts a panel of foreigners living in China, holding discussions in Mandarin on various topics and issues called “A Bright World” (2015)
- 奔跑吧兄弟 – Mainland Chinese reality game show called “Running Man” (2014-2016)
- 锵锵三人行 – Famous talk show produced in Hongkong (1998 – 2017)
- 铁齿铜牙纪晓岚 – This Mainland Chinese historical television series is about philosopher-politician Ji Xiaolan and based on events during the reign of the Qianlong Emperor in the Qing dynasty. English title: “The Eloquent Ji Xiaolan” (2002 – 2010)
- 雍正王朝 – Mainland Chinese historical television series called “Yongzheng Dynasty” (1999)
- 走向共和 – Mainland Chinese historical television series about the collapse of the Qing Dynasty and the founding of the Republic of China called “For the Sake of the Republic” (2003)
- 人民的名义 – Mainland Chinese TV drama series about government corruption, considered as the Chinese version of House of Cards. English title: “In the Name of the People” (2017)
- 精英律师 – Mainland Chinese drama series called “The Gold Medal Lawyer” (2019)
- 都挺好 – Mainland Chinese family called “All is well” (2019)
Chinese lessons on YouTube
These YouTube channels offer Mandarin video lessons and are worth checking out. Difficulty level, use of English, teaching experience, teaching style and pace vary. In my personal YouTube top 10 I discuss them in more detail.
- Yoyo Chinese – beginner / intermediate
- Everyday Chinese – beginner / intermediate
- ChinesePod – beginner / intermediate
- Mandarin Corner – beginner / intermediate / advanced
- ChineseFor.Us – beginner / intermediate
- Learn Chinese with Yi Zhao – beginner
- Grace Mandarin Chinese – beginner / intermediate
- ShuoshuoChinese说说中文 – beginner / intermediate
- Mandarin With Miss Lin – beginner / intermediate
- Chinese Zero To Hero – beginner / intermediate / advanced
- ChineseEddieG汉语艾迪 – beginner / intermediate / advanced
- eChineseLearning – beginner
- Chinesewith-Xiaolu – beginner / intermediate / advanced
- Learn Chinese with ChineseClass101.com – beginner / intermediate
Textbooks for Mandarin
- 中文听说读写| Integrated Chinese – Mandatory textbook for introductory Mandarin in many college-level language programs in the USA, consisting of four volumes (1, 2, 3, 4) with text-, work- and character workbook.
- New Practical Chinese Reader – Set of textbooks that progressively teaches reading, writing and listening. It consists of 70 lessons in six volumes (text- and workbook), covering beginning to intermediate levels for three years of instruction (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6).
- Boya Chinese – Series of textbooks consisting of 9 volumes: 2 elementary books, 2 pre-intermediate books, 2 Intermediate books and 3 advanced books.
- Developing Chinese – This series includes 28 volumes with altogether 34 books and is divided into three levels (elementary, intermediate and advanced) and five series (comprehensive, listening, speaking, reading and writing). “Nationally planned” textbooks for higher education in Mainland China.
- Colloquial Chinese: The Complete Course for Beginners – Textbook focusing on real-life Chinese communication for beginners (2020 edition).
- 实用视听华语 | Practical Audio Visual Chinese – Taiwanese Textbook series consisting of 5 volumes, non-simplified characters and annotated with Pinyin, Zhuyin (BoPoMoFo) and Tongyong Pinyin.
- Conversational Chinese Dialogues: Over 100 Chinese Conversations and Short Stories – Textbook with conversational Chinese for beginners (incl. English translations and Pinyin), dialogues deal with real-life situations like setting a meeting, renting a car, visiting a doctor etc. Suitable for extensive reading too.
- Beyond the Basics: Communicative Chinese for Intermediate and Advanced Chinese Learners – Chinese textbook for more advanced learners covering a broad variety of conversation topics like childhood, movies, politics and crime.
Books about learning Mandarin
- Hacking Chinese: A Practical Guide to Learning Mandarin – The unofficial bible for learning Mandarin by Olle Linge from Hacking Chinese.
- How To Learn Chinese: A Guide To Unlocking Mandarin – A practical guide to learn and understand Chinese characters, explaining the evolution of the characters without oversimplifying or Chineasy style mnemonics.
