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Mandarin Chinese Resources

Manga Mandarin
4.5 
Price: Freemium, Add-ons start at $0.99, Quarterly subscription starts at $12.99
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Manga Mandarin allows you to interact with Mandarin comics through reading, listening, and speaking. The content follows the teaching standards of US ACTFL, covering the breadth of HSK vocabulary as well as engaging learners in everyday Mandarin dialogues. Speakers of Russian, Thai, Arabic, English, Spanish, Korean, and Japanese can all enjoy learning Chinese from their native language.

There are several topics available within the boundaries of each HSK level, from short stories about everyday life in China to fantasy series. The ‘episodes’ contains a word list, a fun comic, a review of the text within the comic, a video with cultural and grammar points, and a dubbing activity where you yourself can provide the audio for the comic. You can tap on any text within the comic to hear native speakers acting out each panel, or you can double tap to get a translation and a grammar explanation.

The app has a combination of free and paid content available, so you can test out several comics before deciding if you want to invest in more material.

Manga Mandarin seems to have less bugs in the iOS version than in the Android version; hopefully this will be fixed in the near future so that Android users can also enjoy the hours of engaging material available for Chinese learners.

Mandarin Corner
4.5 
Price: Free, $10 for premium benefits
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Eileen, the founder of Mandarin Corner, provides a variety of content for beginner and intermediate learners to train their listening comprehension, improve their grammar, expand their vocabulary, and help them understand Chinese culture. She sometimes dedicates episodes to specific grammar points or interviews locals about different topics. Because she speaks with so many different people, you will be able to train your ear to understand different accents. Eileen will help you understand the nuances of the language, must-know sentence structures, and even spend an hour helping you understand the many different measure words.

You can watch videos that focus on conversation, HSK content, slow intermediate Chinese with literal translations, stories, and reading practice. On the website you can also listen to audio episodes with a PDF transcript, use flashcards, download the Youtube videos, or watch videos without English translations. Some of this content is only available with a one-time $10 donation, but after the donation you will have access to the content forever.

Overall, Mandarin Corner is an excellent resource with a variety of high-quality and engaging material.

Mandarin Companion
4.5 
Price: $6.84 and up
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Mandarin Companion was developed from one of the founder’s experiences in drastically improving his Chinese through extensive reading. Jared read 10 graded readers in 3 months and discovered that, after 2 years of trying to learn Chinese, he could finally hold a conversation with his colleagues.

Like Jared, through Mandarin Companion’s graded readers, learners can start to understand grammar in context and enjoy the process of reading. The books are written using 98% of the words you probably know, with new words gradually introduced as the story progresses. You should only find about one new character or word for every 40-50 characters you have read, and new words will include a footnote with definitions.

You will be sure to find engaging story plots with this series, as many of the books are based on the works of famous authors, such as Charles Dickens and Arthur Conan Doyle.

The readers come in three levels: The breakthrough level (150 unique characters), Level 1 (300 unique characters), and level 2 (450 unique characters). Those who want to go beyond the levels of these books can check out Pleco’s graded readers or The Chairman’s Bao for more extensive reading material.

Linguee
4.5 
Price: Free
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Linguee was developed by over 400 lexicographers. It is unique in that it does not use machine-translation to provide examples of words in context — instead, it sources words from articles and research papers in the original language. As a result, it is an excellent dictionary app to find translations for specialized terminology.

You will learn the subtleties of various translations by reading paired paragraphs of text that have each been professionally translated, not translated by a machine. In some languages, you can listen to pronunciations by native speakers and read multiple translations of your chosen word or phrase.

Although translations are highlighted in each paragraph so you can compare how to use them in each language, they can be difficult to navigate quickly. If you are looking for a website with simple and professional translations, you can check out WordReference for several different languages. SpanishDict is also an excellent option for Spanish, and Pleco is the only dictionary you will ever need for Chinese.

Wordreference
4.5 
Price: Free
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WordReference is one of the best websites for single-word translations. It uses a combination of its own dictionaries and Collins’, depending on the language, and relies on professional translations rather than machine-translations. With each word you look up, you will receive multiple examples of how to use it, nuances of each meaning, and a list of how to incorporate it into multiple phrases. Whereas sites like Bab.la seem to have machine-translated examples that sound quite random at times, WordReference’s examples can be applied directly to your everyday conversation.

