ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

25 Essential Chinese Learning Tools You Should Know About

Updated on May 30, 2015

Radically improve your Chinese ability with this significant list of 25 essential Chinese learning tools designed to enhance and add fun to your Mandarin Chinese study program. The list is composed of 25 free and cheap (or free if you borrow from a generous friend or the library) Chinese learning tools I have used and continue to use in support of my own Chinese studies from complete beginner to competent speaker, and I hope that they will offer you the same value in your Mandarin Chinese learning program.

I aim to introduce you to many handy and enjoyable resources for practicing all aspects of learning Chinese including; listening to Chinese rock music, practicing your Zhùyin Fúhào (注音符號) typing skills, watching hilarious bilingual comedy movies, meeting new friends for a Chinese language exchange, and reading innovative interactive comics.

For those studying Chinese, the tools described here will be vital to your success in completing the entire course effectively. I have tried to organize the list starting with 6 tools to use throughout your learning and then the list increases in difficulty from learning Chinese for complete beginners and finish with tools more suited to advanced Mandarin speakers. Number 1 on the list is the most important of all and is almost certainly the biggest reason why you are learning Mandarin Chinese.

1. Native Chinese Speakers

What?

Interacting with native Chinese speakers face to face is probably why you’re learning Chinese. It’s fun, it’s free, and it opens up a whole new world of opportunities for travel, business, and entertainment.

Why?

No matter what stage of learning you’re at, opening your mouth and talking to people not only improves your Chinese speaking but also builds confidence. With this new-found confidence, you may even start chatting to a future boyfriend/girlfriend.

Where?

Well, China and Taiwan of course! Ok, so besides traveling all the way to a Chinese-speaking country to chew the fat, there are millions of Chinese and Taiwanese people living in countries all over the world eager to spend time with a new friend.

2. Bilingual Ang Lee Movies

What?

In the early 90s, Ang Lee made what is called his "Father Knows Best" trilogy of comedy dramas, which depict the older Taiwanese generation struggling to get to grips with the modern world.

Why?

The first two movies, Pushing Hands (推手: Tuīshǒu) and The Wedding Banquet (喜宴: Xǐyàn), are set in America and include both English and Mandarin dialogue. The English parts make the stories easy to follow for beginners while more advanced students can laugh along to all the jokes. The third movie, Eat Drink Man Woman (飲食男女: Yǐnshí nánnǚ), is set in Taiwan and shot entirely in Mandarin. I dare confident speakers to challenge themselves and watch the movie without subtitles.

Where?

All three movies in the series are currently available on DVD on Amazon.

Source

3. Hanping Chinese Dictionary App

What?

Dictionaries and language learning (and English teaching) go hand in hand. When you are studying or walking around and need to look up a word, a dictionary comes in very handy indeed. This app lets you look up words quickly and even offers the choice of Simplified or Traditional characters.

Why?

This app is amazing because you can search in English, Pinyin, Zhuyin, and Chinese characters and get the desired results instantly (ever tried looking up Chinese words in a dictionary?). The app can also be set up according to study methods you are familiar with. For example, if you studied the Michel Thomas Mandarin course then you have assigned 4 colors to the 4 tones. By selecting ‘thomas’ in the app, all Chinese entries will now follow this color rule so you know the correct tone if you can’t read Pinyin or prefer to disable it.

Where?

The Hanping Chinese Dictionary app is available on Android and can be installed from Google Play (Hanping Chinese Dictionary on Google Play) for free. I haven’t bought the Pro version but it costs around $6. The main advantage I can see from the Pro version is the sound feature that speaks dictionary entries you select.

Source

4. Tealit Classifieds Website

What?

Tealit stands for Teaching English and Living in Taiwan and offers teaching resources, job and apartment listings, goods for sales, personals, and lots of other useful info for those who wish to teach and live in Taiwan.

Why?

