I began learning Mandarin Chinese, also called pǔtōnghuà （普通话）, when my family and I moved to Xi’an, China, in 2010. Since returning to the States in 2014, I have continued to learn Chinese by myself. Today, for the language learners, language lovers, and any other individual with a remote interest in foreign languages, I want to share the main resources I have used to self-study Chinese.
The Pleco dictionary app collects hundreds of thousands of entries from licensed dictionary databases. Users can search for vocabulary words with English or pinyin search terms or by writing the Chinese characters. Audio transcripts and sample sentences accompany many of the words. The document and screen reader enables quick searching of unknown Chinese words in a document or on the web.
FluentU is a popular language-learning app that teaches a multitude of languages, including Mandarin, through real-world videos with native speakers. Users learn and practice vocabulary in context. Each video has Chinese, pinyin, and English translations.
This app is great to practice reading Chinese. Access to all of the news articles requires a subscription, but the free version offers much in itself. Decipher Chinese offers articles written in Chinese by native speakers that pertain to some contemporary news event or facet of Chinese culture. The articles as well as the individual words in the articles categorized by HSK level. By tapping on the characters, the user can learn the pinyin and English translation of unknown vocabulary. The app also has a flashcard option.
Mandarin Corner features videos ranging from beginner to advanced, plus lessons on HSK vocabulary. It has both focused vocabulary lessons and immersive “experience” videos, where the creator talks with other native Chinese speakers, tells a story using only Chinese, or shows the viewer around someplace in China (e.g., market, village). The videos have Chinese and pinyin translations at the bottom or left side, along with an idiomatic or literal English translation.
This channel posts intermediate and advanced listening videos, but is more suited for beginners given its pace and topics. I recommend starting with the “Weekly Chinese Words with Yinru” series.
While the heads of the ChinesePod video lessons have retired from the company, the channel still offers hundreds of videos for Chinese language learners at all levels. Most videos feature two or three teachers who interact with one another and teach to the camera. Helpful vocabulary points and sentence examples appear at the bottom of the screen.
This is the first dictionary I used to start learning Mandarin. Split between a Chinese-English dictionary and an English-Chinese dictionary, it covers all of the vocabulary a beginner requires, with all entries accompanied by easy-to-follow denotation points and most by sentence examples. Specific lesson pages cover topics like telling time and talking about dates.
Mandarin Companion specializes in graded readers that take familiar Western novels and adapt them to an English-speaking audience learning Chinese. Their books are a fantastic resource for the language learner who has achieved a beginner intermediate level of Mandarin and wants to expand his/her vocabulary and character-reading skills through stories.
- Transparent Language Chinese blog
This is a great resource to learn about Chinese culture while also studying vocabulary. It publishes articles regularly on travel, etiquette, food, and other topics in China.
Mango Languages offers courses in any wide-spoken language imaginable. It is catered to the novice language learner, using sentence examples, audio clips, and repetition to progress from beginner concepts to more advanced, including grammar. Some libraries offer the program for free. If yours doesn’t, the subscription costs $19.99/month.
This site uses Chinese short stories, audio, videos, and articles in English to teach about the vocabulary, grammar, and culture of China. Its characteristic feature is scroll-over pinyin and English translations to decipher unfamiliar Chinese characters.
Are you learning a foreign language? What resources do you use?