Mandarin Chinese

Oxford Dictionaries

4.2 
Price: From free to €16.99, depending on the language

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Oxford Dictionary has published numerous bilingual dictionaries over the years, many of which are not designed to be comprehensive. While some are “complete” dictionaries, others are called “mini”, “concise”, “essential” or even “shorter”.

Even the smaller ones are pretty thorough, however. The Oxford Mini Greek dictionary contains 40,000 words and phrases, many of which also contain multiple translations. It’s a lot shorter than the Oxford Hindi dictionary, at 100,000 entries, or the New Oxford American English Dictionary at 350,000 – but it’s still got a wider vocabulary than the average English speaker.

You can purchase the books themselves, but most learners will prefer the convenience of the apps with their regular updates and learner-friendly features. Search Autocomplete, Fuzzy Filter, Wild Card and Voice Search help you find words you don’t know how to spell. Favourites help you save useful words and phrases, while Word of the Day will introduce you to new words. Some dictionaries also contain audio recordings and thesauruses. And the freemium Oxford Dictionary with Translator will translate words and paragraphs to and from 14 languages.

For some languages, learners already have plenty of free, thorough dictionaries available to them. Spanish learners, for example, will probably prefer to combine the free apps SpanishDict and Diccionario RAE (Google Play, App Store). Mandarin Chinese learners will likely find Pleco more useful. But for some languages, these dictionaries may well be the most thorough and reliable ones available.

The rating is our best guess, but we haven’t yet had the opportunity to fully test and review this resource.

 

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Look No Further: 30 Best Podcasts to Learn Mandarin Chinese

You don’t have to travel to another country to create an immersive Chinese environment, nor do you have to stare at a screen for hours on end. With a digital device and a pair of headphones (or speakers), you can bring immersion to you—for free.

And we’d like to help you with that. With hours of research and testing, we came up with this list of what we believe to be 30 of the best podcasts to learn Mandarin Chinese. Pick an episode, choose a streaming platform, then have a listen while you commute to work, do chores, or relax on the couch.

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Stay Motivated with 35 Mandarin Chinese YouTube Channels

Your day is coming to an end and you want to squeeze in a bit of Chinese practice, but you can’t muster up the energy to study on your own. Why not try a new YouTube channel to relax and learn at the same time?

Below are 35 YouTube channels for learning Chinese at any level—tested and approved by us. Whether you want to learn for a minute or an hour, we’re sure you’ll find something to enjoy.

All Levels

ChinesePod


If you’re looking for some structured learning on YouTube, ChinesePod has got you covered. Beginner to upper-intermediate learners can enjoy a series of video courses split into 5 levels. The hosts combine cartoons, dialogues, and funny interactions to break down vocabulary and grammar.

But don’t worry—if you don’t feel like following the video course, you can learn about Chinese characters, idioms, and slang in their other videos. They also have a channel with identical videos for those who are learning traditional characters.

If you enjoy these free videos, check out our full review of the ChinesePod subscription.

Mandarin HQ


With Angel’s guidance, you don’t have to worry about sounding like a broken record in Chinese. Gone are the days of saying “谢谢“ to every kind gesture, or “不客气” when the roles are reversed.

Mandarin HQ will help you express yourself like a native Chinese speaker, teaching you hundreds of useful idioms, slang terms, and common expressions. You’ll be able to politely end a conversation in five different ways or choose from seven different ways to respond to good news.

Whether you’ve been studying Chinese for a week or a decade, Mandarin HQ will surely give you some new words to use in conversation.

Mandarin Corner


You’ve been studying Mandarin for a while now. But when you listen to a Chinese Movie or talk show, you hear your brain yelling, “what!?” Well, Mandarin Corner might be the answer. The host, Eileen, bridges the gap between real-world Chinese and the Chinese you learn in school.

She interviews a variety of Chinese speakers to train your ear to different accents. Plus, she will help you understand the nuances of the language, must-know sentence structures, and even spend an hour helping you understand the many different measure words. The best part is, most of her videos are entirely in Mandarin.

Chinese Zero to Hero


We like Chinese Zero to Hero’s online courses, and we also like their YouTube channel. Learners at any level tackling HSK material will find clear grammar explanations and examples of how to use key concepts in multiple contexts. 

