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Pleco is a ridiculously useful Chinese dictionary app. It has tons of useful features like flashcards, example sentences, clip reader, audio recordings, OCR camera, compatible with handwriting, and a lot more. Many of the features require a purchase. That said, most are worth it, and the free version is great by itself.
ChineseFor.Us is a fairly new platform with very high-quality courses. They have the most thorough and in-depth Chinese course for beginners, learning tones, pinyin, and writing. The videos, quizzes, and lessons are all excellent. A subscription is also cheaper than most other Chinese learning resources. It’s definitely worth checking out. Read the full review.
italki is the cheapest and most flexible place to find an online Chinese teacher – or any other language for that matter. You won’t have to book a certain number of classes each week like you would with an online school. Instead, you can book individual classes directly from the teacher. I’ve found quality Chinese tutors for less than $10/hour. There are other useful features like “Notebooks” where you can have your writing corrected and language exchange opportunities. Read full review.
TutorMing is an online Mandarin school that offers classes 24 hours a day, with qualified teachers, using unique content. I took two classes with them and came away very impressed. I learned new things about Chinese culture, despite having lived in Beijing for a few years. However, it’s not the cheapest option, so those on a tighter budget may want to look elsewhere.
The Chairman’s Bao
The Chairman’s Bao is an online newspaper for learning Chinese. It’s one of my favorite and most used resources. They release tons of articles based on current events written at varying difficulty levels – from HSK 1 to HSK 6+. The articles include audio, pop-up dictionary, grammar notes, flashcards, and more. Read the full review.
Ninchanese is a unique resource for learning Chinese. It’s a mixture of a course and a game and manages to do quite well in both regards – being both fun and extensive. You’ll need to use a few other resources to cover a few gaps that Ninchanese has. However, it’s an excellent tool for learning Chinese and covers a ton of content at a very affordable price. Read the full review.
Yoyo Chinese is probably the most established and popular website for finding online Chinese courses. This website offers video-based lessons with interactive quizzes, audio review, pronunciation practice, flashcards, and more. There are a few different courses for sale – Beginner Conversational, Intermediate Conversational, Upper Intermediate Conversational, and Chinese Characters Course. The host has a knack for explaining things in an easy to understand way. Read the full review.
ChinesePod is one of the best and most extensive resources for learning Chinese. This podcast has thousands of lessons across six difficulty levels. There is a lesson for pretty much every topic you can imagine. The Basic Plan gives you access to the lessons and lesson notes, while the Premium Plan includes a bunch of extra features – access to a very good pronunciation course, extra grammar and expansion exercises, and more. Read the full review.
HelloChinese is a great app directed towards beginner level students. The app has free lessons, similar to Duolingo (but much better). It incorporates every aspect of learning Chinese – listening, speaking, reading, writing, vocabulary, and grammar. The lessons are free, but there is also a Premium and Premium+ version which includes extra games and immersion exercises. If you’re getting started learning Chinese, it’s definitely worth checking out. Read my review of HelloChinese.
Speechling is a website and app that makes it easy to improve your speaking skills in Chinese, Spanish, French, and English. The free version is an incredibly valuable resource that makes it easy to practice mimicking native speakers. You can even choose the sex of the speaker. The Unlimited Plan provides unlimited corrections of your recordings by a teacher. Read the full review.
Chinese Grammar Wiki
Chinese Grammar Wiki is an excellent place to learn Chinese grammar, and it’s free. Grammar points are arranged according to difficulty level and include lots of example sentences. It’s a great way to learn what you need to learn at the level you’re at, without getting weighed down with too much information. It is also available as a book.
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. They also have some articles available for free. Read the full review.
Mandarin Corner is one of my favorite resources for learning Chinese. It helps to fill an often overlooked gap, intermediate level students. This youtube channel has quite a few videos based on casual conversations, HSK lists, and more. The videos are very interesting to watch. They often include casual conversations with regular Chinese people and talk about their lives. Also, for most of them, there are subtitles in Simplified Chinese, Pinyin, and word-by-word translations.
Zizzle is a unique tool for learning Chinese. This app will help you memorize Chinese Characters. First, they break down the character into its component parts. Then, they use ridiculous images and a short story to remember these components. Next, they use characters and link words to help you remember the tone and pronunciation of the character. Finally, they give you example words and sentences using the character. On first glance, the app looks rather silly. But, it really does make remembering characters much easier. Read the full review.
Hacking Chinese has hundreds of articles about learning Chinese. It’s a great place to help you figure out the best ways to go about learning various aspects of the language. Regardless of your Chinese level, you’re sure to find tons of helpful information here. I highly recommend checkout out the content on this site. It’s fantastic.
Chinese Zero to Hero!
