No Pain, All Gain – The Extensive Reading Approach to Mastering Chinese

Sometimes you may feel like you’re beating your head against a wall trying to get all these Chinese characters to stick inside your brain. Memorizing lists of words. Sorting through flashcards.




Reading while just trying to figure out what’s going on and looking up every other word. There must be a better way to do it. There is a better way: Through a well-researched but straightforward approach known as Extensive Reading.

“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”- Dr. Seuss

One of the main principles of extensive reading is this: if you can read something at a 98% comprehension level you will learn words in context in a painless, enjoyable way. So what does 98% comprehension actually look like? It means you understand 49 out of 50 words.

You have likely never looked at your reading in this way before. Why would you? Reading isn’t taught this way. To give you a better idea of what this means let’s look at what reading at a 98%, 95% and 80% comprehension level actually looks like.

Try reading the following paragraph at a normal pace (98% comprehension):

“Last week I had my first lesson in Chinese. Wow. It wasn’t easy but it actually wasn’t as difficult as I had expected. My teacher started with a few basic words and encouraged me to learn about tones. Tones seem pretty forgobling to me, but she assured me that putting in the work now will set me up for success.”

You may have caught that we threw in a made-up word in there. That’s to demonstrate what an unknown word would look like when you’re reading.

Let’s see what reading a paragraph at 95% comprehension looks like:

“I’ve been andruing on my Chinese every day for the last month. It’s amazing to see the delugle I’ve made. I have a friend who spends more time studying than me, but only on Saturday’s. I prefer to just do some light reading each night before donk. I’ve actually learned more characters in the last month than him. I guess reading every day really is more sponcanckle.”

At 95% it becomes a lot more difficult to follow. You would probably want to stop and look up a couple words.

Let’s look at what it would be like to read at only 80% comprehension:

“After loxicoling Chinese for a funoogle over two years, I finally jodelied about the Du Chinese app! I’ve been using it opoor day to goobobble my Chinese. I ling words I don’t know onto their flashcard tunphoor and with hexico pulungry it helps me to goobobble all the time. I can’t wait to hunbip some of my newly sungried skoolangles on my friends”

Yikes! What a mess.

And this is in English! When you’re reading Chinese you may glean some meaning from the characters but without pinyin you wouldn’t even know the pronunciation. Don’t worry, we have the solution.

When reading with Du Chinese we recommend reading at a 90-98% comprehension level. Right in the app you can look up words on demand and turn on the pinyin as you need it. This will help you read in an enjoyable way, and at a slightly higher level than would otherwise be comfortable.
Extensive reading is a very natural form of language acquisition. Students who read extensively become more autonomous learners. It builds self-esteem, increases motivation and builds vocabulary. Now let’s get you started! Try reading now. If you haven’t already done so download the Du Chinese app below:

Remember why you’re studying. It’s like the good doctor said:

“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”- Dr. Seuss

Let us help you get there.

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