The hosts vary their presentation media and include videos, skits, stories, and images. They also have some listening comprehension exercises with poems from the Tang dynasty.

Mandarin With Miss Lin


Miss Lin (from Taiwan) is a Chinese teacher in France. Instead of just talking about real-life situations, she will take you through them in real-time. Prepare for your next adventure abroad by watching her check into a hotel or buy things from a convenience store in Mandarin.

Through these types of situations, interviews, movies, and more, you can enjoy her content wherever you are in your Chinese studies. Each video is well structured and contains simple but thorough explanations. Also, many of her videos have English subtitles, and you can support her on Patreon to get Chinese transcripts and download the audio.

GoEast Mandarin


Check out over 200 videos that teach you useful Chinese slang that you won’t find in your textbook. Each video, which is entirely in Mandarin, engages you with funny skits and explanations (with English subtitles). Learn how to tell someone off for arguing for the sake of arguing or for crossing the line. While you’re at it, you can add that they don’t have a conscience or that they’re speaking nonsense.

Beginner to advanced learners will probably get the most out of the “Beyond Class” and “Chinese Listening Practice” playlists.

Read our full review of GoEast Mandarin’s online classes here.

Hanbridge Mandarin and HSK Test Preparation and Practice


Hanbridge Mandarin offers online and in-person courses. Their beginner videos teach basic writing, pronunciation, and introductory phrases. But, the videos that stand out address “the difference between the words:” These videos, usually for HSK 5 learners, identify words with similar characters or pronunciation, giving you examples of the subtle nuances between them.

Also by Handbridge is the channel, HSK Test Preparation and Practice, which has lectures and exercises for HSK 2-5 learners.

WenYu Chinese


This channel takes a systematic approach to teaching Chinese through movies. If you find yourself unmotivated, you can count on Wenyu to create a fun and practical experience. He will help you improve your Chinese grammar, vocabulary, and listening comprehension with all types of films.

Wenyu highlights different aspects of the language through one or several movies. First, you’ll watch specific scenes with Chinese and English subtitles. Then, you’ll analyze the dialogue. Wenyu breaks down both basic and advanced concepts in many of the videos, making it accessible to learners at any level.

Everyday Chinese


The lessons in Everyday Chinese are filmed with actors of all ages. This way you’ll be able to train your ear to different vocal ranges and accents.

You can explore idioms, cultural nuances, HSK content, and more. Most of the videos contain valuable tidbits or comprehensive grammar explanations. For beginners, they have 40 free intro lessons that seem to lead up to the Everyday Chinese 101 course (a paid product on their website). They use English up until the HSK 3 videos but then switch to Chinese in HSK 4.

Chineseclass101


If you can get past the spammy advertisements, ChineseClass101 has some helpful videos for all levels. There are listening comprehension and reading exercises, plus tons of videos with common phrases and vocabulary words. If you enjoy these videos, you can check out our full review of ChineseClass101 to see if you want to pay for a subscription to their website.

SyS Mandarin


SyS Mandarin started up with short lectures on Chinese sentences and stories, but now it also teases you with short movie and song clips to teach you Chinese. Each clip passes in a matter of seconds and is followed by a thorough vocabulary and grammar explanation. It doesn’t matter if you are a beginner or advanced student—if you struggle to understand everyday spoken mandarin, you’re in the right place.

Beginner

Chinese For Us


Not only is Chinese For Us our highest-rated course for Chinese learners, but it also has an excellent YouTube channel. You will learn from Lili, who has taught Chinese at several universities in China and the United States.

She has a master’s degree in Chinese Linguistics and is also a certified HSK and YCT examiner. Her experience teaching Chinese is obvious in the design and presentation of these lessons.

If you want a structured and in-depth approach to learning Chinese from day 1, this is an excellent place to start. Check out our full review of the Chinese For Us courses to continue learning with Lili—and for a discount.

YoYo Chinese


YoYo Chinese’s creator, YangYang, is an enthusiastic and knowledgeable Chinese teacher. Her presentation skills were fine-tuned by years of experience as a TV host and reporter. On her channel, you will learn Chinese from an English-speaker’s perspective and engage in effective exercises for learning Chinese pronunciation. Plus, YangYang will introduce you to stories and mnemonic devices for 300 of the most common Chinese characters.

