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100 List of Common Chinese Words

Want to learn Chinese faster? Your best bet is to learn the most common list of Chinese characters and words that you can use throughout most of your conversations.

So you’ve decided that you want to learn Chinese. How do you get started?

We recommend learning the most common Chinese words and characters. First off, mastering your vocabulary is the initial step you need in order to form prope sentences in Mandarin (or Cantonese). For many people, learning Chinese characters is going to be a novel experience, especially if your native language is English, Spanish, or any other language involving the alphabet.

Beyond just learning characters, why is learning the most common words the best route?

Why learning 1,000 most common Chinese words is the best method

We’ll skip right to the research that we’ve found on why tackling the few is your best bet.

A study done on foreign language learning revealed that:

Studying the first 1000 most frequently used words in the language will familiarize you with 76.0% of all vocabulary in non-fiction literature, 79.6% of all vocabulary in fiction literature, and 87.8% of vocabulary in oral speech.

Studying the 2000 most frequently used words will familiarize you with 84% of vocabulary in non-fiction, 86.1% of vocabulary in fictional literature, and 92.7% of vocabulary in oral speech.

And studying the 3000 most frequently used words will familiarize you with 88.2% of vocabulary in non-fiction, 89.6% of vocabulary in fiction, and 94.0% of vocabulary in oral speech.

This may not be the exact ratio because Spanish and Mandarin are completely different languages. However, there is a lesson to be learned. Not everything should be placed in equal value, as some common words in Chinese are used far more often than others.

Take English for example: when is the last time you used the word synthesis or acquisition? Probably not nearly as much as you’ve used the words: there, why, how, good, etcetera. Chinese will be no different. If you plan to learn how to speak Chinese for the sake of speaking with other native speakers, then think carefully about how you already speak your native tongue.

In addition, if time is limited for you (which is the case for all of us), then you want to maximize your reward for the least amount of time. Based on this diagram above, 250-500 of the most common characters in Chinese (or any other language) will capture the most value. In fact, it’s very likely that you’d be able to form a proper conversation naturally with those set of words.

100 Most Common List of Chinese Words

To help you gain momentum, we’re going to start you off with 100 of the most common characters in Mandarin.

For ambitious learners looking to go beyond the basic 100 Chinese characters, we’ve compiled a list of resources you can take advantage of.
-500 Chinese characters in flashcards
-800 most basic Chinese characters (memris

Best method to learn the list of Chinese characters

Nothing happens without taking action. We’re going to recommend 3 resources to help you memorize the most common words today.


Anki is a free flashcard tool that you can set up online for memorizing just about anything. If you want to quiz yourself to help retain the Chinese characters, this is a great choice to start with.


Memrise is the digital flashcard community for the 21st century. They offer a slick modern user interface that makes it appealing for any user to create, find, and consume cards on your desktop, phone, or tablet.


If this is your first time hearing about Rype, you’re in luck. After starting the company by offering just Spanish lessons online, we’ve quickly expanded into offering popular languages including Mandarin, French, German, English, and more. Best of all, you only need one membership to gain unlimited access to all the language lessons offered.

Unlike Memrise, your private tutor on Rype will set personal goals and a customized plan to help you achieve your goals, gather immediate feedback, and improve your conversation skills. There’s no comparison to learning via a live 1-on-1 professional teacher when it comes to learning a new language.

We’re offering a free 7-day trial today for anyone looking to learn Mandarin and many other popular languages we offer.

What’s next

If you’re interested in learning Chinese online, on your time, we’d love for you to meet Rype.

With  1-on-1 Chinese lessons online, it’s the easiest and most effective way to learn a language for busy people.

Start your trial with Rype, and you can book daily lessons at anytime of the day, any day of the week. We’ve built the entire experience to fit the needs of busy individuals like yourself, and you can even try it out for free!

Or hear why students recommend Rype as the best way to learn Chinese.

We also recommend you check out our other free resources:

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