Since starting my languages studygram (@languageslouise) I have received many messages about the materials I use for studying Chinese, so I thought it might be a good idea to put this post together. Here you will find the podcasts, YouTube videos, books and courses (and more!) that I use to self-study Mandarin Chinese at an intermediate level (with the occasional advanced bits thrown in).
I hope you find this post helpful and please feel free to share your own resources in the comment section below!
I have never been a fan of podcasts. Not whilst cooking, running or sitting in the bath. I have definitely tried to like them, but I just don’t. However, I forced myself to find some that are either in Chinese or about the history of China, Taiwan, Japan and Korea and these seem to be holding my interest for a little longer than any other podcasts.
At first, I started with the CoffeeBreak series in Spanish and Swedish. These really are perfect for beginners of any language and I’m completely in awe of the teams behind them. However, for Chinese these didn’t really work for me.
The general chit-chat podcasts that I enjoy listening to are:
Talk Taiwanese Mandarin with Abby
Learn Taiwanese Mandarin
Coffee Break Chinese
And the historical ones:
Learning Chinese through stories
The Chinese sayings podcast
And any others (vocabulary, grammar, idioms)
Mandarin MSG slang guide
Chinese class 101
YouTube videos / content creators
I have never really understood the appeal of watching someone else study, or listen to people talk about their daily rituals, but I certainly admire people who are brave enough to create these videos and I know they are becoming more and more popular.
In the last two months I have made more of an effort to find content I actually I enjoyed, and now I reckon I can share them with others.
Richard Chinese Language – live lessons daily at 10:30pm Taiwan or 3:30pm UK. He goes through vocabulary and some grammar points, talks to people in the chat box and offers lots of interesting facts about the language and HSK exams.
Mandarin with Miss Lin – brilliant, funny, engaging videos about Mandarin. Her videos contain both simplified and traditional characters and her pronunciation is very clear. You will definitely learn some useful words and phrases through her videos and she always has a great Instagram.
Chinese Zero to Hero – this company offer a mixture of paid courses and free YouTube videos. I haven’t bought a course from though, although I may do in the future. The videos focus on vocabulary and grammar, and I find them very useful.
Also check out:
Grace Mandarin Chinese
Most of my Chinese language books are from 1999 and 2004-6, so there is no doubt that they are a little outdated in both content and vocabulary, but they still work and are often available at a lower price than some of the newer books.
I have never seen a Boya book or Discover Chinese, so I’m afraid I can’t give out any advice on those.
HSK 4 – it’s a good book and it’s great for the exams, however it isn’t the most interesting and the content does feel a little outdated.
Ni Hao 4 – again, it’s outdated in many ways but if you find a cheap copy I would still recommend it. The layout is nice and clean, there is a lot of vocabulary and a range of exercises. But level 4 is considered advanced so the levels are very loose.
Chinese in Steps 4 – this is the book that I used at university (12 years ago) and I’m currently using with the Confucius institute lessons. It’s fine, but I would say the topics are definitely aimed at younger learners (high school / university students) and it is outdated in many ways. However it has a range of activities and the listening isn’t too fast or slow.
Basic Chinese Grammar – clearly explained grammar points with useful, relevant exercises.
and I’m about to start an intermediate Taiwanese textbook (I found it in my sister’s university collection hehe)
今日台灣 : 中級漢語課程 Taiwan Today
I studied Chinese as a Master’s degree at the University of Sheffield, so I already knew about the Confucius Institute – the staff and their courses – and I decided to apply for their online HSK and General Chinese classes. Their prices are some of the most reasonable in the country and the timings were perfect for me.
The reason I added this section was because of the university semester breaks, which left me without lessons for three weeks, and so I decided to see what else was available. This is how I found Richard’s Chinese Language YouTube channel, Zero to Hero and also a few on Coursera.
On Coursera, I have joined:
National Taiwan University Intermediate Chinese – this would be lovely for people wanted to learn more about Taiwan, but I didn’t find it engaging enough to help me learn and improve my language so unfortunately I unenrolled.
Peking University Chinese for HSK 4 – I really, REALLY like this course. There is a great mixture of videos, readings, listening extracts and vocabulary. The pace is good and the topics are engaging. I would definitely recommend this to anyone at HSK 3 and 4, or level 5 if you want to review some easier words and grammar points.
and I’ve also joined the Chinese for HSK 5 just to give myself a challenge.
I have never enjoyed listening to music unless it was in German or English (I have no idea why?!), so once again I decided to make an effort to find some music in Mandarin that I might enjoy. Thankfully, and to my great surprise, I have found some!
Jay Chou – a golden oldie!
Rosie – I love her voice and my favourite song is why not love?
Boon Hui Lu 文慧如 – I really love her song Stranger in the North, but also many others!
G.E.M – This is a new discovery for me but I think she’s absolutely brilliant.
Marcus C – 帅哥！I really, really like Marcus as an actor and from there I discovered his music. My favourite is definitely ‘Lose to you’
There aren’t many apps that I use for my Chinese learning, because I enjoy the books, courses and YouTube materials that I have access too. However, as most Chinese learners will know there are a few essential apps that you might want to download or make the most of.
Pleco – you can’t study Chinese and not use Pleco. Not really. I’ve been using it for about 10 years now and it really is a life saver.
Tandem – perfect for anyone who is looking for a language exchange partner, as long as you’re prepared to accept the odd ghoster or slightly odd person that messages you 394803248 times a day.
DuChinese – an excellent app for improving your reading and vocabulary skills. There are levelled stories and you can choose to have the words categorised by HSK level or left without highlights so you can simply focus on the reading. Some of the texts are a bit ridiculous, but they do the job!
HSK Online – I have found the HSK vocabulary lists really useful and they also have free (and paid) lessons, live videos and testing options. I don’t use it all of the time, but I think it’s worth looking at.
Duolingo – I’m not a huge fan, but I won’t deny that it is a fantastic app. I use it mostly to review what I already know, or to brush up on my sentence structures and word order. I prefer it for European languages, but I try to use it every evening before bed. Those funny phrases really do get stuck in your head!
I hope you find these resources useful, and maybe even come across some that you haven’t before. If you use any other books, YouTube channels or resources I’d love to know what they are.
Thanks and 我们一起加油吧！