You can check out the beginner and intermediate lessons, plus authentic interviews with locals on the street. Many of the YouTube videos are live streams with current students of the YoYo Chinese Courses (check out our review here), and they contain a wealth of helpful tips to help you speak Mandarin.

Yimin Chinese艺敏中文


Yimin provides free HSK 1, 2, and 3 video courses with movie clips, slideshows, and funny GIFs to provide context for each lesson. You’ll be sure to enjoy these videos with Yimin’s sunny personality and notable knack for organization.

If you’d prefer to learn Chinese through songs or movies, Yimin does that, too. She’ll also help you identify common mistakes and nuances in Chinese.

Learn Chinese With Litao


This channel may not stand out at first glance. But, for anyone who wants a solid introduction to Chinese pronunciation and pinyin, look no further.

The host, Zheng Tao, dedicates almost 2 hours to pinyin alone. He provides excellent explanations for key grammar concepts and introduces you to basic Chinese characters. HSK 1 and 2 learners can engage in listening comprehension exercises as well.

If you like these videos, you can buy their online courses for more videos and quizzes.

Grace Mandarin Chinese


Grace doesn’t have a step-by-step approach to teaching Mandarin, but she provides techniques and tips to improve your studies. You can learn important expressions, improve your pronunciation, or explore practical resources for improving your core language skills.

Growing Up With Chinese


In this 100-episode series by CCTV News, you can learn Chinese through a combination of lessons and TV-show-style videos. First you’ll watch a short English introduction, then you’ll observe a short skit with Chinese-speaking actors. The host will then explain the vocabulary and grammar points. Though it may feel a bit dated, these videos provide an excellent introduction to the Chinese language.

ShuoShuo Chinese


Every week, Shuo uploads YouTube videos exploring Chinese vocabulary, grammar, and culture. She understands Chinese learners’ potential missteps and explains how to avoid them. Even the beginner videos contain concepts that advanced learners may not have considered.

Shuo shows you how to use simple concepts to advance your Chinese. She diversifies her videos by adding video clips and images, dressing up as different characters, and reenacting scenes from her life. She makes the lessons fun—and if you pay close attention you’ll notice that she also has an excellent sense of humor.

Hit Chinese


In Hit Chinese, Mia uses comprehensible input to teach Mandarin Chinese. She uses props, images, drawings and acting to effectively deliver her message. The videos cover a range of topics with both basic and specialized vocabulary. Although the channel doesn’t have a lot of videos yet, those that are available seem most appropriate for beginners with a basic understanding of Chinese.

Slow & Clear Chinese


Slow & Clear Chinese is most suitable for learners with a basic foundation of Chinese vocabulary. The site combines text and audio to provide listening comprehension practice. Listen to the audio alone, or read the pinyin, traditional and simplified characters, and English translations with the narration. In many of the videos, the narrator will first read the text slowly and then again at a faster pace.

If you like these videos, you can download the app, Immersive Chinese. It includes eight levels of stories, from absolute beginner to intermediate, for $1.99/mo.

Learn Chinese Now


Ben Hedges is an established talk show host in Taiwan and a Chinese teacher on Learn Chinese Now. Though he is a native English speaker, he provides clear explanations for tricky grammar particles, like 被, 才, 了, and 就. He also introduces idioms, new vocabulary in context, and teaches you about Taiwanese and Chinese culture.

That’s Mandarin


That’s Mandarin is actually a Chinese language school in China, but they also have a fun YouTube channel with quick videos to teach you basic phrases and homonyms, usually in under a minute. It’s a great place to get quick and structured explanations for common topics, such as how to differentiate between 的, 得, and 地, or how to use 把.

HelloChinese


We rated Hello Chinese as one of the best apps to Learn Chinese in this review. The app is free, as are the videos on its YouTube channel. You’ll finally understand the Chinese nicknames for American celebrities and familiarize yourself with popular expressions. If you don’t have much time, take only a minute or two to learn a new word in the Minute Mandarin series.

For anyone looking to learn more about Chinese culture, you will also find a podcast on the channel. This is mostly in English, but the hosts do introduce some useful Chinese phrases.

