The 10 best free reading resource collections for learning Chinese

Reading is one of the most important activities when learning a second language. It’s an important source of vocabulary, and compared with listening, it offers you much more control over your learning.

You can read at your own pace and looking up things is considerably easier than when listening. There’s also a lot more written material available for learners.

Extensive reading challenge, November 10th to 30th

This month’s challenge on Hacking Chinese is about extensive reading. That means that you should read as much as you can, preferably about different topics and in different genres, rather than spending too much time trying to understand everything in a short text. Quantity is king.

If you want to know more about the challenge, click here, or if you want to know more about Hacking Chinese Challenges, check this. You can also sign up for the reading challenge directly here.

What should you read?

Just like I did for the listening challenge (The 10 best free listening resource collections for learning Chinese), I’m going to try to offer some free resource collections you can use. I have now collected almost 290 resources for learning Chinese, all sorted and tagged for your convenience. 79 of them are about reading.

Below, I will introduce the best free resource collections available. Here, “resource collection” means a site that offers a large number of texts, so each of these potentially offer hundreds or even thousands of hours of reading! Note that some great resources such as graded readers have been excluded because they are not free. Check out the complete list here.

This is what I did to generate this list (you can generate similar lists tailored to your needs by heading over to Hacking Chinese Resources):

The 10 best free reading resource collections

Below, I have listed the best ranked resource collections, along with a direct link to the collection, a short introduction written by the person who submitted it and a link to the resource so you can vote/comment on it if you want to. If you have other resource collections, please share them! If you need an invite to Hacking Chinese Resources, let me know!

1.Thumb snapshot Chinese Text Sampler: Readings in Chinese Literature, History, and Popular Culture
(beginner, intermediate, advanced, submitted by Mike Love, vote/comment)

A carefully chosen selection of 80 significant Chinese texts for students wishing to develop their reading skills while improving their cultural literacy. Includes classical and modern Chinese literature, historical documents, song lyrics, children’s stories, and lists of commonly used characters, idioms, and proverbs

2.Thumb snapshot Marco Polo Project – read and translate new writing from China
(advanced, submitted by Julien Leyre, vote/comment)

The Marco Polo Project is a digital community reading and translating new writing from China. The website proposes a diverse and original selection of new Chinese writing by independent journalists and intellectuals, with bilingual titles and tagging. Users can contribute to the translation of these articles, read a bilingual versions of those already translated, or use the website for Chinese reading practice.

(intermediate, advanced, submitted by, vote/comment)
This is a great repository of short stories for beginner and intermediate learners. Some of them also have audio and all have translations to English and word lists! I would be a little bit careful with trusting their difficulty ratings, though, I checked some stories that were meant to be beginner-intermediate that were definitely too hard form most students in this range. Still very good resource, though.

4.Thumb snapshot 纽约时报中文网 国际纵览 (New York Times, Chinese)
(advanced, submitted by me, vote/comment)

This is the Chinese website of the New York Times. It obviously contains large amounts of reading material about current issues as well as other things. The articles are available in both Chinese and English, and there is even an option to turn on parallel reading (Chinese on one side, English on the other). I can think of few better ways of easing yourself into reading Chinese news! Try using a pop-up dictionary like Pera pera as well.

5. Thumb snapshot Chinese Text Project (classical Chinese)
(advanced, submitted by me, vote/comment)

The Chinese Text Project is a web-based e-text system designed to present ancient Chinese texts, particularly those relating to Chinese philosophy, in a well-structured and properly cross-referenced manner, making the most of the electronic medium to aid in the study and understanding of these texts. Note: I realise that this might not be the best resource for an extensive reading challenge, but it’s still a great reading resource!

6.Thumb snapshot Chengyu stories, chinese idioms – Chinese-Tools.com
(beginner, intermediate, submitted by me, vote/comment)

Chinese Idioms or Chengyu are short sayings usually consisting of four characters. Unless you know the story and its common usage, a Chengyu will sound like random nonsense. Here are some Chengyu stories, as taught to chinese students, with pinyin and chinese annotation.

