Category Archives: Preparing for China

The Best Books and Flashcards for Learning Chinese

The first book that I used for learning Chinese was Chinese in 10 Minutes A Day.  While I did learn a lot of words and enjoyed the short lessons and activities, I didn’t like that it only used pin yin. That’s not practical for living in China. Hardly anyone over the age of 55 studied it in school and even the teenagers I know often forget the pin yin for words. The only place I regularly see pin yin is in my son’s school books. This new edition is probably more helpful since it includes a CD with audio so you can learn how to speak the words correctly.

If you want to study words on your own, I highly recommend the two 250 Essential Chinese Characters
books. I have the old edition of both the books shown above and the two sets of flashcards. The new sets are aligned with the HSK exam, a Chinese proficiency exam that colleges use to admit foreign students, and have fewer cards per set.

 

There are now three sets of Chinese character flash cards, each with the cards, a booklet and audio. Be sure to order the paper version, not the Kindle one, if you want the cards! I personally love the cards and wouldn’t use them much, nor would the kids, if they were on the Kindle.

I love that they put as much info on each card as possible. They show both the simplified and traditional characters, plus the stroke order on the front. On the back is the pin yin, the radicals, a sentence with the word and up to four additional words that the character is a part of.
There were several typos and errors in set two of the old edition of Chinese Flash Cards ; I hope they’ve fixed that for their new edition. The reviews on Amazon look great, and the cards are now laminated to resist wear and tear and they come with a ring to clip them all together. I’m pretty sure my sets are missing a few cards because they’ve been lost over time with four people having used them and enduring four moves.
Rather than finishing out my collection with sets three and four (three is super expensive!) I think I’ll just purchase the new ones since they’ll get used for many more years. Also the new set comes with a CD, which the old one didn’t have, and the little booklet is a handy reference tool for looking up words quickly.

 

I also have Reading & Writing Chinese  which is a nice resource, though I’ve not used it to study from directly. Currently it’s my go-to for finding the meaning of words on my son’s homework. I love the Pleco app, but sometimes it’s just nice to have an old-fashioned book to make notes in.
What are your favorite resources for learning Chinese?
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