This resource is a list of all of the books, websites, and apps I have used to learn Chinese over the last 15 years. It includes materials for both simplified and traditional Mandarin, as well as for modern and classical Chinese.
A Course in Contemporary Chinese is produced by National Taiwan Normal University Mandarin Training Center, which teaches Mandarin to hundreds of students each year using this series. The book uses traditional characters, and pinyin for learning new words and phrases. There are six books in the series, which range in level from complete beginner to CEFR C1 or HSK 6. I used the last two books in the series, 5 and 6, when I was a student at the Mandarin Training Center and was quite pleased, which is why this book is the first on the list of textbooks.
Boya Chinese is a 9-book series in simplified characters published by Peking Unversity Press. It covers HSK levels 1 through 6. Though a little dry, the texts will help build a solid foundation of the langauge.
Integrated Chinese is used by universities all over the United States and makes a great beginning textbook. There is also an accompanying workbook for each level.
Thought and Society is an advanced textbook written by the International Chinese Langauge Program of National Taiwan University, a highly regarded language program for non-native Chinese speakers. It contains ten texts 4-6 pages in length written in traditional Chinese characters. Each chapter contains roughly 75-150 vocabulary and several exercies.
HSK Standard Course is a series of 9 textbooks from the Confucius Institute with the goal of preparing learners to pass the HSK. Levels 1-3 contain one book each, and levels 4-6 contain two books each. While the topics are somewhat tedious, they do focus on the most common vocabulary, so in that sense, this is a good series.
Glossika uses spaced repetition to expose to you to sentences in audio and written format. It has a typing and recording feature to get you using the language with each repettion. You start out with very basic sentences and progress through CEFR levels all the way up to C1. You can also test in to a higher level based on your level of Mandarin. In addition to Mandarin, there are more than 60 other languages supported by Glossika. Unlimited use starts at $30.99/month or $24.99/month billed annually. Along with Pimsleur, this is the most effective website I have found for learning Mandarin.
Pimsleur works the same way as Glossika—it plays audio sentences and has you repeat the speaker. It starts out basic and grows in difficultly. The sentences make up a dialogue. By using spaced repitition, you are exposed to sentneces you have heard before before you forget them. You can usually find Pimsleur CDs at libraries and check them out for free. Since we are living in the information age, you can also find them online. Along with Glossika, this is the most effective website I have found for learning Mandarin.
ChinesePod is a podcast with over 4,000 audio lessons, each focused on a dialogue. It's lessons come in six different levels, from newbie to advanced. There is a free version with ads, but for $29 a month you can get the dialogue transcripts and a few other things in addition to the ad-free lessons. There are many different series too, including history, literature, and business. I love ChinesePod and have been using it since 2008. The hosts do a great job. For a more detailed review of ChinesePod, you can check this post about it I wrote.
Du Chinese contains hundreds of texts graded in six different levels, from newbie to master. Each text contains pinyin and a definition when you hover over a word. It costs $14.99 per month, but there are also some lessons you can try for free to see how you like it. Du Chinese is great for improving reading ability. For those interested in Chinese history, there are many lessons focused on the history of China.
The Chairman's Bao is a news-based HSK-graded reader. Pricing is $10 per month or less when you pay for multiple months at one time. There are currently over 8,000 lessons. You can toggle pinyin on and off of the text.
All Set Learning Chinese Grammar Wiki is a free site explaining the various Chinese grammar patterns. This is an invaluable resource. Grammar points range from CEFR levels A1 to B2.
italki and Verbling let you connect with teachers around the globe to facilitate one-on-one lessons in the language you want to learn. They support over 150 languages and prices typically range from $10-$20 per lesson. Teachers and tutors usually have a video where they introduce themselves and ratings from previous students to help you choose the teacher that is the best match for you.
mdbg.net is an online Chinese dictionary. It's simple but effective. I use it all the time to look up words quickly.
Pleco is a Chinese-English dictionary and is arguably the most important resource on this list. It's main dictionary is free and there are also free and paid add-on dictionaries (I mention some good ones below). You can search for words using pinyin or by writing the character. This is very useful when you don't know how to say the character.