Intermediate

PeggyTeachesChinese


Peggy is an enthusiastic Chinese teacher from Taiwan, and her videos are great for beginner and intermediate students. She tries to use as much Mandarin as possible, but you’ll hear her use English translations to convey main ideas. Joining her live YouTube classes will feel like you’re hanging out with a Taiwanese friend while practicing your Chinese at the same time.

Peggy also interviews locals on the streets of Taiwan to give you a taste of authentic Taiwanese Mandarin. If you want to see more of Taiwan, she also has travel videos that take you to famous tourist locations and teach you important vocabulary along the way.

Chinese Podcast


Are you struggling to concentrate on your HSK 3 and 4 material? Is it because you’re bored? If that’s the case, then Chinese Podcast is here to make your day a little better. In many of these videos, the host introduces 5-8 new HSK words and a grammar point, then incorporates them into an original story. You can follow along with the text at both a slow and a fast speed. Other times you may be asked to answer comprehension questions.

This channel can support any intermediate learner, but it’s probably most helpful to those following the HSK curriculum.

Happy Chinese


Happy Chinese is a Chinese-immersion sitcom-like series for Chinese learners. It follows the story of an American woman staying with her Chinese friend’s family. Two or three times per episode, an elaborate cartoon will interrupt the story to provide examples and explanations of key concepts—but that won’t stop you from getting immersed in the plot. The series is most suitable for intermediate to advanced learners, but with English subtitles, anyone can enjoy it.

Advanced

杨老师中文小课


In this series, 杨老师 provides insights into teaching Chinese for parents and teachers. But, the structure of many of these videos allows advanced learners to follow along as if they themselves were taking the class. You will learn nuances between words, like 有一点 and 有点儿, and differentiate between different synonyms and homophones. This is a channel for anyone who wants to engage in subtle analyses of the Chinese language.

JOKER STUDIO


Are you an advanced learner interested in learning, or at least understanding, the Beijing dialect? Wordy Klay can make it happen. He produces dozens of videos that help both native speakers and Chinese learners identify Beijing-specific pronunciation and vocabulary. Each video is quite short, but Wordy Klay provides clear explanations and multiple examples of how to use each word in context. You’ll be able to start using your new vocabulary right away.

This Group of People


This hilarious sketch comedy group from Taiwan is the closest thing you’ll find to College Humor in Chinese. They depict relatable situations in everyday life—such as going to the doctor, the dentist, or school—and then let comedy ensue. With both English and Chinese subtitles, learners at any level will forget that they arrived at this channel for studying rather than fun.

优优独播剧场—YoYo Television Series Exclusive


Are you looking for a Chinese TV series but don’t know where to start? Well, you can start with YoYo Television Series Exclusive. It has dozens of Chinese TV shows available for your enjoyment—涩女郎 (Brilliant Girls), 暴风眼 (Storm Eye), or 庆余年 (Joy of Life), just to name a few. Viewers can contribute to community subtitles, which means that sometimes you’ll find subtitles in 15 different languages.

家有儿女


家有儿女 (Home With Kids) was a popular Chinese sitcom in the early 2000s. It’s reminiscent of many North American sitcoms from the same time period. The characters encounter a clash of personalities and misunderstandings when two divorced families join as one. Through hundreds of episodes, you’ll grow attached to these endearing characters as they navigate their new relationships.

轻风乍起


Imagine that you like movies, but not enough to watch them all the way through or listen to any of the dialogue. In fact, you’d rather watch a 10-minute summary of a movie. In Chinese.

Now if this is true, 轻风乍起 is an excellent channel to meet your needs and help you improve your Chinese at the same time. This is a channel for native speakers, but the host, 轻风乍起, articulates clearly enough that advanced speakers won’t have a problem following along.

Thomas阿福


Thomas is a major celebrity in China—and a genuine people person. Originally from Germany, he now lives in China full time and speaks fluent Mandarin.

With him as your guide, you can explore the food, culture, and sites of China (and Europe!). A major focus of the channel is on food, but he also spends a lot of time with locals—whether it be driving with a taxi driver to his hometown seven hours away or interviewing people at 3 in the morning. Sometimes he challenges himself to try different diets or do absolutely nothing for an entire day.

His videos are entirely in Chinese with English and Chinese subtitles.

