What’s the recipe for Chinese fluency?
The 7 Best Websites to Learn Chinese
An amazing resource for reading practice, The Chairman’s Bao is an online, interactive newspaper in Mandarin Chinese. The articles are written specifically for Chinese learners and are labeled by HSK level.
This site is updated daily and there are articles that are appropriate for elementary to advanced learners. You can toggle between simplified and traditional characters, and if you highlight a character or word, the definition and pinyin will appear to the right of the text. You can sort articles by HSK level or by topic.
The Chairman’s Bao is a great everyday resource, but of course, it’s particularly useful if you’re studying for the HSK. The ability to sort by HSK level means you can really focus on reading everything at the level you’re attempting to master. I’m a huge fan.
Are you more of a video person? Want to learn Chinese while getting exposure to real-life Chinese culture and content? FluentU is the answer.
FluentU pairs authentic Chinese videos from YouTube with personalized, interactive language learning tools. You can click any unfamiliar word in a video to get in-context definitions and example sentences. FluentU also transforms videos into engaging games and quizzes that’ll help solidify what you’ve learned.
From music videos to movie trailers to commercials, there are tons of Chinese videos available that’ll teach you how the language is used by native speakers.
FluentU also has content for every level, so even very beginners can dive right in and start learning to understand spoken Mandarin.
If you want more audio exposure, Chinese Voices is the way to go. This project comprises a series of podcasts recorded by native Chinese speakers in Beijing.
The podcasts are made specifically for Chinese learners, so the audio is a little slower and clearer than if they were chatting informally with a friend—it’s a great way to get accustomed to authentic speaking and accents.
Chinese Voices is also an excellent tool for cultural immersion. In the podcast, Chinese students discuss the joys and challenges of their everyday lives. It’s probably the best window into life in Beijing that you’ll get as a Mandarin Chinese learner, at least until you’re prepared to listen to and read native-level materials.
Even though many of the websites on this list have their own built-in dictionary functions, a dedicated dictionary is essential to truly mastering reading and writing in Chinese. The YellowBridge dictionary is the best in part due to the sheer number of features it offers.
For each character you look up, you’ll get a stroke order animation, a list of different possible pronunciations and meanings, character frequency ranking and a whole host of other information. There’s also a thesaurus (a great resource once you’re doing your own writing), and you can look up the etymology of characters and words. There are also example words for all of the characters.
While the main attraction is the dictionary, there’s even more to YellowBridge. You’ll find a flashcard functionality, lessons about stroke order and HSK study guides.
Rocket Languages is a comprehensive language learning tool, but its real strength lies in its audio lessons and pronunciation practice. These features will get you ready to have real-life conversations with native Chinese speakers.
The foundation of the Rocket Languages method is to listen to audio lessons. This is a fabulous way to get used to understanding Chinese. Since it’s not video-based, it’s also great for listening while you’re doing something else (say, commuting or cleaning up around the house).
The pronunciation tool allows you to focus on getting your pronunciations to sound native, another one of Rocket Chinese’s major advantages.
Chengyu are Chinese idioms that are based on stories. If you don’t know them, Chengyu can be baffling. It’s next to impossible to understand a given Chengyu if you don’t recognize the associated story.
Chinese idioms are a bit like vocabulary words; some are common, some are obscure. Some, like 马马虎虎 (ma ma hu hu, meaning “so so; mediocre”), are taught in the most basic Chinese lessons. It’s that much more interesting, though, to know that the idiom refers to a story about a painter who was so careless that you couldn’t tell if his painting was of a horse or of a tiger.
That’s why Chinese-Tools’ Chengyu story database is so useful. These stories have been simplified and rewritten for Chinese learners, but they provide enough of the basic Chengyu story for you to understand the idiom. The stories come with annotated Chinese, pinyin and English definitions.
These stories are like Chinese fairy tales. So not only are you getting reading practice with the story, you’ll also get really important cultural information and have some common ground with Chinese native speakers.
Arch Chinese is a great web-based tool for learning to write Chinese characters, as well as for learning radicals and mastering stroke order.
There’s an animated tool that shows you how to write individual characters, while worksheets provide guidance on effective learning methods and help you build good writing habits. One big advantage to Arch Chinese is that you can use the pre-made vocabulary lists, so you don’t have to spend a lot of time figuring out what to learn. You can just focus on learning.
A great starting point is Arch Chinese’s radical list. This will lay the groundwork for learning and understanding Chinese characters in a way that’s more than just rote memorization.
Arch Chinese also has a tone drill app that lets you practice tones both individually and as part of multi-character words. This is a fabulous way to internalize not only the individual tones, but also how the tones change as they are paired with other syllables as part of words.