There are a ridiculous number of apps for learning Chinese. The majority are pretty terrible and don’t do much. However, some are really great. This post will look at 20+ apps that you should consider using.
A Dictionary on Steroids
Dictionaries have come a long way in recent years. They’re no longer used only to look up definitions. Now, they’re packed with extra features and incredibly easy to use. Your dictionary app will probably be one of your most referenced resources.
Pleco is easily the app most often recommended. I think nearly everyone studying Chinese has it downloaded on their phones – for good reason. There are loads of free features from stroke order, example sentences, clip reader, handwriting recognition and more. They also have a bunch of paid add-ons that you can use to get even more use out of it.
Hanping Chinese – Hanping is an android only dictionary that is comparable to Pleco with a lot of the same features. They also have widgets for your home screen and a soundboard to practice tones. There is a free lite version and a pro version for $2.99. I also really like their popup dictionary that you can use within other apps.
HelloChinese is my favorite of the free apps for learning Chinese. The lessons are organized similarly to ChineseSkill and LingoDeer, but go into a bit more detail with everything. There are also lots of speaking exercises which I really like as it forces you to be more active in your learning. There’s also a Premium and a Premium+ plan that unlock a bunch of extra features. The Premium plan has lots of mini-games that can help you to practice what you’ve learned in the free lessons. The Premium+ plan is similar to a podcast in many ways, but with additional exercises attached. HelloChinese is really well put together and provides a ton of content. Use the Promo code “hcalr15” to save 15% on all Premium+ plans and yearly Premium plans. Review.
LingoDeer and ChineseSkill are two free apps that will give a nice intro to learning Chinese. They provide lessons based on topics and add a light gamification element to them. They’re fun and will help you get a basic understanding of vocabulary and sentence structure. I don’t think they’re the best option for people really looking to study Chinese seriously but they’re a gentle way to start out without any commitment.
Ninchanese – Ninchanese can be used as an app or online, and it’s built as a game for learning Chinese. There are different worlds, representing different Chinese levels, with various challenges to complete. You’ll improve all areas of your Chinese – learning new characters and words, listening, speaking, typing and grammar. There’s a story and characters that you’ll get to know along the way. Use the coupon code “ALR15OFF” to get 15% off any subscription. Review.
Clozemaster is a popular app that is excellent for getting lots of exposure to sentences and vocabulary. This app uses lots of fill in the blank exercises for which you can type in your answer or choose from multiple choices. You can filter sentences based on HSK level and you’ll earn points for answering questions correctly. Although there is a pro version that requires a subscription, most people will find the free version to offer plenty of value.
Zizzle – Zizzle is an interesting app that seems kind of dumb at first. It’s not until weeks later and you still remember tons of characters that you really appreciate it. It uses mnemonics to help you remember how characters are formed, their tone and pronunciation. The images and stories are great. Use the coupon code “ALLLANGUAGERESOURCES” to get 15% off all three month and annual subscriptions, as well as packs. Review.
Memrise – Memrise is a free app that has tons of user-created courses. These can be anything from characters to restaurant items to slang words. It’s sort of a gamified flashcard system that you can use to learn new characters. It also uses mnemonics but the quality can vary significantly on a course by course basis. Review.
Pleco – The flashcards cost $10 but they’re so convenient to be able to use with the app. You can quickly look up words and add them to your deck to review later.
There are three apps – Du Chinese, The Chairman’s Bao and Decipher Chinese that all provide practice reading material sorted by difficulty level. All of them also have audio and you can look up and save words as you go. You can try all three of them before subscribing. I wrote a comparison article of them here.
The Chairman’s Bao – This has the most content of all three by a large margin. However, the app is weak on the technical side and can often be laggy. You can get 20% off all individual subscriptions by using the coupon code “tcbalr20”. Review.
Decipher Chinese – Decipher is easily the cheapest plan when it comes to monthly subscriptions but those cost savings decrease significantly when looking at longer plans. They have less content and a worse interface but at an affordable price.
If you’re a casual learner and only want to read articles occasionally, both Du Chinese and Decipher Chinese likely have enough free content to make due.
