There are a ridiculous number of apps out there for learning Chinese, and, while having plenty of options is certainly a good thing, finding the ones that are best for you can seem daunting.
Hopefully, we can help with that. We’ve tested dozens of them, and have included the standout performers in this list. These are apps that will help you improve a number of language skills, and we’ve categorized them based on whether they’re best for speaking, listening, reading, or writing.
The major benefits afforded by language apps are that they’re convenient and inexpensive, often free. Since this post focuses on apps, it will leave out some great resources that simply aren’t available as apps.
Best Communication Skills App: Pimsleur
Best Interactive App: HelloChinese
Best Gamified Course: Ninchanese
Best HSK Test Prep App: HSKOnline
Best Dictionary App: Pleco
Best Easy-to-Use Way to Learn Vocabulary: Memrise
Best for Learning Words in Context: Clozemaster
Best Customizable Study Tool: Anki
Best for Grammar Practice: Chinese Grammar
Best for Learning Chinese Characters: Outlier Linguistics
Best for Reading About Current Events: The Chairman’s Bao
Best Reading Practice for Beginners and Up: Du Chinese
Best Audio Lessons in a Podcast Format: ChinesePod
Best for Writing Feedback: italki
Best for Pronunciation Feedback: Speechling
Best for Finding an Affordable Tutor: italki
Best for Structured Lessons: TutorMing
Best Q&A App: HiNative
Learning a new language requires practicing a number of different skills, and most apps excel (or try to excel) at helping you improve one of them. Others take a more comprehensive approach to language instruction, and those are the apps that we’ve included in this category.
Since they cover several aspects of Chinese, they can make better options for learners that are just starting out with the language.
The Pimsleur course has been around for a very long time, but its app is refreshingly user-friendly and visually appealing. In addition to the nice design, this course is good for the amount of speaking and listening practice it offers.
The 30-minute audio lessons in the Mandarin course are designed to get you thinking and participating in Chinese right away. You’ll get lots of practice repeating dialogue and answering questions aloud. Immediate speaking practice this in-depth isn’t something you’ll see in a lot of other apps, and it’s what makes this one stand out. Review.
HelloChinese is my favorite of the free apps for learning Chinese. The lessons are organized similarly to apps like ChineseSkill and LingoDeer, but they go into a bit more detail with everything. There are also lots of speaking exercises which I really like, as they force you to take an active role in your learning. This one is really well put together and provides a ton of content.
There are also Premium and Premium+ plans 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 some additional exercises. Review.
Ninchanese is a Chinese-teaching game that can be used as an app or online. There are different worlds that represent different Chinese levels and various challenges to complete. It’s story-based, engaging, and has characters that you’ll get to know along the way.
What makes this app truly useful is that it’s not just a fun game — it’s a super extensive resource with a staggering amount of content. You’ll improve all areas of your Chinese by learning new characters and words while improving your listening, speaking, typing, and grammar skills
Use the coupon code “ALR15OFF” to get 15% off any subscription to Ninchanese. Review.
The HSKOnline app is a seriously useful tool for anyone preparing for the HSK tests. Its rating of 4.8 stars on the Google Play store is no mistake, either — there are over 4000 reviews.
The app helps learners prepare for the tests through lots of example questions, mock tests, and even the chance to upload writing to have it graded. It does a great job of balancing easy convenience and the thoroughness required for quality test prep.
While there are some free features, most users would want to upgrade to the paid plan. Fortunately, it’s pretty affordable, with a lifetime plan costing less than $28 or a single month costing $5.99. You can also save 15% with the coupon code ‘alr15’.
Here are some more options that are commonly recommended, but aren’t quite our favorites. Some of them could make good options for some learners.
Like some other apps, Super Chinese offers gamified lessons available on your smartphone. It’s an affordable and enjoyable way to get started with Chinese. Save 15% with the coupon code ‘alr15’. Review.
Providing topical lessons and a light gamification element, Lingodeer is one of the better options in its class. It’s a great way to start out with a number of languages, including Chinese. Review.
Another gamified app offering convenient practice, ChineseSkill is free and offers solid introductory material. It’s quite similar to both Lingodeer and HelloChinese. Review.
Similar to Lingodeer, Duolingo uses short activities and gamification to make language learning incredibly accessible. It’s free and super popular, but it doesn’t do Asian languages very well. Review.
Despite audio lessons that offer good explanations and chances to engage, Rocket Chinese just isn’t that good. The exercises quickly become repetitive, and some of the lessons aren’t very well planned out. Review.
The Fluenz course is pretty good for some languages, but it falls short with Chinese. It completely ignores Chinese characters and has a price tag. Review.
Busuu is one of the more popular courses out there, but its Chinese course is riddled with errors and not very well done. Review.
This program has been around for a really long time and is very popular. Unfortunately, its complete lack of explanations and mind-numbingly repetitive exercises mean it isn’t worth the price. Review.
You’ll probably want to stay away from this one. It has users memorize words and phrases in isolation and has a weak teaching methodology. Review.
