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The 19 Best Online Courses for Learning Mandarin Chinese

The right Mandarin course will help you speak with confidence, understand hanzi characters and pinyin, and perhaps most importantly of all, enjoy learning Chinese.

But not all Mandarin Chinese courses are the same. Some are more focused on listening, others on writing. Some are suitable for beginners, others for intermediate students. Some are well-suited to the HSK exams, while others are better at everyday Chinese slang.

And some just aren’t that great. After all, there are tons of Chinese courses out there (here on All Language Resources, we’ve reviewed hundreds of Mandarin resources). Some of them wowed us; others were flops

A sub-par course won’t just waste your time and money. It will leave you demotivated, frustrated, and potentially learning incorrect Mandarin.

So we’ve rounded up our top picks for learning Mandarin Chinese. Each one of these courses gets a rating of at least 3.5 out of 5 stars, meaning they’re above average on our site. What’s more, they all have something that sets them apart. No matter what you’re looking for – beginner lessons, hanzi, in-depth explanations or a less intimidating introduction to the language – we think you’ll find it on this list.

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4.7/5
Price: From $29/unit or $149/course
yoyo chinese banner
Excellent conversational video courses – but less impressive hanzi/reading ones

We love 50% of Yoyo Chinese’s courses. The other half are… okay. Just okay.

Fortunately, it’s less a lucky dip and more just a case of choosing the right courses. Yoyo Chinese’s conversational courses are well designed, full of great teaching, and have some unique features that help them stand out from the crowd.

Namely, they feature interviews with real Chinese speakers on the street (and, in later videos, the teacher Yangyang also interviews her family members). This means the course teaches you both proper, academic Chinese and the natural, relaxed Chinese you’ll hear out and about.

The conversational courses also come with audio reviews, quizzes, speaking practice, flashcards, and extra downloadable files. With this much self-study material, you should find yourself naturally remembering more of the videos than with some competitor courses.

However, we’re not sold on the character courses and reading course (which is more like a listening one). There’s nothing bad about them; they’re just not as good as the alternatives.

Pros

  • Authentic, unscripted native dialogues
  • Lots of review features and downloadable worksheets
  • The conversational courses have a thorough syllabus with lots of drilling

Cons

  • Lots of English
  • We think there are better, cheaper  Chinese character courses and apps
  • Not the best option if you’ve got a tight deadline for learning Mandarin
5/5
Price: $24.99 a month or $59.94 for six months
Thorough pre-HSK1 through to HSK3 courses that will give you a strong foundation for long-term learning

Chinese For Us is an exceptionally thorough series of courses for beginner and lower-intermediate Chinese learners. In fact, it’s so thorough that even higher-level students may benefit from taking these courses to fill in gaps in their knowledge.

The syllabus takes a tortoise rather than a hare approach to learning Mandarin, preferring a comprehensive curriculum to fast progress. If you’re hoping to reach fluency or live in a Mandarin-speaking territory, it will give you an excellent base. However, if you want to quickly learn survival Mandarin or pass an HSK exam, you may be better off opting for a different resource.

The teacher, Lili, speaks very clearly in Mandarin, plus her explanations are clear and detailed. The courses mix video lessons, quizzes, and reviews, while some lessons have downloadable worksheets so you can practice writing the characters. You’ll also get access to two remarkably thorough courses dedicated to pronunciation and tones.

Pros

  • It’s extremely comprehensive
  • There’s a strong focus on learning Chinese characters early on
  • The quizzes push you to problem-solve and learn in context
  • The six-month+ subscriptions are extremely good value for money

Cons

  • You’ll spend a longer time at the beginner levels
  • Some of the beginner-level quizzes are too easy
4.3/5
Price: Freemium; $124 for the premium course
Supplementary resource that’s particularly useful for the HSK exams

Studying for the HSK exams can be a drag. The textbooks are thorough and, in theory, all you really need. But if you’re struggling to stay motivated, then you’ll probably benefit from signing up to Chinese Zero to Hero’s video courses.

These courses aren’t only for people studying for the HSK exams. They’ll help anyone improve their Mandarin vocabulary and grammar. However, they’re structured based on the HSK system.

There are over 800 videos, including warm-up ones where you’re introduced to the target language, vocabulary ones that dive in deep on the new words, and grammar ones. Plus, there are homework activities. We think the grammar explanations are where the course really shines, but all of the videos have value.

Chinese Zero to Hero won’t be enough on its own. You’ll likely want to pair it with textbooks or classes. However, it’s an affordable resource that can help round out your studies and keep you on track for the HSK exams.

Pros

  • Covers HSK1–6
  • Makes studying grammar more enjoyable
  • It doesn’t use pinyin outside of the vocabulary videos

Cons

  • It’s best as a supplementary resource
  • The quizzes and homework are very short
  • At the beginning, some students may struggle with the lack of pinyin
4/5
Price: $29–$399/course
Hacking hanzi with creative codes and lots of hard work

You know how going to the gym is awful for the first couple of weeks, but then you’re glad you stuck with it? That’s a bit like the experience of using Mandarin Blueprint. But instead of exercising your muscles, you’re stretching your imagination.

Although it starts off with a pronunciation course, Mandarin Blueprint’s main focus is learning characters and words. Each character is taught with the Hanzi Movie Method, a technique that encourages you to create a coded story about the hanzi character. These codes should tell you the initial and final sounds, tone, and meaning.

You have to put in a lot of work to understand these methods and create memorable stories. It takes hours of studying before you can begin actually using the language. Some learners can find this frustrating.

However, others find that this method allows them to better recall the characters. And as the lessons build up from single characters to words, then sentences, and finally full stories, they feel that they’re reaping the benefits of their initial investment of time.

Bear in mind that technophobes will probably not enjoy Mandarin Blueprint. As well as the video lessons, you have to use Google Slides and Anki. The instructions alone are 76 slides long.

Pros

  • Extremely comprehensive course
  • A logical yet creative approach to studying that more analytical learners might enjoy
  • The Hanzi Movie Method is convoluted but effective

Cons

  • You need to use the course for a while before you can reap the rewards
  • It’s mainly focused on reading, with no speaking practice
  • An unintuitive, clunky system with three separate apps and programs
4/5
Price: Freemium; $124 for the premium course
coffee break itunes
Relaxed podcast-style Mandarin lessons

Worried that Mandarin is too challenging? Give Coffee Break Chinese a go. This unintimidating course will help you to feel comfortable learning the language.

Coffee Break Chinese consists of two parts: a free podcast and a premium course. In the free podcast, you’ll listen along as Crystal teaches Mark Mandarin in an unscripted (but planned!), pressure-free way. You’ll learn important phrases, grammar, cultural norms, and more.

Invest in the premium course and you’ll get access to lesson notes, a video version of the course that also contains the written (pinyin and hanzi) forms of the words, an ad-free version of the podcast, and a bonus audio lesson with additional vocabulary and translation exercises.

Coffee Break Chinese won’t teach you Mandarin on its own: it’s just not in-depth enough. But it will take the stress out of learning a new language and help you gain some confidence.