Chinese Zero to Hero! is probably the most affordable online Chinese course. It’s not as in-depth and thorough as some other courses, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s a great option for those looking to add structure to their independent study. While it’s not necessarily a replacement for a textbook, I wouldn’t fault anyone for deciding to ditch theirs in favor of these courses. Read the full review.
HelloTalk is a great app for finding people to practice any language with. It has a lot of extra features that make it extremely useful for language learners. You can text, send voice messages, or video calls. The interface also makes it easy to have translations, transliterations, corrections, and more. It’s an extremely easy way to find a language exchange partner.
Skritter is the best resource available to help you improve your Chinese handwriting. This app uses SRS and recognizes stroke order recognition to help you learn to write Chinese characters. It’s also a great resource for improving your Chinese vocabulary. The downside is that the monthly subscription is fairly pricey. Review.
While WordSwing has a few different ways to study Chinese, the main feature is their text adventure games. These are something of a mix between interactive graded readers and role-playing games. They force you to engage with the text and make decisions in order to successfully complete a story. Unlike most resources, they’re designed with intermediate and higher level learners in mind. Read our full review of WordSwing.
Glossika can help you improve your spoken Chinese and speaking rhythm. It does this by having you repeat lots of sentences. It’s not very exciting or flashy, but it definitely helps. Although I benefited a lot from using Glossika, I’m not necessarily eager to recommend it. It’s quite expensive, and a new product, Speechling, does much of what Glossika does for free and better. Read the full review of Glossika.
Pimsleur is one of the biggest names in language learning but for a long time, their prices were too high for me to recommend using. They’ve added a subscription option which makes their courses much better value. The courses focus on oral, conversational Italian, and are great for getting people to start speaking right away. Read the full review of Pimsleur.
ChineseClass101 is a pretty good option for people looking to get started learning Chinese. It’s one of the cheaper courses available and has quite a few lessons as well. It’s not actually my first choice, but it’s also not at all bad either. Lessons center around a dialog with grammar and vocabulary being explained. Unfortunately, too much English is used in the lessons which would make it a poor choice for anyone past the beginner stage. Read the full Review.
Memrise is one of the most popular language learning apps around. It’s basically a gamified flashcard app. It’s a good way to help build vocabulary and beginner students would benefit the most from it. While it can be very useful, it’s important to not try to use it as your main tool for learning a new language. Read my full review of Memrise for learning Chinese.
Mandarin Blueprint is a great course for absolute beginners who have no prior Chinese practice. It employs a combination of videos, Anki flashcards and mnemonics to get you to an intermediate level. The course starts off a bit slow and can be somewhat confusing for the user, but if you stick with it you’ll find that the course is actually pretty thorough and well put together. The hosts of Mandarin Blueprint are two native English speakers that provide the instruction for the course. They do a good job at explaining things, but naturally you’re going to spend a large amount of the course listening to them speak in English. If this isn’t an issue for you, and you’re willing to put in the time, you’ll find that Mandarin Blueprint is a pretty solid resource for absolute beginners. Read full review.
Super Chinese is a gamified app that contains a variety of different exercises to test your reading, writing, listening and speaking skills in Mandarin, Available on both iOS and Android, the app is free to download, but requires you to purchase a subscription to obtain full access. Overall, the exercises are engaging and makes for a convenient and fun way to get started learning Mandarin. The app only really falls short in its practice of productive skills which is common with most language-learning apps. You probably won’t become fluent using Super Chinese, but it can be useful and fun way to get started. Read full review.
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Clozemaster is a great way to practice vocabulary, sentence structures, and reading by completing tons of fill in the blank exercises. You can fill in the blank by either typing the answer or choose from a multiple choice option. You’ll score points as you go. While there is a pro plan, the free version offers a ton of value.
Mandarin Companion is a graded reader book series which is great. These short books are based on popular novels and written in easy to understand language. These are an excellent way to improve your reading ability, comprehension, vocabulary, and more. Finishing the first book gave me a huge sense of accomplishment. Level one is written with 300 unique characters, and level two uses 450 unique characters.
Rocket Chinese is a well-known and often recommended course for learning Chinese, but it’s pretty terrible. They offer high affiliate commissions which leads a lot of people to write biased reviews. Everything Rocket Chinese does can be found elsewhere at cheaper costs and higher quality. Read the full review.
Verbling is a language learning platform where you can find and book classes directly from a teacher. It’s very similar to italki with a few minor differences. Unfortunately, on Verbling, the cost of lessons are generally higher and the number of teachers to choose from fewer. Still, it’s a fairly good option for finding a teacher. Read my full review of Verbling here.
