Study Chinese Independently with These Incredibly Useful Apps
There are a ridiculous number of apps for learning Chinese. The majority are pretty terrible and don’t do much. However, some are really great. This post will look at 25+ apps that you should consider using. With these apps, you’ll be able to improve every area of your language skills, including, reading, writing, listening, speaking, vocabulary, and grammar.
Not only that, these apps are convenient and affordable – often times even free.
A Dictionary on Steroids
Dictionaries have come a long way in recent years. They’re no longer used only to look up definitions. Now, they’re packed with extra features and incredibly easy to use. Your dictionary app will probably be one of your most referenced resources.
Pleco is easily the app most often recommended. I think nearly everyone studying Chinese has it downloaded on their phones – for good reason. There are loads of free features from stroke order, example sentences, clip reader, handwriting recognition and more. They also have a bunch of paid add-ons that you can use to get even more use out of it.
Hanping is an android only dictionary that is comparable to Pleco with a lot of the same features. They also have widgets for your home screen and a soundboard to practice tones. There is a free lite version and a pro version for $2.99. I also really like their popup dictionary that you can use within other apps.
HelloChinese is my favorite of the free apps for learning Chinese. The lessons are organized similarly to ChineseSkill and LingoDeer but go into a bit more detail with everything. There are also lots of speaking exercises which I really like as it forces you to be more active in your learning.
There’s also a Premium and a Premium+ plan that unlock a bunch of extra features. The Premium plan has lots of mini-games that can help you to practice what you’ve learned in the free lessons. The Premium+ plan is similar to a podcast in many ways, but with additional exercises attached. HelloChinese is really well put together and provides a ton of content.
Use the Promo code “hcalr15” to save 15% on all Premium+ plans and yearly Premium plans with Hello Chinese. Review.
These two free apps will give a nice intro to learning Chinese. They provide lessons based on topics and add a light gamification element to them. They’re fun and will help you get a basic understanding of vocabulary and sentence structure. I don’t think they’re the best option for people really looking to study Chinese seriously but they’re a gentle way to start out without any commitment. Read the reviews of Lingodeer and ChineseSkill.
Ninchanese can be used as an app or online, and it’s built as a game for learning Chinese. There are different worlds, representing different Chinese levels, with various challenges to complete. You’ll improve all areas of your Chinese – learn new characters and words, improve your listening, speaking, typing and grammar. Its story based and has characters that you’ll get to know along the way.
Best of all, Ninchanese is no joke. It’s incredibly extensive with a staggering amount of content.
Use the coupon code “ALR15OFF” to get 15% off any subscription to Ninchanese. Review.
Clozemaster is a popular app that is excellent for getting lots of exposure to sentences and vocabulary. This app uses lots of fill in the blank exercises for which you can type in your answer or choose from multiple choices. You can filter sentences based on HSK level and you’ll earn points for answering questions correctly. Although there is a pro version that requires a subscription, most people will find the free version to offer plenty of value.
Apps to Learn Chinese Characters
Outlier Linguistics is amazing f you want to really geek out about Chinese characters and figure everything out 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. But, beyond simply being interesting, learning more about how characters are constructed and have changed over time, can help make them more meaningful, and therefore, easier to remember.
Zizzle is an interesting app that seems kind of dumb at first. It’s not until weeks later and you still remember tons of characters that you really appreciate it. It uses mnemonics to help you remember how characters are formed, their tone and pronunciation. The images and stories really stick with you.
Use the coupon code “ALLLANGUAGERESOURCES” to get 15% off all three month and annual subscriptions, as well as packs. Review.
The Chineasy Cards app is really nicely designed. In some way’s, it’s similar to Zizzle in that it uses illustrations to make memorizing characters a bit easier. As you learn new characters, you’ll answer quick questions to reinforce your learning. You can start using it for free, but there’s also a paid subscription option. Currently, it only supports traditional characters.
