Launch of the New Breakthrough Level Books: 150 Characters

Launch of the New Breakthrough Level Books: 150 Characters

Since John and I started Mandarin Companion back in 2012, we have pursued a vision of a revolution in learning Chinese marked by the advent of easy-to-read and interesting (key word interesting) books in Chinese. Few things have the impact on any language development as does reading and the mounting testimonials from readers is a testament to the impact it is making around the world.

As the years went on, we came to realize that for many learners it may take several years before they reach the point when they are able to read the Level 1, 300 character, stories. In discussion with many learners and teachers, they loved the concept of the books, but most needed something even easier to read. We also found that in Chinese programs all over the world, students tend to drop out after a year or two. A significant reason behind this has to do with the slow progress of learning Chinese in that it can take years before a learner feels like they can do anything with the language.

When John and I discussed these various issues, we decided that we need to do our part to help this generation of learners to read Chinese at an earlier stage, to help them get a “win” earlier, to make the goal of reading in Chinese even more obtainable. This was the genesis of the Breakthrough level.

The Breakthrough 150 Character Level Standard

When we started out, we knew we had to make it as simple as possible AND interesting, two things that are at odds with each other. We floated out different numbers of characters until we settled on only 150 and, at the time, we weren’t even sure if we were going to be able to write anything good with that little!

We had to set some strict rules for this level because otherwise it can be too easy to compromise your standards for the sake of the story. Once you begin adding a harder character, it becomes easier to add one more, and then one more, and before you know it your book is filled with words and characters that slow down a reader, tripping them up every paragraph. We all know it’s hard enough to read at these early stages!

In this new level, you’ll only find the most useful and common characters and words. For example, all of the 150 characters in the Breakthrough Level are a subset of the Level 1 standard. On top of that, all of the key words in the Breakthrough standard fall within the 300 characters in the Level 1 standard. That means you’ll never waste time learning characters that are not important to your fluency at this stage of Chinese.

Breakthrough Titles

We will be releasing five Breakthrough Level books by mid 2019. We found that due to our constraints it was nearly impossible to adapt existing stories so we wrote our own! All of these are original stories written by John and myself. Here is a preview of the upcoming books.

  • My Teacher is a Martian 《我的老师是火星人》- Two good friends notice their teacher is very strange, so strange that they begin to suspect that he is actually from Mars.
  • Xiao Ming, Boy Sherlock《小明》- Xiao Ming would one day grow up to be a great detective, but it all started when he was just a boy.
  • In Search of Hua Ma《花马》- All he wanted to do was give his mother a simple present, instead a son finds himself transported across China on bizarre quest…
  • Three Friends《三个朋友》- Two guys have been friends forever, but what happens when they fall for the same girl in college?

First Release: The Misadventures of Zhou Haisheng

The Misadventures of Zhou Haisheng is the first book in the Breakthrough Level. It follows the antics of 9 year-old Zhou Haisheng whose parents own a small noodle shop. Always well-intentioned, he finds ways to help out his hard-working parents with the family business. Whether its inventing his own noodle recipe, delivering the wrong order to a customer, or resorting to extremes when a competing noodle shop opens across the street, Haisheng manages to combine his mischief and wit to save the day. Here is a small sample.







  1. 做菜 (zuòcài) vo. to cook food
  2. 晚上 (wǎnshang) n. evening
  3. 一边 (yībiān) conj. while doing… (two things)
  4. (xiào) v. to laugh, to smile
  5. (yòu) adv. again
  6. 开心 (kāixīn) adj. happy

When you get to the Mandarin Companion Level 2 books, don’t forget about this story! You’ll see how they all fit in.

Get your copy today on Amazon or Kobo! And if you are a teacher or administrator looking to place an order for your school, contact us directly.
If you want to be the first to know about the new releases, subscribe to our email list below.

We are ever grateful for all of the support from all of our readers. We’ll be releasing even more titles this year and be sure to have a listen to our podcast. 加油!


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  • Andrei Posted June 19, 2019 10:56 pm

    Will there be audiobook versions of these breakthrough books? I like that there is audio for level 1 books, and as a beginner I prefer to listen to a native speaker reading the text.

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