Learning to read Chinese can be a struggle! Thankfully, I have found out that when armed with the right mindset and the appropriate tools, there are both effective and fun ways to do it.
If you’ve ever tried to learn characters, you are surely familiar with the constant struggle of memorizing characters, only to forget them moments later.
The fact is, without a regular and sustained routine of review and practice, any given character you learn will eventually slip from your memory.
Reading provides consistent and frequent opportunities to recall every character to ingrain it into your long-term memory.
How Can I Practice Reading Chinese?
When learning most any language, there are reading tools known as “graded readers” which are invaluable. 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.
For those who have yet to start learning characters, start by building your vocabulary and learning basic characters.
Recommended 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.
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!
What is Du Chinese?
Available on smartphones and tablets, Du Chinese is a mobile app 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 by using code CHINESEBREEZE when subscribing to Du Chinese!
Final thoughts | Learning to Read Chinese
There are some amazing resources available to those who are interested to learn to read Chinese in 2019. Whether you’re interested in graded readers from Mandarin Companion or if you prefer software solutions such as The Chairman’s Bao or DuChinese, you have options.
But which is the best to use? For beginners, I recommend starting with some graded readers and graduating up to Du Chinese. The reason is that many of the articles in Du Chinese 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 all of these methods and see which one you like best. We all learn differently and it’s awesome that Chinese learners have excellent options to choose from!
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!