When it comes to the best books to learn Chinese, you have many options to choose from. After all, Chinese books for beginners are just as common as for advanced learners which is why there are so many textbooks and workbooks to choose from.
You don’t need a Chinese bookstore to find a good book for learning Chinese, especially if you want to learn Chinese for beginners, because most of these books can be ordered on Amazon or even found in PDF format. To help you choose the best Chinese textbook, here are the top five Chinese language learning books.
#1 Fundamentals of Chinese Characters (From Yale University Press) 汉字基础 印京华
The first thing you should do when getting started with this language is begin by learning Chinese characters. It might seem overwhelming at first because there are thousands of Chinese characters (over 50 thousand in total, though an average educated Chinese person will know around 8 thousand and you only need to know around 2-3 thousand to be able to read a newspaper). But once you get the hang of it, you will make progress faster.
Luckily, there is a perfect book for learning Chinese characters and it is “Fundamentals of Chinese Characters” from Yale University Press. It is most suitable for beginners, though some experienced learners can find it useful too. It helps you get all the necessary basics and build a foundation for further studies. In addition to that, it is one of the most comprehensive books for learning Chinese which makes it almost a perfect choice for any beginner.
#2 New Practical Chinese Reader (By Liu Xun) 新实用汉语课本 Vol. 1-6
If you are looking for Chinese language learning books that will guide on a journey from one level to another, “New Practical Chinese Reader” is for you. Originally published as “Practical Chinese Reader”, it has since been revised and published over and over again in different editions. All of them are good, but the safest way is obviously to buy the latest edition as it has the least number of errors and the most up-to-date information.
What’s great about the “New Practical Chinese Reader” is that it comes in volumes. You can either purchase these volumes separately or together. The first four volumes are aimed at beginners while the last two volumes are aimed at intermediate learners. This means that if you start with the first volume and go through each volume getting to the last one, you will go from a zero to an intermediate level which is probably the most controlled way to study.
#3 Modern Mandarin Chinese Grammar: A Practical Guide (From Modern Grammars)
An important part of any language – and Chinese is just like any other language – is grammar. Even if you memorize thousands of Chinese characters and know hundreds of words, you will only be able to excel when you know the grammar to start using all these words in logical sentences. Fortunately, “Modern Mandarin Chinese Grammar: A Practical Guide” from Modern Grammars is the perfect book for studying Chinese grammar.
As the name suggests, this textbook focuses on practical methods of learning which means you will be learning information and then applying it to memorize it better. If you aren’t sure whether this book is worth it, you can hire a professional writer from a writing services reviews site like Writing Judge who will do the research and confirm that this is one of the best books for learning Chinese and, in particular, for learning Chinese grammar.
#4 Colloquial Chinese (By Kan Qian)
If you are learning Chinese by yourself, you might encounter the same problem that millions of other language learners have to face. The issue is that when you don’t live in the necessary language environment and don’t practice the language regularly, you might not be able to understand native speakers. Moreover, many languages have tons of differences between their official or formal forms and their day-to-day forms.
For example, 土 (TǓ) means “soil” or “dirt” (or, when used as an adjective, “outdated”), but this slang word is mostly used similarly to the American “basic”. Chinese is no different which is why having a book like “Colloquial Chinese” is a must. The book provides you with hundreds of the most basic phrases used by modern Mandarin Chinese speakers in day-to-day conversations helping you get prepared for interactions with regular native speakers.
#5 Oxford Beginner’s Chinese Dictionary
Last but not least, a dictionary or thesaurus is an absolute must-have when you are learning a language. After all, this is the best way to check a word when you are not sure of the spelling or when you simply want to learn words one after the other to enlarge your vocabulary.
One of the most popular dictionaries for Chinese is “Oxford Beginner’s Chinese Dictionary” which is also considered to be one of the most comprehensive Chinese dictionaries currently available. Just like all the Oxford dictionaries, it has accurate translations and spellings which is why you can be sure that what you learn has no mistakes.
All in all, learning Chinese as a beginner can be difficult at first, especially if you don’t know any similar languages already. But if you stay dedicated and work on your Chinese, you will be able to reach a good level with enough time and effort.