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Tools for studying Chinese

Visit Hacking Chinese instead: This post about studying Chinese is partly or completely obsoete. A revised version, along with much more related to language learning can be found at Hacking Chinese. This post is kept here for the sake of consistency.


On this page, I have collected references to a number of useful tools, some of them indispensable to learning Chinese efficiently. These tools include, but are not limited to:


Useful websites

3000 most common Chinese characters – Rather self-explanatory, being a list of the 3000 most frequently used Chinese characters. I use it to check how much effort I should invest in a given character. Make sure to check on the author’s other pages and his collection of links.

Chinesepod – This is a must for students of Chinese on any level. Chinesepod provides hundreds of hours of conversation lessons in audio, which will enable you to listen to and learn Chinese at any time. The lessons themselves are free, but there is additional material on the website that isn’t.

Chinese Pronunciation – An indispensable guide for the beginner, featuring pronunciation for all possible syllables in Mandarin Chinese, including tone variations. Make sure you learn the sounds correctly from the start!

Mandarin Chinese Phonetics – A useful guide to Mandarin Chinese phonetics for those thus inclined. The site being written by the same person as the 3000 list, make sure you check out the various other sections of his website.

Nciku Dictionary – Probably the best all-round dictionary available online (or at least the best one I’ve found). Provides not only translations in both directions, but also lots of examples and idioms. This dictionary has a lot of words I’ve had difficulties finding elsewhere.

On-line Chinese Tools – The most comprehensive collection of useful links I have encountered so far. Includes links to software, websites and much more.

Yahoo Chinese Dictionary – One of the best English-Chinese-English dictionaries I’ve found online. Sample sentences make this dictionary truly useful even when writing stories or articles in Chinese. My defualt dictionary nowadays.

Zhongwen.com – Online, free edition of a popular Chinese-English dictionary, featuring a system of hyperlinked etymology which allows the student to smoothly browse components of characters and their origin. Indispensable.

Useful software

Anki – The most indispensable of all language-learning programs. It’s a must if you plan to learn lots of words in any language in any way that can be called efficient. I use this program more than any other software on my computer, including Firefox.

Chinese Perapera-kun – A must-have plugin to Firefox that provides the user with online, automatic translation of individual characters or words; all you have to do is hover over the character/word with the mouse.

DimSum Chinese Language Tool – Java-based dictionary software with excellent character recognition. Works with Linux and OS X, as well as Windows. Comes with flashcard capability.

Pablo – A handy dictionary with the extremely useful feature of being able to recognise characters written with the mouse (or otherwise). It also offers the function to break down characters into their component parts. Free to try, small and comfortable to use; very neat indeed.

Useful hardware

Besta CD-859 mini – At some point, you should buy an electronic dictionary. It’s extremely useful and the earlier you buy it, the better. Of course, any dictionary that suits you and has a handwriting function is adequate, I just happen to have bought this one and it works for me.

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  1. joe’s avatar

    I have just started studying Chinese in Taiwan and I want to say what a fantastic blog you have.

    I am a big fan!

    Very useful information!


    1. Olle Linge’s avatar

      Gald you like it! I can guess that people appreciate the website, but hearing people saying it is worth more. :) Good luck with your studying!