Learn to read Chinese

How to go from illiterate to being a Chinese reading master!

In How to by Angel Huang

This is a guest post by Ray Banks at Du Chinese 

So... you’re ready to make the jump? Maybe you’re just starting to learn Chinese or perhaps you have just been putting off learning characters. Maybe you’re an ABC that grew up speaking Chinese without learning to read it. Whatever the case, get ready for your step by step guide to becoming a Chinese reading master!

Step 1 - Learn Pinyin

There comes a point in your learning to read where pinyin can become more of a learning crutch than a learning tool - but this is not that point! If you don’t know how to read pinyin, take the time to learn it right. Even though it may look like English, pinyin has its own set of rules and you’ll want to really get them down. After you initially learn how to pronounce each letter in pinyin, remember to review a few of them each day. 

Here is a thorough guide to pinyin pronunciation with links to audio recordings

Step 2 - Memorize Your First Characters

Having a base of a few characters will help make your reading easier and more enjoyable. You’ll be amazed with how much you can read after learning just 100 characters. If you learned ten characters a day, you would be there after 10 days. Any characters you want to learn will help you progress towards becoming literate, but if you want to start reading quickly you should memorize the most common characters. One approach is to use HSK word lists. HSK is a standardized test for Chinese and the first level has 150 words.

Step 3 - Practice Extensive Reading 

This is it. This is the way that you really become a Chinese reading master. Studies have shown that the way you learn to read is by reading. The benefits of extensive reading include increased motivation, improved overall language competence, improved writing and improved vocabulary.

When it comes to Chinese, this can seem like a difficult task. You can’t always rely on pinyin, but if you see a character you don’t recognize...how are you supposed to read it?! That’s why we created Du Chinese, an app for practicing Chinese reading. You can read according to your level and get help when you need it through pinyin, audio and translations. 

Step 4 - Enjoy Being a Total Boss

Congratulations! You’ll be able to read Chinese! That is really incredible. It looks complicated and difficult to most people, but you’ll have cracked the code. Just like any language there will always be more to learn but you can do it.

As you’re going along you might hit some plateaus. Try mixing things up to keep yourself motivated. Read things that interest you. Study flashcards around a topic and then find things to read that will give you the chance to practice those characters.

加油! Jiā yóu!

You got this!

Written by Ray Banks at Du Chinese