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Chinese Studies: Language Learning

A resource guide for students learning Chinese as a second or foreign language


Welcome to the Chinese Studies Language Learning LibGuide! This guide is intended to provide resources students learning Chinese as a a second or foreign language. Whether you have just begun to study Chinese, have studied for several years, or are a heritage speaker, you can find resources here no matter your current level, background, or goals.

The materials listed for learning Mandarin are marked by proficiency level and if they are in simplified or traditional characters. We also have compiled some materials for learning Cantonese and Classical Chinese. If you are looking for research assistance related to Chinese Studies, please take a look at A Guide to Chinese Studies.

If you have any suggestions for resources to include in this guide, please send them to Enjoy!


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Expressive Chinese coverExpressive Chinese (故事内外 Gùshì nèiwài) is a recently published textbook that is newly available at the WashU libraries. This textbook is designed for learners with at least two years of college-level study in Chinese, and focuses on developing four language competencies: of complexity, accuracy, fluency, and felicity. The lessons focus on relevant topics such digital culture, technology, music, cuisine, and more. It looks great for intermediate-level students who what to increase their vocabulary, sound more authentic, and discuss cultural and social issues. Click here to request it from the WashU Libraries!


A map of the major dialect groups spoken in China and TaiwanNew learners of Chinese are sometimes confused by the many words that are used to refer to the Chinese language. "Chinese" (中文 Zhōngwén) technically refers to a macrolanguage consisting on many varieties of Chinese spoken throughout China, of which linguists divide into seven to ten groups. Many linguists consider them to be unique languages in their own right, but most people in China simply refer to them as "dialects," or 方言 (fángyán)Even within Mandarin, there are several subdialects that are not necessarily mutually intelligible with the standard.

Standard Mandarin (普通话 Pǔtōnghuà、国语 Guóyǔ) is the lingua franca throughout China and Taiwan, and almost all young people can speak and understand it. Pinyin (拼音), the official romanization system, reflects Standard Mandarin as it is spoken in Beijing. In Hong Kong and Macau, the lingua franca is Cantonese (广东话 Guǎngdōnghuà; 粤语 Yuèyǔ). However, no matter the dialect, speakers of all dialects use Standard Chinese when writing.