Pros

  • A lot of the course is free
  • It makes Mandarin unintimidating
  • You’ll learn cultural information

Cons

  • It’s not the best option for serious learners
  • You’ll need to find other ways to practice writing Chinese
  • With the free version, you won’t be able to learn the pinyin or hanzi spelling of the words
4/5
Price: $14.95–$19.95/month
Pimsleur375
Slow but high-quality audio courses

If you feel swamped by flashcards and Mandarin vocabulary lists, the Pimsleur Method might be a good choice for you. It’s backed up by scientific research and has won over lots of language learners. And much of it centers around how to better remember vocabulary. 

It’s made up of four principles: never teaching too much at a time, learning new vocabulary in context, revisiting that vocabulary after increasingly longer intervals, and giving the listener (you!) time to formulate the correct answer before providing the answer.

Each Pimsleur course contains 30-minute audio lessons in which you’ll listen to new vocabulary being used in conversation, hear brief explanations, and then practice saying and creating the sentences yourself. It also uses a technique called backchaining to help you better pronounce tricky sounds.

Although there’s a lot in Pimsleur’s favor, it’s not for every learner. If you’re looking for something fast-paced, with lots of grammar explanations and vocabulary, or with writing practice, you should probably look elsewhere. 

Pros

  • Well-structured lessons that build on each other
  • The lessons encourage active rather than passive learning
  • You can learn on the go
  • The method is backed up by scientific research

Cons

  • The 30-minute-long audio lessons can move at a sluggish pace
  • It teaches a limited amount of grammar and vocabulary
  • Visual learners may find it’s not the best resource for them 
  • The supplementary practice activities feel basic and not overly useful
4.7/5
Price: From $699 for 30 lessons
Well-designed Mandarin course that also incorporates one-to-one classes

While courses are a great way to learn a language, they often provide limited opportunity for speaking practice and zero feedback. Meanwhile, one-to-one language classes give you lots of speaking practice and feedback, but often lack the structure that comes with a course.

TutorMing marries the best of both worlds: it provides a thoughtfully designed course to ensure you make progress. And it provides classes with teachers in which you can get practice at using the material in conversation, as well as receive personalized feedback and answers to any of your questions.

The course is impressive. As well as studying Mandarin Chinese grammar and vocabulary, you’ll learn a wealth of cultural information. In our experience, even students who live in China or have Chinese family members may come across new cultural insights.

And unlike on some platforms, your teachers won’t just be native Mandarin speakers. They all have Chinese teaching qualifications, and it shows – we found the teaching quality to be excellent.

Pros

  • Combines a structured course with lessons
  • High-quality teachers
  • Interesting curriculum with lots of cultural insights
  • Lessons are available around the clock
  • Even group classes are typically one-to-one

Cons

  • You have to buy a minimum of 30 classes at a time, and although you can get a refund if you’re not happy, it can be a barrier to entry
  • The homework is extremely quick and simple
4/5
Price: From $699/course
HSK self-study courses combined with lessons for extra practice

Ever completed a lesson or unit and felt like you still hadn’t practiced the material enough? Maybe you understood it all but didn’t know if you’d be able to use it in conversation, or perhaps you simply wanted more drilling to help you remember it.

With GoEast Mandarin, you’ll get plenty of practice with the material. First, you can study the lessons at home, not only by going over the target vocabulary and grammar but also by doing a range of practice activities: flashcards, grammar quizzes, listening comprehension, fill-in-the-blank activities, and even speaking tasks. There are plenty of self-study options for each lesson.

Then, after you’ve studied the material, you can revisit it with a teacher in class. It’s the perfect opportunity to see if you can remember it, not just when looking at a flashcard deck, but also when talking to a real Chinese speaker.

Pros

  • Combines self-study with lessons
  • Varied practice activities
  • Follows the HSK syllabus
  • You can choose between group and private classes
  • High exposure to Mandarin

Cons

  • You have to purchase a whole course, which can be a barrier to entry
  • Beginners may struggle because the courses are entirely in Mandarin
3.8/5
Price: $97/course
hacking
Beginner Mandarin explanations mixed with lessons on how to learn Chinese

Ever spent weeks studying, only to discover that you still can’t make your own sentences? Yeah, us too.

Sometimes, the thing holding us back isn’t bad materials. It’s poor study techniques. That’s the idea behind Olle of Hacking Chinese’s beginner-level course, Unlocking Chinese. It combines tones, vocabulary, and grammar lessons with videos on the most effective way to memorize this material, read more easily, and improve your spoken output.

Other courses on this list might teach you more Mandarin, but if you’re new to studying languages, this one might have the biggest long-term impact.

The Hacking Chinese blog also contains an incredible amount of free information for beginners through to advanced. And if you want even more lessons on how to study Mandarin, take a look at Olle’s other course, Hacking Chinese. It would pair nicely with any of the other courses on this list.

Pros

  • Teaches you study techniques that will be useful even when you reach an advanced level
  • Lots of information about learning tones and characters
  • You’ll learn 150 of the most common Mandarin words

Cons

  • You won’t actually learn much Mandarin
  • One of the pricier options
3.8/5
Price: From $8/month
ChineseClass101 is a good podcast for beginners.
A decent option for beginners

ChineseClass101 is like ChinesePod’s enthusiastic but ultimately less impressive cousin. It contains a huge number of audio and video lessons with a range of hosts. There are “pathways” or courses at each level, and you can pick and choose what you study.

Just like on ChinesePod, the lessons are mostly dialogue-centric. You’ll listen to a target dialogue, and then the hosts will break it down for you line by line. By the end of each lesson, you should have learned some new grammar and vocabulary.

Each lesson comes with expansion materials and lesson notes, as well as some hanzi worksheets. Premium subscribers also get access to a slew of features, some of which are more useful than others. 

ChineseClass101 is a good option for beginner students, although you’ll probably still want to use a textbook or other additional resource. Meanwhile, intermediate and advanced learners should probably look elsewhere. Although there’s more challenging material on ChineseClass101, we think the other courses on this list outperform it.

Pros

  • Huge number of lessons with various hosts
  • Premium subscribers get access to a lot of extra features, including topic-specific flashcard decks
  • Voice recorder function
  • Fairly decent for grammar

Cons

  • Too much English, especially at higher levels
  • Limited reading and writing opportunities
3.8/5
Price: Freemium; €9.99/month or €59.99/year
Fun and well-organized app that prioritizes speaking and listening

Learning Mandarin with Super Chinese is fun, but if you’re looking for a course that does everything, you may be best off looking elsewhere.

There’s a lot in the app’s favor: it has a well-organized syllabus, gets you to practice speaking, tests you on your listening comprehension, and introduces you to both grammar and vocabulary. Plus, it has a variety of entertaining activities.

However, we were unconvinced by the activities for practicing characters, which you’re never actually required to learn during the course. And the pinyin prep course and AI speaking feedback left us feeling unsure about our pronunciation and how to improve it.

We still think Super Chinese is a good option for learners, but you’ll want to combine it with other study methods. Alternatively, try something like the comprehensive Chinese For Us or the fun, but only suitable for beginners, app HelloChinese.

Pros

  • Well-organized syllabus 
  • Varied practice tasks
  • It’s fun
Cons
  • Pinyin prep course has more superficial explanations that some competitors
  • Falls short on characters and writing
4.8/5
Price: Freemium; premium plans from $8.99/month
hellochinese
A fun app that will get you reading, listening to, and speaking Mandarin Chinese

HelloChinese started life as a Duolingo alternative, back before Duolingo ever launched its woeful attempt at a Mandarin course.