Both of these online platforms offer access to university courses for free. There are Chinese language courses and courses on other subjects taught in Chinese. They offer certification upon completion for those that are willing to pay.
Anyone can create a course and sell it on Udemy. This means there is a huge variety of courses, both for beginners and higher levels. Quality may vary, but keep your eye out for sales (they’re frequent) if you see a course that interests you.
This might be the most popular app amongst learners of Chinese, and it’s more than just a dictionary.
It’s a great dictionary, sure, but there are also loads of extra features. Learn character stroke orders, see example sentences, use the handwriting recognition tool, and listen to audio recordings of over 34,000 words by two native Mandarin speakers. There’s a reason this app is recommended so frequently.
If you choose to only download one app – make it this one.
Memrise is a resource with a massive amount of learning content. The app uses spaced repetition (SRS) flashcards, meaning super-efficient practice, and features tons of free user-created courses.
The official Memrise courses have the added bonus of reliable quality audio, some videos, and pictures. Some user-created courses also have these features, but it can be hit or miss.
As an additional bonus, the app is particularly well designed and fun to use. The short activities also make it one of the more convenient practice options out there. Of course, you won’t get extensive or deep language practice for free, but it’s a solid option for vocabulary practice. Review.
Clozemaster is a popular app that is excellent for getting exposure to lots of different sentences and vocabulary. This app uses fill-in-the-blank exercises in 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. This plays into the app’s arcade-like theme, making it all feel somewhat like a game. Although there is a pro version that requires a subscription, most people will find the free version to offer plenty of value. Review.
Anki is the best memorization tool out there when it comes to customization. It’s a simple yet powerful tool that uses an SRS algorithm to help users memorize whatever they want.
Customization options include the ability to add images, audio, sentences, explanations, tags, and more. There is a bit of a learning curve when first getting started, but those that don’t want to spend the time creating their own materials can check out the pre-made Chinese decks. The app is free on Android, $25 in the Apple App Store.
This app comes from the makers of Ninchanese and is purpose-built to teach grammar. It features over 130 grammar lessons, which can be sorted from HSK1 to HSK5. Each lesson comes with very detailed explanations and lots of examples.
It’s free to use, and the only ads you’ll see are unobtrusive and for their course. It’s definitely the best app for Chinese grammar that I’ve seen.
Hanping is an Android-only dictionary that’s comparable to Pleco. It’s got a lot of the same features as well as some extras. I also really like their popup dictionary that you can use within other apps.
Outlier Linguistics is amazing if you want to really geek out about Chinese characters and learn everything you can about them — their components, origins, evolution, and more. These dictionaries are available as an add-on in the Pleco app and available in both Simplified or Traditional characters.
Aside from the fact that this stuff is downright interesting, learning more about how characters are constructed and how they’ve changed over time can make them more meaningful, and therefore, easier to remember.
Save 20% by using the coupon code ‘ALR20‘
The Chairman’s Bao has an incredible amount of reading content and is one of my favorites. It’s an online graded newspaper with new articles covering current events published daily. It also boasts video lessons for lower-level learners and lessons on historical folk tales and legends.
Reading news stories on TCB feels less like studying and more like something I would do for fun. With so much of the content being China-centric, you’ll learn a ton about the culture as well. For additional practice, there are reading and listening comprehension exercises with each article.
You can get 10% off all individual subscriptions by using the coupon code “alr10”. Review.
Du Chinese is a fantastic resource for improving your reading skills. Its interface is wonderfully designed, making for a great user experience, and the content is interesting.
You’ll also have the chance to improve your listening skills with this app by listening to the material read aloud. The articles are relevant and interesting, the app is super easy to use, the only downside is that new content isn’t added as frequently as for The Chairman’s Bao. However, it’s a little better for beginner level learners.
You can save 10% on a subscription by using the coupon code “alr10dc”. Review.
WordSwing and M Mandarin
Both of these apps are unique Mandarin readers. M Mandarin uses engaging comics to teach the language, making reading and listening to Chinese more fun. There are a number of other features as well, such as grammar and cultural explanations.
Wordswing is a mixture between a graded reader and a choose your own adventure game. As you read through the stories, you’ll have to make choices that will affect how the story unfolds. It’s one of the only resources that really forces you to actively use the language while reading, which is cool.
They mainly target intermediate and higher-level students who are advanced beyond most graded readers but not quite ready for native materials. There are several different stories that you can try out for free, and more are being added. WordSwing Review.
ChinesePod is one of the biggest names in the industry, recommended by nearly everyone, and remaining a solid option for over a decade. They have a massive library of lessons across all difficulty levels that make for a great way to improve your listening skills.
Material at higher levels is taught entirely in Chinese, and an appropriate amount of English is used at the lower levels. Though this scales well, the lessons don’t necessarily build on each other intentionally. Following along with a textbook or another course will help make sure you don’t end up with gaps in your knowledge.
You can get $50 off an annual Premium subscription to ChinesePod by using the coupon code “ALLLANG50”. Review.
