Chinese Language Learning – After 18 months of reading native children’s books and webnovels

Due to the overwhelming interest of my previous post on my [18 months experience of reading children’s book and webnovels](, I thought I’ll do a follow up post. I posted this in several places and received many similar feedback and questions. So in this post, I’ll try to cover most of those questions and provide more information on certain aspects.

First off, let me start off with a quick summary of [the last post]( for those that missed the post from last week. After reaching intermediate, I started my reading journey by picking up children’s short stories and books. I read around 20 of these, which took me 9 months, before moving onto adult webnovels. I’ve been reading native work for around 18 months now.

Now onto some common questions that I got asked and some deeper more detailed reflection of my experience.

## How much time did you spend on reading and reviewing words each day?

The amount of time I spent each day changed over time.

When I first started with the children’s stories, I spent only 10-15mins each day reading one short story. During this time, I only added 5-10 words a day to my deck, so my daily review count was quite low. I can’t remember how long I spent on these, but I don’t think it was more than 15mins.

After I moved onto children’s books, I started to increase my reading time 30mins a day. Due to reading more, there were more new words to learn. I limited myself to a max of 20 new words on most days. That quickly racked up my daily review count. I remember spending 20-30mins most days on reviewing words.

Nowadays, my reading time varies, but it’s usually between 30mins-1hr, sometimes can go up to 3hrs if I’m in a bingeing mood. As for new words, I only add around 5-10 a day at max, which has massively reduced my daily review count.

## Were the children’s content useful?

I believe this is one of the aspect many people care about. Children’s content is by all means not the only way. However I do feel that, as of right now, books for children are a very good way for learners to bridge the gap between content for learners and adult novels, particularly for fiction lovers.

Just to show you what I mean, I’m going to use the very popular Mandarin Companion books as an example for content for learners. I’ve met a few learners who, after finishing all of Level 2 MC, were under the impression that they were ready for adult novels, only to be completely demoralised after struggling to read and understand the first paragraph.

Each Level 2 MC books contains around 450 unique characters and have around 10k-13k total characters. All MC level 2 books pull from the same pool of 450 characters, [more information here]( from the podcast by the creators of Mandarin Companion.

*DuChinese is slight more difficult than Mandarin Companion in terms of level. Their advanced lessons each contain around 450-600 unique characters. But the lacks the endurance practice that Mandarin Companion provides.*

Just to give you an idea of the gap, many modern, slice of life, romance Chinese novels (usually considered to be the easiest genre) will contain around 2,100 to 3,000 unique characters. Length wise will vary, but on average they’re contain 150k-250k characters in total. Just from these simple stats, you can already see the gap is huge. I haven’t even touched on other aspects like grammar and sentence structure.

In comparison, some original children’s books for very young children, such as 秃秃大王 by 张天翼, has around 1,000 – 1,500 unique characters and around 10k-20k characters in length, which although still a challenge, is it much more manageable than an adult novel.

All the children’s books I read were all generally very short, and I was able to finish one in 2-3 weeks. Finishing a book every 2-3 weeks was a massive motivator for me. Motivation is an extremely important important aspect when learning a new language.

## If you were to start today, would you still read children’s stories?

This is actually a difficult question to answer. Without experiencing it myself, I wouldn’t know if a different path would have worked. For me, the most important aspect wasn’t necessary the result, but the journey.

Reading those shorter children’s stories kept me motivated due to the shorter length, and the ease I read them with. I was able to keep up with reading children’s content without any breaks for 9 months before I jumped into some easier adult content. If it were other content, I really don’t know if I would have been as motivated.

For me, it worked, so in short, I probably would do it again.

However, I would suggest something a little different for those reading this and wondering how to start bridging that gap from graded readers to native novels. That would be to go through most of level 3 to 5 of Little Fox Chinese stories. As these are content created for learners, they purposely repeat certain vocabulary and grammar structure, making them more accessible than jumping straight into native content.

I did an analysis of all their Level 5 stories and found that, as of today, it contains around 2,500 unique characters. The writing style of the level 5 stories are quite similar to many children’s book, so it’s a perfect stepping stone.

## Did you make any mistakes?

For me personally, there weren’t any major mistakes or any parts where I felt I wasted a lot of time and gained nothing out of it.

However, I felt that I jumped into long webnovels a bit too early. At the time, I was really desperate to read something adult, and I decided to read this extremely long 1.2mill character webnovel. I don’t regret reading it, but it was just the wrong timing. I should have waited a bit longer, and tried a bit harder to search for shorter webnovels.

Luckily, members of [看剧学汉语 Discord]( and I have since found some shorter and easier [adult webnovels](, that are very approachable for someone with knowledge of the most common 1,800 characters.

## What about listening, speaking and writing skills?

I didn’t go into listening, speaking and writing in my previous post, but surprisingly I received many questions regarding this especially listening. It seems that many learners want to know if reading can help with other aspects of language learning.

In short, reading alone can’t improve your listening, speaking and writing skills if you don’t practice those as well. By reading, you will not magically be able to listen to an audiobook if you’ve never heard the words being spoken by a native, at a native speed.

**However, what reading will do is provide you with the vocabulary to aid in your listening, speaking and writing.**

If and when possible, you should try and practice all four skills at the same time. If this isn’t possible or that it’s too overwhelming, focusing on reading and listening first would be extremely beneficial. You can always practice speaking and writing afterwards. At the beginning, input over output!

## What’s your story?

I’m always interested in other people’s journey and stories. Please do comment below and tell me and everyone else about your journey!

If you are looking for great immersion material, don’t forget to checkout out Heavenly Path – []( We have lots of Chinese media recommendations, including information on all the children’s books and webnovels myself and other members of [看剧学汉语 Discord]( has read.

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