How to Learn To Read Chinese Newspapers: The Ultimate Guide
Staring down a full page of Chinese can be intimidating regardless of how long you’ve studied.
Let today be the day that you conquer your fear.
Chinese newspapers are loaded with awesome information, cultural perspective and useful vocabulary.
Do you have a thirst for knowledge?
Wishing those generic “Learn Chinese” textbooks would update themselves every now and again?
Then don’t let this opportunity pass you by!
Reading the news in Chinese is quite a different experience from reading Chinese literature, and yet it is one of the best ways to improve your Chinese comprehension skills. What makes reading the news unique is that you will encounter more straightforward (and modern) language.
Beyond this, it’s a good starting point towards the next level when you’re already familiar with the basics (pinyin, zhuyin and some basic chengyu). You’ll find that even a basic knowledge of Chinese grammar will take you a long way. Knowing key vocabulary for popular topics such as soccer, business, clothing and food – will take you even farther. Surprisingly, once you have a good idea how to approach a Chinese newspaper, it isn’t all that hard to get into!
Why Read the News in Mandarin Chinese?
I’m sure most of you will hesitate before picking up the papers. You’ll come up with a hundred and one excuses just so you can avoid them. But they’re not difficult at all. You’ll be surprised to find out that all these excuses and problems are quite commonplace and as you’ll realize later on, these are simply unfounded notions.
Now, I know you won’t be easily convinced so I’ve listed 5 good reasons why you should start reading the news in Chinese.
- It increases your vocabulary. We usually start with the basic conversational pieces when learning a language. But the downside is this restricts us to a limited vocabulary. With the news, we get to learn a number of terminologies that we have never encountered before. It’ll be hard the first try but the good news is there are various sections in the papers and you simply have to go to the one you’re more familiar with. They’re easier to understand and you can start from there but once you encountered an unfamiliar term, don’t give up. You have to learn – this is the main reason why we’re encouraging you to pick up the papers. If everything’s easy then, what else will you learn from it.
- You’ll learn to adapt to different sentence structures. News has a different format from the usual books and that’s the good thing about it. You get to learn different sentence structures and how to effectively position your characters in different contexts. you may not get it the first try but sooner or later, you’ll get the hang of it.
- It’s interesting and will surely capture your attention. It’s not just the added vocabulary but the fact that there’s so much to learn about the current events, culture, lifestyle about a country that’s so unfamiliar to you. Isn’t that fun? It’ll help you get a new and wider perspective.
- You don’t have to love current events to read newspapers. The first thing that pops into your head the moment the papers is uttered is current events. But that’s not all there is to it. A lot of people don’t read the papers for current events, business or politics. There’s a lot of variety to choose from – travel, sports, culture, etc. All these variety will surely interest you.
- It’s readily available online. You can access it anytime, anywhere! You don’t need to be near a Chinese community to get a copy of the papers. You’ll be happy to learn that there are a lot of Chinese papers online. Just check out their website. Some even have English translation.
Tips on How to Start Reading Chinese Newspapers
Now that you’re finally convinced that it’s not that difficult (or scary) to read Chinese newspapers, there’s nothing left to hold you back. To help you get started, here are 5 tips you’ll find quite useful.
- Read the headlines. Just read the headings and the titles of the articles. Practice reading. Since there’s no pinyin or zhuyin to help you, practice reading the bigger font first. This will help you from getting discouraged. Don’t force yourself to read the whole article the first try.
- Choose your favorite section. Whether it’s the section on travel, sports, culture, lifestyle or world news, you’ll find reading the papers more enjoyable when you’re reading something that interests you. Once you build up that habit then, broaden your scope and try branching out to other sections.
- Go for words first instead of sentences. I use to count how many words I can recognize in a paragraph. It really encourages me to learn faster and read longer paragraphs. When you first start reading, read the words first. It doesn’t always have to make sense. Just practice reading them and understand how they are used. Then, slowly look up the other words or go over them while looking for context clues.
- Check the English translations. Check their website. Most of the Chinese papers have English translations readily available in their website. You can use it to check if you understood the articles perfectly. But remember, don’t compare it word per word. It doesn’t mean that the second sentence in the Chinese article corresponds to the second sentence in the English article. It doesn’t work that way.
If you’re looking for word-for-word translations, however, try FluentU.
With interactive subtitles, you can easily check the contextual English translation any Chinese word by clicking on it. Better yet, you can turn these words into flashcards for later review.
You can also search FluentU for any vocabulary you learned in your newspaper reading. This will show you flashcards for the different definitions of the word, as well as any videos where the word appears naturally, like movie clips, music videos and news segments.
- Take it slow. Start reading one article at a time. It’s not something that you can learn overnight. It takes time for you to be familiarized with it. Don’t worry when you can’t understand the article the first try. Start reading the words first then, the whole sentence. Before you know it, you can fully understand a whole paragraph or even the whole article.
Learn To Read Chinese Newspapers: 7 Publications You Should Know
Now that we have laid down all these tips for you, the next step is choosing the right paper. To guide you, we’ve listed down the more popular papers for you to choose from.
Here are the 7 publications you should be aware of. Note that all these have English and Chinese (for those originally written in English) translations available in their websites. Go on, take your pick!
1. 中国日报告 | China Daily
This is the most popular newspaper in China that is written in English. It’s published to serve the needs of the foreigners not only for those currently staying in China but also throughout the globe – U.S., Europe, Africa and a majority of the countries in Asia. Both Chinese and French versions are available in their website.
2. 人民日报 | People’s Daily
If you’re interested in politics and the view of the Chinese government on its policies and national affairs then, this one’s for you. This is the official newspaper of the government. Written in Chinese, the paper has Russian, French, English, Spanish, Korean and Japanese translations available in their web.
3. 环球时报 | Global Times
This one’s a daily tabloid that is published by the same office as People’s Daily. There’s an English version available in their web. But unlike other papers that are mere translations of the Chinese paper, it’s different. The English version reports on the news in China while the Chinese version reports more on international news. So if you’re reliant on the English version for the translation of the Chinese characters then, I suggest you pick some other paper.
4. 世界日报 | World Journal
This must be the most familiar paper for most of you. It’s not a paper from China rather, it’s published in New York and is readily available to Chinese communities in the United States and Canada. Still, it’s written in Chinese but English version is available in their web.
5. 光明日报 | Guangming Daily
If you’re into science, technology, culture and education then, choose this as your daily reading. It has the best, if not the very best, articles in those fields. There’s also an English version in their web.
6. 经济观察报 | Economic Observer
Unlike the rest of the papers listed here, this one’s a weekly paper focused on the market/business news. If your learning is geared towards this area then, pick this one. You can compare the characters with the English translation so you can better understand the terminologies.
7. 中国青年报 | China Youth Daily
This one has the highest readership among the Chinese youth and professionals. Their articles are focused on their interests so if you’re one of them, read this one. After all, it takes one to know one. If they enjoyed this, so will you.
That wraps up the list! We’ve already provided you with the essentials to get you started in reading the Chinese newspapers. All you need now is to remember the tips, forget your fears and read on. So, what are you waiting for?