Duolingo is one of the most popular tools for learning a language and they finally released their Chinese course. Unfortunately, it’s just not very good. They fail to provide a useful course in every area except one, motivating students to continue studying. If you’re serious about learning Chinese, don’t waste your time with Duolingo. Read the full review.
edX has tons of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) created by universities around the world on a variety of subjects – including learning Chinese. You can enroll in these courses for free or pay to receive a verified certificate upon completion. Most courses are self-paced. edX has a few options for learning Chinese – Basic Mandarin Chinese, Chinese for Business, Chinese Cultural Communication, and Intermediate Chinese Grammar. Advanced students could also take courses on different subjects using Chinese as the means of learning.
FluentU is a popular platform for language learning that uses real-world videos. They take videos from Youtube and add interactive captions. I really like the idea and design of the platform, but there’s somewhat of a lack of interesting content. Most of the videos are commercials, music videos, or interviews among other things. For me, FluentU falls far short of its potential. Read the full review.
Learn Mandarin Now
This podcast has over 200 free lessons. These lessons last around 7-8 minutes on average. First, they’ll introduce the key vocabulary in English. Then, there’s a short dialogue that is played twice. Afterward, the hosts go through the dialogue line-by-line and explain the words and sentences. The lessons are around an elementary to intermediate difficulty level. There hasn’t been much new content being released in the past few months.
Yabla is a platform that makes it easier to incorporate native videos and TV shows into your Chinese (or other languages) study routine. With 1300 videos, covering different difficulty levels, it’s easy to find something interesting to watch and study. While the platform isn’t as modern as FluentU, I find the content to be significantly better. You’ll probably have to work your way up to using Yabla as it isn’t something that I recommend for absolute beginners. Read the full review.
I enjoy Slow Chinese quite a bit. There are around 200 lessons, lasting from 3-5 minutes on average. As the title suggests, the host speaks at a slower pace which makes it much easier to follow along. You can also find the transcript and translations online in multiple languages. It’s most suitable for intermediate level students.
New Practical Chinese Reader
New Practical Chinese Reader is an excellent textbook series. There are six volumes, going from beginner to intermediate level. It will introduce you to a lot of new vocabulary, grammar explanations, dialogues, reading practice, and provide practice problems as well. It’s definitely worth considering, and along with Integrated Chinese, one of the most popular textbook options.
This podcast is releasing content quite frequently – around 4 or so new lessons per week. They focus on Chinese culture and news. Most lessons are around ten minutes long. They’re entirely in Chinese and are suitable for intermediate or higher level students. They’re quite high quality considering they’re free.
Popup Chinese has quite enjoyable and high-quality lessons. Unfortunately, it seems like they haven’t released new lessons since 2015. There are lessons at four levels – Absolute Beginners, Elementary, Intermediate and Advanced. A subscription costs $99/year.
That’s Mandarin is a language school with three locations in China – Beijing, Shanghai, and Shenzhen. They have lots of offerings, which include 1-1 classes, group classes, summer camps, teen immersion programs, visa programs, online classes and more. Founded in 2005, they help 3000 students each with their goal of learning Mandarin.
FSI Chinese Courses
The Foreign Service Institute has free online Chinese courses that are worth looking into, especially if you’re on a tight budget. There are 11 courses, 21 ebooks, and 309 audio files that you can access completely for free. A lot of the courses seem to be very practical and would help you with everyday life in China.
Omeida Chinese Academy
If you’re interested in studying Mandarin in China and want to stay away from the big cities, Omeida Chinese Academy in Yangshuo is worth looking into. Located in one of the most beautiful parts of China, they offer a variety of options for studying Chinese. Additionally, they organize lots of activities for their students, offer accommodation and food, and even give discounts to those that volunteer in their program.
Chinese-Forums has a large community of Chinese language learners. You can join in on the conversation about tons of topics related directly to learning Chinese and China. It’s a place where you can find people more experienced than yourself and find helpful advice.
Manga Mandarin is a pretty cool app that uses comic books as a means of teaching Chinese. There are chapters of various comics across different difficulty levels. Unfortunately, many of them are incomplete. When you read the comics, you can click on the characters to see pinyin and a translation. You can also click to play the audio. Some chapters also include a short video explaining a certain grammar or vocabulary point. You can read some chapters for free, but after you’ll have to pay to continue reading.
HiNative is a free Q&A app for language learners. You can post a question or have your pronunciation and writing corrected by a native speaker. It’s quite versatile providing a variety of ways you can get feedback and improve. Read our full review of HiNative.
Live Lingua is an online language school. The tutors are native speakers from China who are required to speak a second language and hold university degrees. The lessons start at $20/hour (the price depends on the certificate you’re after and the number of lessons you purchase at once), but the first one is free. You can also use what they claim to be the internet’s largest collection of free public domain language learning materials. Read the full review of Live Lingua.