7.Thumb snapshot 好讀 (E-books in traditional Chinese)
(advanced, submitted by me, vote/comment)

This site contains a huge amount of e-books in traditional Chinese. My guess is that downloading and reading them without having the original text might be illegal, but even so, it’s often great to have an electronic version of a book you’re reading in print. This allows you to find passages by searching, copying words and sentences into your SRS and so on. There are also some audio books here (recorded by amateurs, mostly).

 8.Thumb snapshot ChineseLevel – Test your Chinese level, improve your reading, measure your progress
(beginner, intermediate, advanced, submitted by me, vote/comment)

This is a really cool website that assesses your reading ability and then offers reading suggestions based on your estimated vocabulary knowledge. I haven’t used this enough to figure out how accurate it is, so if anyone has used this more than a few times, it would be great to hear what you think about it!

9.Thumb snapshot 煎蛋:地球上没有新鲜事
(intermediate, advanced, submitted by me, vote/comment)

This website contains a lot of short and easy-to-access articles about science and technology related articles (although they are usually very lightweight, you don’t need to actually be a professional to understand this). There are lots of sections on this site and I want to point to one in particular (apart from the front page). 小学堂 explains different science-related questions, such as how do scientists deduce the age of planets, where does the water on Earth come from and why is spicy food spicy?

10.Thumb snapshot 中文阅读天地 (University of Iowa)
(beginner, intermediate, advanced, submitted by me)

This site contains a huge number of lessons, complete with texts, vocabulary, audio, exercises and much more. And it’s all free. Note that if you want to get the intermediate and advanced material, you need to click the appropriate link in the top navigation (it wasn’t possible to link to a main page or portal of some kind, doesn’t seem to be one there).

Conclusion

There’s a lot of great reading material out there, all free. As I mentioned, though, some of the greatest reading material, especially for beginners, isn’t free (textbooks and grader readers). For suggestions, check the article from last week.

If you have suggestions for other reading resources, please share in the comments! Please include whom the resource is for and a brief introduction so I can share it on Hacking Chinese Resources. Later this week, I’ll post an article about how to increase the time you have available for reading, stay tuned!

The 10 best free listening resource collections for learning Chinese

I think listening ability is the most important skill. Good listening ability accelerates your learning and will have a positive effect on other areas in a way that isn’t true for any of any of the other skills.

This is why I’m currently running a listening challenge that will last until October 31st, read more here!

As I have argued elsewhere, improving listening ability is mostly a matter of practice; you need to listen a lot. In this article, I want to suggest some resources to make that easier.

What should you listen to? If you’re new to studying Chinese or don’t spend most of your time dealing with online learning resources, it might be hard to know where to look and you might just choose something at random.

What should you listen to?

I have now collected more than 260 resources for learning Chinese, all sorted and tagged for your convenience. In this article, I’m going to introduce the best free listening resource collections available. Here, “resource collection” means a site that offers a large number of episodes or shows, so each of these potentially offer hundreds or even thousands of hours of material!

This is what I did to generate this list (you can generate a similar list or get the full list by heading over to Hacking Chinese Resources yourself):

10 best free listening resource collections

Below, I have listed the best ranked resource collections, along with a direct link to the collection, a short introduction written by the person who submitted it and a link to the resource so you can vote/comment on it if you want to. If you have other resource collections, please submit them! If you need an invite, let me know!

Please note that some of these resources may have paid subscriptions, but I have made sure that a substantial and useful part of them is free. For instance, many of the podcasts have paid content, but they have to have free audio to be listed here. Also note that the ranking here only partly reflects my own opinion, most of the votes come from other members.

1. 锵锵三人行 (advanced, submitted by Zoe, vote/comment)

锵锵三人行 is my favourite TV program. It’s also one of the best ones for language learners, mostly because of its focus on talking, availability of transcripts and variety of both guests and topics. This should be a key component of any immersion effort, but you probably need to be upper intermediate or above to benefit. This show has been aired every weekday for decades! 我爱窦文涛!

