Mandarin Chinese

Caption Pop Mini-Review: Use The Free Version

Caption Pop – 4 

With Caption Pop you can use YouTube videos to pursue your language learning endeavours using subtitles in both your target language and native language. Tap a single key to repeat the last caption, slow down the playback speed, and bookmark subtitles to study with SRS interactive flashcards. The flashcards will not just have you memorize words, but practice dictations with immediate feedback on your accuracy. Unfortunately there are currently some bugs in the programming, and you may only hear part of the caption you are being asked to transcribe.

You can search for Youtube videos in your target language within the Caption Pop platform, but only those videos with subtitles in both your target language and your native language are available. This means that you will rely on captions translated and transcribed by the video’s creators, which improves your language learning experience but restricts the amount of available Youtube content. Nevertheless, there is a good amount of content from popular channels in more common languages.

The free version of the platform combined with self-made Anki cards may be a better option than subscribing to the premium version, as the bugs in Caption Pop’s programming don’t seem worth the monthly payment.

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

Take Lessons Mini-Review: Use iTalki, Verbling, or Preply Instead

take lessons – 2.3 

At Take Lessons you can find in-person and online teachers for various topics, including language learning. This review is specific only to language learning.

Once on the site, you can filter teachers based on their location, availability, and price, then view the teacher’s profile to see their experience, student ratings, and basic bio. Most of the teachers have great ratings, so the quality of teaching is probably not an issue. However, Take Lessons takes about 40% of whatever the teachers charge. Obviously teachers need to charge a living wage, so can expect to pay 25% more than most language learning platforms whose teachers are of comparable quality.

Why 25%? Because most platforms (like iTalki and Verbling for example) only take a 15% commission, if not less. The only difference is that you could potentially have in-person lessons with Take Lessons, while the previously mentioned platforms are all online.

Take Lessons is probably a handy site for other types of services, but there are many more teachers and features specific to language learning available through the above mentioned alternative platforms.

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

Instant Immersion Mini-Review: No Longer a Good Investment

Instant Immersion – 2 

Instant Immersion offers programs in over 120 languages, narrated by native speakers. It claims to help you build your vocabulary, converse with ease, and perfect your pronunciation. It has interactive activities on the computer, interactive games you can play with your family on a DVD, and MP3 files for your car.

Their topics include food, shopping, restaurants, animals, numbers, etc. In other words, Instant Immersion will probably not help you if you are looking to have immediately applicable conversations

A common trend in many reviews is the lack of structure in these courses. While other courses build on what you have previously learned and help you learn vocabulary relevant to your everyday life, Instant Immersion seems to provide a large amount of information without transitions or a clear learning path. There is a lot of content, but this doesn’t necessarily mean you will learn a lot. Instant Immersion may have been a good investment several years ago, but now there are many other options for affordable, quality language learning.

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

Readlang Mini-Review: A Must-Have For Language Lovers

Readlang – 4.5 

With Readlang as your Google Chrome Extension, you can have instant translations for words or sentences in over 45 languages at the tip of your mouse cursor (or fingertip)! Browse the internet and effortlessly click on unknown words to get a translation that stays on your screen until it is no longer needed.

If you can’t find anything to read on the internet, you can access a bank of public texts organized by word count and difficulty, browse the most popular websites for Readlang users, or upload your own text to study.

The best part is, Readlang will collect flashcards for you from words you have translated. It will only record the most useful words for you to practice based on word frequency lists, which could be either a pro or a con depending on your study goals. The flashcards follow a Spaced Repetition System that will prompt you to study words based on the natural forgetting curve, so you will be quizzed on the words you are about to forget. Each flashcard also includes audio pronunciation and the sentence from which the word was taken for reference. You can choose to reveal the flashcard to check your comprehension, or type in your response for more effective recall.

The free version provides enough for an average user, but upgrading to an affordable premium membership both supports this awesome resource and allows for unlimited phrase translations. Although there may be some problems with translations in beta languages, and sometimes it fails to recognize text, overall Readlang is an excellent resource for language lovers.

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

italki Review – The Good, The Bad, & The Just Alright

Quick Review

4.5 

Summary:

italki is the most flexible and affordable place to find a tutor for the language you’re learning. They have a huge number of teachers offering classes to students of over 100 different languages. As a learner, you’ll be able to find a tutor that best fits your learning style, schedule, and personality. Teachers are able to set their own prices and make their own schedule.

Teacher Quality

You’ll find everyone from long-time professionals to brand new teachers.

Platform

The overall platform has tons of useful features but also some room for improvement.

Value

Huge number of teachers, low prices, and flexible scheduling.

Price

The prices vary by teacher and language with some being as low as $4 and others as high as $60 per hour. Most will fall somewhere near the $10 per hour range.

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Manga Mandarin Mini-Review: Learn HSK Content The Fun Way

Manga Mandarin – 4.5 

Manga Mandarin allows you to interact with Mandarin comics through reading, listening, and speaking. The content follows the teaching standards of US ACTFL, covering the breadth of HSK vocabulary as well as engaging learners in everyday Mandarin dialogues. Speakers of Russian, Thai, Arabic, English, Spanish, Korean, and Japanese can all enjoy learning Chinese from their native language.

