The Official /int/ How to Learn A Foreign Language Guide Wiki

The Chinese language (汉语/漢語 Hànyǔ; 华语/華語 Huáyǔ; 中文 Zhōngwén) is a language or language family consisting of varietieswhich are mutually intelligible to varying degrees.[4] Originally the indigenous languages spoken by the Han Chinese in China, it forms one of the branches of Sino-Tibetan family of languages. About one-fifth of the world's population, or over one billion people, speaks some variety of Chinese as their native language. Internal divisions of Chinese are usually perceived by their native speakers as dialects of a single Chinese language, rather than separate languages, although this identification is considered inappropriate by some linguists and sinologists.[5]

Chinese is distinguished by its high level of internal diversity, although all varieties of Chinese are tonal and analytic. There are between 7 and 13 main regional groups of Chinese (depending on classification scheme), of which the most spoken, by far, is Mandarin (about 850 million), followed by Wu (90 million), Cantonese (Yue) (70 million) and Min (50 million). Most of these groups are mutually unintelligible, although some, like Xiang and the Southwest Mandarin dialects, may share common terms and some degree of intelligibility.

Standard Chinese (Putonghua / Guoyu / Huayu) is a standardized form of spoken Chinese based on the Beijing dialect of Mandarin Chinese, referred to as 官话/官話Guānhuà or 北方话/北方話Běifānghuà in Chinese. Mandarin Chinese history can be dated back to the 19th century, particularly by the upper classes and ministers in Beijing.[6] Standard Chinese is the official language of the People's Republic of China (PRC) and the Republic of China (ROC, also known as Taiwan), as well as one of four official languages of Singapore. It is one of the six official languages of the United Nations. Of the other varieties of Chinese, Cantonese is influential in Guangdong Province and Cantonese-speaking overseas communities, and remains one of the official languages of Hong Kong (together with English) and ofMacau (together with Portuguese). Min Nan, part of the Min language group, is widely spoken in southern Fujian, in neighbouring Taiwan (where it is known as Taiwanese or Hoklo) and in Southeast Asia (known as Hokkien in Philippines, Singapore and Malaysia). There are also sizeable Hakka and Shanghainese diaspora, for example in Taiwan, where most Hakka communities maintain diglossia by being conversant in Taiwanese and Standard Chinese.

/Int/ QQ Group[]

/Int/ now has its very own Chinese Learning Group on QQ.

The group number is 62033003.

Everyone's welcome, so if you're studying Chinese or are a native speaker feel free to join!


Beijing modern city 920x500.jpg

The guide below is a bit outdated, the current one can be found at the Teach Yourself Mandarin blog.

Teaching Yourself Mandarin: The Hard Way[]

This is a method that can be used by anyone who wants to teach himself mandarin. It is not easy, it is not fast but it works.

Teaching yourself Mandarin Chinese can be done in 4 steps. This guide will give you the method, not the resources. You CANNOT skip any step, you have to do it in the following order:

1. Pinyin

2. Radicals

3. Characters

4. Conversation



This is the first step and also the most important one, given how complex Chinese pronunciation is. Pinyin is the romanization of Mandarin Chinese, i.e. writing Mandarin with the roman alphabet. By using this website as a guide to Pinyin, you can learn all the syllables used in Mandarin and the tones. That chart will show you how each syllable is pronounced but it is up to you to find on your own how to actually pronounce them, as many of these sounds don't exist in English (and most likely in your native language).

You must learn Pinyin because it shows you how pronunciation works and to learn how to write Mandarin with your keyboard. Learning Pinyin can be done by yourself but you should definitely have a native speaker to guide you, be it a teacher or a friend, because Mandarin pronunciation does have difficult sounds and you have to get tones right. After you master pinyin reading, you should be able to read Pinyin without difficulty, even if you don't know what you're reading.

After mastering Pinyin, you won't be able to read this "我会说中文" but you will be able to read this "Wǒ huì shuō zhōngwén", which is the same thing as "我会说中文" but written with the roman alphabet.