2. Viooz (advanced, submitted by Julien Leyre, vote/comment)

What funner way to practice listening than watch a good movie? Ok, I can think of a few, but admit it’s right there towards the top of the list. This link has a wide range of movies, from Chinese classics to recent releases, available through free streaming, in Mandarin, and with subtitles. Enjoy!

3. 慢速中文 Slow Chinese (intermediate/advanced, submitted by me, vote/comment)

A great resource collections with over 100 episodes, all with transcripts. The audio is, as the name implies, rather slow, which makes it more accessible than more rapid, native content. The episodes themselves are quite interesting since they deal with cultural topics and you will learn more than just language from listening to Slow Chinese. I haven’t used this podcast a lot myself, but what I have seen is pretty good.

4. Popup Chinese (beginner/intermediate/advanced, submitted by me, vote/comment)

Popup Chinese has a huge library of lessons for different levels and most of it is available for free (although you need to sign up). There are also vocabulary notes and so on, but I consider the actual audio the main point. Overall a very good podcast!

5. CSLPOD (beginner/intermediate/advanced), submitted by me, vote/comment)

CSLPOD offers a large library of audio for all levels and the audio is available for free (you can subscribe for some other services, such as vocabulary explanations, sentence drilling and some exercises, but I consider the free audio the most important resource. One important feature is that when the audio is played, the appropriate portion of the text is highlighted, making it a lot easier to follow. There’s also a translation freely available for each podcast. Overall a good listening resource!

6. 悦读FM – 倾听文字的声音 (advanced, submitted by me, vote/comment)

I just found this site and it looks great. It offers a large collection of articles read aloud, with subtitles. They are all pretty short, meaning that they are suitable for intensive study as well as extensive learning (just keep a bunch on your phone).

7. PPS TV player (intermediate/advanced, submitted by kdgbalmer, vote/comment)

PPS.tv is an online source of Chinese TV episodes and films. Great for finding input content to improve comprehension and listening ability.

Nearly all of the Chinese shows have Chinese subs as standard. There are also a large number of Western shows/films so if you want to watch something you already know the story of but with Chinese subs/dubs this might be helpful.

On the front page there’s a link to download the PPS Player. This desktop application makes it much easier to navigate their huge library of content. Apps are also available for Android and iOS.

If looking for more basic content check out the animations in the 我的小儿卡通 section。喜羊羊与灰太狼 is one of the more accessible shows – it’s also one of the relatively few homegrown Chinese shows (rather than Japanese).

Important: PPS is region locked to China so if you are outside China you’ll need to VPN into China! There are also unlocking apps available on Android.

8. Melnyks Podcast/Audio Course (beginner/intermediate, submitted by me, vote/comment)

This website offers theme-based, progressive and easy online lessons. Audio course with full PDF transcripts, worksheets, mobile apps, videos and more. From what I can see, the first 100 lessons are for free, but you need a subscription after that. I tried two episodes (1 and 100) and they are pretty good. The major benefit with this podcast compared with others is that it’s progressive, meaning that each lesson build on the other, it’s not just random lessons put on the same page.

9. Skeptoid: 民间神话背后的科学根據 (advanced, submitted by me, vote/comment)

This is the Chinese version of the popular Skeptoid.com podcast that deals with urban legends and myths from a scientific perspective. The Chinese version is well-produced and the content is translated and presented in a praiseworthy manner. The content is fairly difficult and will be too hard for anyone below an advanced level. Skeptoid Chinese combines interesting material with good language, a very rare combination indeed!

10. Chinese online short story collection (intermediate/advanced, submitted by me, comment/vote)

This is a great repository of short stories for beginner and intermediate learners. Some of them also have audio and all have translations to English and word lists! I would be a bit careful with trusting their difficulty ratings, though, I checked some stories that were meant to be beginner-intermediate that were definitely too hard form most students in this range. Still very good resource, though.

More resources

I intend to keep posting summaries like this one to highlight the great resources we have collected on Hacking Chinese Resources. Don’t forget that you can make more specific searches on your own! If you don’t want advanced resources, try checking listening resource collections suitable for beginners!

