Chinese Language Learning – Books, webnovels, tools and methods I’ve used from intermediate to advanced


**Previous post**

* [From intermediate to native webnovels in 18 months](
* [I reached 3,000 unique character knowledge by reading children’s books and danmei](

Today, I’ll like to share with you my study methods, all the **books and webnovels I’ve read and** **tools I’ve used** since I started reading native content 24 months ago. In these 24 months, I’ve moved from **intermediate to advanced** in reading and listening. It wasn’t an easy journey, especially the first 9-10 months, but definitely well worthwhile. You can check out my previous posts for more details on my journey.

**Note:** In this post, I’m only going to mainly focus on reading but will cover listening very lightly. It should be noted that **reading alone doesn’t improve speaking, listening or writing skills**. These other skills should also be practised in addition to reading if you want to improve them. However, reading will increase your vocabulary pool, aiding in other areas.

# Some stats

I don’t keep an active record of any numbers or data but I know data does help learners put things into perspective so I will try to provide some somewhat accurate data.

In these last 24 months, I’ve **read over 30 books (roughly 6 million characters),** and have done over 100k flashcard reviews using Pleco’s SRS Flashcard addon.

I don’t have an accurate way of estimating how many words and characters I know, but I have used a few online tools to try to get a rough estimate.

Bare in mind that **grammar and sentence structure plays a huge part in comprehension and understanding**, and it isn’t solely reliant on character knowledge.

[HSK Level]( gave me the following result. I did their test three times and achieved similar results.

[Hanzishan]( gave me the following result. I did their test three times and achieved similar results.


Based on the books I read, I can roughly predict how many characters I know. Books under 3,000 unique characters generally don’t pose any problems for me at all, and dictionary look-ups are sparse in these unless it contains themes and topics I’m not yet familiar with. Books that are over 3,200 unique characters can sometimes be a challenge and I do usually find myself looking up more words than books with fewer unique characters.

With this information, **I can roughly estimate that I know around 3,000-3,200 characters**.


## My study methods

## Reading

When it comes to reading, it’s really simple, I don’t do any unknown word extraction or pre-learning, I simply open the book and start reading with the aid of some dictionary tool. Throughout different stages of my journey, I used different tools and platforms to aid my reading. Although the tools changed, my method generally stayed the same throughout.

Each day, my routine looks like this (I still do this today!):

* Review my flashcards using Pleco’s SRS addon
* Read a chapter or a few, and note down some of the unknown words
* Groom through the list of unknown words, and pick out a few to add to my review deck
* In the evening, I’ll run through a review of these newly added words

When I first started reading native books and webnovels, I relied heavily on a pop-up dictionary (i.e. Readibu and Zhongwen). I needed to look up many words that a pop-up dictionary made this experience much easier.

After 20 months of reading, I dropped the pop-up dictionary clutch and moved on to reading directly on Chinese native platforms using my Android eReader (Boox Leaf). Now, I use mainly Google Lens’s OCR functionary on my phone to look up and extract words to Pleco.

## Listening

It’s pretty common knowledge that listening is a great way to acquire and retain vocabulary. It’s also key to improving many aspects related to reading, particularly for subvocalisers (those that have a voice in their head that reads aloud the text), like myself. The more times a word or phrase is heard, the faster my brain will bring it to the forefront.

I worked on my listening from the very beginning by first consuming content for learners, then native Chinese media. It was a win-win situation as it improved my reading speed and my listening ability.

During my most intensive study period, I made sure I did **active** and **passive listening practice** every day.

For **active listening** practice, where I focus intensively on the material and look up the meaning of every unknown word and phase, I used material that was the right level for me. For this, I used the following materials in roughly the following order:

* Content for learners and young children: Little Fox Chinese, 《小猪佩奇》, 《喜羊羊与灰太狼》and 《樱桃小丸子》
* Re-watching episodes from TV shows that I enjoyed such as 《穿越火线》,《赘婿》
* Listen to an audiobook of a book I have already read and follow along with the transcript.
* Listen to the TTS on 微信读书 while following along with the text of a brand new book
* Listen to a human audiobook on 微信读书 while following along with the text of a brand new book
* Listen to audiobooks and audiodramas without any subtitles or transcripts.

