9 great apps to boost your Chinese reading skills

You are learning how to read Chinese characters and want to further improve your Chinese reading skills? These are nine apps to enhance your Chinese reading fluency.

The market for Chinese learning tools is not standing still. Well-known apps such as Chairman’s Bao and DuChinese face competition from newer providers, each with their own USP filling a gap in the market. Some of these newer apps emerge with innovative AI features, promising to make the learning process more smart and efficient. This exciting development is occurring much more rapidly than I expected. Testing these apps I paid special attention to:

Ease of use and design

Text quality

Added value through intelligent practice material



Long-term added value

By the way, this is not a top 9, but a list of 9 serious options. Let’s dive into it:

Pricing (year)Number of lessonsFlashcardsExercisesHuman audioDifficultyTCB$80.00+9500YesYesYesAll levelsDu Chinese$119.99 +2500YesNoYesAll levelsDuShu$14.99 (one time fee)unlimited / “user generated”YesYesNoAll levelsDot Languages$66.00 (Standard), $120.00 (Premium)+6000YesYesYesAll levelsReadibu$46.99 unlimited / “user generated”NoNoNoHSK 5+maayot$120.00 (standard), $450.00 (pro)daily new texts on your levelNoYesYesAll levelsWordSwing Chinese$72.00+50NoNoYesHSK3+Readle for Chinese$69,99 100+YesYesYesHSK 1-4mylingua$119.00unlimitedNoNoNo
HSK 5+

1. TCB – The Chairman’s Bao

Android iOS & desktop

Subscription costs: $6.7/month, $80/year

Number of lessons / texts: +9500

Reading exercises: yes

Audio: yes (human voice)

Difficulty: HSK1-6

The Chairman’s Bao (TCB) is probably the best-known graded reader app for Chinese with an insane amount of articles. Originally focusing on news, but TCB’s feed includes many other topics ranging from Chinese history to science and tech. The Legends series highlight Chinese celebrities like Jack Chan and Zhang Yimou. New articles are published every week. TCB’s covers all difficulty levels, providing content for beginners as well as advanced learners. It’s almost impossible to NOT find something interesting to read.

You can use TCB in various ways. One strategy is to read by HSK level or by topic. Another possibility is to simply read the latest articles. It’s good to note that each article is a lesson in itself, so you get not merely a text with translation, but also vocabulary lists, detailed grammar points and exercises. Moreover, TCB allows you to generate and practice flashcards from handpicked vocabulary items. TCB provides ‘real human audio’ which can be put on auto-repeat. TCB also provides an interface to track your learning history. And needless to say, you can adjust font size, word spacing, character colors and the like.

In short, this long-standing app has much to offer. On a critical note: using the app for several months, the thing I missed the most is something like a learning path to follow. This lack of structure and guidance make it difficult to get the most out of it. Where to start and where to stop? I also think that the TCB learning community could be more visible within the app (interactivity). I’d like to see which articles are most popular for example, and see the answers of other learners when doing the exercises. It would be cool to see AI-powered features in the future.

2. Du Chinese

Android, iOS & desktop

Subscription costs: $14.99/month, $119.99/year

Number of lessons / texts: +2500

Reading exercises: no

Audio: yes

Difficulty: HSK1-6

The graded reader app Du Chinese offers similar features as TCB: short graded Chinese texts, including audio and dictionary definitions. However, Du Chinese focuses more on stories and ‘evergreen’ content than news articles. The app doesn’t include any reading exercises, except for studying vocabulary with flashcards, which is a pity. Difficulty level ranges from ‘newbie’ to master. On the positive side: English sentence translations are included. Audio quality is good.

One might argue that TCB is the better deal here, however I’d advise to check out both apps and make a decision based on the content, user interface and extra features you prefer.

3. DuShu


Subscription costs: one-time fee of $14.99

Number of lessons / texts: unlimited

Reading exercises: yes

Audio: yes

Difficulty: HSK1-6

Although not the trendiest design, DuShu is one of the most useful and down-to-earth reading tools for Chinese texts. It provides some basic reading material, yet the main idea is to grab any Chinese text you want to read and – similar to Pleco clipboard reader – copy-paste it into DuShu, thus creating your own reading library. Then you enter reading mode and tap on words to activate DuShu’s in-app dictionary. DuShu can also read texts out loud, the audio is not state of the art, but usable. Since you have to copy-paste, reading longer texts (like novels for example) is less practical using DuShu.

The exercises (like flashcards) are a bit random, but still a nice extra which allows you to practice after reading. You can also generate your own flashcards based on any given text and export them to other apps (paid feature).

If you’re an independent learner and know what to read, DuShu is a great tool to improve your Chinese reading skills. It’s free to use, except for some extra features like unlimited Google translations, you pay a one-time fee. It’s a pretty basic tool, but I’ve been using it on a regular basis for years now and still profit from it.

