Books For Learning Mandarin


Short Course in Chinese
for those who only want to study for 3 months

  • First Steps in Chinese

by David Parshall, David Seiboth & Martin Symonds
published by Shaanxi Normal University Press (Xian)

The main advantage of First Steps in Chinese is that the content is intensely practical and directly relevant to your communicative needs in your early days in China.

Elementary Textbooks (1st year)

  • Chinese Made Easier 1 - 4
    shiyong sucheng hanyu
    by Martin Symonds and Tian Hao-hao
    published by Shaanxi Normal University Press (Xian)

    This textbook series is designed to meet the daily communicative needs of westerners who are living and working in China. What makes this series different from most other Chinese textbooks published in China?

    • The content of each lesson is intensely practical. The authors have assumed that the student is living in China and wants to communicate on everyday topics as quickly as possible. So only useful vocabulary, immediately relevant to the student's everyday needs, is included.
    • The authors have worked hard at trying to make the grammar explanations as simple and clear as possible, avoiding complicated linguistic terminology.
    • Each lesson contains an activity related to the topic, in order to get the student using the content as quickly as possible.
    • The reading & writing of Chinese characters is introduced at a manageable pace so the student shouldn't feel too overwhelmed. In order to reduce dependence on the pinyin, starting from lesson 6 and going right through the whole series, the student is introduced to 8 Chinese characters per lesson. Students are free to choose whether or not they wish to learn how to write the characters. However, they must learn how to recognize them because the pinyin for those 8 characters will disappear from that lesson onwards. In this way, students will learn to read (and possibly write) 520 Chinese characters by the time they have completed Book 5.

Intermediate Textbooks (2nd year)
(Many of the intermediate textbooks used in China are too literary in content and contain many words and phrases which are not particularly useful for everyday communication.)

  • Chinese Made Easier 5
    shiyong sucheng hanyu
    by Martin Symonds and Tian Hao-hao
    published by Shaanxi Normal University Press (Xian)

    Book 5 uses a different study approach from Books 1-4. For each lesson, there is a story on an everyday practical topic together with pictures illustrating the story. The pictures provide a stimulus for interacting with the teacher using the new vocabulary learned in the lesson.

  • Chinese Traditions & Festivals
    zhongguo jieri yu minsu
    published by Shaanxi Normal University Press (Xian)

    An easy Chinese reader covering Chinese Festivals. This book will help strengthen your character recognition. Study it at the same time as Chinese Made Easier Book 5.


  • Speaking Chinese About China (2 vols)
    hua shuo zhongguo
    published by Sinolingua, Beijing

    An introduction to Chinese culture, although a few lessons are now a little outdated. Volume I deals with Chinese geography, history, and politics. Volume II deals with Chinese economy, society, education and philosophy.


  • A New Intermediate Chinese Course

published by Beijing University Press

Nicely written, with useful vocabulary at an intermediate level.
  • More Books on Chinese Culture
  • Wenhua Zhongguo (Cultural Interpretations of China)  [published by Beijing University Press]
  • Zhongguo Chuantong Wenhua yu Xiandai Shenghuo (Chinese Traditional Culture and Modern Life)  [published by Beijing University Press]
  • Shuo Hanyu Tan Wenhua (Talking of Chinese Culture)  [published by Beijing Language & Culture University Press]
All are well-written books covering aspects of Chinese culture, but a little advanced.
Specialized Language textbooks
How to Take a Medical History in Chinese by Annelies Wilder-Smith
yi1xue2 han4yu3 -- shi2xi2pian1 (books 1-3) published by Beijing University Press is an excellent series of textbooks for medics.

jing1mao4 qia4tan2 ABC (Volumes 1 & 2) by Liu2 Li4 Ying1 (published by Beijing Language & Cultural University [previously Beijing Language Institute])
An excellent book for those needing basic business-related language. Not difficult to study.

gong1si1 hanyu  by Li3 Li4 & Ding1 An1 Qi2 (published by Beijing University) is also an excellent book for those needing business-related language. Slightly more advanced than jingmao qiatan ABC, but is not over-specialized.

hanyu wai4mao4 kouyu 30 ke4 by Zhang1 Jing4 Xian2 (published by Beijing Language & Cultural University) is also a very useful textbook. Although it is an old book (1991), the content is still very useful. It is at a higher level than the two books above.

Reader in Social Development by Adrian Zenz (published by Jianhua Foundation, Tianjin). Tel: 022 2392 6614


Yahoo Chinese-English + English-Chinese dictionary

IncrediFlashcards is a free flashcard program for computers written specifically for the Chinese Made Easier course. The flashcards switch from pinyin to Hanzi in the same way as the book. The Chinese characters are also colored according to the tone. It can be dowloaded free.

Pleco Chinese Dictionary have a set of flashcards for Palms and Pocket PCs of the vocabulary of Chinese Made Easier which can be downloaded free from their website when you purchase the excellent Pleco dictionary. have flashcards for all the vocabulary of CME. CME vocabulary is also available as a memory game: is a very popular site for finding practical dialogues in order to increase your vocabulary. is an excellent Chinese-English English-Chinese online dictionary, as well as having several other useful functions. is a good website for different computer tools for Chinese. Its DimSum Chinese Reading Assistant & Dictionary is well worth looking at. is for Chinese language learning. It has many links and leads you to some other good webpages. contains a Chinese-English dictionary, a radicals list, Chinese Memory Game, flashcard program, etc., etc. contains a limited selection of current news items. However, its value to the intermediate-level language learner is in the fact that, when you highlight any word in the news item, it tells you both how to pronounce the word in Chinese as well as the English meaning. is also worth looking at for online resources on learning Chinese. Their language resources file is particularly useful.


  • A Practical Chinese Grammar
    Cheung, H.S.
    Hong Kong: Chinese University Press.
    Available in HK (HK$240).

    The grammar explanations are very clear and easy to understand. This book is only for the serious student of Chinese grammar.




Concise English-Chinese Chinese-English Dictionary
by Martin H. Manser
published by The Commerical Press & Oxford University Press

A pocket dictionary, with the Chinese-English entries listed in pinyin alphabetical order.

ABC Chinese-English Dictionary
by John deFrancis
published by the University of Hawaii Press
  • Longman's English-Chinese Photo Dictionary (Hanyu Pinyin)
    by Rosenthal & Freeman
    published by Longman

    When you have reached an intermediate level, you will find this book helpful for both reviewing as well as learning new vocabulary. It is topic orientated, each topic having a series of colored pictures to go with the vocabulary lists. However, because it was translated in Hong Kong, it is best to go through it with a Chinese friend as some of the words may not be commonly used in China in everyday speech.




  • How to be a More Successful Language Learner
    by Joan Rubin & Irene Thompson,
    published by Heinle & Heinle.

    This excellent book, written especially to meet the needs of ordinary language learners like you, is crammed full of good ideas about how to learn a language while living in the country where it is spoken. It is completely free of technical linguistic jargon, which therefore makes for easy reading. The book is divided into three parts: Part One covers the language learner's personality and goals as well as looking at how one uses language to communicate. Part Two gives hundreds of helpful suggestions on how to approach the task of acquiring a foreign language -- and all of the ideas are intensely practical. Part Three looks at the use to which textbooks, reference grammars, tapes, etc. can be put in the language learning process.


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