Foreign language exchanges are excellent ways to meet new people and improve your Chinese while having fun. This website lets you contact like-minded people eager to practice English and offer you their knowledge of Chinese in return. Most people use face to face language exchange conversations to meet people but there are lots of Taiwanese looking for a language exchange partner via Skype as well as email pen pals. Similar to talking to people (number 1 above), you might even find a future boyfriend/girlfriend.

Where?

The Tealit website address is www.tealit.com and requires registration in order to contact other members.

5. Omnipotent Youth Society

What?

Omnipotent Youth Society (万能青年旅店: Wànnéng qīngnián lǚdiàn) is a Chinese folk rock band from Shíjiāzhuāng (石家庄), the capital of Hebei province south of Beijing. Their self-titled debut album contains 9 beautiful rock melodies that offer respite from the throng of pop stars saturating the Asian music industry.

Why?

The band’s songwriter is very talented. Even the English translations in the album sleeve are a joy to read. As Chinese practice, beginners can simply enjoy listening to the sounds of Chinese lyrics while advanced speakers will be able to sing along. The guitar riffs are also amazing for getting you pumped up before a lesson.

Where?

The band’s MySpace site (Omnipotent Youth Society on MySpace) provides free sound clips of their album’s first five songs plus links to download the album from the UK and US iTunes stores. The album can also be purchased on Amazon.

Source

6. Hacking Chinese

What?

Hacking Chinese provides practical advice on everything could ever want to know, and many things you didn’t know you wanted to know, about how to learn Chinese from the perspective of an experienced learner.

Why?

The author of Hacking Chinese Olle Linge provides excellent in-depth information on all aspects of learning Chinese that you may not be aware of including: how to have the right attitude and mentality for learning Chinese, how to improve time management for learning Chinese, and essential hacks for learning Chinese quickly and efficiently.

Where?

The Hacking Chinese website address is www.hackingchinese.com and I suggest you add it to your favorites.

Source

7. Learn Bopomofo

What?

Bopomofo, or Zhùyin Fúhào (注音符號), is the phonetic system used to learn the pronunciation of Chinese words. While other Chinese-speaking countries have adopted the Romanization system of Hanyu Pinyin, Taiwan has retained the use of Bopomofo as an educational tool and Chinese computer input method.

Why?

If you intend on learning Chinese in Taiwan, then you should learn Bopomofo. The number one reason for this is that Bopomofo trains you how to use properly pronounce unique sounds in Mandarin that cannot be easily shown via Pinyin. Additionally, you can read children’s stories and some Chinese learning books that contain Bopomofo next to each character (and don’t be embarrassed to browse the children’s section for books). This has the advantage of teaching you how to pronounce Chinese characters without having to stop reading and search for the Pinyin. Finally, if you want to learn how to type Chinese without using Pinyin, then you must learn Bopomofo.

Where?

Here is the address of a great website for learning Bopomofo www.mdnkids.com/BoPoMo/. To make it easier for you to learn, I suggest you add Traditional Chinese Phonetic to your computer’s input languages and buy a Chinese keyboard. See number 8 below for a cheap and easy way to upgrade your keyboard.

8. Chinese Keyboard Stickers

What?

Chinese keyboard stickers allow you to instantly transform your existing computer keyboard into a Chinese keyboard. Simply peel and stick the transparent stickers to install. They are printed on the underside of the stickers so that the lettering will not wear out.

Why?

Students should learn Bopomofo at the beginner stage of learning Chinese (see number 7 above). You will probably have more opportunities to type Chinese in your daily life than writing and so having a Chinese keyboard will help tremendously. These stickers are a cheap and economical way to own a Chinese keyboard so you can practice your typing skills.

Where?

Chinese keyboard stickers are available from Amazon and eBay for a ridiculously low price and come in a range of colors to suit your computer’s existing keyboard and lettering.

Source

9. Tape-a-Talk Voice Recorder

What?

Tape-a-Talk is a high quality voice recorder smartphone app that lets you easily record your voice, a Chinese lesson, a conversation between native Mandarin speakers, etc., in WAV file format even when the display screen is off.