Skritter is a paid app for learning and practicing how to read and write Chinese characters. It includes traditional, simplified and Japanese kanji characters.
Anki is a free app for making and review flashcards using spaced repetition. It's handy for creating various decks and practicing on the go. I used this app a lot when I worked as a medical interpreter and needed to get a quick refresher on different areas of medicine.
After Pleco, these are probably the next most important resources on this list. WeChat and QQ are the primary texting apps used in China, while LINE is the primary one used in Taiwan. When you meet people you can exchange contact information with them and then practice Chinese with them. I like texting when first learning a language because it gives you more time to think and formulate a response, or even look up words in the dictionary, before sending your reply.
A First Course in Literary Chinese by Harold Shadick and Ch'iao Chien is an excellent introduction to classical Chinese and was how I first started learning classical Chinese. It contains 34 texts ranging from introductory Aesop's Fables texts to Tang Dynasty poetry. It contains a good mix of tests from several different eras, including pre-classical texts like Analects of Confucius, Tang and Song dynasty essays from the likes of Han Yu, and 19th century essays by Sun Yat-Sen and xyz. The book consists of three separate volumes. The first volume contains the texts and some translation exercises; the second volume contains all the vocabulary from each text; the third volume contains commentaries on each text and a useful and sizable grammar guide. One problem with the series is that besides modern Chinese translations of the first few texts, there are no translations of the texts. But simple Google searches will return translations in English, if not, in modern Chinese. Unfortunately, the second and third volumes are out of print, but they can still be found with some searching. I found a really tattered version all three when I was living in Taiwan.
An Introduction to Literary Chinese by Michael Fuller consits of 34 lessons ranging from texts from the classical period to the Song dynasty. The book is broken up into four sections: Texts to Introduce Basic Grammar, Intermediate Texts, Advanced Texts, Selected Tang and Song Dynasty Writings. As the title suggests, the book is geared towards beginners. In the first part of the book there are detailed explanations of each text, but in the second half of the book, each lesson only contains the text and vocabulary list. In addition to the texts, there are an introduction and several appendicies that explain linguistic aspects of the language. Overall, I found the book to be quite good.
A New Practical Primer of Literary Chinese by Paul Rouzer is another introductory textbook. I have not used it, but it has many good reviews on Amazon. The 40 texts are taken from pre-Han and Han periods.
Outline of Classical Chinese Grammar by Edwin G. PulleyBlank is an excellent resource for learning the grammar of classical Chinese. It contains nearly 600 sentences with English translation and pinyin and detailed explanations of the grammar. Highly recommend.
Not only is Chinese Through Poetry by Archie Barnes a fantastic guide for learning classical Chinese poetry, but it is also geared towards people with no previous knowledge of Chinese whatsoever. Professor Barnes uses his own intuitive system for explaning the grammar of the language. There are 40 lessons in all, each of which contain detailed explanations of the text and grammar as well as vocabulary lists with new words. The first third of the units contain exercises with answers. There is also an introduction that introduces the Chinese script, so even a complete beginner can use this book to begin their Chinese journey.
The Four Books, translated by James Legge, are the core classics of Confucianism. they are the Great Learning, Doctrine of the Mean, Analects of Confucius, and Menscius. The book contains the original Chinese and English translations for all four texts. Definitely have a dictionary near at hand while reading.
Chinese by Jerry Norman provides an overview the Chinese language family and its evolution over the last few thousand years. While very interesting, it can be difficullt reading with its many linguistic and phonological terms. The Linguistics Crash Course series on YouTube provides a good framework for this field, which is helpful to know while reading this book.
ctext.org contains hundreds of classical Chinese texts translated into English. It is an excellent way to get a second opinion on the translations of various texts as you learn.
zdic.net is one of the best Chinese dictionaries on the Internet. The definitions are in Chinese and there are definitions for characters and words from different famous dictionaries throughout China's history. These include 國語辭典 (first published in 1926, updated most recently in 2021), 康熙字典 (published in 1716), and 说文解字 (published in 121).
This handy Pleco dictionary add-on provides the classical meanings of characters. It is a paid add-on, but is worth it.
This free Pleco dictionary add-on contains the meanings of words in Buddhist texts and sutras.