Integrated Chinese is one of the most popular textbooks for learning Mandarin. It’s often used by universities abroad. It’s a solid starting point, but you’ll likely want to utilize other resources, like finding a tutor to help you with some of the challenging parts or improve your pronunciation. Overall though, it’s a great option to use to add structure to your study routine.
Lingbe is a language exchange platform that’s a bit different than the others. With Lingbe, you don’t need to find someone to talk with, you simply click the call button and they will connect you with a native speaker of the language you’re learning. That can help get rid of some people’s anxieties and time wasted finding someone to talk with. After the conversation, if both people click the like button, you’ll be added to each other’s friend list and you can chat with them anytime.
Modern Mandarin Chinese Grammar
Modern Mandarin Chinese Grammar is one of the most often recommended grammar books because it’s very good. It may be a bit tough for an absolute beginner but as you get a few months of studying underway, it’s a great resource. It’s easy to navigate, concise and has clear explanations. However, without the workbook, it’s difficult to know if you’ve really understood the material enough to use correctly. Read my grammar book comparison article for more information.
Pimsleur Mandarin is an older course that focuses almost exclusively on speaking and listening. While it’ll leave you with gaps in other areas, Pimsleur does a good job of improving your oral skills quickly. In the past, I would have never recommended it due to the high cost, but their new subscription option is much more reasonably priced. Read the full review of Pimsleur.
Amazon’s audiobook service, Audible, is not only great for book lovers but can also be used to study Chinese. In addition to longer novels written in Chinese, you’ll also find lessons from Pimsleur, ChineseClass101, and more. Plus, you can get a 30-day free trial with two audiobooks included.
Bai Xue – Youtube Channel
This Youtube channel has over 200 Chinese lessons covering a variety of material. The teacher obviously put a ton of effort into making these videos. Considering you can find them all for free on Youtube, they’re pretty great.
The goal of Rype App is to be the go-to app for busy individuals who don’t have a lot of time to learn a language. It supposed to do this through one-on-one Skype lessons available 24 hours a day. For Mandarin however, the number of available teachers is quite low compared to other resources like Italki. Probably the biggest issue surrounding Rype App is that it just doesn’t offer anything unique that you couldn’t find better elsewhere and for less. One good thing about it is that it offers 30-minute long lessons which does help with the flexibility aspect, but isn’t by any means exclusive to Rype App. Read the full review of Rype App.
Lingo Bus offers online Mandarin classes for children aged 5-12. Their focus on only teaching children within this age range allows them to design the most appropriate curriculum and class structure that you’ll find. All of the teachers have a degree or certification related to teaching Chinese as a second language, as well as experience teaching children. The lessons will definitely keep kids engaged, making use out of interactive elements such cartoon characters, songs, physical movement, and more. They are a part of the VIPKID parent company, one of the biggest and most well-respected education companies in China. You can also sign your child up for a free demo class. Read our full review of Lingo Bus.
TofuLearn is a free website/app that is a really useful resource to learn vocabulary and writing. In fact, it has a lot of the functionality of Skritter, without the cost. You can use it to learn the strokes of characters, practice copying the character, and then later you can write the character yourself using your phone, computer or tablet. You can also look up more information, such as example sentences (with audio), character components, and other words containing the character(s).
LingQ is a popular platform for studying a language, but not one I particularly like. They try to do a bit of everything and end up spreading themselves too thin. One thing I do like though is that the content you can study comes from a variety of sources. This makes it fairly easy to find something interesting to read. Read the full review of LingQ.
LingoDeer is a free app created by the same people as ChineseSkill (review) and is quite similar. It’s a really good option for someone looking to get started with Mandarin. It includes lots of lessons focused on various topics. Lessons include grammar, vocabulary, listening, and writing.
Chinese Breeze is a graded reader book series. They’re very good for getting started reading longer form Chinese content. There are four levels. Each level slowly introduces more and more unique vocabulary. Level one contains 300 words, level two is 500 words, level three is 750, and level four has 1100 words.
Anki is a spaced repetition flashcard program. It can be used for many things, and language learning is one of the most popular uses. Using SRS is a great way to prevent forgetting words you’ve learned. It’s free to use everywhere except for from iTunes, where it’ll cost $25. It’s much more DIY than other flashcard apps. It’s more customizable but a bit tougher to quickly add content on the go. There are quite a few shared Chinese flashcard decks that you can use as well.
When I first started learning Chinese, I used ChineseSkill. It provided a nice, easy to use, and free starting point. At the time I wasn’t sure I wanted to seriously study, so it eased me into the language. There are 45 lessons based on a variety of topics. It’s not the most comprehensive course and it won’t be the only tool you need. Serious students would make progress faster with other resources. But, if you’re a beginner and want a free introduction to Mandarin, it’s worth using. Read the full review.
