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Super Chinese Review — An Interactive Mandarin App

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Quick Review

3.8 

Summary

Super Chinese is an app for learning Mandarin that claims to help users, “Learn efficiently using our proprietary artificial intelligence.” Produced by the creators of HSKOnline, it’s available for iOS and Android, is free to download, and requires a subscription for full access. Language practice happens in a variety of interactive exercises that test learners’ abilities in reading, writing, listening, and speaking Mandarin.

Quality

The app is easy to use and fun, but animated videos aren’t especially engaging.

Thoroughness

Practice is varied, and lessons build on each other nicely, but I think it’s doubtful you’ll come away fluent or proficient at writing.

Value

There are cheaper resources out there, but study time with Super Chinese should equip you with some practical language skills.

Languages

Mandarin Chinese

Price

A subscription to Super Chinese+ is €59.99/year, €24.99/three months, or €9.99/month. You can save 15% with the coupon code ‘alr15’.

Interested in learning Mandarin? Like the idea of a gamified app and the sound of “advanced AI technology?” There’s a monkey with a flaming head that would like to speak with you. Super Chinese Logo

Meet the Super Chinese mascot. Don’t let those mischievous eyebrows scare you away, teaching Mandarin is all this monkey has in mind.

What is Super Chinese?

If you’ve ever heard of HSK test-prep app HSKOnline, this one’s by the same people. The company’s full name is Shanghai Yuxuan Information Technology Co., Ltd, but Super Chinese is less of a mouthful.

They offer a range of educational solutions for individuals looking to improve their Mandarin skills. This includes a number of apps, but the one they tout as “All the Best Chinese Learning Approaches Integrated Into 1 Super App” is the one we’ll be reviewing, for obvious reasons.

My Super Chinese Experience in a Nutshell

I began this review totally unaware of the Super Chinese app and with a limited number of prior experiences with Mandarin, in each of which I only encountered the basics. I hadn’t retained a whole lot of what I’d learned, either — I could maybe recite three or four sentences before getting started with Super Chinese.

After using the app regularly for several days, I picked up a surprising amount of practical Mandarin Chinese. I imagine I would regularly use the things I learned if I was in a Mandarin-speaking environment.

That said, I wouldn’t say I feel like this could be my only go-to resource going forward. I think it makes a solid option for beginners looking to pick up some functional language, but it falls short in a couple of places for learners that are interested in more comprehensive study.

You can save 15% with the coupon code ‘alr15’.

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Getting Started

This part’s easy. Super Chinese is available to download for free in the Google Play Store and in the Apple App Store.

Super Chinese in the Google Play Store

The app’s got more than 15,000 ratings in the Google store, and they’re pretty much all very positive.

Once you’ve downloaded the app and created an account, you’re ready to go.

An Overview of Super Chinese

The Super Chinese interface is fairly basic, which makes it easy to navigate. The app features two main tabs: Study and Me.

Study Tab

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Me Tab

I found using the app to be an intuitive experience. Most of the language practice happens in exercises via the Study tab, where it’s easy to visualize your progress and choose what you want to study.

The Me tab is where you’ll have access to and be able to change account settings and some additional study features. The Knowledge bank provides access to a list of the words and grammar concepts you’ve covered so far.

Knowledge bank

You can also easily access all of the lesson texts, found under “textbooks,” or take a level test to jump to material that’s suitable for your level.

I appreciate how easy it is to access relevant study information and that the design isn’t super cluttered. Everything feels like it was done with intention.

Pinyin Prep Course

If you’re new to Chinese, or if you’re at all shaky with Pinyin and pronunciation, this likely where you’ll start. It’s a primer course in Pinyin that provides exposure to all of the sounds in Mandarin along with some explanations and practice exercises.

Pinyin Explanation

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Chinese Syllable Breakdown Tone Explanation

There are explanations regarding the sounds represented by Pinyin and an overview of the tones, but the bulk of instruction and practice happens through listening to examples.

Tone Exercise

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Initial and Final Sounds Exercise

Some of the exercises have you identify the correct tone, initial or final sound, while others grade your pronunciation after you record yourself producing a sound.

I started off alright with these exercises. I thought the explanations were clear, if brief, and I felt like I was “getting it.” Progressing onto some of the more complicated sounds that don’t happen in English, however, I found myself wishing for more explanations.

Pinyin Lessons

There’s also a Pinyin chart in this section of the app where you can listen to a recording of a native speaker producing any of the sounds with any tone.

Pinyin chart

I found this chart to be a useful reference, but I still struggled with producing sounds in the context of longer utterances, something this chart didn’t help me with much.

I also think it would have been helpful to get detailed instructions on what to do with my mouth. The pronunciation courses in Mandarin Blueprint and Chinese For Us, for example, go super in-depth with what your mouth should be doing as you make these sounds.

You can save 15% with the coupon code ‘alr15’.

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Lesson Activities

Most of your practice with Super Chinese will happen through the various activities in the lessons found in the Study tab.

