Just joined this site to post this question that I hope someone can help me with.

Just a little background about myself. I’m a Malaysian Chinese, and obviously I’m born in Malaysia. We live in a multicultural society with somewhat different education ‘system’ (not too sure if that is the correct term to use). Here we have national school where classes (subjects) are generally thought in Malay language and we also have vernacular schools such as Chinese schools (where subjects are thought in Chinese, Mandarin).

I went to national school and never had any formal education in Chinese language. Although, I am able to converse quite well in different Chinese dialects (Mandarin, Cantonese etc) since I speak Chinese at home, I’m unable to read and write in Chinese except for some very simple Chinese characters.

Just want to ask if anyone having similar experience and is willing to share what is the best way to go about to learn reading and writing in Chinese and how to get started? My goal is to start this year (2022), I’m hoping to get some tips from those who have travelled this path. Thanks a lot.

  • What specific deficiencies do you find in your reading and writing? Is it at a character level? A word level? Sentence level?
    – user31212
    Commented Feb 19, 2022 at 6:21

4 Answers 4


As a native speaker who can read and write, I think this is similar to teach older generation who were born in a unfortunate time/condition thus they never learned to read or write( My father's mother is like that).

What I can think about is maybe to watch some Chinese TV drama on YouTube? Nowadays they all have built-in Chinese subtitles. Since you can understand the lines by listening without a problem, you can focus on the bottom part to learn the Chinese characters while getting entertained at the same time.


Unfortunately, there is no short-cut in learning reading and writing but starting from "read and write" at the elementary level. I think the use of vocabulary cards is a very effective method. It is better to have a tutor or partner, other than learning the word on the randomly picked card, once know enough vocabulary you can make the learning fun to try to arrange the selected cards into sentences.

No known tools that could help to learn how to write but write, write, write.


I started studying Mandarin on my own. My knowledge was zero and I have no Chinese speaking friends to help me.

Even so, I can already read some basic texts.

I recommend the application Du Chinese (for Android). It has hundreds of short texts, designed to help the beginners to read in Mandarin.

While reading the text, you can click on the text and see its translation into English. In addition, you can see the translation of the sentences and hear the pronunciation of the words.

There are texts for all levels (from beginners to advanced).

Since you can already speak, I believe this program will be perfect for you to learn to read. It will just be a matter of perseverance.


When I was in elementary school they have something called a 习字册 that contains big characters for you to practice writing on. Since you can already understand the semantics of the language pretty well, I'd suggest you use those.

Basically, you can buy a pack of elementary school textbooks and try to make sense of them. It is preferable if you have someone who has near-native fluency to correct you when you make mistakes.

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