You’ve upped your Mandarin Chinese listening skills by watching the latest Chinese blockbuster.
You’ve even impressed your friends at karaoke with a soulful rendition of Taiwanese pop-star Jay Chou’s 可爱女人 (kě ài nǚ rén – Cute Woman)!
But the idea of picking up a 300-page book in Mandarin Chinese might still seem kind of…intimidating.
Does this sound like you?
If so, don’t fret, because Chinese magazines are an excellent stepping stone into reading Chinese fluently, especially if committing to a novel doesn’t sound all that appealing at the moment.
So let’s get started!
Why Read Magazines to Learn Mandarin Chinese?
Magazines are my favorite way to keep up my Mandarin reading skills, and you might be wondering why. Here are three reasons for loving my Mandarin magazines.
- Tons of Variety: Magazines, with their multitude of topics and subjects, really have something of interest for everyone. Car aficionado? Beauty junky? Nature lover? There’s a magazine for that. When you are reading about something you love, learning Chinese won’t at all feel like a chore!
- Trendy Content: While a typical Chinese textbook may be limited to topics such as “meeting friends,” “restaurant dining,” “at the doctor’s” and “airport travel,” magazines—much like the internet—often cover the latest news stories and use the trendiest language to boot. You’ll be able to pick up modern Chinese vernacular that you won’t be able to learn in a textbook.
- Brevity: A typical magazine article can be read in 5-10 minutes, which is much easier to digest than a book! The shorter length will enable you to quickly read through a ton of different articles and topics, turbocharging your Chinese vocabulary in no time. While it could seem like a huge commitment to read a book, magazines are a quick way to squeeze in some extra reading even if you have limited time on your hands.
Tips on How to Start Reading Chinese Magazines
In order to make the most out of your magazine reading experience, here are some tried-and-true pro tips from yours truly on how to get started.
Pick your topics.
First, you want to ask yourself, “What topics am I really interested in?” Whether it’s pop culture, beauty tips, movie reviews or celebrity news, being able to read about a topic you are truly interested in will help the material stay interesting and keep you fully engaged in your learning. Narrowing down the topic will help you select the magazines that pertain to your interests.
Unlike Chinese textbooks and newspapers, it may seem harder to easily get access to Chinese magazines. If you are worried about the actual purchasing of a magazine, don’t fret. Xin Hua Bookstore, the largest and only national bookstore of China, has a significant presence abroad in New York, California and even London.
Plus, if you are a fan of e-books and e-magazines, Amazon.cn (the Chinese version of Amazon) has thousands of magazine titles in electronic format ready for purchase.
Whether you are catching up on a bit of reading while waiting at the airport, or casually sitting down with a magazine in hand during afternoon tea, it might be easy to kick back, relax and forget that Chinese magazines are such an effective tool for improving your Mandarin Chinese. It’s tempting to let your eyes glaze over the words you don’t know, and fall back on using pictures and context clues in order to understand the article.
But you will get the most out of your effort if you actively write down the words that you don’t know, and make an effort to look them up as soon as possible. I always found it helpful in my learning process to keep a dictionary (and later my smartphone) close by, so I can immediately look up the word and fit it into context. Hooray for dictionary apps!
In fact, learning words in context is essential to learning Chinese, and with an app like FluentU, you can see words in context in both written and auditory forms.
It may be frustrating to come across word after word that you can’t understand. It may be intimidating to stare down an entire block of text and not know how to get started. Just remember, the road to fluency begins one step at a time.
Start by reading as much as you can and researching as many new words as possible. Soon enough, you’ll find yourself reaching for the smartphone dictionary less and less as your vocabulary grows.
6 Mandarin Chinese Magazines to Turbocharge Your Reading Skills
Now that we have the tips, tricks and logistics all laid out, it’s time to pick our magazines! Here we have selected six top-selling Chinese magazines to suit a variety of interests. Please enjoy!
1. 青年文摘 (qīng nián wén zhāi – Youth Digest)
The top selling magazine in China in 2013, the name of this magazine literally means “Youth Digest.” Don’t be fooled by its name though, this magazine is beloved by a large audience ranging from 10-year-olds to 60-year-olds for its variety of content.
Such content includes celebrity interviews, wellness tips, stories about loves lost and found, economic and cultural analysis, profiles of entrepreneurs, jokes and comics. This magazine has something for everyone, and would be a good starting point for those who want to dabble in a little bit of everything.
2. 意林 (yì lín – Thought Forest)
A collection of literary short stories and real life anecdotes, this popular magazine is similar to “Chicken Soup for the Soul” for its heart-warming content. Intended for a younger audience, 意林 is perfect for those who are at an intermediate reading level.
As an added bonus, 意林 offers a plethora of inspirational quotes on every page—perfect for motivation on your road to Chinese fluency!
3. 读者 (dú zhě – Reader)
Similar to Reader’s Digest, 读者 offers a rich and diverse variety of articles ranging from socio-economic analysis, reflections on travel abroad, and excerpts from famous published works.
Targeted at a well-educated audience as well as lovers of literature, 读者 contains advanced Chinese vocabulary that may not be found in other casual reading material.
4. 爱之城 (ài zhī chéng – City of Love)
For the readers with a secret romantic side, 爱之城 covers love stories (both fiction and non-fiction), horoscopes, advice columns and celebrity interviews. It’s a light-hearted and fun read that’s perfect for a quick pick-me-up.
5. 时尚芭莎 (shí shàng bā shā – Fashion Bazaar)
For the white-collar fashion aficionados, 时尚芭莎 is the read for you. 时尚芭莎 is the Chinese edition of Harper’s Bazaar, and covers everything from fashion, including hair styling, make up and beauty advice.
Before long, you’ll be using words like “wing-tip eye liner” and “leopard print” in Mandarin Chinese with a flourish.
6. 看电影 (kān diàn yǐng – Watching Movies)
A biweekly magazine focused on reviews of both domestic and foreign movies, 看电影 offers fresh analysis on the latest works in film from a Chinese cinephile’s perspective. Even casual movie-lovers will enjoy the blend of celebrity news, director interviews and a behind-the-scenes look at both blockbuster and art-house movies. You can find the magazine’s official site here.
And there you have it, six magazines to turbocharge your Chinese reading skills.
Once you find a magazine you love, you’ll really be able to enjoy the learning process. Read often, take notes, and most importantly, remember to have fun!
And One More Thing...
If you want to continue learning Chinese with interactive and authentic Chinese content, then you'll love FluentU.
FluentU 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.
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 customizes quizzes to focus on areas that need attention and reminds you when it’s time to review what you’ve learned. 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 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.