Mandarin Chinese

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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Verbling

Quick Review

4.6 

Summary:

Verbling is an online language-class marketplace where you can take lessons with teachers of your choice. It has some student-friendly extra features, including a built-in online classroom, flashcards, homework calendar, and a filing system for lesson materials. There are also useful but disorganized forums where you can discuss languages, share writing for critique, and do free language drills and exercises.

The lessons are generally high quality and well structured, plus the filters make it easy to find teachers who specialize in everything from accent reduction to interview preparation. 

However, it can be slightly pricier than alternatives, so if you’re on a tight budget, you may want to look elsewhere. It also has fewer languages than some of the bigger competitors, so it might not be a good choice if you want to study Azerbaijani, Khmer, or Yoruba.

Teacher Quality 

There are some less experienced teachers, but I found the lessons to be more consistently high quality than on italki.

Platform 

The classroom technology, flashcards, and filing system are fantastic for learners and easy to use.

Value

Some teachers charge more than on italki, but you get better classroom technology, more privacy, and fewer disorganized teachers.

Languages

Verbling lists 65 different languages on their platform, from Spanish and Mandarin Chinese through to Twi and Berber. Not all of them have available teachers, however.

Price

Prices are set by the teacher and range from $5 to $75 for an hour-long lesson. You can get discounts for buying packs of 5, 10, or 20 lessons with a teacher. Every student gets one free trial lesson, after which they’re $6 each.

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DeerPlus

3.7 
Price: Freemium; $8.99/month, $35.99/year, $59.99/lifetime

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DeerPlus, also known as LingoDeer Plus, is a cute, gamified app from the makers of Lingodeer. It sets out to teach you words, phrases, and grammar through 11 different games, but it’s best used as a supplementary tool.

You’ll drill vocabulary, build phrases, select the right particles, decide if a sentence is grammatically correct or not, do conjugation exercises, answer listening comprehension questions, and more. What you won’t do is learn the material prior to being tested like you do with LingoDeer (review), DeerPlus’ sister app. 

DeerPlus is a fun supplementary tool that would work well alongside most resources, but especially LingoDeer. However, it’s a shame that there aren’t SRS features in what is essentially a review app.

A word of warning: you can study in a range of languages, but not all the games have been translated. We were shocked when we switched from studying Japanese via Spanish to Japanese via English and discovered grammar and “integrated” games in addition to the five vocabulary and phrase-based ones we had been playing.

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Lingo Mastery Conversational Dialogues

3.5 
Price: Kindle books cost $4.60

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Lingo Mastery provides over 100 short dialogues in a series of advanced beginner books (about A2 on the CEFR scale) for various languages. 

Lingo Mastery’s Conversational Dialogues doesn’t take the immersive approach that you will find in other graded readers. Instead, they provide a full English translation of each text. There are no vocabulary lists or comprehension questions like in their Short Stories series, but you will read conversations that take place in over a hundred different scenarios. If your goal is to accumulate vocabulary based on situations that you may encounter in your everyday life, then Lingo Mastery is probably a good investment.

If you want to follow real-life conversations that are part of a continuous story, you may want to check out Olly Richards’ 101 Conversations. Also, if you are looking for a series of books that will keep you captivated, Mandarin Companion and ESLC provide graded readers that simplify famous stories into Chinese and Spanish.

If you do decide to invest in these readers, make sure to buy the Kindle version, which is about 20% of the paperback price. There are also previews available on Amazon.

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Lingo Mastery Short Stories

3.7 
Price: Kindle Books cost $4.60

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Lingo Mastery provides 20 short stories in a series of advanced beginner books (about A2 on the CEFR scale) for various languages. Each book has a vocabulary list, reading comprehension questions, and a summary in both English and the target language.  

If your primary goal is to acquire new vocabulary, then Lingo Mastery’s Short Story series may be helpful to increase your skills. Each chapter has a specific language focus, such as directions, verbs, nouns, or activities. These stories have a considerable number of unique words, so you may find yourself referring to the vocabulary list more frequently than in other graded readers.

Keep in mind that the stories are not as engaging as a novel you might read in your native tongue, but the repetition is helpful to familiarize you with different concepts. Other graded readers, like those by Olly Richards, ESLC, and Mandarin Companion follow a single storyline — each chapter in Lingo Mastery, however, follows a separate storyline. Therefore, although the chapters are a manageable length, finishing one may not make you eager to move onto the next.