杰里德Jared


Jared may not be a native Chinese speaker, but his Chinese will inspire you. He grew up in Hainan but had to relearn Chinese as an adult after moving back to Canada. Now he lives in China full time and produces entertaining sketches about the differences between North American and Chinese customs. Sometimes he will take you to interesting sites in China, pull pranks on his friends—or take 5000kg of snow from Northern China to an elementary school in Southern China.

His videos are all in Chinese, but they have both English and Chinese subtitles. Sometimes he collaborates with or prank calls Thomas阿福.

Kevin in Shanghai


Kevin is a Chinese YouTuber who depicts cross-cultural differences within and outside of China. You’ll have lots of opportunity to hear different dialects and accents, and listen in on conversations between groups of people. You might notice that Kevin’s videos have a lot of similarities with 杰里德Jared’s channel. These two friends often collaborate to make cross-cultural comedy sketches.

These videos are mostly in Mandarin, but many of them have English subtitles.

Final Thoughts

These are only a handful of the many YouTube channels for learning Chinese, but we think we captured some of the best. If you’re looking for something to structure your Chinese studies, you can explore our favorite online Chinese courses. Or, if you want to get away from the screen, we recommend you check out our list of Chinese podcasts.

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.

Sort By:

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: From $29 per 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/mo or $599 For everything
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: From $29 per 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/mo or $599 For everything
 
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
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: 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

Du Chinese

Quick Review

4.5 

Summary:

Du Chinese is one of the best resources for learning Chinese. This app will help you to improve your Chinese reading skills as well as listening comprehension. There are articles across six different levels – from Beginner to Master. The design of this app is absurdly good, making it exceptionally easy to use. The biggest weakness is that new content isn’t added frequently enough.

Quality

Amazingly high-quality with lots of useful features.

Thoroughness

New articles are added fairly slowly, but they age well.

Value

You can read some articles for free.

Price

A subscription to Du Chinese costs $11.99/month. A six-month plan costs $54.99. A one-year subscription would cost $89.99/month. There is also a limited selection of lessons available for free.

The Chairman’s Bao is the biggest competitor of Du Chinese. They release far more content, but the design isn’t nearly as good. They also don’t have the English translations that Du Chinese offers, making it potentially less useful for beginner students.

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Mondly

Quick Review

2.7 

Summary:

Mondly is a language-learning app that teaches basic vocabulary and grammar structures. It seems most appropriate for learners with little to no exposure to their target language.

The activities mostly rely on passive recognition of vocabulary and phrases, and therefore are not very challenging. However, they are varied enough that you probably wouldn’t get bored with short, daily practice sessions.

Although I wouldn’t recommend Mondly to anyone looking to seriously learn a language, it may be appropriate for individuals studying languages with less available resources, or for individuals who are preparing to travel abroad.

Quality

Both the interface and the course itself could be designed better.

Thoroughness

It’s decent for learning vocabulary, but I thought a lot of the material wasn’t explained very well.

Value

It’s fairly inexpensive.

Price

There are three plans…
$9.99 per month for one language
$47.99 per year ($4/mo) for one language
$47.99 per year ($4/mo) for all languages

Strangely, I was able to access multiple languages even though I only signed up for one month at $9.99.

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Lang Workbooks

Price: $5.99

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For learners of languages that use unfamiliar writing systems, the Lang Workbooks series can be a helpful and practical way to master the intricacies of writing in their target languages. Among numerous other writing systems, the series includes the Korean, Russian Cyrillic, and Armenian alphabets; Persian and Thai script; the Hindi Devanāgarī abugida; Chinese characters; and Japanese Hiragana and Katakana. The series also covers languages that use the Latin alphabet with diacritical (accent) marks, such as French, German, and Portuguese.

Many books in the series have been translated into other languages, such as Italian, French, German, Spanish, and Portuguese. The series also covers writing systems that may have fewer available resources for learners, such as Lao script and the Cherokee syllabary.

Each book in the series presents its featured writing system with suggested pronunciations. The practice pages in each workbook have useful features for each letter, symbol, or character, such as a recommended stroke order, font variations, example words, and a “Trace and Learn” section.

Each workbook is relatively inexpensive. In addition, the publishers of the series have granted teachers and students a license to make photocopies of the workbook pages for personal use, so you can get unlimited chances to practice. Considering the depth of information in each language’s workbook, the books in this series can provide great value for learners.

