When I began studying Chinese in China, back in the ancient days of the early 1990s, resources for learning the language were limited to textbooks and tapes. In China, there were two basic texts to choose from: Practical Chinese Reader (the green book) and Elementary Chinese Reader (the orange book), both produced by the Foreign Language Institute in Beijing. Another of my favorites was a book called Speaking of Chinese, which taught useful vocabulary of the day such as “production brigade,” “comrade,” “commune,” and “work unit.”
When we needed to look up new vocabulary, we used our own version of the little red book, the pocket Chinese-English Dictionary or the heftier A Chinese-English Dictionary (1978 edition), which provided no end of entertainment with its Cultural Revolution era sample sentences: “Grandma hid the Eighth Route Army man in her house.” “We must firmly suppress the counterrevolutionaries, otherwise we shall not be able to consolidate the dictatorship of the proletariat.”
Today there are almost unlimited resources for learning Chinese, and many of them are available online for free. Herewith is my list of nine recommended online resources. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of others out there. This list includes only those that I engage with on a regular or semi-regular basis.
Whether you are just starting out or are more advanced in your language learning, this site has something for you. There are lots of articles about Chinese as well as tips for effective learning.
This is a great online learning site that provides lessons at various levels, delivered in podcast form or via online classes.
This mobile app includes an amazing dictionary (input in English, pinyin, or Chinese to look up words). I can’t imagine functioning without it.
I highlighted this site in last week’s post. Although designed to help children learn Chinese, it’s great (and fun) for adults as well. Nothing gets me out of a bad mood faster than listening to the Stinky Tofu Song!
This is a fantastic resource for learning the nitty gritty of Chinese grammar.
This is a super-fast online dictionary. I use it all the time!!
If you want to learn specific vocabulary, this is a great resource. He has lots of great lists, such as 110 Diseases, Disabilities and Disorders in English and Chinese, Top 80 Most Common Expressions in Chinese, 33 Funny Words in Chinese, and 83 Common Criminal Offenses in Chinese.
Finally, here are two sites that provide links to even more resources:
- Sapore di Cina – 67 Resources
- I Will Teach You a Language – 111 Mandarin Chinese Resources You Wish You Knew
As helpful as these sites are, none of them can actually teach you Chinese. Rather, they are merely tools, albeit valuable ones, to assist you in your own learning, whether that is taking place primarily in a classroom, or in the community.
Joann Pittman is senior vice president of ChinaSource and editor of ZGBriefs. Prior to joining ChinaSource, Joann spent 28 years working in China, as an English teacher, language student, program director, and cross-cultural trainer for organizations and businesses engaged in China. She has also taught Chinese at the University... View Full Bio