You can get quite far on your Chinese learning journey making use of apps, textbooks, websites, podcasts and other resources. But eventually, you’re going to want or need help from a Native Chinese speaker – whether that’s a language exchange partner or a teacher.
I recently tried a free trial class with Hanbridge Mandarin and afterward discussed the platform and asked lots of questions about how everything works. In this review, I’m going to share my experience.
I’ve been taking classes from Chinese teachers since before I started this website. I found my first tutor on Verbling and worked with her for ten lessons. After that, I eventually switched over to using italki and have taken lots of classes with a bunch of different tutors on there (italki review). I’ve also taken a trial class at eChineseLearning and was able to learn a lot about how their platform works (eChineseLearning review).
Background Info About Hanbridge Mandarin
Hanbridge Mandarin offers online Chinese classes, as well as in-person classes in Shenzhen. My trial class was online – I haven’t been to the school in Shenzhen. The teachers are very qualified, with all of them having Bachelor’s degrees and 60% having Master’s degrees. They also have to undergo training before taking on students. All of the teachers are bilingual as well – with some teachers speaking languages besides English and Chinese.
They have lots of courses to choose from. These include the typical courses you’d expect to see such as Business Chinese, HSK Test Prep and a Course for Kids.
There are also some more unique courses as well – Culinary Arts, History and Literature, Traditional Chinese Medicine and more.
Before the First Class
Scheduling a free trial class is quite easy. You can sign up for a trial class here.
The evening before the trial class, someone from Hanbridge Mandarin called me. This quick call was to get a better idea of my goals, how long I’ve been studying, and what kind of classes I’d be interested in.
You’ll be asked to complete a self-assessment before your first class. There are two options, a quick five-minute test, and a little more in-depth 15-minute version. I’m really happy to see these two options. First classes are generally pretty awkward with the teacher needing to spend most of the time figuring out your Chinese level. These quick tests let the teacher jump right into the lessons without so much time spent trying to figure out where you’re at.
Most other online classes are conducted over Skype. Hanbridge Mandarin uses a different platform for their classes. It’s pretty easy to use. Shortly before the first class, I was sent a link to enter the platform. It’s fairly similar to Skype but with a few extra features.
Although it was a short trial class where the teacher hadn’t had the chance to speak with me before, I felt that we covered quite a bit of material.
We spoke a bit about general conversational topics to start out. The teacher did a great job of speaking to me in Chinese and using simpler language when there was something I didn’t understand. She spoke good English but besides one or two instances, our conversation was in Chinese.
She also made use of some online materials. She played a short video on her computer and shared the screen with me so that we both could watch and then discuss it later. Sharing the screen was also helpful when we were talking about different foods. This allowed us to do a quick image search so I would know what a certain food was. I actually learned the Chinese name of a famous dish from Shanghai that I really enjoy but had never known what it’s called. Being able to grab extra resources from online and share them on the screen is really helpful and can make the classes more interesting. I think this is possible on Skype too, but I’ve never had a teacher do this before. Of course, if a teacher uses too many online resources, it could be a problem. In my trial class, they were used at a good frequency and added to the experience.
The class was good but there’s a lot of other important information to consider when choosing a Chinese school.
Scheduling classes is really easy to do online. You’ll see a schedule and can choose your time slot. You’ll have three teachers to choose from for your class. If they aren’t available for the time slot you’re looking for or want to work with a different teacher, you can request someone else.
You can schedule or cancel your lessons up to 12 hours in advance. This gives quite a bit of flexibility for your classes. If you cancel a class before the 12-hour limit, you won’t be charged.
There is, however, one major downside that would make Hanbridge Mandarin a poor choice for a lot of prospective students. The working hours that you can schedule classes are from 8 am – 10 pm (Chinese time). That’s okay if you’re living in China but I imagine most prospective students are not.
I’m from Michigan which is exactly 12 hours behind Beijing time. If I were to be back home and wanted to take classes with Hanbridge Mandarin, it would be really inconvenient. I’d have to schedule my classes between 8 pm and 10 am every day. For me, that would be a deal-breaker.
They say they’re trying to extend their available hours to 24/7 ASAP. If you’re in a timezone that doesn’t align well with their working hours, you’d probably be better off waiting until their hours are extended or choosing a different platform for your Chinese lessons. My recommendation for this would be italki. On there, you’ll be able to find a tutor for whichever time of the day you’d prefer.
They do have some other resources online that you can make use out of.
Videos – There are a decent amount of videos you’ll find covering a range of topics – Business Chinese, Daily Chinese, HSK Prep, HSK Grammar, Chinese Characters, AP Chinese, and Learn Chinese through Songs.
Learning Tips – These are a bunch of articles that you can read covering a wide range of categories.
Online Self Study – This includes some sentence and dialog examples and reading practice.
Download Center – Here you can download practice HSK tests.
Hanbridge Mandarin isn’t particularly cheap, though the exact price will depend on a few factors (number of classes, classes per week, course, and level). They list prices between $8-$35 per 50-minute class. This is a pretty wide range and you’d have to talk with someone at Hanbridge Mandarin to get a more precise quote. But basically, the longer you sign up for and more classes you take, the cheaper it’ll be.
After purchasing a plan, you’ll receive credits for the number of lessons you purchased. You’ll have to complete all of these lessons before the end date of your plan. While it’s preferred to follow a set schedule, if you don’t that’s also okay.
This is a lot more flexible than eChineseLearning, where all of your classes have to be completed when you scheduled them. So, if you have a week that you can’t take any classes, you just lose those classes.
The cost is comparable to other online Chinese schools. However, you may want to consider italki if you’re looking for a cheaper option. There, you’ll schedule classes directly from the teacher and it’s quite a bit more flexible.
Hanbridge Mandarin is a great choice for finding a Chinese tutor, but it’s not necessarily the best for everyone. For those looking for a lower cost option or who have scheduling conflicts due to the time zone, I’d suggest considering italki.
I was really impressed with Hanbrdge Mandarin. They have skilled teachers on a good platform that’s easy to use. There are a variety of courses to choose from so that you can stick to learning what you’re most interested in. They’re a bit more flexible than some competitors like eChineseLearning when it comes to scheduling and canceling classes.
I found that my teacher did a great job of using extra resources to make our lesson more enjoyable. This is something I hadn’t seen other teachers do, but I found it really helpful. It can make the conversations a bit less awkward while providing material to discuss. This was a benefit I hadn’t expected.
You can sign up for a free trial class and figure out if it’s a good fit for you.
Have you taken classes on Hanbridge Mandarin? How was your experience?