However, HelloChinese is far more than just a gamified language app: it’s got some of the best free Mandarin material you’ll find. The course contains 50 different units, which are further divided into lessons with vocabulary, grammar, listening, speaking, reading, and writing exercises. The Tips and Notes sections give cultural as well as linguistic information.

If you sign up to the Premium plan, you’ll be able to play additional games. They’re beautifully designed, although some are more engaging than others.

Meanwhile, the Premium+ plan gives you further podcast-style lessons that break down a dialogue. But this isn’t a typical lesson where you listen and silently repeat the material. There are fill-in-the-blank exercises for you to do, plus you can record yourself saying the dialogue, receive basic line-by-line feedback, and listen to the entire recording of yourself.

Pros

  • Huge amount of free material
  • Fun, engaging lessons broken down into small chunks
  • Strong focus on pronunciation and tones
  • The Premium+ “Immersion” features will help you practice your speaking
  • You can learn from multiple languages

Cons

  • Intermediate and advanced learners should look elsewhere
  • Some of the Premium games were dull
4.5/5
$10/month or $96/year
Learn grammar, vocabulary, and characters through playing games

Some apps use gamification. Ninchanese is a game, period. And whether you’re competing with other players to type pinyin quicker or reading a character’s backstory, it’s surprisingly addictive.

Don’t underestimate Ninchanese, though. It also has thorough grammar explanations, challenging translation exercises, pronunciation feedback, and a staggering number of lessons from beginner through to advanced.

There are some downsides to this app, however. The audio is text-to-speech, so to avoid sounding robotic, you’ll want to pair it with a pronunciation course or work with a tutor.

Pros

  • It’s fun
  • You’ll practice vocabulary, grammar, characters, pronunciation, listening, and reading

Cons

  • Some users might not see the point in the English-language backstories
  • It uses text-to-speech
  • No handwriting practice
4.5/5
Price: From $14/month or $124/year
Improve your Chinese listening comprehension with ChinesePod
Heaps of listening comprehension practice

At 10–20 minutes, ChinesePod’s lessons are the Goldilocks of audio and video courses. They rarely feel too long or too short – and the engaging hosts help out with that by injecting their personality into every lesson.

The courses go from Newbie to Advanced, and there’s oodles of lessons to choose from. The library contains 10 years’ worth of content. The lessons aren’t designed to be taken consecutively, so you can pick and choose the topics that interest you. There’s no need to listen to all of them – you decide when you’re ready to move up a level.

Most of the lessons are dialogue-based, i.e. you listen to an example dialogue which the hosts then break down for you. Premium subscribers also get access to expansion material for the lessons, quizzes, audio files for individual words and phrases (perfect for making flashcards!) and additional pronunciation lessons.

Pros

  • Content from Newbie to Advanced
  • Good pronunciation lessons (Premium plan only)
  • Cultural insights
  • Variety of hosts

Cons

  • It’s not a structured syllabus
  • You’ll need to go elsewhere for reading, writing, and speaking practice
4.3/5
Price: €49.90
Translation-based learning with great dialogues

“Learning languages is child’s play.” That’s the motto of the Assimil method, which involves heavy immersion in a language before the learner begins to speak or write.

You’ll learn the exact same way children do: by hearing how native Chinese speakers talk, and eventually, mimicking them. In fact, it’s not until lesson 50 that you begin speaking and actively learning about grammar and sentence structure. Until that point, you’ll just be listening and doing comprehension exercises.

Assimil’s been publishing textbooks for almost a century, and in recent years, they’ve also turned their hands to e-courses. Needless to say, this publishing powerhouse has got passionate fans who believe the Assimil method helps them achieve conversational fluency. However, others prefer learning how to build their own sentences from day one, rather than spending tens of hours focused on understanding and translating dialogues.

Pros

  • Realistic dialogues
  • Extremely thorough grammar indexes and appendixes
  • Some cultural information
  • High-quality audio

Cons

  • Heavily focused on translation instead of output
  • The pronunciation explanations and feedback could be improved
  • Less engaging than other courses and apps
4.3/5
Price: $11.99/month or $55.99/year
Gamified app with good grammar explanations

This cute, gamified app is designed to take you up to B1-level Mandarin Chinese – although it’s probably best used as a supplementary resource rather than a standalone tool.

Each short-and-sweet lesson introduces you to grammar and vocabulary, along with a variety of practice tasks. The units finish with listening comprehension exercises and the chance to practice speaking (although you won’t get any feedback on this). There are also optional units on Chinese characters and pinyin.

LingoDeer’s companion app, DeerPlus, will help you drill vocabulary, grammar, and more. It’s a great expansion option, but it isn’t included in your premium subscription.

Bear in mind that LingoDeer is almost identical to ChineseSkill, with the main differences being that ChineseSkill also has HSK vocabulary drills but doesn’t have courses for any other languages. LingoDeer currently has courses for 13 languages. 

Pros

  • Courses for multiple languages
  • Decent introduction to pinyin and Chinese hanzi
  • Clear grammar explanations
  • Listening comprehension activities

Cons

  • Subscribing to two different apps, while optional, is annoying
  • Less thorough than some courses
  • Limited speaking practice
  • No HSK drills
4/5
Price: Freemium; premium plans from $3/month
domino-chinese-new-logo
A character-by-character approach to learning Mandarin

If you’ve ever felt overwhelmed by hanzi and Mandarin vocabulary, you might like Domino Chinese.

Rather than teaching you entire words and phrases, the course introduces you to individual Chinese characters. Once you’ve got them under your belt, you then learn how to connect them with other characters to make words, phrases, and sentences. It’s like playing with Lego – or even dominoes.

The courses take a short-and-sweet approach to language learning, with brief video lessons and dialogues followed by games and flashcards. There are also printable practice sheets for writing characters, vocabulary worksheets, and a workbook.

There are lots of courses to choose from, including their standard 20-level course, three HSK courses (HSK3– 5), a pronunciation course, a survival Chinese course, and a slang course. The levels in their standard courses should take you around 10 hours to complete, and after level 10, all teaching is done in Mandarin.

Pros

  • Engaging and unintimidating
  • It encourages you to problem-solve the meaning of new words
  • Plenty of supplementary materials
  • Affordable

Cons

  • You only learn from a native Mandarin speaker from level 10 onwards
  • Serious learners might find it too superficial for their needs
  • Beginner lessons move slowly
  • The slideshow-based video format can feel dull
4/5
Price: $12.99/month or $79.99/year
Chineseskill is a free app to learn chinese
LingoDeer, but with fewer languages, HSK drills, and a panda

We’re not being glib when we call this “LingoDeer but with fewer languages.” It’s the truth. ChineseSkill is actually the original version of LingoDeer. And everything you can find on both LingoDeer and LingoDeer’s companion app, Deer Plus, is still available on the regularly updated ChineseSkill – with the exception of the other languages, such as Japanese, Korean, Spanish, and Arabic. 

