Learning Mandarin


I’ve been learning Mandarin for about six years now. Over time it has become my hobby, passion, obsession, source of endless frustration with the most rewarding outcome I’ve ever experienced.

My study methods vary; this keeps me interested and engaged. I started out with evening classes at UVIC’s Continuing Education program. ChinesePod was my main resource for quite a while afterwards. Then I discovered the winning combination of travel & study using one-on-one classes which brought me to Kunming’s Keats School three times (2 months total) and to Guilin’s Chinese Language Institute (CLI) twice (also 2 months total). Lately I enjoy watching all kinds of Chinese TV series, have subscribed to The Chairman’s Bao, listen to podcasts and read the transcripts at Slow Chinese. On WeChat, I communicate with my friends mainly in Chinese, and I love my (bi)weekly language exchange sessions with Eric where he speaks English and I speak Chinese. Of course, my all-time favorite study method is traveling to China and being part of everyday life.

Below are some resources that I currently find very helpful. It’s just a short personal list; there are many comprehensive lists out there on other sites.

Dictionaries and translation tools

  • Couldn’t do without Hanping Pro on my Android smartphone. I also have the more popular Pleco installed but I rarely use it.
  • #1 on my PC is MDBG. While activated I can point or highlight Chinese text and it pops up the corresponding dictionary entry.
  • So much in Mandarin depends on context, and that’s where dictionaries often reach a limit. For verification, I prefer Baidu Translate over Google Translate because it comes with plenty of example sentences.
  • ChinesePod’s glossary is another great resource for examples.


  • Chinese Forums cover a very wide range of topics and have a large and very active group of followers. Around since 2003.

Language schools in China

Podcast and reading material

Text books

TV series

For learning purposes, I still prefer TV series (电视剧) over movies because they give me time to slowly get to know the characters and the overall story. Family and love stories also usually provide a lot of cultural and life style background.

On Android devices, search Google Play for Youku and install the app or just use a web browser.


Hold on… and forget about my approach and investment in schools, textbooks, and subscriptions. I’m still far far away from understanding 65% and I spent a lot more than 10 hours and $19. But maybe that’s just me 😉

What do you think? Let's talk!