If you do decide to invest in these readers, make sure to buy the Kindle version, which is about 20% of the paperback price.

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Hit Chinese

3.8 
Price: Free

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In Hit Chinese, Mia uses comprehensible input to teach Mandarin Chinese. Her YouTube videos sometimes use writing and drawing to tell stories, while other times they focus on her body language with subtitles on the side. 

Mia is very expressive and uses props, images, drawing and acting to deliver her message effectively. In the first section, she will tell you a story or say a series of phrases while giving you enough time to repeat after her. Next, you will have the chance to respond to questions using the same sentences.

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. Nevertheless, they are engaging enough that lower-intermediate learners can benefit from them as well.

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Internet Polyglot

1.3 
Price: Free

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Internet Polyglot is a website for memorizing vocabulary words in dozens of languages. It has 44 “lessons” that cover topics like cars, time, religion, politics, feelings, measurements, and more. Each lesson is essentially a word list with native speaker pronunciation, an English translation, and a link to a picture to help you remember each word.

There are picture games, matching games, guessing games, and typing games, plus a word search and a slide show that reviews all of the words in the lesson.

Given that none of the vocabulary words in Internet Polyglot are taught using example sentences or context, learning vocabulary using this site may not be the best use of your time. You are probably better off using Anki to curate personalized vocabulary lists and downloading native speaker audio files from Forvo to accompany your flashcards. Nevertheless, you may find it useful if all you are looking for is a site that already has lists of vocabulary words with native speaker audio.

If you are looking for audio files for less commonly-studied languages in context, you can check out iLoveLanguages.

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Glosbe Dictionary

3.5 
Price: Free

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Glosbe is a dictionary that serves over 6000 languages. Most words have a list of definitions, conjugations, declensions, and similar phrases (although these phrases are hit or miss when it comes to how relevant they are to the initial entry). Many of the entries are created by community members, who can add and edit translations, example sentences, pronunciations, and images. Also, the site does not use text-to-voice pronunciation — as a result, some words may not have any pronunciation.

It’s important to note that some of the content is not checked by the creators, such as the example sentences. Be careful if you are trying to learn new phrases from these lists, as although many of them are correct, there are a few that may lead you to learn inaccurate vocabulary or grammar. Additionally, less commonly studied languages may be listed as available, but only contain a few lines of content.

Overall, Glosbe may be a helpful tool if you can’t find dictionaries that specialize in your target language. However, SpanishDict is a far more comprehensive option for Spanish learners, as is Pleco for Chinese learners and Kanji Study for Japanese. You can also check out Forvo, a dictionary resource for native speaker audio files that has strict rules on community contributions.

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Complete Language Lessons

0.2 
Price: $8.99 for the CD/$1.29 per track on Amazon, free on Spotify

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Complete Language Lessons has audio courses for numerous languages on Amazon, Spotify, and Deezer. We tried out the Swahili audio course, Learn Swahili Easily, Effectively, and Fluently – and were extremely disappointed.

The audio tracks we sampled consist of Swahili phrases repeated over and over again, with no translations, explanations, or anything in English. The audio quality isn’t great, either, and the occasional muted club music adds to the bizarreness. 

It feels to us like the audio tracks are supposed to accompany a textbook, but we couldn’t find one. If one existed at some point, we suspect it’s no longer available.

If you already speak the language and are looking for native audio recordings to help you improve your listening and pronunciation, you might get some value out of Complete Language Lessons. However, if your aim is learn the language, we would skip these CDs.

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Vocabulearn

0.6 
Price: $29.99 on Amazon, free on Spotify

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Vocabulearn has so-called audio courses for numerous languages on Amazon and Spotify. We don’t believe you’ll learn much from them, but they could help you practice your pronunciation.

For this mini review, we tried out the Vocabulearn Swahili/English Level 1 course. It’s split into four CDs, each with its own theme, and then each theme is divided into four lessons. The themes are: Nouns; Adjectives, Adverbs, Prepositions, Conjunctions 1; Expressions; Verbs.

In each track, we listened to long lists of words and phrases. First, it was said in English; secondly, it was said in Swahili. However, there were no grammar or contextual explanations, drills, or activities to help you remember the material.

In short, we’re not convinced that you’d be able to make your own sentences or even remember the vocabulary after listening to these CDs. However, if you’re studying a language with fewer resources, we think you could use it to practice your pronunciation by repeating each word after the speakers say it.

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