Chinese Language Institute (CLI)
The Chinese Language Institute (CLI) is a language school that’s officially affiliated with Guanxi Normal University in Guilin. They offer an immersion program, college study abroad, seminars, and online classes. Guilin is one of the most beautiful places you’ll come across. So, if you’re looking to study Mandarin in China, it’s definitely an option worth considering.
LTL Mandarin School
Live the Language Mandarin School has three locations – Beijing, Shanghai, and Chengde. For those looking to study Chinese in China, it’s definitely worth considering. They offer 1-1 classes, group classes, internships, homestays, lots of events, and more. You’ll end up not only improving your Chinese but also making great friends in the process.
Hacking Chinese: A Practical Guide to Learning Mandarin
The Hacking Chinese blog is one of the best places to learn how to learn Chinese. The book is similar to the blog, except much more organized. Hacking Chinese has helped me a ton with learning Chinese. Even if you’re not a beginner to learning Chinese, you’ll almost certainly find some valuable information in this book.
Chinese Boost is a blog that has a bunch of articles written about learning Chinese and has an excellent section devoted to learning grammar. The grammar section explains the content very clearly and gives lots of examples. You can arrange by difficulty level, functions, and more. This a really solid resource that I wish I had found sooner.
Fluent in 3 Months – Why Chinese is Easy
This course from Benny Lewis of Fluent in 3 Months is designed to make starting to learn Chinese a much less daunting task. His approach tends to get people speaking the language very early on. Although Chinese is often considered one of the hardest languages to learn, he doesn’t believe this is necessarily true.
Hanbridge Mandarin is an online Chinese school. They offer 1-1 online classes with professional teachers. It’s a good option for people looking for a Chinese tutor, but it’s not my top choice. Personally, I prefer to use italki to find a teacher. A major drawback is that lessons are only available from 8am-10pm Chinese time. Read my full review of Hanbridge Mandarin.
17 Minute Languages
More than half of the reviews on Trustpilot rate 17 Minute Languages as ‘Bad’ and unfortunately we don’t disagree. The courses are full of bad translations which makes it difficult to trust other aspects of the courses. There are also no explanations to anything and the exercises themselves aren’t at all engaging. One good thing about the courses however are that they use audio from native-speakers which isn’t that impressive for a language like Chinese, but can be for less-common languages. As far as learning Chinese is concerned we definitely recommend taking a look at other resources as there isn’t really any reason to use this one. Review.
Arch Chinese is an online dictionary with tons of extra features. You can find information about the character components, parts of speech, related words, and pretty much everything else you would want to know. You can also find worksheets, flashcards, tone training drills, and a ton more. Many of the resources here would be useful for someone teaching Chinese.
CSL Pod is a podcast that no longer produces new content. They seem to have stopped around the beginning of 2015. There are exercises that go along with each lesson, though I can’t comment on the quality of them. The cost is $19.99/mo.
Little Fox Chinese
This Youtube channel is best for children, but there are also quite a few videos that would also be good for adults. There are animated nursery rhymes, songs, and stories across various levels. I recently found they have 24 videos an Aladdin playlist that looks quite fun to watch.
Cudoo is not a course that we recommend. The quality is very low and the price is quite high. The material is not very engaging, contains no language explanations other than translations, and doesn’t give you a lot of opportunities to practice. One of the only good things about Cudoo, other than the fact it contains native speaker audio, is that it offers a wide variety of languages including rare languages that can be difficult to find other resources for. Fortunately, a language like Chinese has many options available so there’s no reason for you to need to use Cudoo. We wouldn’t even recommend it if it were free. Read the full review of Cudoo.
Domino Chinese is a unique course in that it’s pay as you go, starting from $2/month. It’s hosted by a foreigner, but his pronunciation is excellent. He also adds a lot of personality and humor into the lessons. There are 20 levels, and after level 10, it’s completely in Chinese. There’s also a 100 questions test for each unit. Also, after level 10, there’s a Chinese co-host as well. I actually just subscribed as I was writing this. For as little as $2/month, it’s insanely good value.
There are nearly 50 beginner level lessons available for free and a couple hundred if you’re willing to pay money. The lessons typically last around 20 minutes, are theme-based, and progressive. The host is a foreigner. First, he’ll introduce you to new vocabulary words. He’ll repeat the words very slowly and several times. Later on, he’ll add in full sentences. I find the lessons to be pretty boring though and prefer other alternatives.
Beelinguapp is available in tons of languages and offers side-by-side bilingual stories. You can listen to and read a story in one language and reference it in another. There are some free lessons and most stories can be bought for only $1 each. I like it because it allows me to study Chinese while reviewing in Spanish. Unfortunately, you can’t look up the meanings of words as you read and listen.