If you have a teacher or a Chinese friend and a study schedule, pinyin really shouldn't take you longer than a month to grasp. If you can't read pinyin and get the tones right, do not move to the next step.



To a beginner, Chinese characters might look like random drawings but they are far from random. After you master pinyin and Chinese pronunciation, you should study the components of Chinese characters, a.k.a. radicals. The best way to learn Chinese radicals is by using the Kangxi radical list. Due to the fact that not all radicals are used as often as others, it is difficult to say how long you should study them for. There are 214 radicals, if you learn the 100 most common radicals, you could then start learning characters. It's very difficult to estimate. Some radicals are almost never used. You should aim to being able to single radicals out from characters. Like so:

Character:好 - Radicals: 女 + 子

Character:努 - Radicals: 力 + 又 + 女

Character:翻 -  Radicals: 采 + 田 + 羽

After you learn how Chinese characters are formed, you can finally start learning actual Chinese characters.



This step is the one that is going to take you the longest. Even with a solid grasp on radicals, learning Characters will take you a long time. All the way from months to years, depending on how immersed you are (actually it will never end because you'll always be encountering new characters).

Learning Chinese characters, once you know the most common radicals, is very easy. In fact, the more Chinese characters you know, the easier it becomes to learn more characters, because you'll often find entire characters you already know being used as radicals inside of other characters. For example, one of first characters you'll learn is 有, which is itself a character, but the character 有 becomes a radical in the character 随. So the more characters you learn, the easier it will be to learn new characters, because characters you already know you'll often see being used as radicals, thus facilitating the remembering of them.

A good resource of characters is the HSK lists. HSK ("Hànyǔ Shuǐpíng Kǎoshì", i.e. "Chinese Proficiency Test" ) is a standardized test for Mandarin Chinese proficiency used all over China to assess a foreigner's level of Chinese (like TOEFL or IELTS). You can go all the way from HSK1 to HSK5. Each HSK module consists of a number of Chinese characters you must learn (if you want to take the test, but you should use them for the purpose of learning characters only). All the HSK character modules are easily found online. HSK1, the one you should study after mastering radicals completely or satisfactorily, can be found here. After learning all HSK1 characters, jump to HSK2 and so forth.

After learning HSK1 characters (and only after HSK1), you should then start learning grammar this is an excellent resource.



Basic conversation in Chinese knowing A1 grammar points, HSK2 and Pinyin should really not be a big challenge. Chinese grammar does have difficult points, but you shouldn't worry about them yet this soon into your studies. If you got this far, you should just keep practicing it with natives, there's nothing else you can do but learn more characters and advanced grammar topics. Practice with someone who doesn't have a heavy accent and never stop practicing.


Some useful resources:

Chrome extension that gives the definition to characters when you hover over them

NJStar Extension that allows you to convert all Chinese characters on a page to simplified or traditional

Textuploader list or Hanzicraft's list 5000 most used characters in order Good dictionary

Hanzicraft Website that separates Chinese characters into their radicals

New York Times China Parallel Texts. Choose an article, click "中英对照" to get the same article written in English. Good for reading practice. Use this page to form characters and find them. You input a character, click 查询 and it will display other characters that use the character your inputted as radical. Manga for intermediary students. (This one is pretty easy)

Essential Grammar Mandarin

Comprehensive Grammar Mandarin

A more comprehensive version of this guide can be found at the blog Teach Yourself Mandarin.

How to Choose a Chinese Language School - A comprehensive guide to choosing the right Chinese Language School for you.

--- Method Ends Here ---

Rosetta Stone[]

  • 3 levels available.
  • Recommended as a beginning tool
  • Strongly not recommended to be used as the only tool.
  • Covers pronounciation, reading, listening, vocabulary, writing.
  • Very poor for grammar.
  • Easy to use. Shouldn't take more than an hour to set up and begin using.
  • More expensive than it's worth. Thank you based internet!