**Passive listening** is where I just consume the content with/without English subtitles, simply enjoy the content and not worry about whether I understood every single word. *Disclaimer: I do love Chinese tv shows, so it does make this task quite easy*.

I can’t really tell you exactly when, but somewhere after 18-20 months things just click and fall into place. One day, I turned off English subtitles and noticed I understood enough of what was going on and from that day on, I never turned on English subtitles again.

## Speaking and writing

These two aspects, I’ve actually been neglecting.

The only “speaking” I do regularly is when I say the words out loud during my daily flashcard review. There was a period when I did shadowing every day, but, honestly, my speaking is absolutely terrible.

In terms of writing, occasionally I use Chinese to chat with a few friends online but that’s about it really. I’ve written some short stories in the past, but I’ll probably fail a written Chinese exam!

I have little use for these two skills. It requires a lot of effort and time to go out there and look for language exchange partners and people to talk to, I just don’t have the time for it.


# Tools I’ve used

**Pleco with Basic Package addon & SRS Flashcard**

Pleco is a Chinese utility tool, it includes features like dictionaries and basic flashcard practice. I purchased the Basic Package addon when I started learning Chinese because I wanted the additional dictionary entries, native audio and SRS flashcard feature.

I use this app every single day to review my flashcards and look up words in the dictionary. I imagine I’ll use this for many more years to come.


Readibu is a mobile app that extracts text from a webpage and overlays it with helpful features for learners like a Chinese > English pop-up dictionary and translation.

During the period when I needed the help of a pop-up dictionary, I used this tool every day religiously to help me read novels. I don’t use this anymore now, but back then, without this, I don’t know how I would have managed to read so many books.


Zhongwen is a Google Chrome Chinese > English pop-up dictionary extension. When I’m browsing Chinese websites, this is super useful for looking up words quickly.

There are many different other pop-up dictionaries for various browsers with many more features, however, for me, I just need something basic with my browser.

**Google Lens mobile app**

Google Lens is a recent new love of mine. It’s essentially an OCR and smart image search. The OCR is amazing, and by far better than the one on Pleco, it even picks up fancy script fonts!

I use this tool to help me quickly extract words into a digital format when reading. The search results can be a hit or miss, so often I would use the copy feature to copy and paste it into Pleco for a better explanation of the unknown word.

**Boox Leaf**

Boox is a brand of Android eReaders, and I have the recent Leaf model. I’ve been an Amazon Kindle Paperwhite user for many years and absolutely love the paper-like experience. Nothing beats being able to use Chinese eBook platforms on a paper-like screen.

I haven’t used this to read epubs or other document types yet as I am currently reading webnovels directly using the webnovel app but I’ve heard from others that the in-built dictionaries and features for Chinese are very good.

**Media platform**

I’ve used and am still using various platforms for my daily media consumption. I won’t mention them all, but are some of my favourites 晋江文学城, 长佩文学,微信读书,猫耳FM, 哔哩哔哩,Youtube & Netflix.

# Books I’ve read

I’ve divided them all up into categories and difficulty levels. I have roughly ordered them by difficulty, the top ones being the easiest and the bottom ones being the hardest.

*Note: the difficulty level may not match what you perceive them to be but it’s just to give you an idea.*

You can find further information for most of these books on [Heavenly Path](

## Children’s and young adult (儿童少年):


* 秃秃大王 by 张天翼
* 大林和小林 by 张天翼
* 下次开船港 by 严文井
* 舒克和贝塔历险记 by 郑渊洁
* 小布头奇遇记 by 孙幼军
* 小布头新奇遇记 by 孙幼军
* 没有风的扇子 by 孙幼军
* 我的狼妈妈 by 徐玲
* 我的狐狸妹妹 by 徐玲

**Upper Intermediate**

* 笑猫日记 (book 1-6) by 杨红樱
* 幻想大王 (book 1-4) by 杨鹏
* 梦幻小公主 (book 1 & 2) by 玖金

## Danmei (耽美)


* 做树真的好难 by 喝豆奶的狼
* 狐狸尾巴露出来了 by 姜难吃
* 我男朋友好像有病 by 一只大雁
* 当你走进图书馆而书里夹了一枚书签 by 晚秋初十
* 包养 by 木更木更

