Resources for Learning Chinese

by on 週二, 17 九月 2013 評論

Listening: Podcasts/Radio/Websites/TV

PopupChinese 

Free resource that features podcasts for all abilities, as well as helpful pop-up quizzes and a series of HSK mock questions based on vocabulary learned in the different podcasts. The website also features the Sinica podcast, with news and current affairs in China discussed in English for China watchers who haven't got to grips with the language as yet.

RTI 
Radio Taiwan International offers downloadable programs in Mandarin Chinese (not to mention programmes in Taiwanese and Hakka) for advanced learners who want to get an idea what's in the news in Taiwan.

News98

This is quite a good station with interesting programmes on a range of topics, a little like a Mandarin version of BBC radio 4. The link above is to listen live, but the official website is here if you want to browse different programmes.

There are a plethora of different radio stations that you can listen to but the two listed above seem balanced in their views and catered towards people interested in culture.

Lu Xun collected works on itunes

You can listen to Lu Xun's collected works on itunes, although in general audiobooks are not widely available for more modern writers.

TedXTaipei 

Some of these talks are in Chinese and feature some famous scholars in different fields.

Cheesy soaps and TV programmes

There are a lot of very cheesy TV programmes and dramas that you can hone your listening skills with available online, from "Meteor Garden" back in the day to the more recent "Black & White", a helpful tip is to cover over the Chinese or English subtitles (depending on what version you get your hands on) and try and write down any vocabulary you hear, then you can put the pinyin into one of the dictionaries mentioned below, and possible character combinations will come out, you can then go and compare this with the actual subtitles. If you're not into cheese there are also some other shows that you might find interesting. Below is a very limited list of shows that I've watched or seen brief glimpses of over the last couple of years: 

孽子 Crystal Boys: This is an excellent dramatic adaptation of Bai Xianyong's book of the same name. Following the life of A Qing, a young gay man who has just been chucked out by his father and has to come to terms with his new life and the death of his brother. Like many Taiwanese TV shows it's often bootlegged on youtube or tudou... just saying.

流星花園 Meteor Garden: This show takes the crown in terms of cheesiness (unless you look at some of the Taiwanese language shows). It's cheesy but light and fun (for the first season anyway). 

痞子英雄 Black&White: Familiar story of two detectives in the police force who don't like each other but are forced to work together - it might be a tired trope in the detective genre, but it's in Mandarin and features different areas of Gaoxiong as backdrop. This, like Meteor Garden is an idol drama, so get used to the overacting and sudden swoops into dramatic music, but it's not an awful show.

波麗士大人 Police et vous: Too cool for an English name, this Taiwanese idol drama has a French name instead. Two friends join the police training school only to become love rivals - more cheese and overacting for you to enjoy. 

全民最大黨 Celebrity Imitated Show: This programme is now off the air, but it was a political satire along the lines of "Spitting Image", looking at politics and current affairs. You can still catch some old episodes online. 

大學生了沒 University: A panel of pseudo-celebrity (because of the show) university students compete to tell the funniest anecdote on this show on a diverse (ish) range of topics. This show sometimes even features a few cheesy foreigners like our very own Daniel Pagan Murphy. Reasonably easy in terms of vocabulary except for slang terms.  

There are loads of other shows to explore, expect to see the same format repeating again and again however. Currently I am yet to see the Taiwanese "Breaking Bad" or "Mighty Boosh".

Improving your spoken Chinese


NTU Chinese

This is a free download which assesses your spoken Chinese, extra classes require payment however.

Skype/Online Pals

There are Chinese people out there who want to talk to you, whether online or in your own city, most likely, whether to engage in language exchange or just to make friends. You can check sites like gumtree in your own city or post an ad on a website like tealit in Taiwan or the various ones in mainland China advertising for a language partner. As with anything online, be wary of psychos/con-artists.

 KTV

If you're not lucky enough to live around the corner from a kareoke joint, you can always go on youtube and sing along to the latest hits, you can even post your own just like Daniel Pagan Murphy (though steady yourself for the tide of abuse that is standard fare in the youtube world). You'd be amazed how often a bit of vocabulary from a song will be useful in every day conversations, particularly if you're going through a really heart-wrenching break-up.

Reading resources

Books.com.tw

Frustrated that Chinese book stores in the UK don't seem to have noticed that the May 4th Movement happened a while back now? This website provides international delivery of the latest titles, here's a few authors to get you started. 

朱少鳞 Zhu Shaolin - A good author to start with. Chick-Lit full length novels.
胡晴舫 Lolita Hu - Casting a critical eye on different aspects of modern life, interesting essayist.
韓麗珠 Han Lizhu - Not yet read anything by this Hong Kong author, but was recommended by a friend. 
木心 Mu Xin - Chinese author, probably my favourite Chinese author that I've read yet.
阮慶岳 Roan-Ching Yue - This author's short story collection is great.
吳念真 Wu Nien-zhen - This guy is a great story-teller and he uses really simple language well, although he's a little old-school.
白先勇 Bai Xianyong - Don't let the famous name put you off, although I would avoid 台北人 and go for his full-length novel 孽子.

Chinasmack

This is a useful news website that features translations of Chinese articles, the original Chinese pops up in a dialogue box when you hover over a certain paragraph of the translated text.

Wenlin

Wenlin is not for free but it is quite a useful tool in learning Chinese, as it not only has a wide range of definitions, but the definitions library can be added to as you go. You can also draw characters and it will give you suggestions as to what it could be. It employs a hover over system, that allows for easy reading of large chunks of text.

Mandarin Spot

Excellent website that allows you to input big blocks of text and hover over any individual character to get pronunciation and translation. It also parses words automatically.

MDBG

A very useful dictionary that allows you to search for ending characters and sounds as well as beginning ones.

Hanping

Useful app for android phones, pinyin entry possible. Free but there is also a professional edition available.

Pleco

Good basic Chinese dictionary program for smart phones. Excellent for first time learners. Comes with flashcard system.

EC Dictionary

Taiwanese developed phone application. Bigger wealth of definitions than Pleco and more advanced content as well. For advanced users.

Yellow Bridge

A staple of Chinese learning. A particularly useful feature is the capability to search for "fuzzy" pinyin, where the exact pronunciation is not known.

Taiwan Ministry of Education Dictionary

A very advanced Chinese-Chinese dictionary with detailed descriptions of phrases and words. Capable of searching for parts of compounds. If you want the character to appear at the start of a word you can put a ^ before the character, if you want the character to appear at the end of the phrase you can put the $ sign behind it.

Zhongwen extension for Google Chrome

A quick, easy and useful Chinese popup dictionary which supports both simplified and traditional Chinese. Just install it in your browser. Also exists in other languages such as French.

Remembr.it Chinese

Offers free Chinese language course based on the US government's Foreign Service Institutes Mandarin Course.

Other Resources

An interesting talk on associating characters with pictures as a learning aide. Basic stuff but something for everyone to take away from this.

Reader Suggestions

Hacking Chinese

Paul Farrelly from Australia suggests Hacking Chinese as a useful resource which provides you with insights on how to best learn Chinese

 Fluentu Chinese

Nicola Boyle, a political science and Chinese major in Nanjing, suggests this video learning website. although she does say you now have to pay for it. She also suggested the following: Beijingcream, Shanghaiist, Italki, Waygo and Lang8

 


Photo by Greg.

 

Conor Stuart (蕭辰宇)

Born in Belfast. Just finished his Master from the Graduate Institute of Taiwan Literature at National Taiwan University (NTU). Currently lives and works in Taipei. 

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