However, there are some small differences. If you’re using LingoDeer, you won’t have access to the HSK vocabulary drills on ChineseSkill. Although we imagine the LingoDeer Mandarin course will still teach you that vocabulary, you’re missing the pre-exam revision opportunities. 

ChineseSkill’s premium plan is more expensive than LingoDeer’s, but cheaper than the combined premium plan for LingoDeer and DeerPlus. Some of the premium games in ChineseSkill’s Arcade and Panda’s Toolbox sections are only available via the companion app DeerPlus, not LingoDeer.

Confused? We’re not surprised. If you want to study multiple languages, LingoDeer and DeerPlus combined beat ChineseSkill (and that’s the reason for LingoDeer’s higher overall rating). However, if you want more choice over the course structure, all the games in one place instead of two apps, or HSK vocabulary drills, ChineseSkill makes more sense. And if you’re on a budget, work out which features are most important to you before deciding.

Alternatively, try HelloChinese – our first choice of gamified app for learning Mandarin.

Pros

  • Fun, entertaining games
  • HSK vocabulary drills
  • Everything in one app

Cons

  • Premium plan is more expensive than LingoDeer’s
  • Fewer languages than on LingoDeer
  • Limited options for speaking practice and feedback
  • Less thorough than some courses
3.5/5
Price: From $7.99/month
Mango-languages-Logo
Compare your pronunciation to a native speaker’s

If you like the sound of Pimsleur but think it’s a bit slow or want more pronunciation feedback, then Mango Languages could be your ideal resource.

Just like Pimsleur, you’ll listen to a dialogue, get a grammar or cultural explanation, and then practice making your own sentences and questions using the target language. Repetition is a key feature of this method, but the lesson pace isn’t as snail-like as with Pimsleur – in part because it’s an app rather than an audio course.

What’s more, Mango Languages allows you to record yourself speaking a Mandarin phrase and lay it over a native speaker’s. You can listen back and repeat this as many times as you want. It’s a much more effective way to spot when your tones aren’t quite right than listening to one recording after the other.

Unfortunately, Mango Languages is mostly focused on speaking and listening. You’ll need to look elsewhere to learn how to write and read Mandarin.

Pros

  • It’s great for spotting pronunciation errors
  • You’ll practice making sentences from the first lesson
  • Lessons build on each other well
  • Some North American libraries and universities offer free access

Cons

  • Limited focus on writing and reading
  • Some users find the heavy drilling monotonous
  • Only caters for beginner and lower-intermediate learners
5/5
Price: $24.99 a month or $59.94 for six months
Thorough pre-HSK1 through to HSK3 courses that will give you a strong foundation for long-term learning

Chinese For Us is an exceptionally thorough series of courses for beginner and lower-intermediate Chinese learners. In fact, it’s so thorough that even higher-level students may benefit from taking these courses to fill in gaps in their knowledge.

The syllabus takes a tortoise rather than a hare approach to learning Mandarin, preferring a comprehensive curriculum to fast progress. If you’re hoping to reach fluency or live in a Mandarin-speaking territory, it will give you an excellent base. However, if you want to quickly learn survival Mandarin or pass an HSK exam, you may be better off opting for a different resource.

The teacher, Lili, speaks very clearly in Mandarin, plus her explanations are clear and detailed. The courses mix video lessons, quizzes, and reviews, while some lessons have downloadable worksheets so you can practice writing the characters. You’ll also get access to two remarkably thorough courses dedicated to pronunciation and tones.

Pros

  • It’s extremely comprehensive
  • There’s a strong focus on learning Chinese characters early on
  • The quizzes push you to problem-solve and learn in context
  • The six-month+ subscriptions are extremely good value for money

Cons

  • You’ll spend a longer time at the beginner levels
  • Some of the beginner-level quizzes are too easy
4.8/5
Price: Freemium; premium plans from $8.99/month
hellochinese
A fun app that will get you reading, listening to, and speaking Mandarin Chinese

HelloChinese started life as a Duolingo alternative, back before Duolingo ever launched its woeful attempt at a Mandarin course.

However, HelloChinese is far more than just a gamified language app: it’s got some of the best free Mandarin material you’ll find. The course contains 50 different units, which are further divided into lessons with vocabulary, grammar, listening, speaking, reading, and writing exercises. The Tips and Notes sections give cultural as well as linguistic information.

If you sign up to the Premium plan, you’ll be able to play additional games. They’re beautifully designed, although some are more engaging than others.

Meanwhile, the Premium+ plan gives you further podcast-style lessons that break down a dialogue. But this isn’t a typical lesson where you listen and silently repeat the material. There are fill-in-the-blank exercises for you to do, plus you can record yourself saying the dialogue, receive basic line-by-line feedback, and listen to the entire recording of yourself.

Pros

  • Huge amount of free material
  • Fun, engaging lessons broken down into small chunks
  • Strong focus on pronunciation and tones
  • The Premium+ “Immersion” features will help you practice your speaking
  • You can learn from multiple languages

Cons

  • Intermediate and advanced learners should look elsewhere
  • Some of the Premium games were dull
4.7/5
Price: From $29/unit or $149/course
yoyo chinese banner
Excellent conversational video courses – but less impressive hanzi/reading ones

We love 50% of Yoyo Chinese’s courses. The other half are… okay. Just okay.

Fortunately, it’s less a lucky dip and more just a case of choosing the right courses. Yoyo Chinese’s conversational courses are well designed, full of great teaching, and have some unique features that help them stand out from the crowd.

Namely, they feature interviews with real Chinese speakers on the street (and, in later videos, the teacher Yangyang also interviews her family members). This means the course teaches you both proper, academic Chinese and the natural, relaxed Chinese you’ll hear out and about.

The conversational courses also come with audio reviews, quizzes, speaking practice, flashcards, and extra downloadable files. With this much self-study material, you should find yourself naturally remembering more of the videos than with some competitor courses.

However, we’re not sold on the character courses and reading course (which is more like a listening one). There’s nothing bad about them; they’re just not as good as the alternatives.

Pros

  • Authentic, unscripted native dialogues
  • Lots of review features and downloadable worksheets
  • The conversational courses have a thorough syllabus with lots of drilling

Cons

  • Lots of English
  • We think there are better, cheaper  Chinese character courses and apps
  • Not the best option if you’ve got a tight deadline for learning Mandarin
4.7/5
Price: From $699 for 30 lessons
Well-designed Mandarin course that also incorporates one-to-one classes

While courses are a great way to learn a language, they often provide limited opportunity for speaking practice and zero feedback. Meanwhile, one-to-one language classes give you lots of speaking practice and feedback, but often lack the structure that comes with a course.

TutorMing marries the best of both worlds: it provides a thoughtfully designed course to ensure you make progress. And it provides classes with teachers in which you can get practice at using the material in conversation, as well as receive personalized feedback and answers to any of your questions.

The course is impressive. As well as studying Mandarin Chinese grammar and vocabulary, you’ll learn a wealth of cultural information. In our experience, even students who live in China or have Chinese family members may come across new cultural insights.

And unlike on some platforms, your teachers won’t just be native Mandarin speakers. They all have Chinese teaching qualifications, and it shows – we found the teaching quality to be excellent.

