I used ChineseSkill when I started learning Chinese
The ChineseSkill app helped me a lot on my first steps in learning Chinese. When I moved to China I still wasn’t sure if I would put in the effort to learn Chinese or just try to get by without it. After all, I had spent a few years in Spanish speaking countries and it took me much longer than I expected to learn Spanish. So, I thought, if learning Spanish was so hard for me, do I really have a chance to learn Chinese? I knew I had to learn the basics but wasn’t sure if I wanted to put in the effort to actually become fluent.
That’s where ChineseSkill came into my life.
It’s a great resource to gently ease beginner level students into learning Mandarin. It’s free, fairly entertaining, and easy to get started using.
I think it’s one of the best resources available for those who aren’t sure about studying Chinese and want an introduction to the language before spending any money.
For those who are certain that they are going to study Chinese and want to make progress as quickly and efficiently as possible, there are likely better options available. I’ll give recommendations for these students at the end of this review. However, for now, let’s focus on ChineseSkill.
ChineseSkill is a duolingo style app. There are 45 topics with anywhere from 2-6 lessons in each topic. These lessons generally build on each other as much as possible. So for example, first, you will learn the word green and then later learn green tea. They not only introduce you to new words but also sentence structure, writing pinyin and characters, grammar, and speaking practice as well.
The lessons are pretty fun. You’re given lives in the form of pandas. Each time you make a mistake, you lose a panda. If you lose all your pandas, then you have to start the lesson over. It can make you feel very nervous near the end of the lesson when you have no more pandas to lose.
The lessons do a good job of reinforcing the vocabulary in many ways. You’ll be given different versions of the same question: matching Chinese to English, English to Chinese, Chinese to picture and writing. As you progress, the example sentences become more difficult and you gain exposure to new words, grammar, and sentence structures.
The lessons will expose you to pinyin, simplified or traditional characters, and audio. You can also play the audio at a snail’s pace making it easier to understand more difficult sentences.
ChineseSkill makes it very easy to try out Chinese. You can start learning Mandarin without investing much time or any money. They pack so much value into a free app that it’s hard to complain about it. But I will do that anyway…
Things I dislike about ChineseSkill
Chinese is a tonal language and learning the tones is something that can’t be ignored. But ChineseSkill does just that, with the only mention of tones is in the markings on the pinyin.
Learning a language around topics is a pretty inefficient way to do things. You’ll end up learning some unimportant vocabulary before you learn other essential things. An example would be learning how to say “star” or “triangle” before learning how to ask “what?”
I like that ChineseSkill doesn’t ignore writing characters but it doesn’t work particularly well in practice. For example, you’ll learn to write quite complicated characters like 绿 or 蓝 much too early. Again, as an introduction to learning the language, this isn’t a bad thing. However, for people really interested in putting a serious amount of time and effort into learning Chinese, laying a solid foundation would be more useful. What I mean is, learning to write the radicals, then simple characters, and then more complicated characters would give you a better foundation. Skritter is the best option for learning to write Chinese characters that I’ve seen.
Is ChineseSkill right for you?
Possibly. ChineseSkill is best for those who just want an introduction to Mandarin or have no money to spend. It’s great if you aren’t sure if you’re really willing to put the time into learning Chinese but want to get started easily and try it out.
However, if you’re reading this, then you’re probably trying to figure out the best resources to utilize your limited time and wondering if ChineseSkill is one of them. If you’re really trying to build that solid foundation that you can later build upon, I’d have to suggest using other resources to get you started.
What are the alternatives to ChineseSkill?
Chinesepod (my review) is one of the best resources out there. If one of the big draws to ChineseSkill for you is that it’s free, I’d suggest subscribing to Chinesepod for one month and downloading a ton of the lessons and lesson notes. This will give you lots to study at a cheap cost. After one month, cancel your subscription and keep studying the materials you downloaded.
Yoyo Chinese (my review) is also a good alternative to ChineseSkill but for different reasons than Chinesepod. It’s not so cheap but the lessons progress in a very clear and well-structured manner. Grammar is explained very clearly. They also have a good free video pinyin guide. You can get a 10% discount using the promo code 10NRES.
ChineseFor.Us has the most thorough online Chinese course for beginners. It’s not too expensive and is really good.
Du Chinese (review) and The Chairman’s Bao (review) are both very good apps that will help you learn to read Chinese. They’re fairly similar with both providing reading and listening practice with short articles arranged by difficulty level.
There are lots of different ways to learn Chinese and people have different motivations, resources available, and levels of commitment. The best resource for one person may be terrible for the next person. However, as a beginner, ChineseSkill is a pretty awesome free app that will introduce you to learning the language.