This app makes reading in another language easier by making it easy to look up words as you go. While it’s okay for other languages, there are better options for learners of Chinese. Review.
This reading app provides a translation of the text you’re reading right next to the Chinese version. It’s helpful for easy cross-referencing and makes sure you understand the material.
This app uses mnemonics to help you remember how characters are formed, their tone, and pronunciation. The ridiculous images it uses may seem unnecessary, but the technique works.
Use the coupon code “ALLLANGUAGERESOURCES” to get 15% off all three month and annual subscriptions, as well as packs. Review.
Similar to Zizzle, this app uses illustrations to help learners memorize new characters. Limited use of the app is free, a paid subscription unlocks all of the content. It currently only supports traditional characters.
Skritter and TOFU Learn
Skritter is perfect for those who are serious about learning to write Chinese characters. It teaches by having you write characters with your finger on your phone’s touch screen. The app uses this technique along with a combination of SRS flashcards and stroke recognition to help you remember how to write each character. Review.
It’s convenient to use and really is effective, but it’s also on the more expensive side of things.
For those who feel like Skritter isn’t worth the cost, TOFU Learn may be just what you’re looking for. It’s free and could make a suitable alternative for improving your vocabulary and helping you learn to write Chinese characters.
It can be hard to find good places to get feedback on your writing. Most apps don’t offer any chance for feedback, and those that do frankly don’t do a very good job.
italki, better-known as a place to find an online language tutor, has a feature called Notebooks that makes a great solution for getting writing feedback. The feature allows users to publish a piece of writing in their target language on any subject they wish. Other users can then freely offer corrections and feedback. This tool is free to use! You can also help other users out by providing feedback on writing done in your native language. Review.
Speechling is a great way to get lots of practice mimicking native speakers. This can do wonders in helping you improve your speaking cadence, confidence, and pronunciation. It involves hearing a recording and then recording yourself saying the same sentence.
Hearing yourself alongside a native speaker is an effective way to point out the differences and room for improvement. It’s also one of the only resources that allows you to choose between hearing a male or female voice. You can do all of this for free!
Subscribers will be able to submit an unlimited number of recordings to be graded by a native speaker, helping you to identify pronunciation mistakes.
You can get 10% off a subscription to Speechling by using the promo code “ALR123”. Review.
italki is the most affordable and convenient place to find an online Chinese teacher — or any other language for that matter. There are a huge number of options to choose from, making it easy to find someone who fits your schedule, goals, learning style, and budget. You may be surprised by just how many good tutors are available for less than $10/hour.
While italki is predominantly made for tutoring, you can also use it to easily find a language exchange partner to talk with for free or get writing feedback with the Notebooks feature. Review.
For those looking for online classes, I’d highly recommend TutorMing. I personally bought the program’s 80 lesson package and have been extremely happy with it. It’s definitely not the cheapest option, but their lessons are excellent. Their curriculum is very interesting and the teachers are wonderful.
Scheduling lessons is also super convenient. Students have the option to schedule classes at any hour of the day and only need to give 12 hours notice. Review.
Practicing with native Chinese speakers is certainly one of the fastest ways to make serious progress in the language, and both of these apps make it super easy to find language partners.
The apps are social in nature, connecting users with tons of potential language partners and allowing them to chat, send voice messages, or even have phone conversations. They also include built-in language tools to make communication easier. You can use the in-app translation tool and the correction tool to make the language exchange experience much more efficient.
Both apps offer a limited number of translations for free each day, and their biggest differences are aesthetic. HelloTalk is a little bit more lighthearted and cartoony, Tandem is sleeker and more refined. HelloTalk review. Tandem review.
HiNative is a resource that connects language learners with native speakers of their target language. It’s perfect for getting answers to quick questions that you may not be able to look up in a book or search the internet for.
It works by allowing users to post questions for native speakers to answer. There are pre-made question forms to help you formulate your question, and receiving an answer usually happens very quickly. You can pay it forward by answering questions of those learning your native language. Basic functionality is free, some additional features require a subscription. Review.
This language exchange app is unique for how quickly it can get you speaking with someone. Simply hit the call button and you’ll be connected with a randomly selected native speaker in no time.
This app is similar to HelloTalk and Tandem. It pairs language learners together and uses built-in language tools to make communication smoother, but the community isn’t as good as other options. Review.
Verbling is similar to italki in that it’s a good place to find quality online language tutors. The requirements for teachers here are a little bit more strict, which means fewer teachers and slightly higher prices. Review.
Another online tutor directory, Preply as a huge library of tutors teaching all kinds of subjects. Prices are quite low, but consider that teachers make small commissions and aren’t paid for teaching trial lessons. Review.
As you can see, there are apps to teach you just about every aspect of learning Chinese. These apps can actually take you pretty far, but they’re often best used in conjunction with other study methods.
Considering there are so many, there are probably some quality apps that I don’t know about or forgot to mention here. If you have any suggestions for something I missed, let me know!