4. Dot Languages – Learn Chinese

Subscription costs: $5.50/month, $66/year (Standard), $10/month, $120/year (Premium)

Number of lessons / texts: +6000

Reading exercises: yes

Audio: yes

Difficulty: HSK1-9

The app Dot Languages I only discovered recently. It claims to offer a “personalized AI-based learning path” which should ensure you’re getting the most interesting and relevant articles. Like in most other Chinese learning apps they are graded according to the HSK levels. It seems Dot Languages offers two different “feeds”. One is a “path” where you have to finish text and exercises before you can jump to the next one. The other feed – like the Chairman’s Bao – presents new articles every week and you can read freely.

It’s not clear to me where these articles come from. The texts from the learning path feel very HSK-ish to me which is not a bad thing (it’s a quality sign). I like the idea of a learning path, because it grants some kind of structure, but I didn’t get the impression the articles are interconnected – like the chapters in my HSK course book for example, so you’re still hopping rather randomly from one article to the next. It would be nicer to study new HSK vocabulary in a more systematic way. In the premium version, you can actually skip texts in the learning path which adds flexibility, yet also raises questions about the quality of the path you’re suppose to follow.

That being said, Dot Languages is a pretty cool app for gaining reading fluency and vocabulary building. The design is nice and although the app has quite some options, it is easy to find your way. Progress tracking is also good. Maybe the coolest feature are the exercises. They include vocabulary training, sentence building and reading comprehension in the premium version. The standard version is a bit more limited, but still nice and useful.

5. Readibu

Android and iOS

Subscription costs: $4.89/month, $46.99/year

Number of lessons / texts: unlimited

Reading exercises: no

Audio: yes (as part of the dictionary, words only)

Difficulty: HSK 4-6

Readibu is a pretty cool app for reading longer Chinese texts. It provides access to all kind of Chinese web novels and stories, allowing you to explore a wealth of authentic reading material, sorted by HSK level. By providing a URL you can also add your own texts.

By subscribing you gain access to extra features like sentence translations, smart name recognition. They’re useful, but not essential to use the app. The main challenge is to find the right material to read, since Readibu provides plenty of choice and it’s not always easy to judge a book or story with the information provided.

In short, Readibu is a great reading tool to read longer, authentic Chinese content.

6. maayot

Android, iOS & desktop

Subscription costs: $10/month, $120/year (standard), $37,5/month, $450/year (pro),

Number of lessons / texts: daily new text as long as your subscription lasts

Reading exercises: yes

Audio: yes

Difficulty: HSK1-6

Maayot provides a daily new text or story that are relevant to what is actually happening in China right now. These texts have various topics, yet they introduce and repeat (!) vocabulary in an intelligent way, so you’re not just reading random stuff, but follow a path that is leading somewhere. Maayot is the only app I know of that follows this approach.

What’s more in the premium version, you also get writing prompts, text and pronunciation corrections by a Chinese teacher. Many learners like this, because you’re not merely reading and practicing vocabulary, but you also get a chance to write and speak AND receive feedback.

The biggest downside – in my eyes – is that these cool features have a price tag. Meaning that to profit from daily text and pronunciation corrections & feedback you have to order the pro plan. This – unfortunately – is not a low-budget option. But if you’re not on a budget, maayot is an innovative app which not only allows you to enhance your reading, but also work on your writing skills and pronunciation in a challenging way.

7. WordSwing Chinese

Android and iOS (at the moment of writing I couldn’t download the app, desktop version still works)

Subscription costs: $8/month, $72/year

Number of lessons / texts: +50

Reading exercises: yes

Audio: yes

Difficulty: HSK3-5

WordSwing Chinese is an app with Chinese “text adventure games” created for intermediate learners. It has some extra features like comics, short stories, dialogues as well, but these Chinese text adventures are the focal point.

What makes WordSwing unique is that as a reader you are solving a puzzle. You have to find your way in a maze through text comprehension. If you choose the wrong option, you have to take a step back. This means that you really have to use your head when reading, because the solution often lies in the details. However, if you make a mistake, it won’t hurt you, because repetition is useful.

The text adventures each have their own topic and level. They are mainly intended for intermediate learners. WordSwing is the only app for Chinese reading skills that includes this kind of game element and interactivity.

8. Readle for Chinese

Android and iOS

Subscription costs: $12,99/month, $69,99/year

Number of lessons / texts: 100+

Reading exercises:

Audio: yes

Difficulty: HSK1-4

Readle for Chinese is a relatively new app. The design is good, but the app itself is not very innovative. The number of articles is (still) quite limited and does not include HSK levels 5 and higher.

That said, the app does what it’s supposed to do. I like the short texts and the handy audio player that can read out both the entire text and individual sentences. The exercises consist of a quiz, flashcards and grammar points. Good concept and execution, but little new under the sun.

Here too you can try a number of lessons for free. If you want to enjoy all features, you have to upgrade to premium.