Pimsleur []

or finding useful sentences quickly, and could probably help you in China if you don't know any Mandarin. This also comes with a widget that displays a word of the day.[]

  • Number Trainer - Free/Paid - This covers all of the numbers you will use, with tests, the characters+pinyin, and a number keyboard for quick referencing.
  • Skritter - Awesome tool for learning how to write the Characters
  • Download Pleco , it's the handiest and best dictionary for your phone, no contest.
  • If you're using something like Pleco, which has a flashcard support, in conjunction with NPCR check out HSK Flashcards. It has downloadable flashcards (you open the links then save the page as a .txt file, and there's an option to 'Import Flashcards' on Pleco), primarily for HSK (the standard Chinese Proficiency exam), but also for every NPCR book. Very very handy, as flashcards are possibly the quickest and best way to learn characters.


  • Hanbridge Mandarin- Learn Chinese online at Hanbridge Mandarin School. They offer Mandarin Online Course by live teachers from China and face-to-face mandarin courses in Shenzhen. FREE TRIAL lesson provided.
  • Duolingo has Mandarin now. It's good as a refresher, but don't use it as your only source of learning.
  • ChinesePod - From beginner to advance, this is a podcast that is very helpful to learn from alongside normal study
  • SexyMandarin - Similar concept to Naked News, it teaches some basic phrases through softcore porn. Seems to require signup these days, but the videos are on youtube as well.
  • ChineseTools - This is where students can learn some straight forward grammar and vocabulary, free of charge.
  • Mandarin Cafe: Learn Chinese Online - Mandarin Cafe is a modern interactive Online program. The learning platorm is free and you get a free online trial lesson with a teacher when you sign-up.
  • That's Mandarin: Learn Chinese in China with friendly expert Chinese teachers, in Beijing, Shanghai, and Online.
  • Omeida Chinese Academy - This Chinese language school offers Chinese language courses for Mandarin learners in Yangshuo, Guilin.


  • Fiona Tian Think she had her own channel at one point a few years back, but whatever. Taiwanese gril who does good Mandarin videos on things like slang, ordering bubble tea, getting a taxi, etc.
  • Off the Great Wall Channel run by some ABCs on various Chinese topics, all pretty lighthearted. Can be incredibly cringy, but they have some great videos on language topics, such as the Chinese Family Tree, Taiwanese vs Mainland Mandarin and various food videos. Watch the older videos when before Carmen (Aussie girl) left. I personally suspect she and the Shanghainese dude got it on and then it got awkward so she left, but whatever, good vids.
  • Mamahuhu a group of Chinese people and various Laowai making comedy videos in Shanghai. Very relatable if you've lived on the Mainland for any length of time, e.g. Security Guards, Chinese gfs, and Thing Chinese People Say


  • Assimil - Chinese with ease, Vol1, Vol 2 - Great for beginners as there isn't a lot of grammar to go through, but does teach some very useful vocabulary and phrases without being a phrase book. This helps complete beginners to build a solid foundation within six months, and to be comfortable with the language in 3 months. Here is a review of it on Youtube if you want to see how it works. Although on the more expensive side, they are very popular for learning Mandarin and are worth having as a tool for learning.
  • New Practical Chinese Reader. We use this series of books in university. They're not perfect, but they give you a pretty nice and gentle introduction to the language, have plenty of English and pinyin early on to help you along, and some good vocab. There's a Workbook as well that I'd advise getting. Get the DVD if you want, but the videos are mostly on Youtube ( Haven't watched them myself, so I'm not 100% sure if they're the right ones, but it should be obvious pretty quickly).
  • Sinosplice has some reviews on various Mandarin-Learning books, so have a hunt around for ones that seem useful (he reviews some on learning Shanghainese too, for more advanced students who feel like learning it. Bear in mind his info about where to get them in Shanghai might be a little outdated, but when I was there in 2011-2012, the foreign bookshop on Fuzhou Lu still had 外国人学上海话, which is fine except for the lack of tones. Not all that sure about the others, but check it out anyway).
  • Common Chinese Patterns 330- Insanely useful book. you can pick it up online, or in the aforementioned Fuzhou Lu shop in Shanghai. It has an absolute ton of Chinese grammar structures in alphabetical order with uber-simple examples to help you learn them quickly. This is a must-buy if you're trying to learn grammar (NPCR, in my experience, isn't quite as clear on grammar points, so it helps to have this)