Launching Hacking Chinese Resources

Wouldn’t it be great if there was a place where you could find Chinese learning resources, blogs, tools and apps, all suitable to your level and preferences? I think that sounds great, so I today I’m proud to announce the launch of a new section of the site, simply called Hacking Chinese Resources.

weblogobanner21-short7-resources

The idea is very straightforward: You select what kind of resources you’re interested in and the site will generate a list of most popular resources that match your criteria. Below, I have provided a brief demo:

Chinese learning resources at your fingertips

Here are the ways in which you define what type of resource you’re looking for (you don’t have to care about all of them):

  1. What’s your proficiency level? (e.g. beginner, intermediate, advance)
  2. What topic are you interested in? (e.g. listening, speaking, vocabulary)
  3. What type of resource do you want to find? (see below)

The site is very broad in scope and includes five main types of resources:

  1. Information and advice (Hacking Chinese would show up here)
  2. Resource collections (where you can find collections of videos, articles, etc.)
  3. Resource highlights (particular videos, articles, etc. that are very good)
  4. Tools and apps (games, dictionaries and other apps and tools)
  5. Social learning (forums, language exchange, chatting and similar)

Here are some examples of how Hacking Chinese Resources can be used:

  1. You are a beginner who wants to learn vocabulary and want to find tools and apps that can help you achieve this. There are currently 15 resources matching your request.
  2. You are an intermediate learner who wants to find listening material suitable for you level. You can check either resource collections or resource highlights. The first tag is for sites that collect lots of material and the second is for individual files, clips, videos and so on.
  3. You are an advanced learner who wants to improve your speaking ability (pronunciation, perhaps), but you’re not sure how to go about it. The information and advice category is for you!
  4. You want to find Pinyin-related resources. You simply search forPinyin and find 16 resources that matches your query.

If you want to get updates on Twitter, I have set up a new account that posts new update regularly: @ChineseLinks.

Think this sounds cool? Want to participate?

Hacking Chinese Resources is run on an invite-only basis at the moment, so even if everybody can use the site like I have described above, you need to be invited if you want to post resources, discuss or vote. The reason is that I want to expand this section gradually and deal with potential problems as they appear. If you want to join the fun, please leave a comment to this post and tell me why you want to be invited (don’t forget to fill in your e-mail address).

hcrWhy Hacking Chinese Resources?

The motivation to create this section of Hacking Chinese sprung from a genuine need. Even though there are many sites where you can share learning resources, they are all mostly focused on the short term, usually in the form of discussion forums, social news sites or feed aggregators. I will continue using these sites myself and my aim is not to supplant them. Indeed, you can find all of them listed as resources already.

Even though Hacking Chinese Resources have similar functions, that’s not the main point. Instead, a carefully thought-out tag structure, filters and a search function are intended to create a permanent archive of useful resources that are easy to find whenever they are needed.

Still under development

Hacking Chinese Resources is still under development, but most things should work relatively well. If you have comments or feedback of any kind, you can just leave a comment here or contact me in any other way.Also, I don’t know about all cool resources out there, I need your help! If you want to participate in this project, contact me in some way and tell me why you want to join. I also need your e-mail address. If you want to read more about the tag structure, please check this document.

The future

Hacking Chinese Resources is still under development. There are lots of problems we know about that we want to fix in the near future, but please report any bugs or other things you would like to see on the site. When I say “we”, I mean myself and Stefan Wienert, who has helped me with the coding and is also hosting the new section (read more about the design process on his blog). I’m also grateful to Julien Leyre, who offered invaluable feedback on the tag structure, as well as to all the people on the Hacking Chinese feedback list who helped me with the site before today’s release.

I hope Hacking Chinese Resources can be a valuable asset to students and teachers of Chinese all over the world. In order to make that come true, I need your help. If you don’t want to participate yourself, then at least help me spread the word by sharing this article or Hacking Chinese Resources on social media or telling your friends about it!