Manga Mandarin is another interesting option to consider for practice reading material. As the name suggests, the content is Manga written at varying levels of difficulty. You can click on words to hear the dialogue. You can access some of the content for free but will need to buy beans in order to read more.
Skritter – Skritter is the app for those who are serious about learning to write Chinese characters. It’s convenient to use and works great. However, it’s not particularly cheap. You can get 45% off the first month by using the coupon code “alllanguageresources”.
Pen & Paper + Pleco – One feature of Pleco is that you can look up a character’s stroke order. You can easily get pen and paper and use Pleco as a reference for the stroke order.
ChinesePod – ChinesePod is one of the biggest names in the industry. They’re recommended by nearly everyone and have been around for over a decade. They have a massive library of lessons across all difficulty levels. It’s a great way to improve your listening. The Premium plan includes extra features that can be very helpful. You can get $50 off an annual Premium subscription by using the coupon code “ALLLANG50”. Review.
ChineseClass101 – This is one of the cheaper options for studying Chinese. It’s good for beginners but not much beyond that because a lot of English is used in the lessons. Get 25% off subscriptions with the coupon code “ALLLANGUAGERESOURCES”. Review.
Captron.tv is a cool app that makes watching videos in Chinese much easier. In reality, it’s very similar to FluentU but doesn’t require a subscription. As you watch videos, you can click on the interactive subtitles for definitions of words. They also make it very easy to re-listen to the content one line at a time.
Audible – You’ve probably heard of Audible – Amazon’s audiobook subscription service. It’s not only useful for book lovers, but also people interested in studying Chinese. In addition to classic and modern novels, you’ll find some other audiobooks made for studying Chinese, such as Pimsleur, ChineseClass101, and stories of Chinese idioms. You can also get a 30-day free trial which includes two free audiobooks.
Beelinguapp – Beelinguapp is available in tons of languages and offers side-by-side bilingual stories. You can listen to and read a story in one language and reference it in another. There are some free lessons and most stories can be bought for only $1 each. I like it because it allows me to study Chinese while reviewing in Spanish.
Bao Bei Ting Ting – This is a Chinese language app but isn’t terribly difficult to navigate. It’s a story app for Chinese children. The stories can be arranged by age level as well, making it a bit easier to find the right content. You can also watch some kids cartoons as well. Review.
There are some awesome Chinese language radio apps. They have lots of content ranging from music, novels, children’s stories, talk shows and more things I haven’t discovered yet. They’re more suitable for intermediate – advanced learners because they’re all in Chinese. I’ve mostly used ximalaya FM (喜马拉雅 FM）and found it to be a great way to discover new Chinese music. Qing Ting FM (蜻蜓FM) and Li Zhi FM (荔枝FM）are two other good options worth trying.
Speechling – Speechling is a new app and website that I’m loving so far. It’s similar to Glossika in that you’ll get lots of repetition repeating sentences. I like it more though because you’ll hear a recording and then record yourself saying the same sentence. You can then submit it for grading and within a day or two, you’ll get feedback from a Native speaker. This will show you where you need to make improvements. You can get 10% off a subscription by using the promo code “ALR123”. Review.
WaiChinese – This app is glitchy but still quite useful. It has voice recognition software that shows the pitch of your voice making it possible to see a visual representation of your tones. You can then compare it to the recording. Afterward, you can submit it to a native Chinese speaker to get feedback on your pronunciation. Review.
italki – italki is a huge platform of language teachers and opportunities to find language exchange partners. It’s the most flexible and affordable of all tutoring platforms. You can choose a tutor directly that fits your needs best. Review.
HelloTalk – This language exchange app has a ton of users. It’s incredibly easy to find someone willing to help you practice Chinese.
Lingbe – This is a newer language exchange app that makes it quicker to start talking with someone. With the other apps, there can be a long lead-up time to start talking to someone. First, you message a few times and then maybe think about when to call. With Lingbe, you just hit the call button and are connected with someone right away.
Apps can be great tools in your Chinese learning arsenal.
There are probably more quality apps that I don’t know about or forgot to mention. These are some of the better ones that I’ve come across for learning Chinese. Are there any apps you’d recommend?