9. mylingua

Desktop (works on mobile devices too)

Subscription costs: $14.99/month, $119/year

Number of lessons / texts: unlimited

Reading exercises: no

Audio: yes (premium only)

Difficulty: HSK5-6+

Mylingua is another fairly new app. It does not offer graded content, but a feed optimized for Chinese learners with authentic news articles from Chinese media.

You can indicate which topics interest you and mylingua will then serve you the news that matches your interests. Complete with indication of difficulty, text length and number of unknown words.

So how does this work? Well, mylingua aggregates over 5000 articles daily from China and Taiwan and compares your skill level to the articles. Their AI then calculates the mylingua score, which helps you assess the readability of articles. Content pieces with higher scores are compared to your interest and ranked accordingly, presenting a perfectly personalized feed. Every user input feeds mylingua’s AI to help refine further suggestions. So as you advance, so does your feed and the content presented to you.

Review by alllanguageresources.com

This app fills a gap in the market for advanced learners who want to make the transition from graded reader content to raw and authentic reading material. This makes mylingua especially interesting for those learners who want to delve into Chinese news unfiltered. With the in-app dictionary and other useful features such as frequency rank, text-to-audio and translations, mylingua has a lot to offer for advanced learners.

You have to subscribe in order to get full access which includes unlimited articles, text imports and full-text audio.


After testing these (and other) apps, if one thing has become clear to me, it’s that none of them are perfect. Every app has its strengths and they complement each other, but no app is complete. There is always something missing: a good audio player, translation options, a game element or structured learning.

It’s encouraging to see AI being used to deliver an even more customized experience, as it’s called. For example, through good content recommendations or smart exercises that are really add something.

For most learners, I guess, however, the quality of the content remains decisive. After all, you don’t want to waste your time with lame texts that don’t really interest you, even when the app is superbly designed and has all the features you could wish for. And that is where skilled content writers play a central role.

My advice is therefore to first look at your own language level, goals and preferences. Only if you really like an app and think that long-term use can make a difference for you – for example improving reading speed or listening skills -, I’d go for a paid subscription.

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Which apps do you recommend for beginners?

The Chairman’s Bao, Du Chinese, Readle, Dot Languages all provide high-quality content for beginners. Their features are pretty similar. When it comes to both quantity and quality of articles The Chairman’s Bao might be the best option.

Which apps do you recommend for intermediate learners?

For intermediate learners Chairman’s Bao, Du Chinese, Dot Languages, WordSwing and Maayot are worth considering. Here it is mainly a matter of what content you are looking for, what your budget is and which app appeals to you most in terms of UX and features. The Chairmans’ Bao remains an interesting option, because thematically it caters to all tastes and you can read both intensively and extensively, in other words, you can go for both challenging and easier texts.

Which apps do you recommend for advanced learners?

If you’ve had enough with everything below HSK 5, then DuShu, Readibu, mylingua and maayot are very interesting apps to enhance your Chinese reading skills. If you already know which texts you want to read, DuShu and Readibu will be of great use to you. If you are interested in Chinese news and authentic, unsimplified reading material, you should give mylingua a try. Last but not least, the maayot app is interesting if you want to combine reading with writing and improving your pronunciation. If you are willing to study for 30 minutes every day, maayot offers the most structure and guidance with its daily texts.

I want to spend as little money as possible and I have 6 months to study. Which app(s) do you recommend?

If you want to spend as little money as possible on improving your reading skills in Chinese, DuShu and Readibu are probably your best bet. The free versions of these apps can go a long way. For DuShu you pay a one-time fee for extra features, so you do not have to pay for a monthly subscription. You must then decide for yourself which texts you are going to read. This means a lot of freedom, but also little guidance.

I have a 50 – 100 $ budget and and I have 6 months to study. Which app(s) do you recommend?

With this budget you have quite a few options. The Chairman’s Bao and Dot Languages ​​are relatively affordable, the other apps are often slightly more expensive. Here too it is a matter of weighing up what best suits your goals and expectations. It is advisable to test apps for a while before getting a paid subscription.

Money plays no big role. Which app(s) do you recommend?

If money is not a limiting factor, maayot can be an interesting option. Especially if, in addition to improving your reading skills, you also want to work on your writing skills and your pronunciation. This app gives you the opportunity to write and record a text every day, on which you receive feedback from a Chinese teacher. The daily texts build on each other and repeat previously discussed vocabulary. As a result, maayot offers more structure than other apps. Of course, you must have the discipline to invest approximately 30 minutes every day.

I’m not interested in taking the HSK, but enjoy reading. Which apps do you recommend?

If you are not so focused on HSK word lists and the like and also know what you find interesting to read, then DuShu and Readibu are very useful apps. Here you can simply read whatever you want. Although it should also be said that the graded reader apps such as The Chairman’s Bao and Du Chinese do not focus exclusively on transferring HSK vocabulary. But DuShu and Readibu are definitely the “freestyle” options.

Graded Chinese readers

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