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What's a good textbook for a beginner to start off with in Mandarin Chinese

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I intend to seriously study Chinese (Mandarin) over the summer. Perhaps even multiple hours a day, and I think a textbook might be useful for drilling grammar and practicing sentences. All I have right now is duolingo

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There is no "best" book, but if you're looking for recommendations, I liked this one. I recommend the companion workbook too.


If possible, I would recommend you get a tutor as well. You can hire a teacher in China over Skype/Zoom/whatever for relatively cheap, and even if you only had 1 class every 2 weeks it would help keep you on track at the beginning with things like pronunciation. It's not essential though, so don't let that put you off if you decide against it.


@Forum regulars do we have an FAQ or something for people in this situation? Beginners looking for recommendations, I mean.

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There are many different kinds of textbooks available in the market. For most learners I know, they use HSK Standard Course/《HSK标准教程》or Road to Success/《成功之路》. The first one is designed based on the HSK Test Frame, so if you have the desire to attend the HSK exam one day, you may start with this. Also there are many exercises or tests resource available on internet for it. Road to Success is believed more practical and the whole series has been sorted carefully into different levels. As for the beginner, I do suggest you start with experienced tutor. I have two students who are in level 4 and 5. They started by themselves but looked for tutor after they finishing the level 4. Frankly, they can understand a lot from written contents, however, their communication skill or listening is only at level 3 more or less. And the difficult part is that they always mother-tongue thinking way to express or write sentences, which also creates obstacles when we proceed lessons of intermediate levels. However, based on my observation, this situation is less if the students start with tutor from beginning and raise the habit or get used to the Chinese grammar. It is my personal opinion. Hope it will be helpful! 

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3 hours ago, NanJingDongLu said:

do we have an FAQ


We seem to be deliberately FAQ-less. There's a search box at the top right-hand side of the page that you can use to find answers to similar questions.


It's definitely worth having a teacher when you start out, otherwise you could develop some bad habits with pronunciation. Check out italki.com, where you can browse teachers' ratings and qualifications, then arrange to have your lesson on Skype, Zoom, WeChat or whatever.  There are many well-qualified native-speaker Chinese teachers there, some of them in timezones other than GMT+8 which may be more useful depending on where you are in the world.

There are also lots of helpful videos on youtube... search for youtube here to find a couple of lists of recommended channels. Youtube can't help you fix pronunciation errors of course.

Chinese Grammar Wiki is a useful reference that many of us use, and they also have a pronunciation wiki these days too. 

Welcome to the forums @ian.harris1!



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On 6/2/2021 at 4:05 AM, ian.harris1 said:

All I have right now is duolingo


If you're just getting started I would recommend:

  • Pleco Chinese dictionary phone app (everyone uses this; free version is useful but there are many really great add-ons)
  • The WeChat phone app can scan, OCR and translate Chinese text as well as translating between English and Chinese in chats (even if you don't use if for anything else)
  • ZhongWen plugin for the Chrome browser — pop-up dictionary definitions. 

Again, there are a few threads on here listing useful software. 

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