- Pleco – Dictionary app with handwriting recognition, Hanzi stroke animations, audio pronunciation, document reader, flashcard system (premium feature), full-screen handwriting input and live camera-based character search (premium feature) and other features. [free / $$$]
- Hanping Chinese Dictionary Lite – Dictionary app with Chinese handwriting recognition, Hanzi stroke animations, audio pronunciation, soundboard for Pinyin and other features [free] or Hanping Chinese Dictionary Pro with even more Hanzi stoke animations, AnkiDroid Flashcards support and additional premium features. [$$$]
Popup dictionaries for browsers
- Google Chrome: Zhongwen: A Chinese-English Popup Dictionary [free]
- Mozilla Firefox: Perapera Chinese [free]
Web dictionaries for Mandarin Chinese
- Arch Chinese – Dictionary with stroke order, example words and sentences [free / $$$]
- YellowBridge Chinese English Dictionary – Dictionary with stroke order, example words and sentences [free]
- Line Dict Chinese – English – Dictionary with example sentences and stroke order [free]
- HanziCraft – Dictionary with detailed character information [free / donation]
- HanziYuan – Etymology of Chinese characters, all about the origin of Chinese characters [free / donation]
- Linguee – English-Chinese Dictionary with sentences [free]
- Tatoeba for Chinese – gives example sentences with multiple translations (not a classic dictionary) [free]
- Chinese Text Project – Historical English-Chinese dictionary [free]
- Jukuu – Example sentences dictionary with statistical breakdown, outdated website [free]
- MDBG free online English to Chinese dictionary – Outdated website but still functional [free]
Yes, Mandarin Chinese does have grammar.
- Chinese Grammar Wiki – Comprehensive overview of grammar points by John Pasden. It’s probably the best online resource for Chinese grammar (also available in print, 527 pages). [free]
- Basic Patterns of Chinese Grammar – Practical book answers many questions about Chinese grammar in a concise fashion, from beginner level to intermediate (128 pages).
- Yufa! A Practical Guide to Mandarin Chinese Grammar – Guide for Chinese grammar with practical examples (400 pages).
- Modern Mandarin Chinese Grammar: A Practical Guide – Improved and expanded second edition with additional grammar points and numerous examples (430 pages).
When it comes to improving your reading skills in Mandarin the main challenge is to find proper texts that suit your level and needs. Paid online resources tend to offer a wider range of materials and additional features. Below I listed some free and paid resources with an indication of their difficulty level.
Free online resources
- Mandarin Bean (all levels)
- My Chinese Reading (all levels)
- HSK reading (all levels)
- Chinese Reading Practice (all levels)
- Just learn Chinese (all levels)
- The Marco Polo Project (advanced)
- Mandarin version of the New York Times (advanced)
- BBC news in Mandarin Chinese (advanced)
- Chinese news from Deutsche Welle (advanced)
- Baidu News (advanced)
- Project Gutenberg in Chinese (highly advanced)
- An Annotated Collection of Digitized Chinese Texts for Students of Chinese Language and Culture (highly advanced)
Non-free online resources
- The Chairman’s Bao – Comprehensive news-based graded reader for students of Chinese (all levels)
- Du Chinese – Popular Mandarin reading app (all levels)
- Decipher Chinese – Reading app with engaging articles written for learners (all levels)
Graded readers and more
One thing that cannot be stressed enough is the importance of reading when learning Mandarin, especially so-called extensive reading, which is basically reading as broadly as you can within your level. Not just for more advanced learners, but for beginners too! That’s where graded readers come in. They help your brain to adapt to Hanzi, speed up your reading and – perhaps most importantly – to grow your vocabulary.
- Mandarin Companion publishes popular graded readers for Mandarin beginners, allowing learners to start and develop their reading from an early stage. There are three levels: breakthrough level (150 characters), level 1 (300 characters), level 2 (450 characters) and plenty of different stories.
- Chinese Breeze Graded Reader Series – This well-known series has withstood the test of time and covers 4 levels at the moment, from elementary to intermediate level.
- Graded Chinese Reader by Shi Ji is a Chinese language reader that contains abridged versions of short stories and novellas written by contemporary Chinese writers. The series covers beginner up to intermediate level (500 words, 1000 words, 1500 words, 2500 words, 3000 words). My own copy came with an insert to cover the Pinyin above the characters.
- HSK Academy Graded Chinese Readers practically grade their readers by HSK level. A version from The Art of War has been specially compiled for HSK 6 aspirants. Other readers have been compiled for HSK 4 and HSK 1 with more to come.