**Upper Intermediate**

* 婚后热恋 by 一个米饼
* 杀手他失业了 by 白露未霜
* Python入门指南 by 许半仙
* 终身赠礼 by matthia
* 魔教卧底每天都在露馅 by 吕天逸
* 社交温度 by 卡比丘
* 我家又不是神奇生物养殖场!by 唇亡齿寒0
* 他们都说我遇到了未知生物 by 青色羽翼
* 撒野 by 巫哲
* 带着小卖部去古代 by 叶忆落 (dropped around 50%)
* 你是不是喜欢我 by 吕天逸
* 漂亮朋友 by 卡比丘
* 彩虹琥珀 by 木更木更
* 纯真丑闻 by 卡比丘 (currently reading)
* 重生之极品皇子妃 by 叶忆落
* 雪豹喜欢咬尾巴 by 木三观


* 白日事故 by 高台树色 (temporarily paused)
* 青梅屿 by 回南雀
* 幻想农场 by 西子绪
* 地球人的小商铺 by 醉饮长歌
* 镇魂 by priest (temporarily paused)

## Others (其他)


**Upper Intermediate**

* 微微一笑很倾城 by 顾漫
* 何以笙簫默 by 顾漫
* 公主想做龙骑士 by 酥酒
* *我在冷宫忙种田 by* 红翡 *(on-going so still reading this regularly)*


## Conclusion

The type of content I can easily consume is heavily based on what I’ve consumed so far. I can’t say whether 3,000 Chinese character knowledge is enough to consume everything, but it’s definitely enough as a foundation to start branding out further.

At this stage, I rarely need to use a dictionary for modern settings, school & campus life, slice-of-life, low fantasy and romance novels. Novels that are heavy on a specific theme that I’m not yet familiar with, still require many dictionary lookups.

I don’t have any particular plans besides keep reading more varied content. I want to broaden my passive vocabulary so I can read a larger range of content particularly those with high fantasy and historical settings.

## FAQ

**Where do you buy these books?**

I read all my books digitally, so I use various websites and Chinese eBook and webnovel services. During the period when I needed help often with a pop-up dictionary, I looked for a website version, *that was compatible with Readibu or Zhongwen*, of these books. Note: sometimes these websites are not legal versions, often with sentences removed, and words/characters replaced with another one to avoid copyrights. I recommend going for the legal path if possible, as the quality is much better!

Now that I don’t need the help of a pop-up dictionary, I purchase directly from an official publisher’s platform and read it using their Android app on my eReader (Boox Leaf). I would like to emphasise that digital versions of eBooks and webnovels from Chinese official platforms are **extremely cheap**. ****For example, 开端 by 祈祷君 is roughly 380 pages (~260k total characters) and costs only $0.80 to buy from 晋江文学城. **I encourage you all to support the authors when possible!**

My current favourite eBook and webnovel platforms are 晋江文学城,长佩文学 and 微信读书. These platforms also have a good range of free content.

**How did you find these books as I’ve never heard of them?**

Many of the books were recommended to me by friends, and the rest I discovered through various means.

Searching on Baidu or Google using terms like 短篇小说推荐,最近言情推荐,古代小说推荐,奇幻小说推荐 is how I started discovering more native content. Using these search terms I found many blogs and book lists of books that I have an interest in. I particularly like [我可太萌惹]( and [胖鱼小说酱]( on 知乎, they both have many lists of various different book recommendations.

Another great place to look is from within the eBook and webnovel platform. The platforms often provide rankings and recommendations, as well as book lists created manually by other users. My current favourite book list is one on 长佩文学 called 100本免费又好看的文 (who doesn’t love free books!). Quite a few of the free books I’ve read were discovered from that list.

A new recent way I love to discover new books and webnovels is by getting cover and art baited. “*Don’t judge a book by its cover*” – well, I do judge! Look at these pretty banners for the audiodrama adaptations, how could you not be drawn into it?

I love adaptation art so much that I have a notion page with my current artbait collection: [](

As always, please share your experience as I’ll love to hear it. Ask any questions below and I’ll try my best to answer them.

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