Why?

I can’t talk about the importance of recording yourself speaking Chinese enough. This app lets you record yourself speaking Chinese anywhere and listen back to review what you have recorded. If you don’t have a digital voice recording device then you should get this app, regardless of your Chinese ability.

The Tape-a-Talk Voice Recorder app is available on Android and can be installed from Google Play (Tape-a-Talk Voice Recorder on Google Play) for free.

Source

10. Quizlet Flashcard Creator

What?

Quizlet is an online learning tool that lets students of any subject create and study flashcards using several different study modes and memorization games absolutely free.

Why?

There’s no doubt that flashcards are an effective and fast way to memorize vocabulary lists. Quizlet lets you quickly create personalized flashcards directly on the site or import lists from another program such as Excel. If you simply don’t have the time to generate a new list, you can search and use sets created by other generous users. The best parts about the site are the fun memory games like Scatter, where you try to match Chinese characters to their English translation.

Where?

The Quizlet website address is www.quizlet.com. For those studying PAVC, I have created sets for each lesson from books 1 to 3 as well as from the book Speak Mandarin in 500 Words. The Quizlet video tutorial below shows how to get started with creating new flashcard sets and playing games.

Excellent Quizlet Tutorial by Lincoln Whitaker

Source

11. QuizYourBrain Flashcard Review App

What?

QuizYourBrain is a free to download flashcard review app that allows you to download, edit, and study both personal and publicly available flashcard sets created on Quizlet (see number 10 above).

Why?

As a beginner Chinese learner, you should study flashcards at different intervals between study sessions to help reinforce vocabulary. The QuizYourBrain app is incredibly easy to use. After completing the quick setup, you can start downloading flashcard sets from Quizlet for use offline while traveling, commuting, relaxing at home, etc. What’s more, the Learn Mode lets you set a specific time in which you must complete the entire set and earn points. See if you can beat your best score. Monitoring your progression is incredibly motivating to a language learner.

Where?

The QuizYourBrain app is available on Android.

Source

12. ChinesePod

What?

ChinesePod offers a wide range of study resources for learning Chinese both online and offline. ChinesePod is mostly known for its situational style podcasts, but also offers: a global student community, topical articles and comments, and mobile apps.

Why?

For me, the podcasts from ChinesePod are where you want to focus your time. Start from beginner level and work your way progressively through the levels as the Chinese becomes harder and faster, and English is used less. While you should try to work through each lesson, they are also good for background listening when you are just too busy for focused study.

Where?

ChinesePod podcasts can be downloaded from iTunes or register for a free account at www.chinesepod.com.

Source

13. Growing up with Chinese

What?

Growing up with Chinese is a 100 episode series on the CCTV-News website hosted by Charlotte MacInnis (aka Ai Hua: 爱华) and is aimed at teaching Chinese to children and teenagers.

Why?

This series of short 15-minute videos is designed to teach 300 of the most commonly spoken Chinese phrases; perfect for times when you only have a quarter of an hour of free time to study Chinese. The videos are great for beginner Mandarin learners and offer a steady increase in difficulty throughout the series. The real-life dialogues are the best part because you get to see what you’ve learned in action, helping you to memorize it for later use.

Where?

Click here for the Growing up with Chinese website.

Source

14. Arch Chinese

What?

Available in both Simplified and Traditional Chinese characters, Arch Chinese provides a host of learning tools including: radical list, stroke order animations for all Chinese characters, handwriting worksheet generation, character structure and composition, and an English-Chinese dictionary.

Why?

I used this website to memorize Chinese radicals (部首: Bùshǒu). Learning the 214 Chinese radicals significantly improves your Chinese reading ability because all Chinese characters can be broken up into one or more of these 214 radicals (I suggest you at least memorize 100 common radicals. See number 6 above for a great flashcard set of the most common 100 radicals).