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LingQ

Quick Review

Summary:

LingQ is a language-learning platform that focuses on extensive reading for over 30 different languages. You can import your own content or choose from the community library of books, articles, podcasts, YouTube videos, and more.

The app highlights unknown words across every lesson and makes them reviewable via different types of SRS flashcards. The more you read, the more accurately you will be able to identify content that is suitable for your level.

Although I did not find it beneficial for languages I had never studied before, I think LingQ can be helpful for upper-beginner to advanced language learners who enjoy reading. It is especially helpful if you struggle to find graded readers in your target language.

Quality

The LingQ reading app is enjoyable in most languages, easy to use, and can expand your vocabulary. However, I found the user content frustrating to navigate.

Thoroughness

With the import function, users can choose to study almost anything they want.

Value

Now that other apps provide similar functions, the monthly subscription may be a bit overpriced. However, the yearly subscription seems fair.

Languages

Japanese, Chinese, Spanish, English, Korean, French, Russian, German, Portuguese, Italian, Swedish, Dutch, Greek, Polish, Esperanto, Belarusian, Latin, Ukrainian. There are also 20 additional languages in Beta.

Price

Premium membership costs $12.99/mo, $71.94/half-year, $107.88/year, $191.76/2-years; single-language lifetime membership costs $199

When I first signed up for LingQ, I wasn’t very impressed. Its seemingly random lesson library, filled with custom cover photos and inconsistent title formats, made me want to click on just about anything to get away from that page.

However, after exploring every function I could find, I realized that the reading tool has several useful functions for anyone trying to learn a language through extensive reading. Most importantly, it makes reading in other languages feel manageable.

The site has three main pages: Lessons, Tutors, and Community. Within them, you can find free and purchasable lessons, coins, an avatar, writing exchanges, a community forum, audio playlists, and challenges.

I mostly used LingQ for reading in Spanish and dabbled in French, Chinese, Japanese, Swedish, and Korean.

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OPLingo

3.5 
Price: Freemium, Premium Subscriptions cost $6.99/mo, $60/Year

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OPLingo is a community-oriented, non-profit language learning site. It essentially combines the functions of LingQ, LangCorrect, Readlang, iTalki, and HelloTalk.

The free version gives you limited access to some functions, but by paying for a membership you support ethical causes — such as building a primary school in Tanzania.

You can browse user-contributed texts or easily import your own YouTube videos, articles, or ebooks into the Reading Tool. OPLingo has also developed hundreds of audio conversations in several languages, including Tagalog, Cebuano, Thai, Swahili, and Russian.

Within each page, you can read a transcript and get definitions and pronunciations of unknown words. By identifying which words you don’t know, the next passages you read will highlight the number of known or unknown vocabulary words.

In their Write & Correct section, you can write in over 100 languages and exchange corrections with other users, although Spanish, French, and English learners have a better chance of receiving corrections than other languages at the moment.

You can also practice a language by texting with fellow community members, or by hiring a teacher in your target language.

OPLingo has a lot of potential and is a good alternative to LingQ, but it needs a community of learners to help it grow — so check it out!

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AmazingTalker

2.5 
Price: From around $10 per 50-minute class

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AmazingTalker is an italki and Verbling competitor that lets you book classes with language teachers and academic tutors of your choice. It has a lot of attractive features for students, but teachers complain about high commission rates and lack of support.

It boasts a 3% acceptance rate for teachers and a 100% satisfaction guarantee. If you’re not happy with your class, they’ll rebook you another one for free. There are lots of teachers to choose from, or you can also use their AI Matching Service to find a tutor. The teachers’ profiles include videos, reviews, and their résumé.

However, AmazingTalker doesn’t seem a great choice for teachers. It charges English and Japanese teachers astonishingly high commission rates of up to 30%. While these rates fall as teachers earn more through the site, they have to make $1,500 a month before the commission reaches levels comparable to italki and Verbling. Making it worse, there’s an additional 8% fee for payment processing and tax that all teachers have to pay, no matter what language they teach. 

There have also been complaints on Reddit from teachers claiming to have been harassed by students and fellow teachers. However, we cannot corroborate these.

Given all this, we’d recommend trying italki (review) or Verbling (review) first. Alternatively, check out our guide to the best platforms for online language classes.

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