Pros

  • Combines a structured course with lessons
  • High-quality teachers
  • Interesting curriculum with lots of cultural insights
  • Lessons are available around the clock
  • Even group classes are typically one-to-one

Cons

  • You have to buy a minimum of 30 classes at a time, and although you can get a refund if you’re not happy, it can be a barrier to entry
  • The homework is extremely quick and simple
4.5/5
$10/month or $96/year
Learn grammar, vocabulary, and characters through playing games

Some apps use gamification. Ninchanese is a game, period. And whether you’re competing with other players to type pinyin quicker or reading a character’s backstory, it’s surprisingly addictive.

Don’t underestimate Ninchanese, though. It also has thorough grammar explanations, challenging translation exercises, pronunciation feedback, and a staggering number of lessons from beginner through to advanced.

There are some downsides to this app, however. The audio is text-to-speech, so to avoid sounding robotic, you’ll want to pair it with a pronunciation course or work with a tutor.

Pros

  • It’s fun
  • You’ll practice vocabulary, grammar, characters, pronunciation, listening, and reading

Cons

  • Some users might not see the point in the English-language backstories
  • It uses text-to-speech
  • No handwriting practice
4.5/5
Price: From $14/month or $124/year
Improve your Chinese listening comprehension with ChinesePod
Heaps of listening comprehension practice

At 10–20 minutes, ChinesePod’s lessons are the Goldilocks of audio and video courses. They rarely feel too long or too short – and the engaging hosts help out with that by injecting their personality into every lesson.

The courses go from Newbie to Advanced, and there’s oodles of lessons to choose from. The library contains 10 years’ worth of content. The lessons aren’t designed to be taken consecutively, so you can pick and choose the topics that interest you. There’s no need to listen to all of them – you decide when you’re ready to move up a level.

Most of the lessons are dialogue-based, i.e. you listen to an example dialogue which the hosts then break down for you. Premium subscribers also get access to expansion material for the lessons, quizzes, audio files for individual words and phrases (perfect for making flashcards!) and additional pronunciation lessons.

Pros

  • Content from Newbie to Advanced
  • Good pronunciation lessons (Premium plan only)
  • Cultural insights
  • Variety of hosts

Cons

  • It’s not a structured syllabus
  • You’ll need to go elsewhere for reading, writing, and speaking practice
4.3/5
Price: Freemium; $124 for the premium course
Supplementary resource that’s particularly useful for the HSK exams

Studying for the HSK exams can be a drag. The textbooks are thorough and, in theory, all you really need. But if you’re struggling to stay motivated, then you’ll probably benefit from signing up to Chinese Zero to Hero’s video courses.

These courses aren’t only for people studying for the HSK exams. They’ll help anyone improve their Mandarin vocabulary and grammar. However, they’re structured based on the HSK system.

There are over 800 videos, including warm-up ones where you’re introduced to the target language, vocabulary ones that dive in deep on the new words, and grammar ones. Plus, there are homework activities. We think the grammar explanations are where the course really shines, but all of the videos have value.

Chinese Zero to Hero won’t be enough on its own. You’ll likely want to pair it with textbooks or classes. However, it’s an affordable resource that can help round out your studies and keep you on track for the HSK exams.

Pros

  • Covers HSK1–6
  • Makes studying grammar more enjoyable
  • It doesn’t use pinyin outside of the vocabulary videos

Cons

  • It’s best as a supplementary resource
  • The quizzes and homework are very short
  • At the beginning, some students may struggle with the lack of pinyin
4.3/5
Price: €49.90
Translation-based learning with great dialogues

“Learning languages is child’s play.” That’s the motto of the Assimil method, which involves heavy immersion in a language before the learner begins to speak or write.

You’ll learn the exact same way children do: by hearing how native Chinese speakers talk, and eventually, mimicking them. In fact, it’s not until lesson 50 that you begin speaking and actively learning about grammar and sentence structure. Until that point, you’ll just be listening and doing comprehension exercises.

Assimil’s been publishing textbooks for almost a century, and in recent years, they’ve also turned their hands to e-courses. Needless to say, this publishing powerhouse has got passionate fans who believe the Assimil method helps them achieve conversational fluency. However, others prefer learning how to build their own sentences from day one, rather than spending tens of hours focused on understanding and translating dialogues.

Pros

  • Realistic dialogues
  • Extremely thorough grammar indexes and appendixes
  • Some cultural information
  • High-quality audio

Cons

  • Heavily focused on translation instead of output
  • The pronunciation explanations and feedback could be improved
  • Less engaging than other courses and apps
4.3/5
Price: $11.99/month or $55.99/year
Gamified app with good grammar explanations

This cute, gamified app is designed to take you up to B1-level Mandarin Chinese – although it’s probably best used as a supplementary resource rather than a standalone tool.

Each short-and-sweet lesson introduces you to grammar and vocabulary, along with a variety of practice tasks. The units finish with listening comprehension exercises and the chance to practice speaking (although you won’t get any feedback on this). There are also optional units on Chinese characters and pinyin.

LingoDeer’s companion app, DeerPlus, will help you drill vocabulary, grammar, and more. It’s a great expansion option, but it isn’t included in your premium subscription.

Bear in mind that LingoDeer is almost identical to ChineseSkill, with the main differences being that ChineseSkill also has HSK vocabulary drills but doesn’t have courses for any other languages. LingoDeer currently has courses for 13 languages. 

Pros

  • Courses for multiple languages
  • Decent introduction to pinyin and Chinese hanzi
  • Clear grammar explanations
  • Listening comprehension activities

Cons

  • Subscribing to two different apps, while optional, is annoying
  • Less thorough than some courses
  • Limited speaking practice
  • No HSK drills
4/5
Price: Freemium; $124 for the premium course
coffee break itunes
Relaxed podcast-style Mandarin lessons

Worried that Mandarin is too challenging? Give Coffee Break Chinese a go. This unintimidating course will help you to feel comfortable learning the language.

Coffee Break Chinese consists of two parts: a free podcast and a premium course. In the free podcast, you’ll listen along as Crystal teaches Mark Mandarin in an unscripted (but planned!), pressure-free way. You’ll learn important phrases, grammar, cultural norms, and more.

Invest in the premium course and you’ll get access to lesson notes, a video version of the course that also contains the written (pinyin and hanzi) forms of the words, an ad-free version of the podcast, and a bonus audio lesson with additional vocabulary and translation exercises.

Coffee Break Chinese won’t teach you Mandarin on its own: it’s just not in-depth enough. But it will take the stress out of learning a new language and help you gain some confidence.

Pros

  • A lot of the course is free
  • It makes Mandarin unintimidating
  • You’ll learn cultural information

Cons

  • It’s not the best option for serious learners
  • You’ll need to find other ways to practice writing Chinese
  • With the free version, you won’t be able to learn the pinyin or hanzi spelling of the words
4/5
Price: $29–$399/course
Hacking hanzi with creative codes and lots of hard work

You know how going to the gym is awful for the first couple of weeks, but then you’re glad you stuck with it? That’s a bit like the experience of using Mandarin Blueprint. But instead of exercising your muscles, you’re stretching your imagination.

Although it starts off with a pronunciation course, Mandarin Blueprint’s main focus is learning characters and words. Each character is taught with the Hanzi Movie Method, a technique that encourages you to create a coded story about the hanzi character. These codes should tell you the initial and final sounds, tone, and meaning.