Basic Chinese: A Grammar and Workbook
Basic Chinese: A Grammar and Workbook is a popular grammar book for the beginner and elementary levels. There is also an intermediate level available. This book really stresses learning by doing with tons of exercises for each chapter. Many chapters may only have five pages or so of text but around 50 practice problems for you to work through. There’s an answer key in the back for you to reference. Read my comparison article of different grammar books for more information.
Teacup Chinese has a blog and a Youtube channel about learning Chinese, traveling in China, and Chinese culture. They also have some premium content for Patreon supporters which includes a 100+ page ebook about learning Chinese in the modern era, a phrasebook, and a custom Anki deck of 500 words and phrases.
Learn Chinese From Movies
Learn Chinese From Movies makes it easier for intermediate and advanced level students to start incorporating movies into their study routine. They add English, Simplified or Traditional Characters, and Pinyin subtitles to play over the top of various Chinese and international movies. I’ve found it to be helpful to bridge the gap between intermediate study materials and native movies. Read the full review.
Chinese Reading Practice
This is an older site that hasn’t had many updates in recent years. However, it’s a great resource for you to use. The stories are timeless and are just as useful now as when they were originally published. The creator took the time to explain many difficult parts of the stories, making it easier to use for reading practice. The site uses a pop-up dictionary and has English translations included.
宝贝听听 – Bǎo Bèi Tīng Tīng
Bǎo Bèi Tīng Tīng wasn’t made to help you learn Chinese, but that doesn’t mean you can’t use it. It’s a Chinese app made for Chinese parents and children. It’s filled with stories, songs, and cartoons recorded for young kids. Because the material has been made for children, the language is much easier to understand than what you would find elsewhere. But because it wasn’t made for language learners, there are obviously places where it falls short compared to other Chinese learning resources. It’s free though!
eChineseLearning is one of the oldest and most popular websites for finding an online Chinese tutor. It isn’t my first choice because it’s more expensive and less flexible than competitors, such as italki. eChineseLearning requires a longer-term commitment which for some might provide the motivation needed to stick with learning Chinese. Read the full review.
Coursera has online courses from universities around the world that anyone can take for free. These Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are available for a variety of topics, Chinese included. You can also pay to receive a certification upon completion of the course. On Coursera, there are several Chinese courses; including Chinese for Beginners, HSK 1, HSK 2, and HSK 3, along with a few others.
Udemy is a platform where anyone can add a course about almost any topic. Because of this, courses on Udemy can vary significantly in terms of quality and content. Not surprisingly though, this leads to a decent number of short courses for learning various parts of Chinese. It also makes room for unique courses like practicing pronunciation with tongue twisters, intensive reading, and story-based courses. There are some free courses but most will cost something. I’ve found if you add a course to your cart and leave it for a day or two, you’ll almost always get an offer discounting it to $10, regardless of the original price.
The BBC has a portion of their site devoted to learning Chinese. There are video lessons, games, kids activities, news, and more which are all completely free. Most of it may feel a little dated and not as smooth as other tools, but there’s still some useful content here.
Just Learn Chinese
This site has many stories from beginner to intermediate level. They’re split into small parts with many stories actually being quite long. One even has 54 parts! Most stories include audio with Simplified and Traditional Characters. Some have pinyin and English translations as well.
iChineseReader is a platform that provides k-12 reading materials with thousands of interactive books you can read online. There is audio included as well. In theory, it sounds like a pretty great resource, but I’ve always had trouble with it going slow and crashing. The platform seems much more fitting for children than adults. It still may be worth checking out though. You can get a 14-day free trial and subscriptions are only $7.99/month.
Chinese learn Online
Chinese Learn Online is an online platform providing progressive Chinese lessons across several levels. The website and app feel very dated and in need of a major upgrade. It’s not necessarily a bad product, but it would be far from my top recommendation for people interested in learning Chinese independently. There are much better products priced similarly. Read my full review of Chinese Learn Online.
Hanzi Grids lets you create custom Chinese character worksheets and grid paper templates that you can download and print out for handwriting practice. This is a useful free tool to help you improve your Chinese handwriting.
This is a Chinese website with a massive amount of children’s stories on it. Even though the site is in Chinese, it’s not particularly difficult to navigate – especially if you use a pop-up dictionary for your web browser. Because the stories are written for Native Chinese speakers, they’re a bit tougher than the graded readers. However, they’re fairly short and most use simpler language than you’ll find elsewhere.
Tandem is a language exchange app created to connect learners from around the world. You can teach someone the language you speak and they’ll help you learn the language you’d like to learn. It comes with lots of useful features to make connecting with other users easy and facilitate language practice. Read our full review of Tandem.
The Drops app has an exceptionally smooth and well-designed interface. It focuses strictly on vocabulary and can be used for free for up to five minutes each day. It’s available in many different languages as well.