Lesson 1.1 Self-Introduction Self-Introduction Lesson Categories

Each lesson has a clear theme and is made up of different sections, usually titled Vocabulary, Grammar, Text, and Small test.

The lessons must be done in order; you’ll only get access to a lesson once you’ve completed all proceeding lessons. This makes sense because the lessons progress in a logical way, building on each other and providing language that you’ll probably find immediately useful.

After just a few lessons (about 20 – 30 minutes each), I was feeling more or less comfortable with the constructions for talking about names, nationality, jobs, and family members.

Vocabulary

This is the first section in any lesson. New words appear here with a picture, audio recording, Pinyin, character, and an example sentence.

Vocabulary Word

This is what it looks like when you’re first exposed to a new word. From here you can listen to the word in isolation or as part of a sentence as well as practice writing the character. You can also record yourself saying the word.

Character Writing Practice

The writing exercise is basic and doesn’t keep track of your mistakes. I didn’t find it nearly as effective for learning to write as resources like Skritter that use a spaced repetition system (SRS) to make sure you’re practicing the characters enough to remember them.

The turtle icon at the top of the page is an option for slowing down the playback of the audio. I found this option to be absolutely necessary, as the sentence audio often seems to play at high speed, at least to my untrained ears. In fact, I wished there was an option to slow down playback even more.

There are also buttons that allow users to toggle Pinyin and English translations on and off. It’s useful (maybe essential) to turn these off from time to time to test yourself — I otherwise found it far too easy to rely on translations, sometimes without even noticing it. I also realized, after using the app for several days, that I hadn’t memorized any characters. The app never requires you to memorize characters, and you won’t learn them unless you take responsibility for it.

Multiple-Choice Vocabulary Multiple-Choice Vocabulary Listening

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There are a couple of multiple-choice activities that follow the presentation of a new piece of vocabulary, testing your ability to recall the word. Some of the questions require you to select the correct option after just listening to the word, not reading it.

Grammar

Grammar concepts appear in a very similar way to new vocabulary, but they also come with short explanations.

New Grammar Concept New Grammar Explanation

I generally found the explanations to be concise and helpful. They’re also easily accessible from the Knowledge bank once you’ve come across them in a lesson.

Grammar practice happens largely through sentence construction and word order activities.

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The mechanics of these activities are all very straightforward, but I thought they provided some effective practice. As with all activities, you have the option to toggle Pinyin on or off here.

You can save 15% with the coupon code ‘alr15’.

Visit Super Chinese

Text

This is one of the best aspects of the lessons in my opinion. It’s a chance to see relevant language in the context of an extended dialogue. There’s also a lo-fi animation that accompanies the dialogue. Videos of real people speaking would certainly be more engaging, but I suppose cartoons are better than nothing.

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The dialogues are necessarily very simple at the lower levels, but it’s still helpful to hear the language you’ve learned in the flow of a conversation. I found it exciting to be able to listen to conversations in Mandarin and to understand the bulk of them just by listening.

After listening to the entire dialogue, you’ll practice speaking the sentences yourself in addition to answering some comprehension questions.

While the comprehension questions are simple, I really like being tested on my understanding. It makes it harder to guess your way through the material, and I found it rewarding to be able to prove my understanding.

This is what I thought was the most difficult activity in the app. You get to record yourself speaking at various stages throughout the app, but you’re tested on your ability to produce full sentences in the Text section of the lessons.

Ideally, the AI identifies the areas in which you’re struggling and gives you an accurate score on your pronunciation. In my experience, I was often unsure of how to fix the mistakes that were identified by the app. This is a scenario in which getting detailed feedback from a person is invaluable. I often ended up giving up after getting as close as I felt I could and moving on, not feeling any more confident in my pronunciation.

Small Test

This is the last section in a lesson; it’s a grab bag of the activities that make up the previous sections, and they’re timed. A quicker answer scores you more points.

Multiple-Choice Listening Question Multiple-Choice Translation Question

Aside from the addition of a timer, there aren’t any features here that you won’t have seen before. I thought the tests did a fairly good job of testing knowledge of the lesson material. You’ll have to exercise listening, reading, speaking, and sentence construction skills.

Multiple-Choice Sentence Translation Multiple-Choice Reading Question

Again, there’s no element of the test that explicitly tests your ability to recognize or write characters. This may not be so important to some people, and you can always toggle the Pinyin off to test your character-reading skills, but it’s worth noting that it isn’t ever a focus.

You can save 15% with the coupon code ‘alr15’.

Visit Super Chinese

Review

There are two types of review that you’ll get with Super Chinese. One of them takes you back to previous lessons and requires you to complete some activities before you’re able to progress to new lessons. For example, before I could start on lesson 1-5, I had to circle back and do some activities from 1-1.

There’s also a review activity that prompts you to review the language items that you’ve gotten wrong in practice.

