Back when I was in high school, about 9 years ago (what?!), I took 2 semesters of Chinese which put me slightly above old HSK 2. Up until a couple months ago, I had not touched the language. At the job I have been working at for the past couple years, I have been surrounded by Chinese people speaking Chinese, so I decided to get back into learning Chinese. I am now solidly HSK 3 and still going, so I wanted to write down all the resources I have been using in case it is useful for anyone else.
First, being surrounded by Chinese people all the time definitely improved my listening skills, even when I was not actively learning, so I definitely recommend listening to native content even early on. I understood maybe 2% of what they were saying, but hearing the occasional “你吃午饭了吗？“ definitely helps!
Second, because I learned some Chinese in high school, I was familiar with writing and stroke diagrams. I did not want to spend too much time writing, because when am I ever going to be hand writing notes? However, I realized after a bit that handwriting definitely helps you learn characters faster, so I started practicing writing once or twice a week. It’s certainly not pretty, but even just copying grammar lessons down or graded reader stories definitely helped me learn faster.
I jumped right into Hello Chinese, and I cannot recommend it more. I started with premium + right away, but if you are brand new to the language, you can definitely spend a bit of time with the free features first. Everyone knows the lessons are great, so I will not spend time talking about that. The native speaker videos are amazing, and the writing drills also helped me learn. Their brand new Chinese character course is very comprehensive.
In my opinion, they have some of the best graded reader content. They have a huge library of HSK 1 and 2 content, and HSK 3 is new and limited. However, in the time that I used the app, the HSK 3 library has grown a lot. Hello Chinese uses humor very well in their low level content, which makes trudging through all the characters really rewarding.
I do not regret spending the money for Premium+!
I still cannot decide if purchasing the Pleco Basic bundle was worth the investment. I use the flash card feature all the time, and they do have great spaced repetition. There are other flash card apps out there, and I cannot speak to them.
The Google translate app has better OCR, and Readibu has a free web reader that works just as well. Pleco’s dictionary is extremely comprehensive, and I can see how it will have great value later on in my Chinese studies. However, Dot’s dictionary is much easier to use and much less overwhelming at a lower level (see below).
If I am missing features and someone wants to correct me, please do so!
**DOT Languages -** graded reader
I strongly recommend DOT, regardless of your current level!
At the time, I was looking for a good graded reader. I was trying to decide between paying for DuChinese, and The Chairman’s Bao. I liked that TCB was more interactive than DuChinese, and was about to get it when I came across DOT Languages.
DOT is a completely **free** app, and the content is fantastic. The format for many of their stories (for HSK 3 at least) starts with a dialogue, and then launches into a monologue about some topic. This format is surprisingly helpful for learning. After reading each section, there is a vocabulary lesson where you learn the words in the passage. Most of them are for the HSK level you are at, but they do a great job or incorporating new, useful words above your HSK level or not HSK words as well.
This free app is extremely comprehensive, and also has a built in dictionary where you can look up words. Each entry shows similar words a breakdown of the characters, along with stroke diagrams. They have been working on unreleased premium content for a while, which will apparently give the app even more features. The app as it is now though is invaluable!
**Podcasts (MaoMi Chinese, Learn Chinese through Stories)**
I picked these two because they are on Spotify.
Learn Chinese through Stories is very good, and their content is broken down by HSK level. She goes through each story 3 times. The first time is very slow, with new words translated to English. The second time is also slow, but it’s all in Chinese. The third and final time is faster. This one is great for developing listening skills.
MaoMi Chinese has been very enjoyable to listen to. The content varies from “Louie the Cat’s daily routine,” to interviews with English speakers who also learned Chinese as a second language, to cultural phenomena. I have found the content very engaging, and feel like it prepares me more for real life interactions.
**Youtube – Mandarin Corner**
Personally, I just do not enjoy watching videos much, but Mandarin Corner stands out with its engaging content. For example, there is one where she walks around Hong Kong and talks about everything in the city from the perspective of a tourist. She interviews shop keepers at Chinese wet markets, and talks about fruits, vegetables, and meat with them, and we get to see her haggle prices down. Overall, I found this content most enjoyable for Youtube.
**Writing – LangCorrect**
LangCorrect is a platform where you can write in your target language, and other people who are fluent in that language will correct you. You can also reciprocate by correcting other people’s entries in English. Writing is essential for language learning, as it helps you choose words, practice grammar, and convey ideas effectively. While writing these passages, I found DOT’s dictionary more useful for looking up words than Pleco.
Where I am now – I am finally starting my first Cdrama, The Long Season. I still have the English subtitles on now, but I am hoping that will change over time. I really want to get into reading Chinese classics, but I am going to spend a bit more time learning new characters on graded readers first.
I hope this list proves helpful to others. If you have recommendations for my journey beyond HSK 3, I’d love to hear them as well!