I've got some books in Chinese, written both in characters and pinyin. Can reading such a book develop anything when it comes to my Chinese? I started reading it by hiding the pronunciation with a purposefully prepared piece of paper but it's so uncomfortable that I want to give it up. I wanted to read books in order to enhance my character recognition. But if I don't hide anything, I can see everything and it's not possible to pretend that it's not there. I can read even characters that I'd never seen. So it seems to me that such a book can be treated as a light entertainment more than a study resource.

I'm asking about answers based on scientific research or your experience. Thank you!

3 Answers 3


I'm asking about answers based on scientific research or your experience.

I choose experience to answer.

In Taiwan, Students of lower grades of elementary school have a subject called 國語(in English: an official language used by our country).

In Taiwan, people use Zhuyin to denote pronunciation. So textbook of 國語 have article written in Traditional Chinese and Zhuyin on the right side of characters. You can see it if you google to search image with 小學國語課本 in search bar. Some of the pictures show that there are Zhuyin on the right side of characters.

After we grew, we became higher grade students of elementary school. The Zhuyin part were not be given.


Speaking from experience, as long as you don't focus too much on the Pinyin (as in only reading the Pinyin) there shouldn't be any harm.

The Pinyin is only supposed to familiarise you to the words, not to hinder you. That's why children's books and learners' textbooks have a lot of Pinyin. Once you've reached a certain amount of knowledge, you'll actually prefer reading the words to the Pinyin.

For now if you're not comfortable leaving the Pinyin it just means you still need it, just continue as you are. When you've taken in enough knowledge of the language it will be a fluid transition.

  • Characters definitely give more meaning than pinyin. So maybe what I do is wrong: I strive reading the book, but I don't try to understand it at the first reading (I later come back to the sentence and only then try to understand). Perhaps I should read and try to understand at the same moment. This way there will be less focus on characters, but more on the language as whole.
    – musialmi
    Commented Mar 13, 2020 at 6:01

My experience is that I would inevitably read the pinyin and not the Chinese characters, and it's something I deliberately avoid. I also find pinyin inherently obstructive---once you've mastered HSK4, 90%+ of the pinyin is likely useless.

There's also an argument to be made about deliberately making it difficult to find the pinyin: in order to learn, it's likely beneficial to actively attempt to remember the pronunciation.

I find it's best to write my own pinyin above the characters I don't (yet) know how to pronounce. (And only the first time I encounter it.) If there's too many such characters, I save the book for later---it's too hard.

I also use my Kindle, where I can select words and it gives the pronunciation and its definition in Chinese.

In this way, I have read the Chinese version of Matilda from cover to cover. Now when I re-read the book, I can directly see how much I've improved, which provides a kind of progress indicator.

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