Comparing Textbooks for Learning Chinese

Has anyone got any experience with Practical Audio-visual Chinese (實用視聽華語) and A Course in Contemporary Chinese (當代中文課程)? I gather these are the most widely-used textbooks in language schools. I’m just wondering how they compare to one another.

I know a bit about the former, but haven’t been able to get my hand on A Course in Contemporary Chinese outside of Taiwan.

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The textbooks used in TW that are NT300-800 in TW are often available on Amazon, but usually for 60-80 USD. I have used neither of the texts you mentioned but they look acceptable from the “look inside” on whichever Taiwanese book distributor’s site I looked at them on in the past.

What’s your end goal? If you’re looking for more level-appropriate language input as opposed to a specific grammar breakdown, I’ve used The Chairman’s Bao ( in the past. It’s excellent for level-appropriate input (by HSK level, through HSK 6+) and has vocabulary and grammar targets, but it covers a wide range of topics instead of dialogues that talk in stupid ways just to emphasize a grammar pattern. The audio speed is also originally recorded for the appropriate speed at that HSK level, but there’s a speed-up and slow down feature if you need it. You can hover over (on the web) or tap (phone app) words you don’t know for definition of any and all words and you can add them to a personal flashcard(s) “stack” for later review. (They have a flashcard review system on the site)

ChinesePod also comes to mind but man do their hosts, especially the American ones, think the world is made up of only China, which is the best country in the whole wide world, and America, which is full of lazy, stupid people with a backwards culture. (it’s possible that changed when they moved from Beijing to Taipei.) But sometimes they have USD$0.99 sales for a premium month subscription, and their actual software and language input is not bad. The America-bashing was strong with that one though, and that’s not necessary when you’re paying to learn a language.

Personally, I think textbooks are only good until you’re at a lower intermediate level, especially in Chinese. There’s not much grammar that you need to “learn” if you just learn the way to say the things (which isn’t as true of many other languages). You need serious and constant input and it needs to be input that you’re interested in to learn a language. If you plan to go through a lot of Chinese textbooks at once, especially at their cost from outside TW, I’d look into a leveled reader website. The Taiwanese would have you thinking otherwise, but one does not learn language by memorizing/practicing grammar patterns + route vocabulary memorization so you can eventually, someday, pull everything out of files on your brain. You learn it by hearing, reading, speaking and writing it.


For a while the ChinesePod lessons were free to share, this only applies to the oldest lessons but they are still available on the internet. This were the Shanghai sessions from ~ 2007. Good beginner materials.

The Chairman Bao content is also available as addon books for Pleco* split by HSK level. This is better value as it is download/pay once, and integrated into the best Chinese dictionary.



Thanks for the insights. I’ve been learning Chinese for about a year now - since the start of the pandemic. I purchased an online beginner’s course sometime ago (which I went through quite quickly) and do an hour’s worth of conversation practice with an online teacher every week.

I’m after these books more as a secondary material - my primary learning material being Youtube videos. Like, as in, videos by Taiwanese Youtubers for Taiwanese audience. I understand around 75% of cooking videos, 50%-75% of travel and general life blogs, 50% of health/nutrition/gym/body-building videos, and about 25%-50% of funny videos. I do feel a bit more comfortable when I have a textbook or structured course to hold on to, though.

Yeah, I know how that feels. I’ve failed at language-learning in the past (twice) - but I’ve also succeeded (once).


I did not know that. Pleco is hands down the best Ch-En dictionary app ever. Combining it with the best leveled reader I’ve used = maybe I’ll hunker down and work on my Chinese again. Thanks for the information


You are able to do this when you subscribe to Chairman Bao? I’ve used both that and Pleco but didn’t know this was possible.

It is a separate purchase. I subscribed to the Chairman Bao for a while, but it was unhandy as I couldnt easily add keywords to my Pleco flashcards.

I paid €9.99 for 1 level HSK ebook , containing about 125 stories. They have ebooks for HSK 1-6


I am reading through their graded reader option now.

Didn’t know this was a thing - really appreciate the suggestion.

The books are the same except for the content of 2 books spread out into 5, it seems

I subscribe to 國語日報

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You can copy and paste any text into Pleco with “clipboard reader” and read it that way. It works the same as the ebooks — tap the characters that you don’t know, hit the + to add it to your word list.

As loser already mentioned, the content of the 2 courses is more or less the same, but A Course in Contemporary Chinese needs more books doing so.
When taking courses in Taiwan, some teachers preferred the former, some the latter.

Practical Audio-visual Chinese is more condensed and crams a lot of grammar in each chapter. One teacher preferred it, as A Course in Contemporary Chinese was supposedly a little bit too easy.

Even though Practical Audio-visual Chinese also has modernised editions (e.g. the 3rd edition, teaching digital camera or CD-player instead of tape), it still feels more old fashioned.
A Course in Contemporary Chinese has somewhat more realistic modern daily life conversations.
Practical Audio-visual Chinese also updated the stock-fotos, but the rest of the layout design still feels outdated.

Nowadays I only learn Chinese occasionally and without a teacher (I’m also not in Taiwan).
I slowly work through both of the books. As they teach the same grammar and very similar vocabulary (topics are the same, like New Year, Hospital, History of Taiwan…), I can get more practice, so some stuff hopefully sticks.


I know a guy studied Chinese since 1988. But on returning to English speaking country, his investment diminished like water leaking from a bucket with a hole in it.

I know a Thai guy in USA who watches Thailand tv because without it he would forget his native tongue