Memrise is a free app that has tons of user-created courses. These can be anything from characters to restaurant items to slang words. It’s sort of a gamified flashcard system that you can use to learn new characters. It also uses mnemonics but the quality can vary significantly on a course by course basis. Review.
Anki is a DIY flashcard app. However, there are many user-created flashcard decks for learning Chinese. Like Memrise and Pleco, it uses SRS to help you review words at the optimal time.
We’ve already mentioned Pleco as an excellent dictionary but its usefulness doesn’t stop there. Perhaps even more so than the dictionary, I’ve used Pleco for flashcards. Unfortunately, they do cost $10 but, for me, the convenience makes it easily worth the price. Being able to quickly look up a word, see example sentences, and save it in your flashcard deck makes studying that much simpler.
Apps to Practice Reading Chinese
There are three apps – Du Chinese, The Chairman’s Bao and Decipher Chinese that all provide practice reading material sorted by difficulty level. All of them also have audio and you can look up and save words as you go. You can try all three of them before subscribing. I wrote a comparison article of them here.
Du Chinese has the best interface and user experience of the three. It’s a beautifully designed app with interesting content. Not only are the articles interesting. I’ve found mimicking them to be a great way to improve my spoken Chinese
You can save 10% on a subscription by using the coupon code “ALLLANGUAGERESOURCES”. Review.
The Chairman’s Bao has the most content of all three of these apps by a large margin and it’s also my favorite. 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. They also have comprehension exercises with each article.
You can get 20% off all individual subscriptions by using the coupon code “alr20tcb”. Review.
Decipher is my least favorite of these three options. Although it has the cheapest plan when it comes to monthly subscriptions, those cost savings decrease significantly when looking at longer plans. They have less content and the design feels claustrophobic.
If you’re a casual learner and only want to read articles occasionally, both Du Chinese and Decipher Chinese may have enough free content to make due.
Manga Mandarin is another interesting option to consider for practice reading material. As the name suggests, the content is Manga written at varying levels of difficulty. You can click on words to hear the dialogue. You can access some of the content for free but will need to buy beans in order to read more.
LingQ is a popular reading app that can be used to study a bunch of different languages. You start out with all of the words marked in blue. As you read, these words turn white and are considered known. If you’re not sure of a word’s meaning, you can click on it to see the definition and it’ll turn yellow, meaning you’re currently learning it.
The disappointing part about LingQ is that there’s very little original content. The majority comes from other sources and is imported by users. Review.
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 which will affect how the story unfolds. It’s one of the only resources that really forces you to actively use the language. They also target intermediate and higher level students who are passed most graded readers but not quite ready for native materials. There are several different stories that you can try out for free, with more being added. Review.
Learn to Write Chinese Using Apps
Skritter is the app for those who are serious about learning to write Chinese characters. Basically, you practice writing characters using your finger and your phone’s touch screen. It utilizes a combination of SRS flashcards and stroke recognition to help you remember how to write characters. It’s convenient to use and works great. Unfortunately, the price is on the higher side.
You can get 45% off the first month by using the coupon code “alllanguageresources”.
For those who feel like Skritter isn’t worth the cost, TOFU Learn may be just what you’re looking for. This free app could be a suitable alternative and a good way to improve your vocabulary and help you learn to write Chines charactersrs.
Learn to Understand Spoken Chinese with These Apps
Far more than just a podcast, ChinesePod is one of the biggest names in the industry. They’re recommended by nearly everyone and have been around for over a decade. They have a massive library of lessons across all difficulty levels. It’s a great way to improve your listening. The Premium plan includes extra features that can be very helpful.
You can get $50 off an annual Premium subscription to ChinesePod by using the coupon code “ALLLANG50”. Review.
This is one of the cheaper options for studying Chinese. While I prefer ChinesePod, ChineseClass101 is a solid choice for beginners. I wouldn’t recommend it to intermediate or higher level students though. One frustrating part is that the lessons include a lot of English.
Get 25% off subscriptions to ChineseClasss101 with the coupon code “ALLLANGUAGERESOURCES”. Review.
