I never would have tried Chinese Class 101 if I hadn’t decided to start this website. I had a very negative initial impression and quickly wrote them off as not for me. I think this is because you can’t see prices or any of their actual lessons without signing up first. Plus, right after signing up they send you a free offer for one of their products but it’s written with the style of a used car salesman. It is one of the most popular resources out there for learning Chinese, so I decided to try it out myself. I was pleasantly surprised, and with their basic plan starting at only $8/month, it’s really not bad.
Let’s dig into the details of what Chinese Class 101 offers.
They have nearly 1300 audio lessons for levels between absolute beginner and advanced levels. They also have some video lessons as well. Most of the lessons are around 10 minutes with some longer and some shorter. They play a short dialog at normal speed and then repeat the dialog with it slowed down significantly. Then they play it again one more time with a line by line translation. They also go over the vocabulary word by word, saying it in Chinese and then in English. Next, they discuss the main grammar points. Finally, at the end of the lessons they play the audio one final time.
There are also other resources attached to each lesson. They have a line-by-line audio with Simplified, Traditional, English and Pinyin. There’s also the key vocab words with audio and the ability to add these into your words bank. In addition to that, there’s a lesson expansion. This includes extra practice sentences and audio of the key vocabulary. The lesson notes are a useful resource as well which is a pdf of the dialog with Simplified Chinese, Traditional Chinese, Pinyin, English, key vocabulary, sample sentences, grammar focus, and cultural insight. I find the grammar focus to be really useful and something that other resources may skip over. There is also a Hanzi sheet which can help you practice handwriting. While they don’t seem go over stroke order, it’s not a big deal because you can find this elsewhere. There are some practice sheets that you can print out and practice writing simplified characters.
Basic subscribers get access all of the lessons, PDF lesson notes, and 100 core words and phrases.
For Premium subscribers they have review quizzes. These are just five true/false questions and then writing part where you translate the English word and write it in Chinese. Premium subscribers also get access to the SRS flashcard system. While, in general I’d much prefer to keep all my flashcards on an app like Pleco or Anki, I can see how using their system would be helpful for beginner students. You can access and review your word list through the app. One cool part is that they have some premade flashcard decks centered around various topics. So, for example, you can learn vocab relating to the Super Bowl, Father’s Day, Halloween or many other topics.
Premium subscribers also get access to the list of 2000 core words and phrases, mini-lessons and bonus lessons, custom word lists, pinyin chart, dictionary, line-by-line audio, pronunciation and accent review, grammar bank, vocabulary slideshow and video lessons along with a few other features. I haven’t tried everything here. Some of it is helpful, some useless and some can be found other places for free.
Premium+ subscribers get all of the premium features plus a personalized study plan and 1-on-1 instruction. There’s a surprising lack of information on their website explaining more about these two extra features. However, I would assume you can get personalized instruction for less money from somewhere like Italki (review).
Chinese Class 101, particularly the basic plan, is pretty good value for the money if you’re a beginner student. The cost varies depending on the length of your subscription. If you want to pay month by month it’s $8/month but if you’re interested in a two year plan, it’s only $4/month. There’s also three, six and 12 month plans with varying costs available.
The premium plan is $25 if you only pay for one month at a time and $10/month if you make a two year subscription.
The premium+ plan is $47 for one month and $23/month if you make a two year subscription.
While the cost savings of a two year plan look tempting, I can’t recommend it. They provide great materials for beginner level students but once you get past that level, there are better resources available.
What I like about Chinese Class 101
I like how the lesson notes include the grammar point broken down very clearly as well as cultural insights. I think the content is surprisingly good for beginners. It’s structured well with useful extra features. The lesson dialogs will help you understanding real life conversations and will definitely help you improve your listening skills. They also have interesting cultural lessons, pronunciation videos and other information for beginner students.
What I dislike about Chinese Class 101
The first and biggest issue I see is the amount of English used in the lessons. This isn’t just limited to the beginner lessons. Even at the intermediate and advanced levels, the lesson structure seems to be the same. While I don’t know the exact percentage of English vs Chinese used in the lessons, I wouldn’t be surprised if more than 50% of the audio is in English. This may be okay for Beginners, but for higher levels this is just very disappointing. You can however listen to and download just the dialog and then use the lesson notes to study on your own. A service like Chinesepod (review) is much better for intermediate or higher level students as the amount of English used is significantly less.
Who should consider using Chinese Class 101?
As I mentioned before, Chinese Class 101 is pretty good for beginner level students. However, once you move beyond that level, the amount of material available drops pretty quickly. Also, with how much English is used in the lessons, there really are many other resources more suitable for higher level students. If you’re new to learning Chinese and are looking for somewhere to get started, Chinese Class 101 is a good option. If you’ve moved past the beginner level, there are many better ways to spend your money.
As with most resources, some people will love it and others will hate it. They do offer a free 7 day trial so you can check it out yourself and see what you think.