- Chinese Short Stories For Beginners – Twenty easy-to-read, compelling stories for elementary level (HSK 2 -3 ).
Flashcards & Vocabulary Training
The following apps operate with a spaced repetition system to help you handle large quantities of new vocabulary. Each has its unique features:
- Pleco – Its built-in flashcard system allows you to create flashcards quickly based on dictionary entries. Very comfortable if Pleco is already your dictionary of choice. The flashcard feature is a paid add-on module that includes HSK word lists. [$$$]
- Skritter – Skritter (for Android and iOS) also provides a built-in flashcard system and lots of pre-made word lists to choose from. The app does a good job on introducing new vocabulary with examples too. Skritter’s “core business” is improving Hanzi writing skills though. [$$$]
- Anki – Supposedly less user-friendly, but very effective flashcard tool once you know how this free computer software works. Plenty of shared decks for Chinese provided by other learners you can profit from. Anki is also available as app for Android (free) and iOS ($$$).
- Daily Chinese – Simple & effective vocabulary trainer providing helpful ready-made word lists for intermediate and advanced learners who want to expand their vocabulary in specific areas, from economics to sports and computer software. [free / $$$]
- Chinese Flash Cards Kit for HSK Levels 1 & 2 – Actual flashcards for Mandarin learners who prefer the old-school way (which is completely fine).
Learn to write Chinese characters by using “old-fashioned” books or an app like Skritter that instantly corrects every wrong stroke or dot (and more beyond):
- Skritter – Probably is the number-one application for writing and understanding Chinese characters, also well-known for its spaced repetition supported vocabulary training. [free / $$$]
- Reading and Writing Chinese (2,349 Chinese Characters and 5,000+ Compounds) – Guide to reading and writing Chinese characters, both simplified and traditional, study book as well as resource for reference. [$$$]
- Scripts by Drops – A popular app that introduces Chinese characters and radicals, offering a gamified learning experience for visual learners. [free / $$$]
- Daily Mandarin – A very basic app, designed to practice writing all level HSK characters. [free]
- Kangxi – A game-based app that helps you group characters by their radicals. [free]
Apps for Mandarin Chinese
A selection of popular and less popular apps that give a taste of the language and help expand your Mandarin skills in an entertaining way.
- HelloChinese – A gamified learning app for absolute beginners with many free lessons. [free / $$$]
- LingoDeer – Language learning app that offers a solid introduction to beginners, many features behind paywall, similar to Duolingo. [free / $$$]
- NinChanese – A gamified learning platform that is based on the HSK curriculum. [free / $$$]
- Pandanese – Vocabulary training platform, browser-only, with free trial. [free / $$$]
- Drops – Learn vocabulary through mini-games and mnemonics, free version is limited to one 5-minute session per day. [free / $$$]
- Memrise – A gamified flashcard app that uses spaced repetition to support your vocabulary learning. [free / $$$]
- Learn Chinese – ChineseSkill – A learning app for Mandarin Chinese beginners offering a variety of mini-lessons. [free / $$$]
- Infinite Chinese – A learning app based on interactive mini-games. [free]
- Super Chinese – A gamified learning app with animated videos and thematic lessons. [free / $$$]
Online Tutors and Language Partners
Tutoring platforms help to match teachers to students who want to learn a new language. They allow you to book classes directly with a (Chinese) teacher. Usually, these lessons are more like complementary learning sessions than a structured, step-by-step course.
- Italki – An online tutoring platform with probably the biggest range of teachers to choose from. [$$$]
- Verbling – An online tutoring platform similar to Italki. [$$$]
- Preply – Find native speakers and certified private tutors. [$$$]
- Amazingtalker – An online tutoring platform that connects students with language teachers. [$$$]
- HelloTalk – Phone app for finding language tandem partners. [free]
- Official Website – Doesn’t look very fancy, but this is the official Hanban site where you can register for HSK tests and find a modest selection of mock exams.
- HSK mock exams – They help you prepare for the actual test.
- HSK Standard Course 1 – The official coursebook that helps you prepare for the test, complete with the relevant HSK vocabulary, texts, examples and exercises. (HSK Standard Course 2, HSK Standard Course 3, HSK Standard Course 4, HSK Standard Course 5, HSK Standard Course 6).