Reading news is not easy, especially when it's written in a super complicated language like Chinese. You may come up with 1001 excuses to avoid reading. But in my humble opinion, it's actually one of the best ways to help you reach Chinese fluency by frequently exposing you to standardized Chinese, complex writing styles, a variety of grammar structures and new vocabulary in so many topics.
The more you immerse yourself in Chinese, the better your Chinese will get. And reading news is always a fantastic way to make that happen! Here is why...
Why Reading the News in Mandarin Chinese?
Free, never-ending resource
Of course, unlike your usual Chinese textbooks, news sites get updated daily, many hourly, in all topics. And most of them are free to read or only ask for a (tiny) fraction of a book’s cost for subscription. This means you learn something new from free, fresh, up-to-date content every day.
Expand your vocabulary
This is one of the most obvious benefits of reading news in Chinese frequently. Your initial vocabulary helps you read smoothly, and in return, reading helps you broaden your vocabulary.
Just like how Chinese is a language of tones, every of which and give change the meaning drastically if you don't pay attention, there are also thousands of Chinese words that look almost similar but bear totally different meanings. The more you expose yourself to the large amount of words in daily news, the more experience you'll have in differentiating these similar-but-different words.
To check out other words that have almost similar appearance or tone with a specific word, I recommend you check out GlotDojo. It's a 100% free, super fast and friendly dictionary extension that will allow you to look up these easily mistaken words for any word you see while reading online news. Click any word whose meaning you're not sure of, and you'll get useful information like that, besides basic definition, pronunciation, examples.
Put vocabulary into context
It's important to learn new words in context from the beginning of your learning journey. And reading news gives you a good chance to see everything context. This should be helpful in helping you remember word use and actually using them in the right situation and the right way.
Expose yourself to standardized Chinese
In news, you don’t see slangs often. It’s because journalists have to make sure their writing is formal, standard, and professional. Words and grammar structures you learn from news is standardized, which is just as essential as the daily used, informal ones. 💻
Learn advanced skills that are often forgotten
News also teaches you some advanced skills that your teachers may skip or don't explain enough at class. From building paragraphs for a powerful and persuasive writing, to using captivating words that attract readers.
You will also learn how experienced writers handle a complicated topic or a controversial subject, or how they defend an idea or summarize it. These are some valuable things that will contribute immensely to your Chinese writing skills when you get to advanced level.
Immerse yourself in Chinese culture and life
As you expose yourself to local Chinese news, you’ll grow to understand things like what concerns young Chinese millennials, which subjects are taboo in their society, or some local customs that many foreigners doesn't get. These surely help build a foundation for some real interesting conversations you would like to hold with local Chinese. 🤸
Tips on How to Start Reading Chinese Newspapers
I hope I’ve convinced you that reading the news is a good way to learn Chinese and improve your language skills.
Now to help you get started, I'd like to give you a few tips on how to read online news in Chinese effectively.
Read what you love
When you start reading Chinese news, it is important to choose ones that you will really love. Check out a few news sites (I'll give you a list later) and pick out some that seemingly writes about or contains some columns that you care about.
Stick to your favorite columns/sections. If you are interested in traveling, then go straight to the travel section. If you are into politics, you should absolutely stick with the politics section. Once you build up that habit, then you can broaden your scope and try exploring other sections/sites.
💯 Make sure the level is right for you
Pick an article whose writing language is not too challenging, especially if you are a beginner and don't even read news in your language that often. Reading should not become a boring, hardcore task. If you can understand the general meaning of that article and don't need to look up every single word, then you're good to go.
Learn new vocabulary in context
Don't forget to look for context clues and guess the meanings of words instead looking up Chinese dictionary all the time For most words, it's easy to make a guess of a certain word's meaning if you get a good grip of grammar and the context used in the sentence.
In case you are not good at guessing (yet) and need a dictionary, try the Premium Chinese Add-on by GlotDojo, which shows you full word definition, Pinyin, compound word detections, component breakdown and more to satisfy your dictionary need.
Take it slow
Start reading one article at a time. Don’t worry when you can’t understand the article on 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. Gradually, you will see your improvements and find reading Chinese news no longer terrifying.
10 News Websites For Learning Chinese
The Xinhua News Agency is the largest newspaper in China and is the mouthpiece of the Chinese government. Xinhua is published in Chinese and many other languages, covering most major cultural and socio-political topics of interest to the Chinese people.
The Chairman’s Bao defines itself as the first Chinese simplified newspaper dedicated to those learning Mandarin. The Chairman’s Bao provides a large variety of different news articles on many topics, such as business, science, sport, technology,... and is updated regularly.
Since on The Chairman’s Bao each article states the targeted HSK level, you’ll know in advance whether you’ll be able to understand an article or not.
Furthermore, there is also a massive archive of articles (over 1600) on The Chairman’s Bao so it’s very hard to run out of interesting reads. You can also bookmark articles so you can come back to them later. You do have to pay a subscription fee, which I think is pretty reasonable considering the service you are provided with.
Decipher Chinese is a resource similar to The Chairman’s Bao, in the sense that it also focuses on graduate reading, classifying the difficulty of the articles/texts according to the HSK lists. New articles are published each day on aspects of Chinese culture, quirks of the Chinese language, or topical news stories from across China.
They’re short in length with a large, easy-to-read typeface, thus perfect for the commute to work, or when waiting in a queue for your breakfast. Using Decipher each day is an easy way to get into a habit of reading in Chinese – a stepping stone towards reading genuine Chinese media and literature.
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 on their website.
Unlike Decipher or The Chairman’s Bao, China Daily is merely a news site, which means there is no article level rank or simplified language. Therefore, it may be more suitable for intermediate to pre-advanced Chinese learners than beginners, although if you work around a bit and
If you’re into science, technology, culture and education, then you may want to choose this as your daily reading. It has well written, if not the best, articles in those fields. There’s also an English version on their website.
People’s Daily is the official newspaper of the government. Written in Chinese, the paper has Russian, French, English, Spanish, Korean and Japanese translations available on their web. If you’re interested in politics and the view of the Chinese government on its policies and national affairs then this one is absolutely for you.
This website is different from others. This site wants to “adopt a correct attitude” which is uncommon in China, and is loved by a lot of Chinese writers such as Lian Yue, Song Shinan and Luo Yonghao.
Economic Observer is a weekly paper focused on the market/business news. If your learning focus is geared towards this topic, or if you're mostly interested in learning business terms, then pick this one. You can compare the characters with the English translation to better understand the terminologies.
Chinanews is the official Chinese-language website of CNS launched in 1999. It serves the purpose of providing firsthand data and insight into current events, art, lifestyle, people and travel in China.
Written in reasonably straightforward Chinese, Chinanews is perfect for intermediate to advanced learners. It links to a site in English (http://www.ecns.cn/ ). Although this doesn't offer straight translations of the Chinese news articles, it contains enough information to help in reading the Chinese.
I know that not everyone wants to read news written inside China (guess you know the reason). If you're an avid reader who wants to both learn from great writing and enjoy insightful articles that are free from "Beijing's control", BBC Chinese is a trustworthy site to do that.
This site covers Chinese news from democratic angles and dig deeper into their social & political issues, something that these local BBC branches are known for. Unfortunately, BBC's domain is currently blocked in China, so if you're staying there, remember to access this site through a VPN provider.
That wraps up the list! I've already provided you with the most amazing websites to get you started in reading the Chinese news online. All you need now is to remember the tips and start reading right away. So, what are you waiting for?