It will only take 8 minutes to read this post!
Whilst Written Chinese are big advocates of mobile learning we know that when you’re at home with a cup of tea (or coffee, I’m not discriminatory) nothing beats a good book to study from. During our time in China, The Written Chinese kids have acquired quite a few Chinese learning books to help with our Mandarin.
We also called on some of our Written Chinese Ambassadors to collaborate with us and tell us some of the books that have helped them on their Chinese learning journey. Whilst some of them, (the books not our lovely Ambassadors) may have sadly remained relatively neat and untouched, we have discovered some that have been scrawled upon (in pencil of course), bookmarked and abused which we would like to pass onto you. Not ours, you can buy your own here.
So don’t just take my word for it check out our collaborative list of top books for learning Chinese:
Hollie says: I have personally used this book for my own studies (and with my Chinese teacher) and have found the topics covered relevant and useful. The exercises that follow each set of dialogue and vocabulary are brilliant for reviewing what you have just covered.
Nora says: New Practical Chinese reader seems like the go to book for Chinese teachers here in China – at least it’s been recommended to me several times. I do appreciate how it progresses – once you get to a certain level, they remove the pinyin and just put the tone mark above the character. Very smart way to reinforce the tones!
Note: There are 6 volumes in the New Practical Chinese Reader series.
Hollie says: This is one of my favourite Chinese study books because I feel as though my Chinese has progressed the most with these books. It covers a multitude of topics ranging from basic things from asking for directions to renting an apartment and then consequently complaining about said apartment (the authors of these text books obviously have experience with Chinese landlords). This is another book that really needs to be worked on with a Chinese teacher, although there is a CD included to listen to correct pronunciation of dialogue and listening exercises. Each chapter explains in detail specific grammar and correct usage of new vocabulary covered in the unit. There is also a writing section and then exercises, which are both challenging and useful as they not only recap that unit but reviews previous units vocabulary and grammar. Occasionally they sneak in a new word that you might not know, so keep your WCC Dictionary app handy to look up the words!
Reading and Writing Chinese: Third Edition, HSK All Levels (2,349 Chinese Characters and 5,000+ Compounds)
Nora says: What to get a little context and etymology when learning Chinese characters? This is a great guide for that and is laid out in a logical, easy-to-follow format with large character pictures. It will show you how to write the characters and will give you a bit of history for why the character is written the way it is today.
Ian says: I find “Reading and Writing Chinese” by McNaughton and Fan, published by Tuttle is really good for figuring out the characters.
Hollie says: I think this book is great if you want to learn about Characters. It’s simple to use and includes all the characters that appear in HSK. It provides a breakdown of the character, including stroke order, radicals and some example bigrams. Since I started learning to read and write (kind of) I’ve become fascinated by the etymology of characters and this book provides a little insight into the meaning and history of Chinese characters without a lot of unnecessary fluff.
Reading and Writing Chinese also has separate Simplified and Traditional Character Editions. Find them here.
Nora says: A rare find for upper-intermediate students! This book is highly recommended for those looking to understand more subtle nuances in Chinese. It clearly explains idioms and common phrases as well as gives a glimpse into the Chinese mind. A true treasure trove for Chinese language lovers!
Hollie says: This is a relatively new find for me and I have to say this is a really cool book that I’ve spent time reading just for my own enjoyment. The book is split into two sections: Part A, Structures and Part B, Situations and Functions. Every unit has an explanation with examples including characters, pinyin and English. The example sentences are relevant and not just there to impress me. In fact, the whole book is laid out and written in a simple manner so when I’m reading about modal verbs (which would normally make me cringe and run away) I really feel like I’m only learning how to write dog. I feel like I’ve learned a lot from this book already, and will definitely have it standing by on the coffee table if ever I have a grammar-related question (which I frequently do). There’s also a nice workbook to go with the Practical Guide. Every unit has very relevant exercises to review what was covered in the guide.
Tuttle Learning Chinese Characters: (HSK Levels 1 -3) A Revolutionary New Way to Learn and Remember the 800 Most Basic Chinese Characters
Hollie says: Tuttle’s Book for Learning Chinese Characters is a really interesting introduction to Chinese characters. Aimed at beginners, it uses creative stories and images to teach the meaning, tone and pronunciation of a character. It’s a more educational version of Chineasy, As the title of the books tells, this book only covers 800 Chinese characters, but each character is dealt with in detail and it’s an enjoyable experience to boot. It’s fun and kind of genius to be honest, considering the world’s current love for all things fantastical (Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones etc). This is great for learners who need a little more than just words to grasp the meaning of a character.
Ray says: The book states it should be read as a supplement to other textbooks, and I would agree, it’s not a raw beginner’s book as some experience of Chinese is needed. For me, this is one to dip into as needed.
Hollie says: This is a pretty nice book to go to if you continue to make the same grammatical mistakes. I’ve found since living in China, that if you don’t have a Chinese teacher or friend who knows you won’t be upset if they correct your Chinese, you will unknowingly continue to speak grammatically incorrect sentences. This is a go-to book for beginners to get you on the right path to learning Chinese grammar.
One of the biggest challenges of reading Chinese is then moving on to reading cursive script. Similarly, as with all languages, no one writes clear characters and this book provides an introduction to reading Chinese handwriting.
Ian says: Chinese Cursive Script by Wang (Yale University Press that has been in print consistently since 1958!) helps figure out what the waiter wrote on his notepad about your restaurant order!
The Written Chinese Team really <3 Chinese with Mike videos and books! Hollie says: I love the format of the Learn Chinese with Mike books and the course itself is extremely easy to follow. Everything is presented simply, without any complicated language which makes it a pleasure to complete activities. Of course, Mike Laoshi is known for his genius videos, which are incorporated into the book, along with listening tasks. The DVDs and CDs are included with the coursebook. The Absolute Beginner Coursebook is perfect for getting started on your Chinese learning journey. There is a second coursebook that you’ll definitely want to try afterwards, Learn Chinese with Mike Advanced Beginner to Intermediate Coursebook and Activity Book Pack Seasons 3, 4 & 5 (Teach Yourself)
You can learn more about Chinese with Mike by visiting www.chinesewithmike.com!
For a further list of textbooks for learning Chinese that we have used to advance our Mandarin, go to our Book Shop.
I would like to thank the Written Chinese Ambassadors for helping us with this post!
If you’ve found another great book for learning Chinese, please leave a comment below or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
If you’re looking for story books written in Chinese, the Written Chinese Dictionary app has a handful of short stories for you to enjoy reading! You can choose which to read depending on your Chinese level and test yourself!