April Chinese Links

The links have been piling up lately, and I thought I’d share a few related to China and studying Chinese.

1. Slate seems to think ChinesePod is pretty damn cool: Learning to Flirt in Chinese. Slate doesn’t really mention anything academic, but I’m working on that.

2. ChinesePod is not the only Chinese podcast game in town… there’s also Mandarin Chinese with Serge Melnyk. You compare.

3. A list of “Core Simplified Characters.” Great reference for anyone who’s trying to learn traditional after learning simplified or vice versa.

4. You’ve probably seen Pīnyīn.info, but have you seen the blog Pīnyīn News? Good stuff.

5. Sinosplice commenter Annie has also put together a 4 Part Pinyin Tutorial. Each part has an instructional MP3, a text in PDF format, and a drill MP3. Also check out Pinyin Practice, which offers lots of online drills.

6. The Ohio5 ViewPoints Series will give beginners practice listening to Chinese through Quicktime video clips. Actually seeing the various speakers’ faces as they talk helps.

7. Condensed China: Chinese History for Beginners. China does really need to cut down on its history.

8. The most common Chinese characters in order of frequency. More than just a list, it actually gives character readings, meanings, and examples.

9. Just in case you ever need a list of 10-500 random Chinese names in traditional characters, there’s the Chinese Name Generator. Oh, but they all have three characters, and it won’t tell you how to pronounce them or what they mean. I can’t think of any possible use for this thing (except for maybe adding fake Chinese names to the credits of your homemade kung fu movie?), but there it is. (Also, don’t miss the pseudonym generator or the lucky company name generator.)

10. The zdt (Zhongwen Development Tool) is an easy to use, open-source Mandarin Chinese flashcard application. Supports simplified and traditional characters, lets you add characters as you browse, and has optional Adso database support (120,000 entries).

Many of these links were found through del.icio.us: http://del.icio.us/tag/mandarin.


John Pasden

John is a Shanghai-based linguist and entrepreneur, founder of AllSet Learning.


  1. FREQUENCY LIST – Here’s another site with a list of most frequent words. I found it interesting because I can generate a top-1000 list of newspaper vocabulary vs. a top-1000 list of fiction words vs. a top-1000 list of bigram (two-character words) and compare them.

    I noticed that even the ‘simplist’ or most frequent of the newspaper vocabulary is not in ‘my’ vocabulary, no wonder I have such a tough time with browsing newspapers. I’m spending a little more time these days on this vocab to hopefully help out with that. The site only provides the list, so unfortunately there’s a lot of after-work in looking up the words.

    There’s one other site with frequency list for HSK vocab and Integrated Chinese, only problem is you have to pay if you want to generate the words in list form, flashcards however are available gratis.

    I’m still looking for a source of Most-frequently Spoken Chinese Words that isn’t just conjecture but a compiling from empirical audio.

  2. Stavros Mavropoulos Says: April 18, 2006 at 12:37 pm

    These links are excellent resources for anybody serious about studying Chinese. Thanks John for taking the time out to put all this together. SM

  3. Really, this kind of stuff is invaluable to me. Thanks!

  4. Most Frequent Characters – What I really like about these explanations/definitions is that he also notes when a character looks like other similar characters, how helpful!


  5. Hey John, thanks ! 🙂 I hope that’s helpful for the beginners. 🙂

  6. I feel this part was directed at what I said in my review:

    ChinesePod is not the only Chinese podcast game in town… there’s also Mandarin Chinese with Serge Melnyk. You compare.

    This comparison is ridiculous. I didn’t consider Wanan Taipei “another game in town” either. Serge Melnyk is a site run by ONE person. There are a total of only 14 lessons on the site.

    ChinesePod is a company large enough to being hiring people such as yourself, has affiliates, legal counsel, a wiki and “classes designed and taught by top experts in the field with years of experience in Second Language Acquisition, communication studies, and classroom instruction,” in its own words.

