This is the second part of my overview of learning resources for Mandarin Chinese. Here you’ll find essential tools and resources for every autonomous learner of Chinese. 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 Mandarin Chinese resources are missing or if I should correct any information provided here. Here you find part 1 of this series. (Latest update 30-06-2023)
Mandarin Chinese resources
Table Of Contents
- Apps for Mandarin Chinese
- Textbooks for Mandarin
- Reading Material (graded readers)
- Flashcards & Vocabulary Training
- Writing Characters
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 / $$$]
- Infinite Chinese – A learning app based on interactive mini-games. [free]
- Super Chinese – A gamified learning app with animated videos and thematic lessons. [free / $$$]
- 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).
- HSK vocabulary lists – levels 1 to 6
- Apps to prepare for the HSK Chinese exam
- 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.
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)
- Easy Chinese News (intermediate, advanced)
- My Chinese Reading (all levels)
- HSK reading (all levels)
- Chinese Reading Practice (all levels)
- Chinese Reader’s Guild (all levels)
- Chinese News Club – (intermediate)
- The Marco Polo Project (advanced)
- BBC news in Mandarin Chinese (advanced)
- Chinese news from Deutsche Welle (advanced)
- Australian ABC中文 News (advanced)
- 纽约时报中文网 – New York Times: English-Chinese parallel text. (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, lots of new articles added weekly (all levels)
- Du Chinese – Popular Mandarin reading app, intuitive and practical interface, includes English translations (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 ).
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).
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).
Mandarin Chinese learning resources: Dictionary apps
- 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 / $$$]
- Hanping Chinese Dictionary Lite – Dictionary app with Chinese handwriting recognition, Hanzi stroke animations, audio pronunciation, soundboard for Pinyin and other features [free] or Hanping Chinese Dictionary Pro with even more Hanzi stoke animations, AnkiDroid Flashcards support and additional premium features. [$$$]
- Picture Chinese Dictionary – A Chinese picture dictionary for visual learners made by Korean developers [free / $$$]
Mandarin Chinese learning resources: Popup dictionaries for browsers
- Google Chrome: Zhongwen: A Chinese-English Popup Dictionary [free]
- Mozilla Firefox: Perapera Chinese [free]
Web dictionaries for Mandarin Chinese
- Arch Chinese – Dictionary with stroke order, example words and sentences [free / $$$]
- 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]
- Chinese Pinyin Converter – Not a dictionary but a tool that helps you reading difficult texts by adding Pinyin, highlighting tones, extracting vocabulary lists etc. [free]
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]