learn advanced chinese

6 Tools You’ve Gotta Use to Learn Advanced Chinese

Have you studied Chinese for a while now and are ready to take the next step?

The stage of getting from intermediate to advanced Chinese is one of the hardest.

Why is that?

It might be the same in every language: You are pretty good at talking about common topics and getting around in the country where the language is spoken pretty well, but what about more advanced content?

Maybe you can’t fully understand Chinese news and reading a newspaper or magazine still seems to be a challenge.

The Leap Between Intermediate and Advanced Chinese

The step from intermediate to advanced is a hard one, and probably the most distinct during your entire language journey. You might have to completely overthink and readjust your study routine and switch to other materials in order to make it to the next level.

Getting stuck in the intermediate level is easy to do, but with the tools and tips presented below, you can reach an advanced level of Chinese.

A lot of dedication and hard work is involved if you want to make it there. You need to consecutively improve each part of the Chinese language: reading, writing, listening and speaking. At this stage you also most likely have to decide to speak in the Chinese accent that you favor most.

Do you fancy the standard Putonghua dialect from around Beijing? Or do you pronounce words in a Southern accent since you spent most of your time studying in Guangzhou? It’s up to you how you want to speak, as long as it is correct and the people around you can understand you.

The resources and study materials to get you to the next level might differ from what you used before, too. Advanced Chinese material tends to be more abstract and creative than textbooks or CDs that beginners and intermediate learners use.

Create a Study Plan to Overcome the Difficulties

One of the hardest parts of getting to that advanced Chinese level is the dedication and proper time management to keep on track. We all have busy lives full of work, family, friends and hobbies. It is therefore important not to lose track of what you want to achieve. That’s where proper time management in the form of a study plan comes in.

Creating a study plan helps you keep your goal in front of your eyes. Determine a certain period of time you want to give yourself to efficiently study advanced Chinese. Keep it realistic! Let’s say you want to work with a time frame of six months.

Next, determine what tools you want to use (mentioned below). How many books do you think you can finish in half a year? How many chapters of a textbook can you work through? Or how many podcasts do you want to listen to? Keep it realistic but challenging, and adjust it to your daily life. It’s so much better to study a little every day than to study for a long period of time once a week.

Write everything down on a neat study plan for the next week or month, with specific tasks and an amount of time in each day. I only suggest planning a week or month out so that you can easily adjust based on what’s working well, where you need extra work, etc. Last, hang up your plan in a very visible place, and don’t forget to check off steps after you complete them.

6 Tools You’ve Gotta Use to Learn Advanced Chinese

As mentioned above, there is quite a difference between tools for beginners and intermediate Chinese learners compared to advanced learners. Incorporate the following tools into your study plan, and you’ll be well on your way up the hill towards advanced Chinese.

1. Chinese Reading Materials

Reading is the vitamin A of learning Chinese and getting to that advanced level. The more you read, the more vocabulary and grammar patterns you absorb, and the more you’re able to actively use them. Even though textbooks seem a little useless at this point, there are special books made specifically for advanced learners that focus on advanced grammar content.

Yale University published a great textbook called “Advanced Chinese: Intention, Strategy, and Communication.” This book includes an audio program focusing on the variety of Chinese linguistic strategies that are essential for advanced communication.

There are five types of discourse that are considered in detail: narration, description, persuasion, exposition and lyrical expression. The book assists learners in improving all parts of the Chinese language through carefully selected vocabulary, grammar and exercise sections in each lesson.

Besides textbooks, reading novels is key. If you haven’t read a book in Chinese before, you might want to start with a guided book. “The Graded Chinese Reader 2,000 Words” containing selected abridged Chinese contemporary short stories can help you with your first Chinese novel experience.

The book features various versions of mini-stories and novellas written by contemporary Chinese writers, reflecting the everyday lives of ordinary Chinese people. The stories are limited to about 2,000 common Chinese words, which are based on the 2,500 Chinese words listed in the Chinese Proficiency Test Syllabus Level 5.

The key to efficiently using a book of advanced Chinese level is to remember the new vocabulary. Highlight new words and look up their meanings afterwards. There’s no need to write down every single word. Choose up to 10 words of new vocabulary per chapter and practice it afterwards.

Possible Study Plan Items:

  • Read two pages of “Graded Chinese Reader” and try to summarize the content in your own words afterwards.
  • Read one of these Chinese novels for 5 minutes, and underline 10 unknown words. Afterwards, look them up in a dictionary and write them down in a notebook (or make flashcards, or use whatever system works best for you).
  • Read the Chinese classic “The Art of War” by Sun Tzu in Chinese to broaden your vocabulary but also to deepen your cultural insights.

2. Authentic Chinese Materials

The real difference between intermediate and advanced Chinese is the vocabulary you can actively use. You might study words from books or newspapers, but that’s usually not how people really talk. So try and learn “modern” vocabulary as well as idioms. If you master this type of real-world content, your Chinese level will soar.

I learned a lot of this kind of vocabulary by watching modern Chinese TV shows, such as “爸爸去哪儿” (bà ba qù nǎ er – Where Are You Going, Daddy) and “非诚勿扰” (fēi chéng wù rǎo – You Are the One).

