Friday, July 16, 2021

Mandarin Companion graded readers review: Part 3, Features

 Note: since writing this post, Mandarin Companion has a new look. Some details may be different in the new versions.

Example page
Example page from a Mandarin Companion graded reader

The Mandarin Companion books have several features that supercharge their useage for Mandarin learners. You might not use all the features, but they have obviously put a lot of work into these features so that they fit in with as many learning scenarios as possible.


Every story has a page that details the main characters (people!) in the story. The characters are generally given names that use characters (the written kind!) a reader at the level of the book will already be familiar with. It is nice to have a page to refer back to with a reminder of who‘s who. Also, in the text, the character names are are underlined. This is a nice feature, because developing readers may have a hard time distinguishing names from words.

Example character list

Key words / glossary

At the end of every story is a numbered list of words and phrases that will probably be new for the reader. When these words and phrases appear in the story, they are underlined and are marked with a reference number. The first time they appear, a short translation is included at the bottom of the page. Each other time, only the underline and word appear. Fortunately, you don‘t have to find the page where it was first referenced, you can instead turn to the back of the book and simply find the reference number. I really prefer this method to a book that has everything translated for you. It encourages you to strive to remember each new word or phrase, but provides a backup when necessary.

Example key word list with reference numbers

Discussion questions

Several questions are included for each chapter to help ensure comprehension. Honestly, I often forget these are there. I think they would be a great aid to a class or to someone more disciplined in their learning than I am!

Discussion questions
Example discussion questions

References for textbooks

Although I am studying on my own, some readers may be using the Mandaring Companion books in classes and/or along with a textbook. Each book includes lists of words that are not included in the intended textbook corresponding with the level of the graded reader.

References for textbooks
Example references for textbooks

Grammar point index

Everybody loves learning grammar, right? … crickets. Well, whether you enjoy it or not, the books have a list of grammar points that would be new to a reader at the level of the graded reader. There are times I have referenced this list when I saw a pattern more than once or it seemed there was more to the meaning than I was understanding.

Grammar points
Example grammar points

Additional Resources

As an enhancement to the books, there are word lists available on the Mandarin Companion website and grammar lists at Allset Learning’s Chinese Grammar Wiki. So far, I have not made much use of these resources, but it is nice that they are available. I could see them as being more useful when the book is used as part of a class.


It‘s clear that a lot of thought and research has gone into this series of Mandarin Companion graded readers. The stories are fun and engaging. I have even had more than one time when I couldn’t put the book down. I needed to know what was going to happen next! That type of feeling while reading Mandarin is absolutely amazing and motivating.

Enjoyable comprehensible input in the form of reading is hard to come by early on in the journey of learning Mandarin, but the folks at Mandarin Companion have created content that fits the bill. I highly recommend all of these books to support advanced beginners and up in their studies.

Note: I am in no way affiliated with Mandarin Companion. This review is my opinion based solely on my experience as a customer and user of their products.

Mandarin Companion graded readers review: Part 1, Levels

Mandarin Companion graded readers review: Part 2, Formats

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