You can also find conjugation tables and the Collins COBUILD English Usage dictionary, which shows you how to use individual English words correctly — through its explanations, English learners will be able to differentiate between words that are easily confused (such as ‘current’ and ‘currant’). If the explanations don’t make sense, you can ask questions in the WordReference Language Forum — there you will find an active community of language learners discussing language learning topics.

Unfortunately, not all words have audio pronunciation, but those that do can be played back at different speeds and with different accents (depending on the language).

Although WordReference is a thorough resource, SpanishDict is probably a better option for Spanish learners, and Pleco is the only dictionary you will ever need for Chinese. Linguee is also similar to WordReference but specializes in formal language, and Forvo has millions of words pronounced by native speakers in hundreds of languages.

Modern Mandarin Chinese Grammar
4.5 
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Modern Mandarin Chinese Grammar divides into two parts; Part A focuses on the major features of Mandarin grammar and is intended to be a reference guide for forms or structures. Part B shows you how to use the language — sections are organized by the function of the grammar point, such as “expressing additional information” or “expressing speaker attitudes and perspectives.” These two parts cross-reference each other, giving you a broader perspective of the different sentence patterns. Each grammar point is accompanied by both simplified and traditional characters, plus examples that can be applied to modern communication.

The first few sections elaborate on basic concepts, such as pronunciation, two-syllable words, common suffixes, and word-specific tone changes. They briefly explore the Chinese writing system and then dive into structural topics like phrase order and modal verbs. Later sections in Part B become a fun reference for the question “what do I want to express now?” With the accompanying workbook (purchased separately), you can expand your range of self-expression one section at a time.

You may want to get the hard-copy version, as some reviewers have complained that it has not yet been formatted for e-book form. If you’re not ready to invest in a textbook, you can check out Chinese Grammar Wiki for a free guide to Chinese grammar.

Hanzi Grids
4.5 
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With Hanzi Grids you can create your own Chinese character worksheets to download as PDFs, print, and practice writing. Gone are the days of buying Chinese character books that dedicate the same amount of space to practicing ”了“ as “健康”!

The customization features on this site allow you to change the background guides, headers, row spacing, character size, column spacing, and grid colours. Although the free version is usable on its own, for a one-time fee of about $7 USD, you can also access multiple fonts and automatically convert between simplified and traditional characters.

As long as you have access to a printer, Hanzi Grids is an excellent resource to improve your character writing skills.

The current rating is our best estimate. We haven’t had the opportunity yet to more thoroughly evaluate this resource, as we do for our full reviews.

iChinesereader
4.5 
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iChineseReader is a website (not to be confused with the app) for K-12 students. It has several programs tailored to the needs of US schools, although the content could surely be used all around the world. Chinese immersion schools will be pleased to find books that place their focus beyond Chinese language learning to topics like science, social studies, IB Chinese, and AP prep. The content includes best-selling children’s books, fiction, and nonfiction by native Chinese publishers.

The books are narrated by native speakers, with pinyin and characters integrated within beautifully animated pictures. Students can write, record themselves, draw, do quizzes, or play puzzle games to improve multiple language learning capacities (listening, speaking, reading, and writing). The hundreds of quizzes available are professionally designed to meet the requirements of the ACTFL.

Students can influence the ending of stories and find hidden animations by clicking on different parts of the images. They can also earn points by reading books and doing quizzes to earn access to Chinese games.

iChineseReader has more to offer than can be described in 200 words. There is a 14-day trial available for individuals and teachers alike to see if the program suits your needs.
Although iChineseReader could also benefit individual learners, Du Chinese and The Chairman’s Bao are also excellent resources for graded Chinese reading.

Zizzle
4.3 
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Zizzle is one of the most unique tools for learning Chinese. This app will help you memorize Chinese Characters. First, they break down the character into its component parts. Then, they use ridiculous images and a short story to remember these components. Next, they use characters and link words to help you remember the tone and pronunciation of the character. Finally, they give you example words and sentences using the character. On first glance, the app looks rather silly. But, it really does make remembering characters much easier.

Chinese Zero to Hero!
4.3 
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I like Chinese Zero to Hero! a lot. Their courses cover HSK1-6 of the HSK Standard Course textbooks. While it’s not in-depth enough to be the only resource you use, few courses are. It’s a great option for those looking to add structure into their independent study routine or are preparing for the HSK tests. It isn’t meant to be a replacement for a textbook, but those with textbook phobia would really benefit from this course.