UMich – Chinese Text Sampler
This site has a bunch of texts available to read or download from many different genres. There is classical literature, song lyrics, film scripts, children’s stories, among many others. It’s older but has some really interesting content.
PinyinPractice.com has some drills that can help you practice recognizing tones, initials, and finals. It’s a good way to train your ears to hear the different tones. You can play a sound, and then you’ll choose the tone of the audio. You can choose whether or not you want to show pinyin and characters. You can also do similar exercises for learning to hear the different initial and final sounds.
My Chinese Reading
This site provides practice reading material. It’s completely free and has some interesting content. Many stories explain vocab and difficult translations. Some have audio as well. There is a diverse mix of articles ranging from songs, history, science, biography and more.
The Marco Polo Project
This website has quite a few articles focused on diverse topics. Many can be quite lengthy and difficult, but interesting to read. There are usually translations in English, and often times other languages as well. If you’d like you can help translate articles as well.
The New York Times
You can read current articles from NYT in Chinese, English or split with side-by-side text. Obviously, it’s only suitable for advanced students. But, if you’re at that level, it’s a great place to improve your Chinese while staying informed on what’s happening in the world.
Zhongwen Pop-up Dictionary for Chrome
Zhongwen: Chinese-English Dictionary for Chrome is incredibly useful. You can use it to make reading Chinese online much more manageable. Just hover over a character, and you’ll be given the translation.
Tencent Video is one of many Chinese websites for streaming TV shows. Since it’s not made for language learners, it may be a bit tough for beginners to navigate the content. But, it may be worth figuring out. There’s lots of Chinese shows, as well as foreign shows. A premium subscription is quite cheap as well.
Ximalaya FM is a popular app for finding podcasts, radio shows, and more. It’s not made for language learners, but rather Chinese people in general. So, you’ll need to have an advanced level of Chinese to get much use out of it. For those who have a higher Chinese level, there’s a ton of content to choose from. I’m not certain, but you may need to be within China to use the app.
酷狗音乐 is my favorite (but far from the only) app for finding Chinese music. It’s free to use and there’s a ton of music you can find, both Chinese and in other languages. As with many of the Chinese apps and websites, you may need to actually be inside China to use it.
OptiLingo uses a process called Guided Immersion to teach the most common words and phrases in the language you’re learning and place them in the context of everyday activities. It also incorporates Spaced Repetition Systems so that you can retain information more efficiently. They focus a lot on listening and speaking to help you develop an ear for the language.
Perapera is a pop-up dictionary that works with Firefox. Put your mouse over any Chinese words on a webpage and it gives you the pronunciation and definition. English, German, & French dictionaries; Pinyin and Zhuyin supported; Simplified or Traditional characters. You can save and export words for studying later.
Frill Pop-Up Dictionary for Safari
Frill is a pop-up dictionary for Safari. You can use it to hover over any Chinese word and see the translation. It’s a great way to make reading Chinese online a bit easier.
Reddit is one of the most popular sites on the Internet. Not surprisingly, you’ll find a community of people learning Chinese. So, whether you have a grammar question, you’re not sure about how to use certain resources, or just want to see some memes, Reddit is a great place to be. r/ChineseLanguage is the most popular subreddit, r/Chinese follows that, and r/chinesebookclub may also be interesting for you.
Michel Thomas Method
This is a popular and older (think CD’s) product for learning Chinese. It’s sort of like sitting in on a class with four people. Unfortunately, it seems that the vast majority of the conversations tend to be in English. I don’t think the courses are worth the cost. Review.
Learning Chinese Through Stories
The name explains what this podcast is about very clearly. You’ll listen to stories told in Chinese and the hosts will explain different parts of the story as they go through it. It has a fairly large library of content and is still actively releasing new material. Some lessons are very short and only last a couple minutes, while others are 20+ minutes long. The podcast is entirely in Chinese so more suitable for intermediate or higher level students.
The Chineasy book series and TED talk are very popular. Personally, I’m not a big fan of Chineasy. This podcast is almost entirely in English. The episodes will focus on a Chinese word or phrase, often discussing Chinese culture and history. It’s more useful for learning about those things than for learning Chinese. Lessons are typically from 6-8 minutes long.
Speaky is a social language-learning app for those looking to engage with others while learning their target language. The app contains a large database of users with which you can chat, share photos, leave voice messages and even have voice calls. There is a paid version that allows you more than five automatic translations when chatting with someone, but for the most part the app is free. There definitely are other resources out there that do more or less the same thing, so if you’ve used other social language apps then you probably have a good idea as to what to expect with Speaky. If you aren’t a total beginner and want some practice with real-life individuals then Speaky may be something to look into. Read the full review.
China Sprout is a website that sells lots of resources related to Chinese culture and learning Chinese. I could see this site being pretty useful for parents looking for children’s books or teachers looking for more materials. That said, there are a lot of products for adult learners as well.