    Isn’t this comparison sort of like telling people to go look at your page on the “5 stages of learning Chinese” and a full book on the subject written by “top experts in the field” and then compare for themselves?

  7. Mark,

    No need to get excited, man. Comparisons never hurt anyone. Besides, at this early stage in the language learning podcast game there’s no telling how things will develop. Serge’s site is developing quickly, and he has introduced a paid option similar to ChinesePod’s.

    (And no, that comment was not directed at you, at least not consciously.)

  8. Sorry if I came off the wrong way on that. I wasn’t upset, I just like to exagerate. I very nearly wrote that “I’ve met crack-addicts who have more sense than to toss out their books for Serge”. Then I decided to be “diplomatic”. I’m just not so good at it!

    I really, really don’t think you have to worry about Serge. Cpod has more than 10 times the material (which I still don’t think is nearly enough to replace Integrated Chinese). The way he’d ever be a threat would be if he got some help and turned it into a real business.

    BTW, my review of Cpod was comparing it to ALL other things one can do with one’s Chinese study time. If it were just a comparison of online options, I’d have given it a 65,536/5. Seriously.

  9. Mark,
    I think you don’t understand how blogging works. You are totally free to write, criticize, do whatever. But you cannot expect to go unchallenged if you make rash or careless statements/judgements – the one you give above is a good example. In the case of chinesepod, there are, a whole lot of people who like it and get a lot from it. It creates value for them. The comparisons should be based on that point only. Serge may mean well, but get a grip, his shows are deathly boring. They don’t create value. As far as I know the chinespod team are the undedogs – if you want comparisons why not compare them with the big publishing houses, the audio-book companies, the corpoprations they are challenging. I don’t know how many staff they have but it seems to be not that mich – 15 – 20 people?
    Chill, and take a little time to think before you post – that’s what I say.

  10. It creates value for them. The comparisons should be based on that point only.

    Uh.. that was the only basis I used for comparision- how much value it has for students.

    Serge may mean well, but get a grip, his shows are deathly boring. They don’t create value.

    Did you see me saying anything good about Serge’s service?

    Chill, and take a little time to think before you post – that’s what I say.

    And I’ll say it right back at you. If you’re going to give me advice about what I posted, you should at least read what I posted.

  11. Dear John,

    I do not know you personally, nor am I involved in any way in the “Teaching Chinese” business — I’m actually in Hi-Tech and Chinese is just a hobby for me.

    I’ve visited your site a few times and found it greatly interesting; my 0.02 cents advice to you, which of course you didnt ask for, is: as you are now financially invovled with a profit center, in order to maintain your credibility perhaps it would be best to avoid mentioning above profit center by yourself.

    Right now it might look fantastic and all but it’s still a startup, who knows what’s going to be a year from now.

    I might be totally wrong but I do mean this in a good way.

  12. Please please please. Company, not “profit centre”. Are we all expected to speak this Newspeak now? John is working for a company.

  13. Yeah, John doesn’t do it for the profit. He does it for the love!

    The LOVE!

  14. Thanks, Micah.

    You really understand.

  15. Micah, that was the point and why I said what I said as it’s pretty obvious that comments made by him regarding this profit-center (hehe) or not very objective, which is understandable. Anyhow, this is my last message regarding this profit center. Whatever, goodluck to you all.

  16. Thanx for the links. I am currently teaching English in Shanghai. It’s really great to learn Mandarin here.

  17. I have been searching the web for a list of the most commonly used “words;” not characters but have not been able to find such a thing. Does anyone here have any information to share?

  18. i question patrick’s list when 魚 appears at 971, 爹 is at 965 whereas 爸 is at 991, 汽 at 1117, and the list goes on.

    anyone know where patrick got his stats from?

  19. Hi John, thanks for the list.
    I also have a tool to recommend: http://www.purpleculture.net/chinese-pinyin-converter/, which is the most accurate chinese -> pinyin tool I have used.

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