An incredible place to learn with authentic materials is FluentU, an online immersion platform that’s designed to get you comfortable with everyday Chinese. Watch entertaining real-world videos from the “Advanced” or “Native” categories, and then learn the vocab and phrases with FluentU’s unique “Quiz Mode” for your knowledge to really expand.

There are even books that focus on colloquial Chinese, like “Illustrated Chinese Buzzwords” and “Idioms.”

Possible Study Plan Items:

3. Official Chinese Resources

The internet is an advanced Chinese learner’s best friend since it features an endless amount of great and mostly free resources. I always recommend the advanced Chinese courses by the Confucius Institute Online. The site is dedicated to all levels of Chinese language learning, but offers great resources for advanced learners where students can interact with each other and discuss different topics.

I highly recommend CCTV’s Learn Chinese programs, which are fun to watch and useful for advanced learners. Their entire website is full of great tools and shows to discover. I personally enjoy watching their “China travel” series, which shows you all different parts of the country, leading you through the most beautiful spots in Chinese. They even have a Kung Fu series where you can learn all about the ancient martial art!

Possible Study Plan Items:

4. Chinese Media

learn advanced chinese

A little bit more challenging but fun is the new show “The Empress of China,” which you can watch for free at Youku. It features top actress 范冰冰 (Fan Bingbing) and tells the story of the first and only legitimate Empress of China during the Tang Dynasty.

Have you ever listened to Chinese radio stations online? Tunein offers a wide selection of radio stations from all over China. These stations offer new music, news and chats about a variety of topics.

Possible Study Plan Items:

  • Watch an episode of “The Empress of China” every week.
  • For a challenge, dissect the lyrics to a rap song, such as “上海说唱 “女神不说话” (shàng hǎi shuō chàng “nǚ shén bù shuō huà”), and look up all unknown words.
  • Spend 5 minutes every day for a month using FluentU to master the lyrics of a Chinese music video.

5. Time in China

One of the easiest ways to improve a language is to spend time in the country where the language is spoken. Travel to China or, better, move and live there for a while. Internships in China, volunteer programs or simply vacation time in China can help you broaden your horizons.

If your budget isn’t that big, try HelpX, an online listing platform for travelers who can volunteer at ranches, lodges, B&Bs, hostels and even sailing boats in exchange for food and accommodation. Explore different parts of China on a low budget!

Possible Study Plan Items:

  • Spend 20 minutes researching an internship or volunteer program in China.
  • Contact a blogger who has lived, worked or volunteered in China and ask them questions, or set up a time to video chat.
  • Set up a budget and specific saving plan to save for your airfare to China. If you’re serious about making this happen and have never tracked your money before, we highly recommend investing in You Need a Budget.

6. Chinese Language Partner

All the traveling in the world is no good if you don’t open your mouth and speak the language. If you aren’t able to visit China at this point, or if you want to practice beforehand, you absolutely should be practicing with a language partner to reach the advanced level.

learn advanced chinese

The online platform italki is a great way to meet people who want to learn your mother tongue and help you practice your target language.

Is there a Chinese community in your city that already has a conversation table? Look for them on Facebook, Meetup or notice boards at universities and public libraries.

learn advanced chinese

If you’re really coming up empty handed, why not start a Chinese conversation group of your own? Invite locals and Chinese people to join in the fun. Advertise your group with flyers and social media, and be sure to visit local universities, Chinese restaurants and supermarkets to connect with the community.

Possible Study Plan Items:

  • If you don’t have a Chinese language partner yet, your first action item is to use all of these resources and find one.
  • Meet with your language partner or attend a Chinese conversation table once a week this month.
  • Discuss a current news story with your language partner.

The path of advanced Chinese is not an easy one. But with the tools mentioned above, the journey will be much easier for you. Never forget to stay motivated and that progress takes time!


Linda is a German/American blogger in her early 20s writing about life in China and Korea. She loves traveling around Asia and also writes about her intercultural relationship with her Korean fiance Jeongsu. She currently writes from Changsha, Hunan, China.

And One More Thing…

If you’re digging these learning strategies, then you’ll love FluentU.

FluentU lets you learn real Chinese from music videos, commercials, news and inspiring talks. It naturally eases you into learning Chinese language. Native Chinese content comes within reach, and you’ll learn Chinese as it’s spoken in real life.

FluentU has a wide range of contemporary videos—like dramas, TV shows, commercials and music videos. In fact, below you’ll even see the song “Let It Go” from the hit movie “Frozen”:

FluentU brings these native Chinese videos within reach via interactive captions. You can tap on any word to instantly look it up. All words have carefully written definitions and examples that will help you understand how a word is used. Tap to add words you’d like to review to a vocab list.

FluentU’s Learn Mode turns every video into a language learning lesson. You can always swipe left or right to see more examples for the word you’re learning.

The best part is that FluentU always keeps track of your vocabulary. It suggests content and examples based on the words you’re learning. You have a 100% personalized experience. 

Start using FluentU on the website with your computer or tablet or, better yet, download the FluentU app from the iTunes or the Google Play store.

If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn Chinese with real-world videos.

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