You have to put in a lot of work to understand these methods and create memorable stories. It takes hours of studying before you can begin actually using the language. Some learners can find this frustrating.

However, others find that this method allows them to better recall the characters. And as the lessons build up from single characters to words, then sentences, and finally full stories, they feel that they’re reaping the benefits of their initial investment of time.

Bear in mind that technophobes will probably not enjoy Mandarin Blueprint. As well as the video lessons, you have to use Google Slides and Anki. The instructions alone are 76 slides long.

Pros

  • Extremely comprehensive course
  • A logical yet creative approach to studying that more analytical learners might enjoy
  • The Hanzi Movie Method is convoluted but effective

Cons

  • You need to use the course for a while before you can reap the rewards
  • It’s mainly focused on reading, with no speaking practice
  • An unintuitive, clunky system with three separate apps and programs
4/5
Price: $14.95–$19.95/month
Pimsleur375
Slow but high-quality audio courses

If you feel swamped by flashcards and Mandarin vocabulary lists, the Pimsleur Method might be a good choice for you. It’s backed up by scientific research and has won over lots of language learners. And much of it centers around how to better remember vocabulary. 

It’s made up of four principles: never teaching too much at a time, learning new vocabulary in context, revisiting that vocabulary after increasingly longer intervals, and giving the listener (you!) time to formulate the correct answer before providing the answer.

Each Pimsleur course contains 30-minute audio lessons in which you’ll listen to new vocabulary being used in conversation, hear brief explanations, and then practice saying and creating the sentences yourself. It also uses a technique called backchaining to help you better pronounce tricky sounds.

Although there’s a lot in Pimsleur’s favor, it’s not for every learner. If you’re looking for something fast-paced, with lots of grammar explanations and vocabulary, or with writing practice, you should probably look elsewhere. 

Pros

  • Well-structured lessons that build on each other
  • The lessons encourage active rather than passive learning
  • You can learn on the go
  • The method is backed up by scientific research

Cons

  • The 30-minute-long audio lessons can move at a sluggish pace
  • It teaches a limited amount of grammar and vocabulary
  • Visual learners may find it’s not the best resource for them 
  • The supplementary practice activities feel basic and not overly useful
4/5
Price: Freemium; premium plans from $3/month
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A character-by-character approach to learning Mandarin

If you’ve ever felt overwhelmed by hanzi and Mandarin vocabulary, you might like Domino Chinese.

Rather than teaching you entire words and phrases, the course introduces you to individual Chinese characters. Once you’ve got them under your belt, you then learn how to connect them with other characters to make words, phrases, and sentences. It’s like playing with Lego – or even dominoes.

The courses take a short-and-sweet approach to language learning, with brief video lessons and dialogues followed by games and flashcards. There are also printable practice sheets for writing characters, vocabulary worksheets, and a workbook.

There are lots of courses to choose from, including their standard 20-level course, three HSK courses (HSK3– 5), a pronunciation course, a survival Chinese course, and a slang course. The levels in their standard courses should take you around 10 hours to complete, and after level 10, all teaching is done in Mandarin.

Pros

  • Engaging and unintimidating
  • It encourages you to problem-solve the meaning of new words
  • Plenty of supplementary materials
  • Affordable

Cons

  • You only learn from a native Mandarin speaker from level 10 onwards
  • Serious learners might find it too superficial for their needs
  • Beginner lessons move slowly
  • The slideshow-based video format can feel dull
4/5
Price: From $699/course
HSK self-study courses combined with lessons for extra practice

Ever completed a lesson or unit and felt like you still hadn’t practiced the material enough? Maybe you understood it all but didn’t know if you’d be able to use it in conversation, or perhaps you simply wanted more drilling to help you remember it.

With GoEast Mandarin, you’ll get plenty of practice with the material. First, you can study the lessons at home, not only by going over the target vocabulary and grammar but also by doing a range of practice activities: flashcards, grammar quizzes, listening comprehension, fill-in-the-blank activities, and even speaking tasks. There are plenty of self-study options for each lesson.

Then, after you’ve studied the material, you can revisit it with a teacher in class. It’s the perfect opportunity to see if you can remember it, not just when looking at a flashcard deck, but also when talking to a real Chinese speaker.

Pros

  • Combines self-study with lessons
  • Varied practice activities
  • Follows the HSK syllabus
  • You can choose between group and private classes
  • High exposure to Mandarin

Cons

  • You have to purchase a whole course, which can be a barrier to entry
  • Beginners may struggle because the courses are entirely in Mandarin
4/5
Price: $12.99/month or $79.99/year
Chineseskill is a free app to learn chinese
LingoDeer, but with fewer languages, HSK drills, and a panda

We’re not being glib when we call this “LingoDeer but with fewer languages.” It’s the truth. ChineseSkill is actually the original version of LingoDeer. And everything you can find on both LingoDeer and LingoDeer’s companion app, Deer Plus, is still available on the regularly updated ChineseSkill – with the exception of the other languages, such as Japanese, Korean, Spanish, and Arabic. 

However, there are some small differences. If you’re using LingoDeer, you won’t have access to the HSK vocabulary drills on ChineseSkill. Although we imagine the LingoDeer Mandarin course will still teach you that vocabulary, you’re missing the pre-exam revision opportunities. 

ChineseSkill’s premium plan is more expensive than LingoDeer’s, but cheaper than the combined premium plan for LingoDeer and DeerPlus. Some of the premium games in ChineseSkill’s Arcade and Panda’s Toolbox sections are only available via the companion app DeerPlus, not LingoDeer.

Confused? We’re not surprised. If you want to study multiple languages, LingoDeer and DeerPlus combined beat ChineseSkill (and that’s the reason for LingoDeer’s higher overall rating). However, if you want more choice over the course structure, all the games in one place instead of two apps, or HSK vocabulary drills, ChineseSkill makes more sense. And if you’re on a budget, work out which features are most important to you before deciding.

Alternatively, try HelloChinese – our first choice of gamified app for learning Mandarin.

Pros

  • Fun, entertaining games
  • HSK vocabulary drills
  • Everything in one app

Cons

  • Premium plan is more expensive than LingoDeer’s
  • Fewer languages than on LingoDeer
  • Limited options for speaking practice and feedback
  • Less thorough than some courses
3.8/5
Price: From $8/month
ChineseClass101 is a good podcast for beginners.
A decent option for beginners

ChineseClass101 is like ChinesePod’s enthusiastic but ultimately less impressive cousin. It contains a huge number of audio and video lessons with a range of hosts. There are “pathways” or courses at each level, and you can pick and choose what you study.

Just like on ChinesePod, the lessons are mostly dialogue-centric. You’ll listen to a target dialogue, and then the hosts will break it down for you line by line. By the end of each lesson, you should have learned some new grammar and vocabulary.

Each lesson comes with expansion materials and lesson notes, as well as some hanzi worksheets. Premium subscribers also get access to a slew of features, some of which are more useful than others. 

ChineseClass101 is a good option for beginner students, although you’ll probably still want to use a textbook or other additional resource. Meanwhile, intermediate and advanced learners should probably look elsewhere. Although there’s more challenging material on ChineseClass101, we think the other courses on this list outperform it.

