As I stated in 5 things I wish I knew when starting Chinese, reading can be extremely effective for building fluency.
Todays post is about what tools and resources I use for learning Mandarin by reading.
Firstly I will go over general tools that will help you while reading, then I will suggest books/apps for actually reading.
Pleco is the holy grail for Mandarin learners. I had to mention it, as it’s so integral for me in learning Chinese.
Pleco is a Chinese dictionary app for your phone.
The main features that I use include:
- Dictionary look up.
Find characters by writing them.
- This is useful if you can’t clearly understand the spoken dialogue from a show but have subtitles.
- Optical character recognizer for looking up words within images, or on your camera ‘live’.
However recently, they have also added some graded readers. I haven’t bought any yet, but I tried a sample one which seems to be a collection of articles from The Chairman’s Bao.
This is quite nice as you can tap any word/characters you don’t know, see their dictionary definition, and can also add them to a flashcard deck all from the same place.
However it does seem quite pricey, so try the samples and see if you think its worth the investment.
DuShu contains thousands of sentences divided by HSK level that you can read. This is perfect if you are working towards a HSK exam and need more reading practice.
I also like to use it throughout my day when I have say 5 minutes spare. I will read through the sentences, starring any characters I’m not familiar with as well as starring sentences I didn’t understand the full meaning of.
Then every 2 weeks or so I will go through all the starred sentences/characters and un-star any that I now understand, repeating for a couple of days to build familiarity.
With the free version, you can only see a limited number of sentence translations. So I bought the premium for a onetime purchase and it was worth it in my case.
Note - This currently isn’t available for IOS. According to this link, an IOS version is in development.
The Chairman’s Bao is a news based graded reader application/website.
Every article comes with an audio reading of the article, so you can also practice listening! What I like to do is play the listening first and see how much I can understand. Then I will read through as I’m listening again to fill in any gaps.
I like it because not only can I practice my reading and learn new words, I can also read some interesting news articles.
What’s most impressive to me is the amount of content produced! Every day, articles are published about events within China as well as abroad.
I’ve read complaints about how there isn’t English translations for every sentence. In my experience as long as what I was reading was at a suitable level, I didn’t have a problem with this.
The app is free to download, however there are subscription costs to access articles and resources.
I suggest taking a look at the free samples given and seeing if it’s suitable for you.
To become fluent, it’s not enough to learn the meanings of new vocabulary. We must also understand its nuances, how it is used, where it fits into sentences and how to actually use it conversation.
Graded readers allow us to encounter a word 10 to 30 times in various situations. This naturally allows us to consolidate our understanding of new vocabulary.
These readers also give context, rather than just looking at example sentences for different words. This allows your brain to be more engaged by imagining the scenario, allowing for more memory retention.
I’ve also found that since I started using graded readers, I have better formulation of sentences when speaking, sounding less rigid and more native.
Here are some graded readers I have found useful:
- This series of books are all translated western stories, e.g Sherlock Holmes.
- This is great when getting started as you are reading something you have already read in your native language so can understand the context.
- There is also different levels corresponding to the HSK levels so it keeps vocabulary relevant if your target is HSK.
- I recommend this from intermediate levels or above if they’ve finished all the Mandarin companion stories at their level and want something new.
- The stories are different to Mandarin Companion, with not all stories being fiction based.
- A great series of stories for intermediates who are also interested in Chinese culture. It also explains the origins of a lot of famous chengyu (chinese idioms).
That concludes todays post.
Did I miss any resources for reading that you use and recommend?
Let me know in the comments below!
Want more tips and resources to learn Chinese?