Review Mistakes

These review activities are a key aspect of the Super Chinese experience. They make for a more thorough learning experience — without them, I feel like I could fairly easily rush through the material without retaining some important bits I’d learned previously.

This feature is also what I imagine they’re alluding to when they say, “Don’t worry about remembering, focus on what matters our app will do the rest.”

Alternatives

If Super Chinese doesn’t seem like quite your thing, there are tons of good alternatives for learning Chinese. Even if you think this app is a good fit, it’d probably be wise to consider filling out your study method with some complementary resources. I’ll list some of our favorites here, but it’s also worth checking out our Chinese page — we’ve tested quite a few.

HelloChinese

This is a strong contender for Best App for beginners learning Chinese. It’s full of high-quality content, including a bunch of engaging videos. There’s even a role-play activity in the Premium+ course where you provide the dub for a video clip — it’s fun and effective, if a bit silly.

There’s also a lot of material that’s available here for free, increasing the app’s value even more. An attractive interface, solid explanations, emphasis on speaking practice, audio lessons, and lots of free lessons make this app one of the best. Here’s our full review of HelloChinese.

Lingodeer

Another gamified app that’s best for beginners, Lingodeer offers instruction in a number of different languages, specializing in those of the Asian variety. Exercises are fun and quick, meaning you’ll get practice that’s convenient and efficient. Lessons also include native speaker audio and utilize spaced repetition, making it a quality place to get practice.

As with Super Chinese, Lingodeer’s Chinese course was clearly developed with Chinese in mind. Even though the app offers courses in a number of different languages, each is slightly different and focuses on elements that are relevant to the language. We’ve written a full review of Lingodeer here.

Zizzle

Zizzle excels in an area that Super Chinese really doesn’t: character memorization.

The resource takes what could seem like a bizarre approach to teaching characters. It begins by using absurd images and stories to make sure what it teaches sticks in your head. You’ll learn radicals (the components that make up characters) and apply mnemonic techniques to memorize tones, pronunciation, and meaning.

If learning characters is your primary focus, you’ll probably fare better with this one than Super Chinese. Keep in mind, however, that this isn’t a comprehensive language resource. You won’t get well-rounded instruction like you would with Super Chinese. Read our full review of Zizzle.

ChineseFor.Us

This one received our highest possible rating! It’s got just about the most comprehensive content you could hope for and is ideal for building a solid foundation in Mandarin Chinese.

Instruction is thorough and happens via videos and interactive quizzes, but there are also printable writing sheets and courses focusing on Pinyin and Tones. It’s geared towards beginners, so more advanced learners will have to look elsewhere, but it does what it does exceptionally well. Read our ChineseFor.Us review.

Yoyo Chinese

This is another resource that does instructional videos and interactive quizzes really well. It’s also one of the most popular Chinese-learning resources available. The pace here is slow and thorough yet engaging, and they’ve got a wide range of courses. Here’s our full review of Yoyo Chinese.

Pleco

It’s hard to come up with a reason why you wouldn’t download this app. It won’t work as a substitute for Super Chinese, but it is a powerful tool that deserves a spot in any arsenal of Chinese-learning resources.

Free to download, Pleco is a killer dictionary app with a bunch of extra features like example sentences, native speaker audio, and a flashcard tool. Some features are free to use and some require payment, but there’s a lot of value here.

Pricing

The Super Chinese app is free to download, and you can use it for ten minutes of study each day without having to pay.

There are also MonkeyCoins, earned by completing activities and meeting study goals, which can be exchanged for access to the full version of the app.

MonkeyCoins

The coins take quite a while to collect and probably wouldn’t make a viable way to get a lot of serious study time out of the app over an extended period of time. It is nice to have motivators like this, though, and it’s cool to see an option for free users to get more access.

Super Chinese Subscription Price

For unlimited access to the Super Chinese app, you’ll need to sign up for a recurring subscription to Super Chinese+. The best per-month value is available with the purchase of a year’s membership at €59.99 (roughly $68). You can also buy a three-month subscription for €24.99 or a monthly subscription at €9.99/month.

You can also save 15% with the coupon code ‘alr15’.

Final Thoughts

As far as gamified language apps go, I mostly like this one. It touches on a wide variety of language skills and uses activities that are engaging and practical. My favorite part is the Text section in each lesson where you get to see and interact with the language as part of a dialogue.

The areas in which I think the app falls short are the same areas I think most language apps struggle with. Namely, practice with productive skills. The voice recognition technology isn’t sufficient for good pronunciation practice in my opinion, and I didn’t come across any opportunities to form my own sentences.

I did come away from my Super Chinese experience with some basic functional language that I think I’d feel comfortable using in small talk, but my character recognition is no better than when I started, and my confidence with pronunciation is very low.

It’s free to try, and it should make for a convenient and fun way to get started in the language at the very least. I could see it making a decent starting tool for some, just don’t expect to get fluency out of the Super Chinese monkey, no matter how many MonkeyCoins you give him.

You can save 15% with the coupon code ‘alr15’.

Visit Super Chinese

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