Welcome to MandarinBanana!

This page is supposed to provide background information about how MandarinBanana works and how it is supposed to help you learn Chinese characters.

MandarinBanana is about learning Chinese characters

Before explaining how MandarinBanana works, let me give a brief background about the state of the art of learning Chinese characters.


Learning Chinese characters is, without doubt, the hardest part about learning the Chinese language. Before the advent of language learning software (especially electronic dictionaries), learning Chinese characters to a native-like level was regarded as virtually impossible. The invention of mnemonic methods and spaced repetition software (notably Anki) was a huge step forward: suddenly, learning Chinese characters became possible.

Mnemonic systems enable learning Chinese characters by encoding the character components, the meaning, and sometimes the pronunciation in short stories, creating memorable experiences. This is more or less the same way memorization artists remember the order of a deck of playing cards, or hundreds of digits of Pi.

How to learn Chinese characters with mnemonics

MandarinBanana uses a mnemonic system to encode a character's pronunciation, meaning, and components in memorable little stories. The pronunciation is represented by a persona and a background for the start and the end of the Pinyin syllable respectively. The components (for example, radicals or strokes) and the meaning of the character are represented by objects. This is an ideal setup to create mnemonic comics for each character, making learning Chinese characters fun and memorable.

Follow the link below to learn more about the mnemonic system MandarinBanana uses to encode the translation and pronunciation of Chinese characters in mnemonic stories.

Learn more about the Marilyn method

How to learn Chinese characters with movies

In my opinion, the very best source for natural sounding sentences plus native speaker audio are movies. Learning Chinese with movies is also very effective. You do not only learn a single Chinese character in isolation, but also how it's used in a sentence, the sentence's grammar, pronunciation, words, and more. But more importantly: when reviewing sentences, you're reviewing many different characters at the same time. This is much more efficient than reviewing individual characters one after the other.

MandarinBanana adds the pronunciation and translation of every word and character in a sentence below it for your reference.

How to use this website

It's up to your personal preference! If you're a beginner, I would recommend to learn a few basic characters first before heading for the movies:

Go to the first comic

But even as a beginner, if you don't focus on learning charactes and just want to improve your listening/speaking skills, you might as well start with a movie:

Go to the movies

I highly recommend to sign up for a free guest account. When logged in, the website will track which characters you've already seen a certain number of times, and start to hide the translations for those. This way the content is always tailored towards you current learning level.

You can learn more about the review system here.

Finally, what I personally like to do and would recommend to you as well, is to just follow your curiosity. Every page offers a lot of links to follow: check out the components of a character or the characters it appears in as component, characters with the same Pinyin, words with the character, sentences with the word, words in the sentence, and so on and so forth until you don't even know where you started. Just follow your curiosity and explore how Chinese characters are connected on so many different levels. In my opinion this is one of the best ways to follow the i+1 input principle.

I wish you all the best for your learning journey.