Imagine a time when you forget the meaning of a word you see somewhere. Now it could be possible that recognizing the components that make up the word can not only help you figure out the meaning but also the pronunciation of that word. The radical list on Arch Chinese even shows the stroke count, Pinyin, variations, Traditional, and English.

Where?

Click here to go to the Arch Chinese radical list website.

Source

15. Yellow Bridge

What?

Yellow Bridge is an online Chinese learning resource similar to Arch Chinese (see number 13 above). It provides a host of learning tools including: Chinese character stroke order animations, memory games, flashcards, etymology of Chinese characters, example sentences with audio, and a Chinese-English talking dictionary.

Why?

Yellow Bridge’s Chinese-English talking dictionary has a host of functions. Aside from being a talking dictionary, as the name literally suggests, it can also show you the etymology, definition, variation, example sentences, related words, and stroke order. It is the latter feature that I am interested in. While the rule “left to right, top to bottom” is easy to follow for most characters, it can be difficult for some. When this happens, turn to Yellow Bridge to find out how to follow the correct stroke order and write a neat looking character.

Where?

Click here to go to the Yellow Bridge Chinese-English talking dictionary website.

Source

16. Chinese Characters Practice Sheet Generator

What?

Chinese Tools Chinese Characters Practice Sheet Generator lets you design your own Chinese character practice sheets for you to print and practice on.

Why?

Writing Chinese characters is an excellent way to improve all areas of your Chinese ability. To help you write characters neatly and all the same size in a line, you should use blank practice squares. They are conveniently split up into sections so that you can write each component in its proper space and in the correct proportion to other parts (see number 13 above regarding radicals and components). This website lets you define the characters and number of practice boxes to your own practice sheets and then simply use your Internet browser to print them off free of charge.

Where?

The Chinese Tools Chinese Characters Practice Sheet Generator website address is www.chinesetools.eu/tools/chinese-grid/.

Source

17. Speak Mandarin in 500 Words

What?

Speak Mandarin in 500 Words (五百字說華語: Wǔbǎi zì shuō huáyǔ) is a free PDF book created by the Republic of China Overseas Compatriot Affairs Commission (OCAC) aimed at teaching students 500 commonly used words via topics drawn from daily life.

Why?

Using everyday situations is a great way to learn and memorize meanings, pronunciation, and how to write Chinese characters. This free book is ideal for beginners who want to learn how to write Chinese because it introduces 500 of the most commonly used Chinese characters and provides the stroke order for each one. In addition to the situational conversations, each new word has an example sentence for even more practice. What’s more, the sound version of the PDF contains audio for each sentence in the dialogue.

Where?

The PDF book can be downloaded for free from the OCAC education website. Besides offering the PDF in English, German, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Thai, and Indonesian, the website also contains exercises for additional practice.

Source

18. 900 Sentences for Chinese

What?

900 Sentences for Chinese is a website containing 900 practical everyday sentences covering 60 topics including: finding out the time and date, asking for directions, talking about hobbies, seeing the doctor, and so on.

Why?

To become an excellent Chinese speaker, you should aim to learn at least 10,000 sentences. This website provides an excellent resource to increase your bank of sentences in addition to your other materials. The lessons get progressively harder and even include audio for each sentence spoken by a native Chinese speaker, which helps strengthen your pronunciation.

All sentences use Simplified Chinese characters which makes it a good resource for learning the difference between Simplified and Traditional characters. If you get stuck on a character, either because you don’t know it or because it’s in Simplified form, simply put your mouse cursor over the word and it will show you the Pinyin and English.

Where?

The 900 Sentences for Chinese website address is www.words-chinese.com/2009/08/900-sentences-for-chinese.htm. You will need to have Flash installed on your computer to listen to the audio recordings.

Source

19. Mandarin Chinese lessons with Serge Melnyk

What?

Mandarin Chinese lessons with Serge Melnyk is an audio Chinese course consisting of over 250 theme based, progressive podcasts recorded by the host Serge along with his native Mandarin speaking friends.

