DuShu App Review—A No-nonsense HSK Chinese Reading Practice App

October 26, 2021

DuShu is a great but underrated Chinese language learning app specifically designed for reading practice for the HSK. The DuShu app is simple and affordable but also comes with limitations so it will not be suitable for everyone.

Sample Screenshots from Read and Learn Chinese DuShu app

Let’s talk about DuShu and how great this underrated Chinese language learning app is

“Read & Learn Chinese – DuShu” is a Chinese language-learning app available to both Android and iOS devices. To unlock all the functions, you’ll have to pay a one-time fee of $14.99. Considering that many Chinese language-learning apps are now subscription-based, DuShu comes across as rather modest in terms of pricing.

Pros of DuShu

So, what makes DuShu unique in an ocean of language-learning apps? Its no-nonsense approach to teaching. There are no flashy animations or Big Tech Art Style characters to keep you company on this Chinese-learning platform. There are no achievements to unlock or share buttons for social media. Instead, you are treated with a very basic user interface that is focused on learning rather than experiencing.

Open the app and choose which HSK level you want to study, and then start studying. It takes less than five seconds from starting the app to jumping into an online Chinese reading course. How often do we see that these days?

DuShu My Texts Screen

It follows the standard HSK curriculum from HSK 1 through HSK 6, and each HSK level has thousands of Chinese reading practice sentences that you can go through at your own pace. The higher the level, the more advanced and lengthier the sentences become. DuShu is a great Chinese learning app because you can show and hide pinyin for individual characters or show them all at once, each sentence has a translation and an explanation (when needed), and you can play a recording of the sentence to hear the pronunciation.

DuShu HSK 4 sentences screen

Every now and then you will be also prompted to do small assessments of what you have learned so far by doing exercises or reviewing flashcards of words you have recently read. You can always skip those assessments if you prefer to focus strictly on HSK reading practice.

DuShu HSK 4 sentences 2

You can also bookmark sentences and individual words to create flashcards. Each character has a color to indicate the tone, and you can switch between different color schemes to match Pleco.

DuShu settings page

But the real killer feature of DuShu comes from the fact that it has the ability to import text files (though limited to .txt, .html, and .epub files), and thus allows you to expand the usability of the app indefinitely based on what you want to learn. With this feature, you can use basically any online resource to further your Chinese studies!

DuShu text options menu

You can even import text from your phone’s clipboard, which is a great alternative to using Google Translate when you want to learn new words and expressions you might see while lurking around in WeChat groups. That being said, it should be noted that the translation from your clipboard is provided via Google Translate, but DuShu gives you the ability to bookmark those words and sentences so you can add them to your library of flashcards.

Other nice features of this Chinese-learning platform include the ability to change the font size, switch between simplified and traditional Chinese, the ability to learn about character components, change the frequency of how often you will see unknown words, how often you will be prompted to do assessments, among many, many other things. DuShu can be personalized to suit its user.

And before you ask—yes, it even has a dark mode.

Cons of DuShu

With all this said, the app isn’t perfect. It can slow to a grind if you try to import large text files or if you want to review hundreds of flashcards. Even with a powerful phone you can expect to see occasional stuttering or crashes once you venture outside of the standard HSK reading practice courses.

Considering how simple the app is, this is likely due to badly optimized code. Luckily, you can create a backup of your personalized content and overall progress, then save it on your phone and continue from where you left off if you have to reinstall the app. It hasn’t happened to me, but it’s comforting to know the app gives you this ability since it doesn’t save anything in the cloud.

Another thing to keep in mind is that DuShu as a Chinese-learning app is very focused on Chinese reading comprehension. If you’re looking to improve your spoken Chinese or listening comprehension, you’ll be better off using a different app for that.

Conclusion

In the end, DuShu brings a lot to the table at a very modest price. What you sacrifice in terms of pleasant user interface, buttery-smooth transitions, and dopamine-inducing achievements, you gain in terms of actually learning the language instead.

This Chinese language-learning app will relentlessly throw new words, sentences, and exercises at you. If you want to learn fast, you can. If you want to take it slow, you can. It’s all up to you and the app will never attempt to draw your attention away from the reason why you’re using it in the first place.

In terms of Chinese reading practice content, this is likely the app to beat. And even if you manage to complete all six levels of the standard HSK course, you can keep using the app by adding additional content.

  • Available on: Android and iOS
  • Cost: free with limited features, $14.99 for full feature access
  • Main features of the app: Chinese reading practice, HSK reading practice

Post contributed by Nick