Are you thinking about studying Mandarin? We’ve been there. Learning Mandarin can seem like a daunting task, but it really doesn’t have to be. That’s why we are sharing some tips that we found helpful in our Mandarin learning endeavors. 

This page offers advice from our collective experience for Mandarin learners just getting started and for those who are at an intermediate level and beyond. We have put together helpful information to be successful while learning Mandarin and collected a list of resources that we found helpful along the way. 

First all, China has one of the most captivating cultures and beautiful geographies in the world, learning the Chinese language allows you to get the most out of your China experience. Mandarin, the most widely used subsets of the Chinese language family, is the most widely spoken language in the world with over 1 billion speakers – speaking Mandarin and English allows you to communicate with nearly 1/4 of the global population! Whether you’re looking to order some beers with your friends, or you’re interested in professional development, you’ll find learning Chinese to be a rewarding experience. 

For those of you who only want to learn enough necessary Mandarin to get by on a daily basis, we have put together some helpful phrases and information into a Mandarin Cheat Sheet.

Getting Started

New Learners & Beginners

We can attest to the fact that learning Mandarin is a rewarding yet challenging endeavor. As with learning anything, it will require some effort, but we are here to support you along the way. In this article, we are going to provide you with some helpful advice to get started and provide you with the best resources we have found. 

There are many reasons for learning Mandarin whether that is to impress your friends at the local Chinese restaurant, meet new friends, or for professional development – Mandarin is one of the most valued languages in many professions. Studying Mandarin is a journey that will open your eyes to China, one of the most unique and interesting cultures, and learning their language makes it that much more exciting. 

HSK Explained

The HSK, which stands for 汉语水平考试 Han yu Shui ping Kao shi literally meaning “Chinese Level Test”, is the formalized certification examination that consists of 6 levels and covering writing, reading, and listening. It provides a general road map from beginner to advanced and offers direction for many Chinese language learners. Unlike many other languages, Mandarin is not necessarily a language you can just “pick up” by speaking with friends or immersing yourself in the language, it requires a more methodical and structured approach. You don’t need to follow the HSK levels exactly, nor we always recommend you to, but they can be used as a general guideline. 

How to Approach Learning Mandarin

  1. Identify motivation – We have found determining your motivation for learning Mandarin is an important first step, as it helps keep you aligned with an end goal or purpose. Whether it is to order food at your local Chinese restaurant, make the most out of your travels to China, understand their culture or any other number of reasons, it is important to clearly understand your motivation. Learning Mandarin is a journey that will be challenging yet rewarding, and your purpose will serve to motivate you to take steps in the right direction.
  2. Formulating a study plan – As previously mentioned, it is best to have some structure for learning Mandarin. Formulating a study plan is an excellent step to get you on your way. We outlined some general principles that helped us and may serve you well when creating your personalized study plan. 
    1. Choosing a course – There are many courses to choose from online as well as in your local community or at your university. A course we recommend is INSERT COURSE. This course is INSERT COURSE DESCRIPTION.

      It is important to find a course that aligns well with your goals,
      All Language Resources reviews many Chinese language courses, and is a good place to start. 

    2. Identify resources – we have collected resources we have found helpful for learning Chinese in the list below.
  1. Patience – Learning Chinese, like anything, is an endeavor, not one that will be without its ups and downs, and won’t be accomplished immediately. Be patient and continue to make small steps in the right direction. We know you will succeed and we are here to support you along the way!

Intermediate & Beyond

First of all, congratulations on getting this far in your Mandarin learning journey. You’re sure to have already experienced the satisfaction of progress as well as the many challenges along the way. If you’re looking to take your Mandarin to the next level, then we are here to help. Below we have outlined some steps that we have found helpful leveling up our Mandarin from intermediate+. 

First of all, it is important to reassess your motivation, and determine how much progress you’ve made already. This will allow you to keep your end goal in mind and guide you along the way. 

Second, reformulate your study plan to align with your Mandarin goals. 

Mandarin Learning Resources 

Below we have compiled a list of some of the best resources that we have found for assisting our Mandarin learning. 

Necessary apps

Pleco – Mobile app that provides the best Chinese dictionary available. Includes a handy flashcard feature. 

Google Translate – Comes in handy when visiting China, but not a great tool for learning. 

Anki – Spaced Repetition Software (SRS), essentially fancy flashcards, that is widely used for character-based languages. This can be incorporated with any learning program. There are plenty of resources online about how to set up and use Anki. 

Wechat – The ubiquitously used communication app across China. While not necessarily a learning resource, this will be the easiest way to communicate with friends and language buddies in China. Available on all devices. 


Chinesepod (subscription) – Chinese podcasts for listening comprehension 

Guided learning

Speechling – record yourself speaking sentences, reviewed by a teacher who provides feedback

italki – tutor service (>$10/hour)

Reading & listening apps

Du Chinese – Course that provides lessons, in the form of articles, on a variety of topics (including conversational topics) for all levels of learners.  

Chairman Bao (subscription) – Provides current new sources for reading and listening comprehension for all levels of learners.