6 Best Chinese Language Textbooks For Total Beginners

Are you ready to start learning Chinese, but have no idea where to jump in? In a sea of YouTube courses, apps, online classes, and Chinese language textbooks, it can be difficult to figure out where to go.

Don’t worry! We’ve curated a list of the best Chinese language textbooks for total beginners. Whether you are helping your child study Mandarin, or are an adult learner learning a few basic phrases before a business trip, here are the best textbooks for you. We have also included some Traditional and Simplified character options: Simplified is mostly used on the Chinese mainland, Traditional characters are used in Taiwan and Hong Kong.

Best Overall

Simplified/Traditional Chinese: Integrated Chinese Textbook Series

The Integrated Chinese textbooks are geared towards foreign learners and progress from total beginner to intermediate level. Follow along with the characters as they make friends, go to school and clubs, and finally plan a trip to China together. The series includes character workbooks and audio lessons as well as textbooks.

They have two versions, one in Simplified and one in Traditional.

Chinese Language Textbooks

Traditional Chinese: Practical Chinese Reading & Writing 1 and Practical Audio-Visual Chinese Book 1

Used by the National Taiwan Normal University’s Mandarin Training Center, these textbooks take beginners through Chinese basics using the Taiwanese style of Mandarin education, beginning with the bopomofo phonetic system and using traditional characters.

Chinese Language Textbooks

Simplified: Road to Success Elementary Vol 1

This Chinese Language Textbook for total beginners is sometimes used in Chinese universities teaching Chinese to foreigners. It starts from a beginner level and builds up to advanced.

Chinese Language Textbooks

Best for Children

Get young children started on the path to learning to Chinese with bilingual picture books designed to familiarize them with common words in Chinese. Stories and look-and-find games are the best ways to engage young learners without needing to struggle through typical Chinese language textbooks.

Traditional Chinese: I Found It! by Katrina Liu

This adorable look-and-find book is geared towards young children. Written in traditional Chinese, it’s most suitable for young children with families in (or living in) Taiwan or Hong Kong, where traditional characters are used.

Chinese Language Textbooks

Read More: Should I Learn Simplified or Traditional Chinese?

Simplified Chinese: Mandarin Chinese Picture Dictionary: Learn 1,500 Key Chinese Words and Phrases

This book is best for toddlers and elementary-aged learners who can learn key Chinese vocabulary across a range of topics.

Chinese Language Textbooks

Best Textbook for HSK

Simplified Chinese: HSK 1 Standard Set

The HSK 1 is the first and easiest test level, and using this Chinese language textbook will help you begin your HSK journey quickly. Study your way to success in the HSK 1 exam with this textbook series.

Chinese Courses for Total Beginners

Of course, if you ARE a complete newbie to Chinese language learning, you’ll need a teacher to guide you on proper pronunciation, accent, listening, and speaking skills. Check out all the courses you can take here:

Savannah Billman has a master's degree in Chinese Law and Society at the Yenching Academy of Peking University. She holds a B.A. from NYU Shanghai and has also written for The World of Chinese, TechNode, SupChina, and Sixth Tone.
Savannah Billman

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