2018 Top Tools to Learn to Read Chinese

Learning to read Chinese can be a struggle! Thankfully, I have found out with graded readers like the Chairman’s Bao and Du Chinese, there are both effective and fun ways to do it.


Should I learn to read Chinese?

When learning any language, reading is a primary method for:

  • Acquiring new vocabulary
  • Learning and reviewing grammar structures
  • Seeing how words are used in their appropriate context

In Chinese, reading has an extra level of importance due to its system of writing. Unlike a language that uses an alphabet, reading in Chinese allows you to constantly review characters you’ve learned and use knowledge of character components to guess the meaning of those you have never seen.

Yet if you’ve ever tried to learn characters, you are surely familiar with the constant struggle of memorizing characters to forget them moments later. Sometimes you feel like you are making much progress only to realize that although you’re learning 10 new characters a day, you are forgetting 20.

The fact is, without a regular and sustained routine of review and practice, any given character you learn will eventually slip from your memory. Furthermore, until new information passes from your short-term memory to your long-term memory, the information is likely to be forgotten unless it is recalled or reviewed a number of times over an extended period.

Reading provides consistent and frequent opportunities to recall every character to ingrain it into your long-term memory. Not only does this improve your abilities in reading, but it also brings benefits to your other abilities in Chinese.

How can I read more in Chinese? 

If the secret to learning Chinese is through a sustained routine of review and practice, what resources are available to help you read more in Chinese? For those who have yet to start learning characters, start by building your vocabulary and learning basic characters.

graded readers are the best resources available to learners wanting to learn to read Chinese.

Through graded readers, you are able to review and learn large amounts of characters suitable to your level and seeing them within their appropriate context.

Additionally, by reading passages specific to your level, you generally can read the entire article without having to consistently stop and reference a dictionary – which contrary to intuition impedes learning and diminishes your reading speed.


Where can you find good Chinese graded readers?

There are a variety of great graded readers out there. Among my favorites is the Mandarin Companion series, which feature familiar stories with good illustrations and plenty of useful vocabulary.

Check out Mandarin Companion


If you are looking for an electronic mobile resource, I recommend the Chairman’s Bao and Du Chinese. As long as you are willing to spend around 30 minutes a day using either of these tools, you are likely to see vast improvements in your Chinese reading level.


What is the Chairman’s Bao?

The Chairman’s Bao is a Chinese news-based graded reader available on your smartphone, tablet, and online. New lessons are published daily and written by native Chinese speakers in accordance with the HSK (National Chinese Proficiency Test) word listings.

As each lesson states the targeted HSK level (1-6+), the app makes it incredibly easy for learners of any level to select a suitable article and start reading. The HSK designation is also great for learners preparing to take the HSK exam.

The most attractive feature is the live dictionary, which allows you to select any character and review the pinyin and definition. From the live dictionary, you can even add characters to vocabulary lists for further study.

Other notable features include keyword vocabulary and explanations on grammar for each lesson. You can also improve listening with the native speaker audio provided in each lesson and even learn the stroke order of characters you save in vocabulary lists.

When subscribing to the Chairman’s Bao use code cbtcb20 to get 20% off!

Get 20% off the Chairman’s Bao w/Code!

What is Du Chinese?

Available on smartphones and tablets, Du Chinese is a graded reader suitable to learners of all levels with content centered on Chinese culture and popular topics.

In addition to its appealing lessons, Du Chinese has many notable features, such an option to display the pinyin above the characters in each lesson. Not only is this helpful for beginning learners, but it also incredibly useful in improving pronunciation as you read the article out loud.

To help learners fully understand the meaning of the Chinese text, English translations are provided for each sentence.

Learners studying to take the HSK can also review each character’s HSK-level designation in each lesson.

Like the Chairman’s Bao, Du Chinese also features a live dictionary, native-speaker audio for each lesson (you can even adjust the speed), and the option to save characters as you read and quiz yourself on them.

Get 10% off when using code CHINESEBREEZE  when subscribing to Du Chinese!

Get 10% off Du Chinese w/Code!

Final thoughts on the Chairman’s Bao and Du Chinese

As both the Chairman’s Bao and Du Chinese are solid and effective tools, you may be wondering which one is best for you. For beginners, I recommend Du Chinese as many of the articles teach topics that are really useful to beginners (e.g. going to the doctor, discussing the weather, etc.).

The Chairman’s Bao, on the other hand, wins in terms of availability of content. They add 1,600 lessons annually with up to 6 articles published daily.

Overall, I would try both apps and see which one you like best. But don’t forget that both the Chairman’s Bao and Du Chinese are offering discounts to readers of this blog!

Take the next step to improve your Chinese reading by using the best tools out there. You’ll be glad that you did and you’ll have fun doing it!



Author: Kevin Peters

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