Pros

  • Huge number of lessons with various hosts
  • Premium subscribers get access to a lot of extra features, including topic-specific flashcard decks
  • Voice recorder function
  • Fairly decent for grammar

Cons

  • Too much English, especially at higher levels
  • Limited reading and writing opportunities
3.8/5
Price: $97/course
hacking
Beginner Mandarin explanations mixed with lessons on how to learn Chinese

Ever spent weeks studying, only to discover that you still can’t make your own sentences? Yeah, us too.

Sometimes, the thing holding us back isn’t bad materials. It’s poor study techniques. That’s the idea behind Olle of Hacking Chinese’s beginner-level course, Unlocking Chinese. It combines tones, vocabulary, and grammar lessons with videos on the most effective way to memorize this material, read more easily, and improve your spoken output.

Other courses on this list might teach you more Mandarin, but if you’re new to studying languages, this one might have the biggest long-term impact.

The Hacking Chinese blog also contains an incredible amount of free information for beginners through to advanced. And if you want even more lessons on how to study Mandarin, take a look at Olle’s other course, Hacking Chinese. It would pair nicely with any of the other courses on this list.

Pros

  • Teaches you study techniques that will be useful even when you reach an advanced level
  • Lots of information about learning tones and characters
  • You’ll learn 150 of the most common Mandarin words

Cons

  • You won’t actually learn much Mandarin
  • One of the pricier options
3.8/5
Price: Freemium; €9.99/month or €59.99/year
Fun and well-organized app that prioritizes speaking and listening

Learning Mandarin with Super Chinese is fun, but if you’re looking for a course that does everything, you may be best off looking elsewhere.

There’s a lot in the app’s favor: it has a well-organized syllabus, gets you to practice speaking, tests you on your listening comprehension, and introduces you to both grammar and vocabulary. Plus, it has a variety of entertaining activities.

However, we were unconvinced by the activities for practicing characters, which you’re never actually required to learn during the course. And the pinyin prep course and AI speaking feedback left us feeling unsure about our pronunciation and how to improve it.

We still think Super Chinese is a good option for learners, but you’ll want to combine it with other study methods. Alternatively, try something like the comprehensive Chinese For Us or the fun, but only suitable for beginners, app HelloChinese.

Pros

  • Well-organized syllabus 
  • Varied practice tasks
  • It’s fun
Cons
  • Pinyin prep course has more superficial explanations that some competitors
  • Falls short on characters and writing
3.5/5
Price: From $7.99/month
Mango-languages-Logo
Compare your pronunciation to a native speaker’s

If you like the sound of Pimsleur but think it’s a bit slow or want more pronunciation feedback, then Mango Languages could be your ideal resource.

Just like Pimsleur, you’ll listen to a dialogue, get a grammar or cultural explanation, and then practice making your own sentences and questions using the target language. Repetition is a key feature of this method, but the lesson pace isn’t as snail-like as with Pimsleur – in part because it’s an app rather than an audio course.

What’s more, Mango Languages allows you to record yourself speaking a Mandarin phrase and lay it over a native speaker’s. You can listen back and repeat this as many times as you want. It’s a much more effective way to spot when your tones aren’t quite right than listening to one recording after the other.

Unfortunately, Mango Languages is mostly focused on speaking and listening. You’ll need to look elsewhere to learn how to write and read Mandarin.

Pros

  • It’s great for spotting pronunciation errors
  • You’ll practice making sentences from the first lesson
  • Lessons build on each other well
  • Some North American libraries and universities offer free access

Cons

  • Limited focus on writing and reading
  • Some users find the heavy drilling monotonous
  • Only caters for beginner and lower-intermediate learners

Miageru

3.3 
Price: Free

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Fun fact: miageru means to raise your eyes upwards, to admire, or to respect. Yet it’s not entirely clear why this course is named Miageru, or who is supposed to be looking up to whom (or what).

Miageru contains basic, easy-to-understand explanations for beginner-level Japanese kana and grammar. It also has games to help you drill kana, kanji, vocabulary, and grammar. However, you’ll only learn how to recognize kana and kanji, not how to write them.

While a useful tool, Miageru is not the most well-organized platform. There’s no learning pathway, for example, and neither is there a section on essential Japanese phrases (greetings, directions, etc.). When we tried it out, there was no way to even learn how to say hello and introduce yourself.

To study kanji, you have to select sentences that you’re interested in learning. Studying a kanji in a sentence isn’t a bad idea: learning things in context will help you remember them. Yet this system does mean that you might learn things in an odd order.

Miageru claims it’s a replacement for Japanese courses and includes everything you need to know for JLPT N5. We’re not convinced because it misses out a lot of essential phrases. However, it’s a helpful supplementary resource for drilling beginner Japanese alongside a course or textbook.

The current rating is our best estimate. We haven’t had the opportunity yet to more thoroughly evaluate this resource, as we do for our full reviews.

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Japanese From Zero!

2.5 
Price: From $25/volume

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If you’re looking for an easy introduction to Japanese, you might like Japanese From Zero! It is engagingly written and has lots of information about Japanese culture, but it teaches the language at a snail’s pace.

In fact, it reminds us of storybooks designed to teach young children foreign languages, in that it mixes kana with romaji. You’ll see words written half in hiragana, half in romaji. And the entire first textbook won’t teach you any katakana or kanji at all.

There’s also an accompanying video course, YesJapan (review), which contains a ton of useful material. Ironically, in this course, kana and kanji are used.

For serious learners, we think there are better textbooks out there, such as Genki and Minna no Nihongo. But if you’re looking for the textbook equivalent of Duolingo, you might like Japanese From Zero! It’s an easy, fun way to learn the language while never feeling overwhelmed. You’ll make extremely slow progress – but it will still be progress.

The current rating is our best estimate. We haven’t had the opportunity yet to more thoroughly evaluate this resource, as we do for our full reviews.

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Minna no Nihongo

4.7 
Price: From $35 per volume

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Minna no Nihongo, along with Genki, is one of the most recommended Japanese textbooks you can find – and it lives up to expectations.

There are two beginner-level (shokyu) volumes that roughly correlate to A1–A2 or N5–N4 and two intermediate-level (chokyu) volumes that should take up to N2. Each textbook contains 25 chapters and will teach you grammar, vocabulary, and more. They also come with a CD.

Minna no Nihongo’s main selling point, especially at the beginner level, is that it’s generally more in-depth than other popular textbooks. Compared to Genki, it has more vocabulary and grammar, more exercises, and more accompanying workbooks, including ones specifically for kanji, reading, and writing.

That said, many students are put off by the lack of English in the main textbook. They are entirely in Japanese. You can buy the official Translation and Grammar Notes for each level in a variety of languages, including English, Mandarin, and Spanish. While purchasing two separate texts can be annoying, it also has its positives: you’re pushed to try to understand the Japanese first, plus it makes it more accessible for people who don’t have English as a first language.

You should also learn the kana before getting started with Minna no Nihongo. If you’ve yet to study this, apps like Skritter (review), Scripts (review), and LingoDeer (review) will help you pick it up.

