I never would have tried ChineseClass101 if I hadn’t decided to start this website. I had a very negative initial impression and quickly wrote them off as not for me. I think this is because you can’t see prices or any of their actual lessons without signing up first. They also send you a free offer for one of their products, written in the style of a used car salesman, right after you sign up.
It is one of the most popular resources out there for learning Chinese, so I decided to try it out myself. I was pleasantly surprised, and with their basic plan starting at only $8/month, it’s really not a bad option.
Let’s dig into the details of what ChineseClass101 offers.
They have nearly 1300 audio lessons for levels between absolute beginner and advanced. They also have some video lessons. Most of the lessons are around ten minutes; some are longer and some are shorter.
When you log in to ChineseClass101, your dashboard will show a recommended pathway. This is based on the level you’ve chosen.
This makes it pretty easy to get started, but you’ll soon find out that the number of pathways to choose from is massive, and many are made up of quite a few lessons.
Pathways are collections of similar lessons. The freedom in choosing which pathways to study and when could be good for some, and overwhelming for others.
For those that want to add more structure to their studies, using a textbook alongside ChineseClass101 could help you make sure you don’t skip over anything important.
The audio lessons play a short dialogue at normal speed and then repeat the dialogue with it slowed down significantly. Then, they play it one more time with a line-by-line translation. They also go over each word of the vocabulary, saying it in Chinese and then in English. Next, they discuss the main grammar points. Finally, at the end of the lesson, they play the audio one final time.
The video lessons provide useful pronunciation help and mini-lessons on specific language points. The first video explains three different ways to say goodbye.
Each line of audio is transcribed in Simplified Chinese, Traditional Chinese, English, and Pinyin, and you can listen to each line separately.
There are also audio recordings of key vocab words that you can use to practice listening and pronunciation. You can then add these to your word bank for later practice.
In addition to listening to audio recordings, you have the option to record yourself using the voice recorder.
The voice recorder gives you the chance to hear yourself pronounce a word or phrase at the same time as a native speaker. You can even drag and drop the audio waveform so that they line up and play at the same time.
This feature is useful for identifying pronunciation mistakes, but Speechling does it much better. The free version is essentially a better version of this and includes a bunch of other features. The premium version allows you to submit an unlimited number of recordings to be corrected by a native speaker.
In addition to all this, there are a few extra features that provide you with more opportunities to practice.
The lesson expansion feature includes extra practice sentences and audio of the key vocabulary.
The lesson notes are also useful. They come in a downloadable PDF that consists of the dialogue transcribed in Simplified Chinese, Traditional Chinese, Pinyin, and English, as well as key vocabulary, sample sentences, the grammar focus, and cultural insight.
I find the grammar focus to be really useful and something that other resources may skip over.
There is also a Hanzi sheet you can use to practice handwriting.
There are some practice sheets that you can print out to practice writing simplified characters, but you can find these for free online.
Basic subscribers get access to all of the lessons, PDF lesson notes, and 100 core words and phrases.
Premium subscribers also get access to the SRS flashcard system. While I generally prefer to keep all my flashcards on apps like Pleco or Anki, I can see how using their system would be helpful for beginner students. You can access and review your word list through the app.
One cool part is that they have some premade flashcard decks centered around various topics. So, for example, you can learn vocab relating to the Super Bowl, Father’s Day, Halloween or many other topics.
Premium subscribers also get access to:
- list of 2000 core words and phrases
- mini-lessons and bonus lessons
- custom word lists
- Pinyin chart
- line-by-line audio
- pronunciation and accent review
- grammar bank
- vocabulary slideshow
- video lessons
I haven’t tried everything here. Some of it is helpful, some are useless and some can be found elsewhere for free.
Premium+ subscribers get all of the premium features plus a personalized study plan and 1-on-1 instruction. There’s a surprising lack of information on their website regarding these two extra features. However, I would assume you can get personalized instruction for less money from somewhere like Italki (review).
ChineseClass101, particularly the basic plan, is a pretty good value for the money if you’re a beginner student. The cost varies depending on the length of your subscription. If you want to pay by the month it’s $8/month but if you’re interested in a two-year plan, it’s only $4/month. There are also three, six and 12-month plans with varying costs available.
The premium plan is $25 if you only pay for one month at a time and $10/month if you purchase a two-year subscription.
The premium+ plan is $47 for one month and $23/month if you purchase a two-year subscription.
While the cost savings of a two-year plan look tempting, I can’t recommend it. They provide great materials for beginner-level students but once you get past that level, there are better resources available.
What I like about ChineseClass101
I like how the lesson notes break down the grammar points very clearly as well as the cultural insights. I think the content is pretty good for beginners; it’s well-structured and comes with useful extra features.
The lesson dialogues will help you understand real-life conversations and will definitely help you improve your listening skills. They also have interesting cultural lessons, pronunciation videos and other information for beginner students.
What I dislike about Chinese Class 101
The first and biggest issue I see is the amount of English used in the lessons. This isn’t just limited to the beginner lessons, either. Even at the intermediate and advanced levels, the lesson structure seems to be the same.
While I don’t know the exact percentage of English vs Chinese used in the lessons, I wouldn’t be surprised if more than 50% of the audio is in English. This may be okay for beginners, but for higher levels this is just very disappointing. You can, however, listen to and download just the dialogue and then use the lesson notes to study on your own.
Who should consider using ChineseClass101?
As I mentioned before, ChineseClass101 is pretty good for beginner-level students. However, once you move beyond that level, the amount of material available drops pretty quickly. Also, the amount of English used in the lessons makes many other resources more suitable for higher-level students.
If you’re new to learning Chinese and are looking for somewhere to get started, ChineseClass101 is a solid option, though I still prefer ChinesePod. If you’ve moved past the beginner level, there are many better ways to spend your money.
As with most resources, some people will love it and others won’t. They do offer a free 7-day trial, so you can check it out yourself and see what you think.
I’m Nick Dahlhoff, the creator of All Language Resources. I’m not a super polyglot who speaks 20 languages. I’m not here to teach you how to learn a language – countless people are more qualified to do that than me. But, I have tried out an insane number of language learning resources. This site aims to be the most comprehensive and least biased place to figure out which language learning resources are worth using. To learn more about myself, the site, or our reviewing process, check out our about page.