Reading will never go out of style.
It’s true that we spend more time staring at screens than ever before, but for many people, there’s still nothing like the experience of reading a physical book.
Whether you’re curled up with a book on your favorite couch, immersed in a story during your subway commute or lying on a warm beach with a juicy novel, reading is an absorbing experience than can even lower your stress levels and improve your memory.
And with the right book, it can teach you Chinese, too.
This is where Chinese parallel texts come in. These are Chinese books that come with translations, usually line-by-line or page-by-page. If you can squeeze in just a little bit of time on your lunch break or before you go to bed, you can reap all the rewards of unwinding with a good book and brushing up on your Chinese reading skills.
We’ve found five awesome Chinese parallel text collections that even the pickiest book nerds will love so you don’t have to do the guesswork yourself.
But first, how exactly do parallel texts work?
What Are Chinese Parallel Texts and Why Should I Use Them?
A Chinese parallel text is a book, story or another type of reading material where Chinese writing and translations are presented together. This can include a combination of 汉字 (hàn zì) — Chinese characters, 拼音 (pīn yīn) — Chinese romanization and English translations.
Chinese parallel texts are fantastic to learn new Chinese words or brush up on reading comprehension. Since all of the necessary translations are in place, you can quickly and easily figure out a new vocabulary word or phrase.
This type of learning tool is great for beginners, intermediate and advanced Chinese learners. While reading Chinese parallel texts shouldn’t substitute a course or more intensive form of Mandarin learning, it can certainly be a helpful aid for practicing reading Chinese.
If you enjoy this type of learning, you can get the same benefits from Chinese videos with FluentU. FluentU provides authentic Chinese videos, like movie trailers, music videos, inspiring talks and more, that’ve been transformed into language-learning experiences.
Each video comes with interactive captions where you’ll see hanzi, pinyin and English translations line-by-line. You can click any word for an instant definition, translation and native pronunciation. FluentU’s innovative Learn Mode also makes sure you remember the new vocabulary with flashcards and exercises tailor-made for each video.
It’s a fun way to learn new Chinese words in real-world contexts, all while absorbing native speech and accents. Check out the free trial on your next reading break!
Win-win: 5 Engaging Chinese Parallel Texts with English Translations
This beautiful collection of original poetry and prose poems from Chinese writer 邓楠 (dèng nán) — Deng Nan is an excellent Chinese parallel text to try. Deng Nan explores themes of melancholy, love, loss and the mysterious nature of memories.
Available on Kindle for $2.99 and paperback for $6.50, this parallel text literature features English and hanzi text side-by-side. Since there aren’t any pinyin translations included in this book, it may be better reserved for intermediate and advanced learners.
It’s a short read at only 74 pages, which could make it ideal for those looking for light reading.
Who doesn’t love a good haiku? The traditional Japanese form of short and sweet poetry divided into formulaic syllables is also very popular in China and around the world.
This haiku series contains traditional and simplified hanzi, pinyin and English translations for each and every poem. For those struggling with pronunciation, Zhuyin/Bopomofo pronunciation guides are provided above every hanzi character in the book. There’s also a vocabulary guide available to save you the effort of running to your Chinese-English dictionary for more definition details.
To say the least, this is absolutely one of the best Chinese parallel texts out there for beginners.
This Chinese parallel text book is only $9.99 on Amazon and is packed full of 50 beautiful poems and gorgeous photography that anyone could enjoy. The book, while full of enchanting poetry of its own merit, was specifically written with the Mandarin learner in mind.
Here’s a sample poem from the book:
huáng hé sè de dào lù tōng wǎng lán tiān
měi lì de yī qiè hùn zá le xīn suì
gū dān de dǎo yǔ
Tan path leads to blue
Beauty stirs my somber heart
You can find other volumes from this haiku parallel text series on the author’s Amazon page.
This handy little $9.99 paperback is perfect for intermediate learners who don’t want something too easy or too difficult to read.
This is another Chinese parallel text compilation designed specifically for Chinese learners. The book contains three separate stories that range from crime thrillers to love stories to sci-fi adventures. The author suggests reading the book four times to effectively connect vocabulary words to their definitions.
“Learn Chinese with Bilingual Stories” is designed for intermediate readers, so only simplified hanzi and English translations are available. Each page is split in two for its respective language, so it’s very easy to translate each vocabulary word or phrase in real time.
If you love modern Chinese literature, this compilation of beautiful stories will surely snatch at your heartstrings. If you want to be more well-rounded when it comes to your knowledge of Chinese culture, then this is definitely a book to check out.
Each chapter of this compilation is centered around a concept in Chinese culture or a tendency in its people, such as 礼 (lǐ) — ritual tendencies, 仁 (rén) — benevolence, 面子(miàn zi) — saving face and much more. It’s always important to learn about Chinese culture in addition to learning the language, so this parallel text is useful for multiple reasons.
“Contemporary Chinese Short-Short Stories: A Parallel Text” would be best for an intermediate or advanced reader, as there’s no pinyin available.
Amazon has an e-book version ($31.19) as well as a paperback version ($40.00) available.
This jam-packed compilation text boasts eight separate stories for the Mandarin learner to enjoy. This book was made with Chinese and English students in mind and many of the stories included have been translated into English for the very first time.
It’s definitely a treat that includes stories covering simplicity, farming, urban society and much more. There’s a notable amount of Chinese slang from various Mandarin-speaking areas included in the text’s stories, so all learners can benefit from improving their modern fluency by enjoying this book. Learning slang can only help you hold a conversation with a native Chinese speaker!
“Short Stories in Chinese: New Penguin Parallel Text” includes both simplified hanzi and English translations from page to page. Some of the stories are actually pretty brief and simple, so beginners may benefit from giving this a read.
You can purchase “Short Stories in Chinese: New Penguin Parallel Text” for Kindle ($15.99) and in print (up to $16.00) on Amazon.
Now that you’re all stocked up on some killer Chinese parallel texts to read, you’ve taken one major step toward improving your comprehension and reading skills. Plus, you may even learn a thing or two about Chinese culture from these awesome reads.
Remember to keep a notebook and pen with you to make note of new hanzi!
Em Casalena is a published author, freelance writer and music columnist. They write about a lot of stuff, from music to films to language.
And One More Thing…
Since you’ve made it this far, you’re obviously serious about learning Chinese, which means you may just love FluentU.
FluentU naturally eases you into learning the Mandarin language, 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.
From the description page, you can access interactive transcripts under the Dialogue tab, or review words and phrases under Vocab.
FluentU’s Quiz 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.
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn Chinese with real-world videos.