Chinese and English have very little in common. In fact, it would be difficult to imagine two more completely different languages. Chinese is a tonal language that has no alphabet and very simple grammar rules, especially concerning verb tenses. It is written in thousands of characters and combinations, based on small ideographs called radicals. English on the other hand, has a formal alphabet that makes it easier to decode and understand words, but the grammar is very complex, with as many exceptions as there are rules. These extreme differences make choosing a comprehensible textbook essential for the Chinese student of English.

New Concept English

Written by L. G. Alexander, New Concept English is a four book set first published in 1967. It includes an integrated audio component, and was last updated in 1993. The series uses a story-based methodology designed for beginners, and the greatest criticism of New Concept is that is becoming outdated.


Published by Cambridge University Press, Interchange contains four levels with audio that focuses on real world conversations. It is designed to be student-centered, and this makes it useful for self study outside the classroom.

Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English

This comprehensive dictionary includes not only definitions, but also actual meanings with examples translated into Chinese. This is useful in decoding meaning that may be different from the literal translation, and the example sentences help model proper English usage.

New Channel English

New Channel runs a network of schools in China and also produces their own textbooks. They have multiple series of books designed specifically for use by Chinese students studying English. They run the gamut in ESL topics from conversational English, to studying for the TOEFL.