If you’re planning to move to Japan, or want to learn the language as thoroughly as possible, then Minna no Nihongo is a great starting point. You’ll get a strong understanding of the grammar and learn a lot of vocabulary. However, if you’re looking for an easier entry point or don’t want to buy the official translation, check out our review of Genki.

The current rating is our best estimate. We haven’t had the opportunity yet to more thoroughly evaluate this resource, as we do for our full reviews.

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Wasabi Mini Review: Japanese Classes & Self-Study Lessons

4.2 
Price: Lesson packs from 3,780¥/month

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Wasabi is an online Japanese school that also publishes an impressive amount of free resources for beginner and intermediate learners. This includes grammar guides, graded readers with audio recordings, video lessons, and other self-study materials.

The online classes are one-to-one and typically taught in Japanese, although they will allocate you a teacher who speaks English if you request it. You need to purchase the classes in monthly packs, with a minimum of two per month. There’s no upper limit.

Meanwhile, you can study by yourself without classes using their self-study materials – although, of course, you’ll miss out on the practice opportunities and personalized feedback. These materials are written in English and contain clear, easy-to-follow breakdowns of Japanese grammar, pronunciation, and more. There are no exercises, however, so you’ll have to drill the material on your own.

Whether you take classes with them or not, Wasabi is worth bookmarking. There’s an enormous amount of free, quality resources for beginner and intermediate-level Japanese students. You could use them to supplement courses and textbooks or even to structure your independent studies.

The current rating is our best estimate. We haven’t had the opportunity yet to more thoroughly evaluate this resource, as we do for our full reviews.

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Japanese For Busy People

2.5 
Price: From $27/volume

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Japanese For Busy People is a popular textbook series, but unless you’re set on learning business vocabulary, we think there are better books available.

The biggest issue with this series is that you won’t learn how to write Japanese in the standard version, which only uses romaji. This not only makes it impossible to read or write, but also means learning the pronunciation is much harder. You can purchase a kana version of the textbook instead, but even that doesn’t teach kanji until the second volume.

The grammar explanations are quite superficial, while the vocabulary is limited and tends to be business-oriented. If you’re learning Japanese to travel, watch anime, or study in Japan, you might become frustrated with the material.

In its favor, it includes a variety of exercises and practice drills. However, we believe there are better Japanese textbooks available. We recommend trying Genki or Minna no Nihongo instead.

The current rating is our best estimate. We haven’t had the opportunity yet to more thoroughly evaluate this resource, as we do for our full reviews.

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Samidori

3.7 
Price: Free

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samidori is a free online Japanese course from the University of Kyoto, and as you might expect, it’s a comprehensive, well-organized introduction to the language.

There is an extensive range of lessons from absolute beginner up to lower intermediate. They cover the kana, grammar, vocabulary, listening, and reading. However, there are no writing or speaking activities, and although you’ll learn to recognize them, you won’t be taught how to write any kanji. Higher levels also contain fewer lessons than the lower levels.

Most of the lessons follow the same format: the lesson topic and vocabulary are introduced in both Japanese and English, then there are example sentences, audio recordings for the vocabulary and example sentences, and finally practice questions.

For beginners, samidori is a decent introduction to Japanese, although you’ll want to pair it with kanji studies and writing and speaking practice. Intermediate learners, however, will likely want to use it as a supplementary resource only.

The current rating is our best estimate. We haven’t had the opportunity yet to more thoroughly evaluate this resource, as we do for our full reviews.

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Go! Go! Nihon & Akamonkai Online Japanese Course

2.7 
Price: 90,000¥

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This 12-week beginners Japanese course attempts to recreates the experience of enrolling at a Japanese language school, but from the comfort of your home. You’ll get three to four hours worth of work, including homework, Monday to Friday for almost three months, plus access to a community forum – but it comes at a very high cost.

The course is designed to let you pass the JLPT N5  exam, which means you’ll learn the kana, 80 kanji, 1,000 words, and basic survival Japanese for introducing yourself, shopping, expressing opinions, and so on.

The lessons make use of text, video, downloadable worksheets, audio files, slideshows that break down grammar, and more. You’re prompted to repeat dialogue and participate in role-plays, and you’ll get the answers to your homework the following morning.

However, it’s eye-wateringly expensive. The school justifies it because of the admittedly very high price of studying intensive Japanese courses in Japan. But of course, it’s not really the same as attending a Japanese language school. You’re still studying alone, even though there are learner forums. There’s no pronunciation feedback or group work, just like there aren’t any opportunities to use Japanese outside of the classroom.

If you’re happy with the price point and have four hours free each day, then this course might be a good choice for you. However, there are lots more Japanese courses to choose from, most of which are more affordable. Alternatively, you could study a textbook such as Minna no Nihongo or Genki with the help of an online teacher.

The current rating is our best estimate. We haven’t had the opportunity yet to more thoroughly evaluate this resource, as we do for our full reviews.

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BunPro

Price: Freemium; subscriptions from $3/month

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BunPro – not to be confused with Bunpo (review) – is a flashcard-based website and app that focuses on grammar. It’s best used as a supplementary resource, and BunPro knows it.

In fact, as you go through the flashcards, BunPro will recommend websites where you can learn more about the grammatical feature or word in question, as well as the page number you should go to in certain textbooks. And as well as opting for the standard course order that seems to correspond with the JLPT, you can choose to study the flashcards in pathways that correspond with Genki, Minna no Nihongo, Tae Kim, and more.

You can dip in and out of the pathways as you wish, and add and remove content from your flashcard reviews. Each level is divided into sublevels and themes, which makes it easy to spot material you don’t yet know. There are also community discussions about the different grammar points.

You could skip the textbooks and just study with BunPro, although it would be a much more superficial introduction to Japanese. What’s more, you would need additional resources for the kana, kanji, vocabulary, and reading, writing, listening and speaking practice.

The clue’s in the name, after all: BunPro wants to help you become a pro at Japanese bunpō or grammar. It doesn’t do much else, but as a supplementary grammar resource, it’s a great tool.

The current rating is our best estimate. We haven’t had the opportunity yet to more thoroughly evaluate this resource, as we do for our full reviews.

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Genki

4.5 
Price: From $48 per volume

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Genki, along with Minna no Nihongo, is one of the most popular Japanese textbook series around – and for good reason.

There are two volumes, and each of them has an accompanying workbook that you can buy. The main text will teach you reading, writing, grammar, vocabulary, and more. The chapters are focused on a specific activity, e.g. going shopping, which helps you to immediately put the language in context. While not designed to align with JLPT or CEFR levels, studying both volumes should take you roughly up to A2/N4.

Genki is slightly more accessible than Minna no Nihongo: it uses English-language explanations and overall teaches less vocabulary and grammar, while still giving you a fairly decent introduction to the language.

That said, you’ll find Genki easier to use if you’ve already studied the kana. If you haven’t yet, don’t worry – it won’t take you long to master that with an app like Skritter (review) or LingoDeer (review). 

In short, if you’re looking for something beginner-friendly with English explanations, or are just learning Japanese as a hobby, Genki is an ideal textbook. If you’re planning to move to Japan, however, or want to challenge yourself with a more comprehensive textbook, check out our review of the Minna no Nihongo series.

The current rating is our best estimate. We haven’t had the opportunity yet to more thoroughly evaluate this resource, as we do for our full reviews.

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