  • Xinhuanet The official Chinese state news agency.  Lots of dense, dull news articles, but great for learning difficult vocabulary and the Chinese names of non-Chinese people/places. If you're not able to understand the articles completely, go to the Bilingual Zone.
  • Epoch Times An interesting, opposing view to Xinhua.  Founded by the Falun Gong, uses traditional characters. It also has probably the widest global circulation of any Chinese newpaper, so check your local Asian shops to see if they have copies available.
  • BBC Chinese service Simplified character version.
  • Zaobao This is a popular Singaporean Mandarin-language newspaper. Handy for those who want Simplified characters without the CCP spin.

Movies and TV[]


  • Phoenix CNE Chinese-language channel, primarily showing news and current affairs shows. Not incredibly interesting, but excellent for aural practise. They tend to use Traditional characters, though. If you have Sky Digital, I think it's channel 785 (it's in the International section)
  • A great guide to watching Chinese TV for practice . I agree with his assessment that Romance shows are the best to start with, he gives some good suggestions, but bear in mind everything he suggests is either Taiwanese (and thus has subtitles in Traditional characters) or from Hong Kong (and thus in Cantonese), so beginners may want to find some shows with Simplified characters (from the Mainland or Singapore) to start off.
  • Tudou A very popular Chinese streaming site, you can watch most shows here
  • Youku Similar to Tudou. It also has loads of shows on it.
  • Youtube has a surprising amount of full episodes of Chinese shows, so check there too
  • Make sure to watch TV shows with the subtitles in Chinese, not English. It's a little tricky early on, but it will benefit your listening and reading ability infinitely more than watching with English subtitles. Most Chinese shows have subtitles for the deaf anyway.



  • Street Angel (1937)  [available on TPB]
  • Spring in a Small Town/小城之春 (1954)
  • Raise the Red Lantern (1991)
  • Farewell, My Concubine (1993)
  • Eat Drink Man Woman (1994)
  • Vive L'Amour (1994)
  • To Live (1994)
  • Shanghai Triad [摇啊摇,摇到外婆桥] (1995)
  • Happy Times (2000)
  • Suzhou River (2003)
  • Hero (2002)
  • Roots and Branches/我的兄弟姐妹 (2003)
  • Goodbye, Dragon Inn (2003)
  • House of Flying Daggers (2005)
  • Lust, Caution (2007)
  • Night Train (2007)
  • Mulan (2009)
  • Monga [艋舺] (2010)
  • Black Coal, Thin Ice (2014)

Video Games[]

  • Half-Life 2 (select 'simplified chinese' in it's options in steam)
  • Most newer Blizzard games can be changed into Chinese speech and characters. (Find the game in the launcher and use the settings option)
  • 侠客风云传(Tale of Wuxia), China is notorious for making knock off games as well as shovelware, but Tale of Wuxia series is not one of them! Highly recommended if you like rpg. The translation is horrible but hey, you're here to learn Mandarin!