Why?

Serge is a very enthusiastic and knowledgeable Chinese teacher. His accent reminds me of Niko Bellic from GTA IV, which actually made me pay attention during the lessons. The course follows a steady progression from beginner to more advanced Chinese learner and the situational dialogs make the content not only easy to follow but also handy for everyday conversations.

Where?

Simply search for Mandarin Chinese lessons with Serge Melnyk on iTunes or head to his website at www.melnyks.com to get the first 30 lessons for free. Register on the site to get further lessons, PDF transcripts, and worksheets; however some will require a small payment.

Source

20. Nciku Theme Words

What?

Nciku Theme Words is a Chinese learning website that hosts a massive collection of theme pictures and images in multiple categories, helping you learning Chinese words in a choice of Simplified or Traditional.

Why?

Picture dictionaries are great for a reason; they help you memorize words easier by matching them with a corresponding picture. I found this website because I wanted to understand what the commentators were saying when I watched the soccer on TV in Taiwan. In the soccer category, there are 22 words with images, Chinese, Pinyin, and English. Unfortunately, none of the words are ‘you’re having a laugh, ref!’ What subjects are you interested in and want to learn more vocabulary?

Where?

The Nciku Theme Words website does not require registration.

Source

21. Viki.com Asian Movies Website

What?

Viki.com offers a huge collection of Taiwanese movies from all genres including: romantic comedy, drama, action, comedy, tragedy, thriller, etc. to stream online completely free.

Why?

Who doesn’t love watching movies? No need to answer if you really don’t. For those who do and would like to learn Chinese at the same time then this website offers plenty of choices for Chinese students. Obviously, a good level of understanding is required to follow the dialogue; therefore the audio is more suitable for advanced learners but subtitles are provided for everyone. I recommend ‘You’re the Apple of my Eye’ a comedy about a boy’s journey through high school and university. The scene where they are playing ‘guitar’ in class is especially funny.

Where?

The Taiwan Movies website address is www.viki.com/movies/3664c. Most movies have subtitles but always double check the details before watching.

Source

22. Dim Sum Warriors

What?

Dim Sum Warriors is an interactive bilingual digital comic book iPad app following the exploits of kung fu-fighting bite-sized snacks that makes it incredibly fun for both Chinese and English students to learn the language.

Why?

Reading comics are great for language learning because the fun images and interesting storyline help make a lasting connection to what you’re reading. Dim Sum Warriors is especially useful for Chinese learners for improving reading and understanding skills. Being able to switch between English and Chinese plus the handy instant audio feature means you don’t have to struggle through it with a dictionary beside you. What’s more, it’s a great language development tool for teachers and parents teaching kids how to learn Chinese or English.

Where?

Simply search for Dim Sum Warriors on iTunes or head to the website at www.dimsumwarriors.com and get the first 2 issues for free within the app. Single issues and subscriptions are available for purchase.

Source

23. Chinese Stories Platform

What?

Chinese Stories Platform (中文故事播報台: Zhōngwén gùshì bōbào tái) is a free to use website containing over 600 short Chinese reading stories for elementary and intermediate level Chinese students. In addition to offering Simplified, Traditional and Pinyin versions, the site also provides vocabulary lists, translations, and free MP3 audio files of each short story.

Why?

Reading is an excellent way to improve your Chinese. For intermediate to advanced Chinese readers who can recognize well over 1000 characters, this website provides plenty of interesting Chinese reading material in bite-sized stories. I feel that the beginners section will be too difficult for new Chinese students even if you use Pinyin but the free MP3 audio files will provide excellent listening practice for Chinese students of all levels.

Where?

The Chinese Stories Platform website.

Source

24. Mandarin Daily News

What?

Founded in 1948, Mandarin Daily News (國語日報: Guóyǔ Rìbào) is a Traditional Chinese daily newspaper published in Taiwan aimed at teaching children Mandarin Chinese. By adding Bopomofo (Zhùyin Fúhào (注音符號)) to the main text of the articles, children can pronounce difficult or unknown characters.

