Kan Qian's Chinese Language Learning Page

Resources and Links

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Last updated  June 2018

Learning Chinese character apps   

  • ‘Chinese@OU’ app (developed by The Open University) was released in April 2018. The first 11 lessons are free to download, giving you a taste of the range of activities this app offers.  The other 25 lessons will be released soon, five lessons at a time for a small fee, which can be purchased via in-app from the ‘Options’ button in the Main Menu. For detailed information, please click ‘Chinese@OU’ .  This app is an improved version of Chinese Characters First Steps, which is designed with interactive activities to help you write, recognize the characters both visually and aurally, and memorise the most frequently used characters (over 400) in a systematic, friendly and fun way. Most importantly it helps you to form phrases and sentences with the limited characters learnt. To download, for iOS devices, go to App Store, search ‘Chinese@OU’ and install; for Android devices, go to Google Play Store, search ‘Chinese@OU’ and install.
  •    Chinese Characters First Steps’ app (developed by The Open University and released in 2014)  contains 400 plus most commonly and frequently used words. By combining them, you will learn a further 300+ useful words and phrases. These are the key characters introduced in the Beginners’ Chinese module 第一步 Dì yī bù of The Open University (UK).  This app no longer works for iOS 11+ but works for Android devices. Click OU Chinese Characters First Steps App to read the full description of the app. To download, search for ‘Chinese Characters First Steps’ app in Google Play Store.


This is a free flashcard-making tool on PC and on iOS phone. There are many ready-made cards such as The Open University’s Beginners’ Chinese flashcards (Ready-made L197 flashcards on Quizlet ).

It is a flashcard tool which you can use offline on your PC/Mac or on an Android mobile phone to review your vocabulary. You can synchronise it with an Android phone, add audio files to the ‘front’ and/or ‘back’ of a card to practice.

  • Pleco: https://www.pleco.com/

It claims to be the best Chinese-English dictionary (for both iOS and Android) and has many features. Students who use this app give very positive feedback.

Learning pinyin and tone

This is a very good site supported by the University of Texas at Austin providing a comprehensive guide to pinyin, tones and the spelling conventions. Go to ‘Learning’ first and then click one of the 12 animals at the top of the screen to learn the sounds. Once you have learnt the sounds, go to ‘Practice’ to do interactive exercises.

This is a complete table with all the pinyin combinations. Click each syllable, you will hear the audio.

  • Short pinyin and tone screencast tutorials (by CHEN Zhiqiong, The Open University). The exercises are particularly useful and fun to do.
single vowel finals compound vowel finals
compound vowel finals exercises nasal finals
nasal finals exercises initials-j,q,x
J,q,x exercises
tones tones exercises

Click the Play button as many times as you like, the system randomly plays the native speaker recording of a Chinese character or word (character compound). Select one of the provided answers you think it is correct. If you are not sure, tap the light-bulb button on the toolbar to view the Pinyin and then tap Play button.

Online dictionaries

It contains pinyin, audio, stroke order, stroke number, phrases, list of radicals etc. Watch the video tour of YellowBridge once you get into their website. You can also draw the characters you look for with a mouse.

In addition to being able to draw characters with a mouse, it gives many example sentences.

Video collection: Chinese at the tip of your tongue

Click here to watch four ten-minute clips designed by me on: 1) The culture behind the numbers; 2) How do you translate brand names? 3) East, south, west and north; and 4) An introduction to some Chinese characters.

YouTube clip on ‘How to use online dictionary to look up a new character’

Click here to watch a 6-minute clip on how to use online Chinese-English dictionary when you come across a new character and do not know how to pronounce it.

Free beginners’ Chinese course on OpenLearn

This free course, Beginners’ Chinese, is introductory material and was chosen to be easily accessible for those with some basic knowledge of Chinese. This course concentrates on Mandarin Chinese as a tool for communication, but also provides some insights into Chinese society and culture. It contains a brief introduction to the Chinese language, its scripts and sounds, and how words are formed. The language activities and audio extracts presented here are not meant for a complete course (i.e. not designed to move progressively from one to another), but are samples to give you a taste of what it is like if you sign up for the Open University’s Beginners’ Chinese course. Click here to browse the course.

My articles on OpenLearn

Year of the Monkey: Chinese New Year

A Brief Introduction to the Chinese Education System

Words related to Chinese education system

Famous Confucius quotes on education and learning

Entering the dragon: The Chinese New Year

As cute as a panda

Video clip (Session 5): Interview on ‘Language learning: Chinese language and culture’ 


Resources and debates on the BBC documentary ‘Are our kids tough enough? Chinese School’?


Interviewed by the Chinese Youth on the BBC/OU Programme ‘Are our kids tough enough? Chinese School’

透视 BBC 纪录片 《中式学校》



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