There are several topics available within the boundaries of each HSK level, from short stories about everyday life in China to fantasy series. The ‘episodes’ contains a word list, a fun comic, a review of the text within the comic, a video with cultural and grammar points, and a dubbing activity where you yourself can provide the audio for the comic. You can tap on any text within the comic to hear native speakers acting out each panel, or you can double tap to get a translation and a grammar explanation.

The app has a combination of free and paid content available, so you can test out several comics before deciding if you want to invest in more material.

Manga Mandarin seems to have less bugs in the iOS version than in the Android version; hopefully this will be fixed in the near future so that Android users can also enjoy the hours of engaging material available for Chinese learners.

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

Chineasy App Mini-Review: A Must-Have For Beginners

Chineasy app – 4.5 

Chineasy is an excellent introduction to traditional and simplified Chinese characters for any beginner learner. The lessons will help you remember the characters through short histories of their origins and cartoonish images. Each of the 400 basic lessons will introduce new characters, combine ones you’ve already learned, and quiz you in various formats. You can further your learning with speaking training, which will train your comprehension of the tones and help you replicate them through pronunciation practice.

It should be noted that the speech recognition portion of the app will often approve your pronunciation even if you say something completely different from the prompt. Also, there does not seem to be an SRS flashcard option; the “review” section allows you to simply look at the different cards you have learned. Moreover, there is no placement test function like in many other language apps; you will have to start with learning “人” whether this is your first time seeing the character or if you are already writing “歌”. Nevertheless, even intermediate learners will probably find the history of the characters interesting, and those who struggle with writing characters may find Chineasy’s methods ease the difficulty.

At the end of the lessons you will not be fluent, but you will most likely become confident with basic pronunciation and characters. You can enjoy pronunciation by native speakers and an attractive user interface with this well thought-out app.

Visit Chineasy app

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

Sublearning Mini-Review: There Are Better Uses For Your Time

Sublearning – 1.3 

Sublearning is a very simple website that supposedly helps you learn languages through movie subtitles. You will be presented with 1 to 6 lines of subtitles from your chosen movie, and then you can reveal the translation after thinking about the response.

There are 62 source and target languages, which does make one wonder where the translations are coming from; be wary of Sublearning’s translation quality.

Just to clarify, the subtitles do not seem to be sourced from the most iconic phrases from your favourite movies; rather, they seem to be random lines from the movie, sometimes as simple as “I don’t think so”. If you’re just looking to reminisce about anything that was said in movies you have seen, you can go to Sublearning to pass some time. However if you’re interested in language learning, I recommend checking out some of the many resource reviews we have on this site.

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

Bluebird Languages Mini-Review: Over 160 Languages Available

Bluebird Languages – 3.5 

Bluebird Languages has several types of lessons you can choose from, including a daily lesson, core vocabulary, essential verbs, creating sentences, powerful phrases, and conversation. Each topic seems to have a beginner, intermediate, and advanced lesson, although it’s not clear how advanced “advanced” is.

In each lesson, an English-speaking narrator will ask you to listen to and repeat translations of various phrases. The recordings in each language seem to use native speakers’ voices, which is quite the feat considering they have lessons in over 160 languages.

Bluebird Languages’ phrases don’t construct a replicable dialogue, so the phrases don’t seem to have a lot of context other than the topic at hand. Furthermore, the topics seem to be identical in all languages, so most of the phrases will not be culture-specific. They also don’t break down complicated pronunciation, but you can try to break it down yourself by slowing down the recording to 0.5x speed.

Bluebird Languages seems similar to Pimsleur but appears less organized and will probably not improve your communication abilities as quickly. Nevertheless, it may be a good free alternative for beginners, and the program will probably help you develop some confidence in speaking languages that have less challenging pronunciation. The conversation and personalized lessons require a monthly membership, but there is enough free content that these add-ons may not be necessary.

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

FunEasyLearn Mini-Review: Build Vocabulary The Fun Way

FunEasyLearn – 3.2 

Not only does FunEasyLearn have a slick interface, high-quality recordings of native speakers, and a variety of activities to reinforce your learning, but it also allows you to learn from 61 mother tongues.

The lessons were developed by a team of certified linguists and acting teachers; they cover reading, listening, speaking and writing. You have the choice of learning individual vocabulary or common phrases, both of which navigate between various common categories such as “Describing people”, “General Conversation”, “ and “Transport”.

Unfortunately FunEasyLearn does not seem to provide a foundation for learning more challenging scripts, such as Chinese or Thai; luckily they have a special feature where you can choose to omit the writing aspect and see transliterations; this will allow you to focus on speaking and listening.

Ultimately, FunEasyLearn is a fun and easy way to develop some basic vocabulary, but it is probably not the most effective resource for hard-core language learners; you will need extra resources to help you learn conversational skills.

There is a lot of free content available for beginners, but with a super affordable premium membership you can access more levels and use the app offline.

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