Why?

Reading is an excellent way to learn a new language because you not only learn new words but also learn how to use those words in a sentence. Since Mandarin Daily News provides Bopomofo, you will be able to read words that you may have learned before but can’t recall how the character looks. By sounding out the word, you will recall the meaning, which helps to reinforce the character in your mind. Additionally, reading becomes much easier when you know the context. This is where the images in the newspaper come in handy. By looking at the photos, you will know the topic of the article and then know what vocabulary you expect to see.

Where?

Mandarin Daily News is available to buy from convenience stores around Taiwan. You can also visit the subscription website here www.mdnkids.com/Ego/newspaper.asp but you must call them if you need it sent overseas. One year’s subscription costs $3600TWD (approx. $120USD).

Source

25. Test of Chinese as a Foreign Language

What?

The Test of Chinese as a Foreign Language, previously known as the Test of Proficiency in Hanyu (TOP), is Taiwan’s national standardized test for Chinese language proficiency. The TOCFL has three proficiency bands: Band A, Band B, and Band C with each band having two levels. Therefore, there are a total of six levels: Levels 1 to 6. Each test consists of 50 multiple choice questions to be completed in one hour.

Why?

Exams are important in any study program. Without exams, you would have no idea at what level your Chinese is at. The Steering Committee for the Test Of Proficiency – Huayu (SC-TOP) website provides a variety of mock exams for most Bands and fields of study as well as extra tips for exam takers. If you wish to take the exam, ask your teacher or tutor what level is best suited to you based on your Chinese language ability and learning experience, and then use this website to register for the exam. Good luck to exam takers.

Where?

The SC-TOP website address is www.sc-top.org.tw/english/eng_index.php.

From the list of Chinese learning tools above, which is the most useful?

See results

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • mylindaelliott profile image

      mylindaelliott 4 years ago from Louisiana

      What a useful list of resources. I'm not learning Chinese but one of my teens will be interested in your list.

    • Rich W2K profile image
      Author

      Rich 4 years ago from Gold Coast

      Thank you. If your teen knows of any other resources then please let me know - especially any other great Chinese rock bands.

    • embermitre profile image

      embermitre 3 years ago

      Thanks very much for mentioning our Hanping Chinese Dictionary app.

      The other main advantages of the Pro version are handwriting recognition and homescreen widgets. At an additional cost, there is also support for the excellent ABC Chinese-English and English-Chinese dictionaries.

      If you haven't already, then please also try our OCR app called Hanping Chinese Camera: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com....

    • Rich W2K profile image
      Author

      Rich 3 years ago from Gold Coast

      Thanks for visiting. Nice to hear from the developer. Oddly enough, I've been looking for an OCR app. I bought the Hanping Chinese Camera app today and will be trying it out for a while. First impressions? Pretty good. Could soon become the 26th essential Chinese learning tool!

    • profile image

      Johannes222 3 years ago

      Apps I also recommend Pleko as a dictionary which is very useful. The other very good resource is

      Chinese Stories - Elementary

      (iphone/ipad are all available)

      https://itunes.apple.com/app/chinese-stories-eleme...

      It has lots interesting Free stories, I like it a lot.

    • Rich W2K profile image
      Author

      Rich 3 years ago from Gold Coast

      Thanks for the info and the link. I'm always looking for more great resources to practice Chinese. Reading Chinese is definitely one of my favorite ways to learn.

    • profile image

      Thomas 2 years ago

      I also have a tool to recommend: http://www.purpleculture.net/chinese-pinyin-conver... which is the most accurate chinese to pinyin tool I have used.

    • delpino profile image

      delpino 8 weeks ago

      Also check out https://www.learnwitholiver.com/

      It has some nice features like your own word lists, mouseover explanations, a loop flashcard feature and a text analyzer.

    Click to Rate This Article