The two keys to learning and mastering Chinese come down to input and output. Input in the form of reading and listening and output in the form of speaking and writing. You can’t really start with the output because you can’t say a word that you don’t know. But it’s also inefficient to read or listen to something that is full of too much complicated vocabulary that you don’t know. That’s where graded readers come in.
What are graded readers? Chinese graded readers are stories that are written based on your current level of Chinese. They can start from basic to intermediate and advanced. Eventually you’ll get to a level where you can read anything and won’t need graded readers, but until you’re at that point they can be a useful tool to help get you there.
There are two kinds of graded readers that you can choose from if you are studying Chinese: Paperback or digital. When it comes to paperback graded readers, we’re big fans of Mandarin Companion and recommend you check them out. Their stories will give you help on the more difficult words with pinyin and translations, with the assumption that you can read the more simple characters on your own.
For digital graded readers, we created Du Chinese. Besides just reading stories based on your level, you can tap for pinyin or translations in an instant. Each story includes a professional audio recording from a native speaker (a real person!) Besides that, we add new content every week and include other features like flashcard integration to boost your learning.
So why do you need Chinese graded readers? Because Chinese isn’t like English or like one of the romance languages or like even the majority of languages out there. You can’t read things based on their spelling and you certainly can’t rely on pinyin forever. If you want to read Chinese your best bet is to focus on leveled content that you’ll actually enjoy.