Hello, everyone! I want to compile lists of the materials that I use to study each of the languages that I am focusing on currently, and I have decided to start with Chinese. Keep in mind that these are just things that I like to use and that everyone has their own preferences and methods for learning. I’ll show you my favorite resources and explain what I like about each of them and how they can be used. Here’s my list of Mandarin resources:
1. A Course in Contemporary Chinese (Textbook and Workbook)
Words can not adequately express my feels for this series! I before I bought this book on a short trip to Taiwan, I was using other books that weren’t really my favorites and internet sources. I wanted something written in Traditional characters, so I was so excited to buy this. The grammar is explained well, there are plenty of good examples, the workbook exercises are effective… I just wish I could find levels 2 and up online ㅠㅠ (You can buy level 1 on Amazon!) There are actually four books for each level—the main textbook, the workbook, a character book, and a teacher’s guidebook. The ONE problem is that I’m guessing all the workbook answers are in the teacher guide, so if you want to check your answers, you’re a little out of luck!
Ah, one more thing: The book is written in traditional, but in the back of the book, all of the dialogues are rewritten in simplified. Also, pronunciations for vocabulary are given in both Pinyin and Zhuyin.
2. Common Chinese Patterns
I bought this because a friend recommended it to me. I don’t feel like I’m at a level yet where it can be useful to me, but briefly flipping through it, I felt like it will definitely come in handy in the future. It contains 330 common grammatical patterns you can expect to see and some usage examples of each one.
3. Childrens’ books!
I was SO excited when I found these! During my very short trip to Taiwan last year, I went to a small grocery store with my friend, and these cardboard books were on sale. They’re meant to teach basic vocabulary to children, and I actually find them useful for myself. The words are labeled in Chinese and English both, I guess for those parents who want to get their kids started on the foreign language path early. Anyway, books and things meant for children are great because they tend to have the most basic, necessary words. Textbooks aren’t the only books you can use!
Websites and Chinese study Apps
This website is AMAZING and I love it a ton! It combines videos with example dialogues, vocabulary lists, grammar lessons, and more to get you from absolute zero to having conversations.
The Wikipedia of Chinese grammar! The grammar points on this website are arranged by level, which is quite useful. There are good explanations of the grammar, and there are examples too!
I have this dictionary on my phone and I use it a LOT. You can set it up to give you traditional characters before simplified if you want, Zhuyin instead of Pinyin, characters color-coded by tone… and you can search by Pinyin, Zhuyin, handwriting… it’s really awesome, and it’s free (though there are some extra features you can buy)! I did pay for the stroke order diagrams, and I don’t regret it, especially for some of those more complicated characters.
4. Du Chinese
This app gives you little articles and lessons that you can read easily on your phone. The best thing is that if there is a character you aren’t familiar with, you don’t have to open up a dictionary app—just tap on a word and the dictionary will come up! Also, if you want to read in traditional rather than simplified, there is an option for that. Just be careful: the conversion software used to change the original simplified to traditional is inaccurate at some times! For example, where 只 and 隻 are distinct characters in traditional, they are both 只 in simplified, and the software does not always choose the right one. Otherwise, it’s a good app 🙂
Another reader app along the lines of Du Chinese! Same warning about the simplified to traditional conversion. There is also a web version of this app (or was the web version first?? Probably…) and you can find the link to the main site on the page linked above.
Oh look, another reader site! This one has articles from HSK level 3 and up (which means I can’t use it yet, haha… still noob level!). Still, it looks cool, and I’m sure it will be more immediately relevant to others 🙂
Programs and Plugins
The link is to the plugin for the Chrome browser, but I think you can find this on other browsers too. With this plugin installed and turned on, all you have to do it mouse over a character or characters, and the definition and pronunciation information and all pop up! Super useful; I love this one 🙂
This is another scanning dictionary, but you download it onto your computer. Honestly, I don’t like this one nearly as much as the Chrome popup dictionary. It seems to pick and choose which programs it wants to read off of on any given day, and I find its pop-up feature annoying, so I find myself turning it off. However, for just copying and pasting individual words or even full sentences into the main window, it works great! It will parse a sentence or string of characters and give you each word and definition in order. I know some people love this, but for me, it’s just something to use when I can’t use my Zhongwen Popup Dictionary, to be honest. Still, feel free to give it a try! I use the simpler, free version of this program.