  • Mayday 五月天
  • Jay Chou 周杰伦(周傑倫)
  • Tom Chang 张雨生
  • Eason Chan 陈奕迅
  • The Flowers 花儿乐队
  • Jordan Chen 陈小春(陳小春)
  • Nicholas Tse
  • Tanya Chua 蔡健雅

  • MC Hotdog 热狗

  • Queen Sea Big Shark 后海大鲨鱼

  • Hedgehog 刺猬

  • Streets Kill Strange Animals 街道杀死奇怪的动物

  • Duck Fight Goose 鸭打鹅

  • Rebuilding the Rights of Statues 重塑雕像的权利

  • Gar 嘎调

  • PK14 青春公共王国 十四

  • Chinese Football
  • Higher Brothers
  • Bohan Phoenix


  • Sometimes, not always but isn't rare, a character composed of two different parts (radicals) will give a hint in both the meaning and the pronounciation. For example, the character for mom is 妈 and is pronounced Ma1. The first radical, 女, means woman. The second one, 马, means horse, but it's pronounced Ma3.
  • The more you know Mandarin, the less you have to rely on dictionaries to continue with your studies; exactly the opposite of English. The most difficult part of it are the four tones, which can be mastered with perseverance and practice. After that, everything is easier. Mandarin practically has no grammar. Most words are monosyllable, and those that aren't are mostly compound words, so they are very easy to remember. Once you know 300 characters plus the radicals, learning the rest is like playing a game.
  • I disagree with the brotip above.  It is a common misconception that Mandarin "has no grammar;"  as mentioned above in the link, Mandarin is a highly analytic language, meaning syntax (word order) is extremely, EXTREMELY important!  You can get by with crappy syntax in the beginning, but once you move past topics like ordering food and introducing yourself and need to use sentences that would have long clauses in English, it's essential.  While English and Mandarin both have a set of little rules (like -ed for making past tense, or -ly for adverbs), Mandarin also has grammar patterns, such as 把-structure, 是...的, and 所vb.的, that are used often in daily conversation.  tl;dr Mandarin actually does have grammar, it's important, but it's easily memorized.
  • If you progress far in Mandarin, you will encounter three basic sets of grammar rules.  First and most common is spoken grammar, which is the least formal and nearly always learned first.  Second is "literary" or written (书面语) grammar; think of the difference between daily conversation and an academic paper in English.  Third, is ancient Chinese (文言文) grammar , which, despite what you may hear, you WILL run into frequently if you read any serious Chinese literature or talk to college educated folks.  (The old jokes about "Confucius say..." are based on reality after all.)
  • Learn tone sandhi, a fancy term for how tones change when in sequence.
  • Tones are very, very subtle in ordinary speech between natives.  If you did not grow up hearing them, you'll likely never quite develop the same senstivity a native speaker has for them.  This guy says that "only some tones are pronounced" and that you don't really need to pronounce them all, but this is untrue. OVEREMPHASIZE IN THE BEGINNING!! I can't stress this enough.  Yes, you will sound silly.  Yes, you will be laughed at a bit.  Are you worried about looking cool, or do you want to fucking learn Chinese?  If you can't speak fast because the tones are too hard, then you shouldn't be speaking that fast yet.  Chinese is really hard, so remember that patience is key!  Your tones will become subtler and more relaxed as you get more comfortable with them.
  • I know tones have been harped on here, but keep in mind a difference in tone in Chinese is like a difference in consonants in English (e.g. bat vs. cat, or cat vs. cab), so you can't ignore them if you want to be understood.
  • Get a language partner. I really cannot emphasise this enough. You can only learn so much out of a book, you need to actually interact with and speak with Chinese people. Try and get a female language partner. The idea is that you meet up for coffee or whatever- he helps you with Chinese, and you help him with English.
  • The most effective way for most people to learn characters is by using flashcards.  Write the character on one side, and the English and pinyin on the other.  Remember to study them forwards and backwards! Alternatively, just download Pleco and use the built-in flashcard software (its included in the Android version, but for Iphone I think you have to buy it). Then, any time you have a few minutes spare, quickly test yourself on cards. Do it regularly (it takes like 2-5 mins tops) and the characters will begin to stick in your mind


