Our Best Kept Secrets to Learning Fluent Chinese

I get asked all the time by my students the same question: What books are really gonna help me get ahead in Chinese? There are many, many Mandarin Chinese textbooks out there. It can be a gamble to choose which one is going to be best for you. My teachers and I all put our heads together to figure out which ones we recommend to our students, and why. Read the following list to find out which Chinese textbooks suit your level and proficiency best!

1. Recommended HSK Test Textbook:

• HSK标准教程 (HSK Biāozhǔn jiàochéng) (1-9) HSK Standard Course

HSK 3 quiz

Audience: This book is for people who are preparing for the HSK test. It’s best suited for beginners, intermediate level learners and even advanced learners.
Level 1-Level 2: elementary
Level 3-Level 4: intermediate
Level 5-Level 6: advanced
Highlights: It is a complete resource, full of vocabulary, grammar and texts, which is good for laying a solid foundation of Chinese.

2. Recommended Business Chinese Textbooks:

• 新世纪商用汉语初级会话 (Xīn shìjì shāngyòng hànyǔ chūjí huìhuà) Startup Business Chinese

HSK 3 quiz

Language: Chinese (characters with pinyin) and English.
Content: set an appointment, company talk, greetings…
Suitable for the beginners. This book will help you learn basic conversational Mandarin that is used in business situations. The grammar explanation of this book runs systematically and step by step.
• 经理人汉语生活篇 (Jīnglǐ rén hànyǔ shēnghuó piān) (2 volumes) Chinese for Managers
(everyday Chinese)

HSK 3 quiz

Language: Chinese (characters with pinyin) and English.
Content: work; office; weekend plan…
Suitable for beginners, especially for those who are engaged in business activities with China.
It also contains comprehensive exercises, e.g listening, reading, speaking and writing. Example sentences of this book are very practical for daily life situations as well. Some business culture is also gone over.
• 高级经贸汉语——今日经贸纵横 (Gāojí jīngmào hànyǔ—jīnrì jīngmào zònghéng) Economy and Commerce in a Changing China and the Changing World

HSK 3 quiz

Language: only Chinese (simplified and traditional characters)
Content: China Economics, Financial Cases, Globalization, Corporate Management.
Suitable for intermediate and advanced learners who know at least 3000 Chinese characters and excel at economics. This textbook also offers relevant exercises and has quite a few selected advanced Mandarin vocabulary.

3. Recommended Teen & Kids Mandarin Chinese Textbooks

• 《轻松学汉语少儿版》 (Qīngsōng xué hànyǔ shào’ér bǎn) (1-4) Chinese Made Easier for Kids

HSK 3 quiz

Language: Chinese (characters with pinyin) and English.
Content: animals; color; food…
Suitable for beginners to intermediate learners.
Advantages: A very attractive layout. Short sentences that are easy to understand.
Disadvantages: A word may be split up into single characters which can cause confusion and make the degree of understanding a bit higher.
• 《轻松学中文》 (Qīngsōng xué zhōngwén) (1-8) Easy steps to Chinese

HSK 3 quiz

Language: Chinese (characters with pinyin) and English.
Content: basic strokes; family members; occupation; numbers; dates…
Suitable for beginners to intermediate-level kids and teenagers. It covers a wide range of topics, some of which provokes thinking. However, it might be a little difficult to do the exercises of the first four books because they appear without pinyin, only characters.

4. Recommended Adult Chinese Textbooks:

• 《新实用汉语课本》 (Xīn shíyòng hànyǔ kèběn) (1-5) New Practical Chinese Reader Textbook

HSK 3 quiz

Language: Chinese (characters with pinyin only for new words) and English.
Content: greetings; country; family; country; restaurant…
Suitable for beginner learners to advanced-level learners. These textbooks will teach you Chinese step by step. They contain a nearly-complete system for understanding Chinese grammar, which can help you in understanding some particularly difficult grammar points. In Textbook 1, each new Chinese character is written out for you stroke by stroke. This is a very good way to remember those Chinese characters and practice writing Chinese. The series is useful for your daily life in China since they contain so many daily conversations common in China, for example:
你忙吗?(Nǐ máng ma?) Are you free now?

我会说一点儿汉语。 (Wǒ huì shuō yì dián ér hàn yǔ.) I speak a little Chinese.

Fourthly, it is a great choice if you are interested in Chinese culture. 
However, there are some disadvantages:
Some topics in the textbook series are not related to the language of daily life in modern society, such as the knowledge of traditional Chinese medicine. Students also will not find pinyin while learning Chinese grammar, starting from Textbook 2 and so on.
• 《中级汉语口语提高篇》 (Zhōngjí hànyǔ kǒuyǔ tígāo piān) Intermediate Spoken Chinese

HSK 3 quiz

Language: Chinese (characters with pinyin, except texts and exercises) and English.
Content: ordering food; festivals; family planning…
Suitable for intermediate-level or above, or someone who is equal to HSK5. The topic of this book is very useful in daily lives. Besides, some summarized notes are really good for improving spoken Chinese to help learner express in a more appropriate way.

5. Recommended FREE Mandarin Chinese Ebooks

10 Things You Must Know Before Learning Chinese
Uncovering the Secrets of China’s 10 Traditional Festivals
Most Popular Chinese Nursery Rhymes (Volume I)
Most Popular Chinese Nursery Rhymes (Volume Ⅱ)
Chinese New Year Traditions and Origin Stories
The Ultimate China Survival Guide
Top 10 Chinese Idioms with Origin Stories
20 Chinese Taboos You Should Never Try
Most Popular Chinese Tales with Animals
Chinese Business Etiquette
Most Popular Mandarin Chinese Words
You could download all these textbooks free via here.
Do you have any textbook recommendations for fellow Chinese language learners? We would love to hear them! Comment your preferred textbooks below with an explanation as to why you like them. And remember, when you are on the hunt for the best way to learn Chinese, you really can’t beat conversing with a native speaker!
(Except for Textbooks, You Can also Download This Chinese Input Method to Improve Your Language Practicing Skills.)

HSK 3 quiz

Amy: Jīntiān shàng de shì nǎ běn_____?
Amy: 今  天    上     的 是  哪  本_____?
Bob: Qīngsōng xué zhōngwén.
Bob: 《轻   松    学    中     文》。
A. 童话书 (Tónghuà shū)
B. 教材 (Jiàocái)
C. 本子 (Běnzi)

— Written by Jennifer Zhu —

Jennifer Zhu is a professional Chinese teacher from eChineseLearning. She has many years of Chinese language teaching experience and received her B.A. and M.A. in “Teaching Chinese as a Second Language”.
HSK Test
General Chinese (Beginner Level) 
General Chinese (Intermediate Level) 

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