Mandarin Resources for Travelers

Basic, practical tools and information for people traveling to China

Basic Mandarin Resources for Travelers

The following books and documents are particularly useful for travelers who aren’t necessarily serious students of Chinese but hope to actively engage with the language and the culture while in China:

The resources above are handy guides focusing on practical expressions and vocabulary, with contextual information and supplementary notes to enhance their usefulness; they are not the equivalent of a Mandarin textbook (i.e., with a complete, systematic learning curriculum).


Dreaming in Chinese: Mandarin Lessons in Life, Love, and Language (Deborah Fallows): Fallows, a PEW researcher from the U.S. who studied Mandarin for an extended assignment in China, introduces the language and the culture in an engaging way by recounting some of the experiences she had as a student of the language while living in China. Her questions about and struggles with the language, as well as her daily experiences in China, lead her on an investigative journey that gives her (and the reader) insights into Chinese culture and helps her improve her communication skills. While serious students of the language may not benefit a great deal from this book in a linguistic sense, as it deals with fairly basic aspects of the language, it provides a good foundation of understanding for those who are interested in learning the language or are planning a trip to China. Available for Kindle.

Get Talking Chinese (DK Publishing): For somewhat more ambitious beginners learning on their own, this book introduces the language in a colorful, easy-to-digest format; it also includes a CD to help with pronunciation. Younger learners in particular may find this book appealing. Though not a full course of study, it provides a good foundation for extended learning, with a basic explanation of various aspects of the language and plenty of cultural context. It includes a useful section on taking a trip to China, with relevant topics and vocabulary.