This is a cool app that makes watching videos in Chinese much easier. In reality, it’s very similar to FluentU but doesn’t require a subscription. As you watch videos, you can click on the interactive subtitles for definitions of words. They also make it very easy to re-listen to the content one line at a time.
In addition to classic and modern novels, you’ll find some other audiobooks made for studying Chinese, such as Pimsleur, ChineseClass101, and stories of Chinese idioms. You can also get a 30-day free trial which includes two free audiobooks.
Beelinguapp is available in tons of languages and offers side-by-side bilingual stories. You can listen to and read a story in one language and reference it in another. There are some free lessons and most stories can be bought for only $1 each. I like it because it allows me to study Chinese while reviewing in Spanish.
This is a Chinese language app but isn’t terribly difficult to navigate. It’s a story app for Chinese children. The stories can be arranged by age level as well, making it a bit easier to find the right content. You can also watch some kids cartoons as well. Review.
Chinese Radio Apps
There are some awesome Chinese language radio apps. They have lots of content ranging from music, novels, children’s stories, talk shows and more things I haven’t discovered yet. They’re more suitable for intermediate-advanced learners because they’re all in Chinese.
Learn to Speak Chinese Using These Apps
Speechling is a new app and website that I’m loving so far. It’s a great way to get lots of practice mimicking sentences. This will help you improve your speaking cadence, confidence, and pronunciation. You’ll hear a recording and then record yourself saying the same sentence.
Your voice will then get sandwiched between recordings, making it easier to spot differences in pronunciation. There are also dictation exercises. Plus it’s one of the only resources that you can choose between hearing a male or female. 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.
Glossika is overpriced but it’s also quite useful. In some ways, it’s similar to Speechling in that you’ll get lots of practice mimicking sentences. Through repetition, you’ll improve your speaking flow and confidence. You’ll also grow your vocabulary. It’s a little bit too hard for complete beginners – elementary level learners would benefit the most from Glossika.
While I feel like $30/mo is too steep for what’s essentially just a bunch of sentences and an SRS algorithm, I could see the benefit in using it intensively for a couple of months and then cancel your subscription.
You can save $5 if you sign-up using this link.
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’ll also be able to easily find a language exchange partner to talk with for free. And, one of my favorite features, using italki’s Notebooks, you can write a passage in Chinese and get corrections from native speakers – for free. Review.
In the past, I’ve been pretty vocal about Pimsleur being outdated and overpriced. I would still strongly advice against buying their courses – they’re absurdly expensive. But, recently they added a new subscription plan which lowers their prices from $550 for the course bundle to less than $20 per month for a subscription.
Pimsleur’s Mandarin course is pretty good and focuses on oral language. The lessons force you to actively participate and think in Chinese. During the course of each 30-minute lesson, you’ll be constantly prompted to answer questions out loud. Review.
This language exchange app has a ton of users and features. You’ll find more people than you can handle would like to teach you Chinese in exchange for some help learning English (or another language).
These are two more language exchange apps that have quite a few users. I’m sure both would be a good option for finding a language exchange partner, but I haven’t tried them.
This is a newer language exchange app that makes it quicker to start talking with someone. With the other apps, there can be a long lead-up time to start talking to someone. First, you message a few times and then maybe think about when to call. With Lingbe, you just hit the call button and are connected with someone right away.
The HSKOnline app is an awesome app for anyone preparing for the HSK tests. It has a rating of 4.8 with over 4000 reviews on the Google Play store. In this app, you can prepare for the tests with lots of example questions, mock tests, and even upload your writing to have it graded. 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.
This app has over 130 Chinese grammar lessons from HSK1 to HSK5. It was created by the maker of Ninchanese and the lessons came straight from their course. So, they’re very detailed with crystal clear 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.
How far can you get learning Chinese with apps?
As you can see, there are apps to teach you just about every part of learning Chinese. While you may want to consider a course for more structured learning, you’ll find that these apps can take you really far.
There are probably more quality apps that I don’t know about or forgot to mention. Do you have any suggestions for something I missed?