  • Pleco Absolutely essential kit for a Mandarin student. It's an incredibly handy (not to mention free) dictionary for your phone, and even includes flashcard software and OCR (optical recognition softare, i.e. you point your camera at some characters and it tells you what they mean), not mention example sentences for most words, phrases and idioms. This will save you buying a pocket translator in China, or trawling through a massive "pocket" dictionary the whole time. GET THIS BEFORE YOU DO ANYTHING
  • Chinese Grammar Wiki- speaks for itself. An exceptionally useful site
  • Uz-translations (a very useful website that you should definitely check out)
  • Nciku I can't believe nobody's added this, wow.  This is the best Chinese dictionary ever made.  It's pretty comprehensive and includes thousands (millions?) of example sentences.  You can also use your mouse to write a character and search for it.
  • Zhongwen  Mostly superseded by Nciku, but still has a cool feature where you can see trees of Chinese characters based on radical.
  • Chinese Hacks Essential viewing- this site has loads of info on idioms, technology resources (e.g. using OCR with Pleco), vocab etc. Bookmark this.
  • Danwei Model Workers 2013 A roundup of the best China-related blogs and websites out there atm. Again, bookmark this.
  • Danwei's Model Workers 2012 Last years roundup of the best China-related sites on the web according to Danwei.
  • Perapera: Tooltip translation addon similar to Rikaichan (Japanese) for Mozilla Firefox, that supports Chinese. Hover over Chinese text to display Hanyu Pinyin, English translations, and Simplified/Traditional variants.
  • China Smack Translations of stuff trending on Chinese internet, with the original text as well. Handy for swear words, Chinese memes etc.
  • China Hush Same sort of thing as China Smack, includes lots of stuff that doesn't get into the Chinese media
  • Mop  One of the largest Chinese internet forums, good for learning netspeak and learning how younger people talk.
  • Phonemica A really interesting project started by some westerners where they recorded (and generally attempted to transcribe) examples of various Chinese dialects, as spoken by locals. Definitely worth a look to see the variety of languages that we tend to refer to as 'Chinese'.
  • Ctext An online collection of ancient Chinese texts with a (mediocre) translation helper.  Uber-sinophiles only.
  •  A website like 9fag, but with Chinese memes and jokes.  Mildly amusing, fun to figure out.
  • Tudou  The Chinese Youtube.  Has lots of Chinese TV shows, Chinese movies, and dubbed Western movies availble for free, though the website quality isn't great and the site is sometimes slow.
  • HorseDragonFish A website of short comics related to Mandarin learning. Absolutely superb for vocab, and fun to read as well. Make sure you don't miss the Chinese Superman section as well, he's hiding somewhere on the page... [Note, doesn't seem to be updated anymore]
  • Hacking Chinese Not to be confused with Chinese Hacks, this is a really great site with tons of articles on aspects of Chinese learning.
  • Chinese Culture Blog Learn about Chinese culture with this blog written by Chinese language teachers.
  • A great, free website for learning characters with the aid of user submitted mnemonics.  Most of the courses teach characters in stages (such as teaching you "土 - Earth" and "田 - Field" before teaching you "里 - Inside", which is made up of "土" and "田"), so a lot of the vocabulary that you learn might not be particularly useful, but it's a nice, thorough system.
  • FluentU Concise and easy-to-understand videos shown along with lines of both characters and pinyin with tones.
  • Chinese Language Institute (CLI) CLI is a Chinese language learning and culture center based in Guilin, China. Students from around the world who wish to learn Chinese in China attend CLI's Immersion Program for durations ranging anywhere from two weeks to more than twelve months. CLI also offers a College Study Abroad Program for students seeking college credit. CLI is affiliated with Guangxi Normal University and is also recognized by the Guangxi Provincial Government as an official tourist destination within Guilin.
  • Chinese Summer CampJoin In The Summer Fun! From June to August. Includes China Camp Language Programs suitable for Kids & High School Students aged 7-17.
  • Chinese Winter Camp Join In The Winter Fun! Includes Chinese Language Programs for Kids & High School Students.