With HanziCraft you can look deeper into individual characters. For example, you can see how frequently a character is used, its decomposition, how many words use the same character, and examples. It’s a pretty useful tool.
Schaum’s Outline of Chinese Grammar
Schaum’s Outline of Chinese Grammar is a good barebones grammar book. It covers a lot of material in relatively few pages. This means a lot of the content is lacking explanations and examples. However, the practice exercises within the text can be very helpful. The low price point is a major advantage of this book. Read my comparison article of different grammar books for more information.
Yellowbridge is an online Chinese dictionary that has some extra features. You can search by English, character, or pinyin. There’s also a thesaurus, example sentence, and stroke order animations. You can also see related words with the same head or tail word, along with some additional features.
Hanping is an android only dictionary that is comparable to Pleco with a lot of the same features. They also have widgets for your home screen and a soundboard to practice tones. There is a free lite version and a pro version for $2.99. I also really like their popup dictionary that you can use within other apps.
LineDICT is an online dictionary that has tons of example sentences with audio recorded. I also really like is that there are daily expressions and short conversations that you can read and listen to. While it may not have as much information about individual characters as other resources, it makes up for it with examples. Plus, it’s free.
This podcast has a fairly large backlog of lessons with many of them labeled by difficulty level. Most last around ten minutes long but that can vary somewhat. There doesn’t seem to be new content being released. I recognized one of the hosts from ChinesePod in one of the lessons I listened to. The structure of lessons is quite similar to ChinesePod as well.
Chinese Text Analyser
Chinese Text Analyser is a tool that helps you find content suited to your current vocabulary level and makes it easy to identify and learn new words. You can quickly input new texts and gauge if it’s the right level for you. As you use the software, you’ll quickly be able to see which words you already know and which ones are new. If you read a lot on your computer, it’s worth checking out the free trial. It only costs AUD $15 to purchase.
Sinosplice is an excellent blog focused on learning Mandarin Chinese. It was created by John Pasden. He has a ton of experience with helping people learn Chinese. He’s the founder of AllSet Learning which created the Chinese Grammar Wiki, Chinese Pronunciation Wiki, and Mandarin Companion. His blog has lots of useful articles that will help you learn Chinese.
Oxford Grammar Notes
This is an old style website but there’s a ton of free information about learning Chinese grammar. It’s from the University of Oxford’s Centre for Teaching Chinese as a Foreign Language. There are lots of great explanations and examples.
Dig Mandarin is a site with tons of content. There are lots of articles covering a ton of different topics; resource reviews, grammar points, Chinese culture, HSK tests, language schools, and a bunch more. They also sell some courses as well.
Seton Hall – Chinese Courses
There are audio podcasts of Seton Hall’s Chinese courses. The recordings were made between 2008-2010. For some of them, the audio quality is lacking, but they’re still understandable. There are beginner, intermediate, and advanced courses available for free.
East Asia Student
This blog has over 600 posts related to a bunch of different topics, though primarily learning Mandarin. There are lots of translations of Chinese literature scattered throughout. You’ll also find various posts related to learning Chinese in general. It’s actually from the same creator as Chinese Boost.
Coffee Break Chinese
The coffee break series is popular for many languages but new to Chinese. These lessons last around 30 minutes each and are suitable for beginner students. It’s hosted by a foreign guy and Chinese girl. She explains a lot of things to him and you see him try to put it all together. It’s kind of like sitting in on a private class. They also have a premium version which you can learn more about here.
Fluenz is an old-school course for learning Chinese. It’s made for absolute beginners and designed to teach you the basics. But, it’s not very good and is one of the most expensive products you’ll find. There is a strange emphasis on exercises involving typing pinyin and they don’t even introduce Chinese characters. Read the full review of Fluenz Mandarin.
Rosetta Stone teaches the language similar to how a child would learn – without any translations. Unfortunately, the exercises are really boring and repetitive. To make things worse, it’s more expensive than much better resources. Read our full review.
There are some Chinese language lessons available on Spotify. They wouldn’t necessarily be the ideal way to study Chinese, but if you’re already a subscriber to Spotify, you may find them as a helpful addition. Personally, I’d rather stick to other courses for studying Chinese and use Spotify as a way to start incorporating some Chinese music into my passive listening time.
Earworms uses the concept of what they call “stuck song syndrome” to teach Mandarin. The language is taught through repetitive songs that cause the phrases to get stuck in your head. Think nursery rhymes. It’s a unique way to study, but definitely not for everyone.
Busuu is one of the most popular language learning apps, but it’s not worth using to learn Chinese. It’s reasonably well designed, but there are free apps that do the same things Busuu does, and better. Serious students would progress much faster and save money using other resources. Read the full review of Busuu Chinese here.