How should I start learning Chinese?
Most people start studying Chinese with whatever resource they happen to stumble upon. It’s hard to know what you should focus on and where to find quality materials. This post will help give you a clearer path forward.
The beginning may feel like a daunting, exciting and confusing place to be. But don’t worry, everybody started where you are now. There are tons of courses, apps, and websites out there that will make learning Chinese much easier.
This isn’t a long-term study plan. It’s a guide to take you from knowing absolutely nothing or very little and get you up to the lower intermediate level.
For some, this may only take a couple of months. Others will lose motivation and never get beyond this stage. Before we begin, you’ll need to think about a few questions.
If you’re looking for an online Chinese course, you’ll eventually come across Yoyo Chinese. It’s one of the few established courses where you can independently study Mandarin online.
It’s quite possibly the best course as well. That’s not to say it’s perfect or that it’s the only tool you’ll need to learn Chinese.
Yoyo Chinese is actually comprised of a few different courses. The three main courses are Beginner Conversational, Chinese Characters, and Intermediate Conversational. There are also two smaller and cheaper courses – Chinese Grammar and Chinese Learning Tips.
This review will focus on the three main courses.
All of these courses are comprised of short videos, audio reviews, flashcards, and quizzes. The host, Yangyang, does an excellent job of explaining the material in an easy to understand way but also with depth.
First, I’ll discuss the Beginner Conversational Course and Intermediate Conversational Course together because they’re very similar to each other.
Afterward, I’ll talk about the Chinese Character Course.
I’ll let you know what I think Yoyo Chinese does well and where it falls short. I’ll give you all the information so that you can decide for yourself if it’s worth purchasing.
Fluenz is one of those leftover products from an earlier generation of language learning that, in my opinion, is extremely overpriced and not particularly effective.
Ten years ago, Fluenz may have been one of the best products for learning Chinese on the market. However, in 2017, there are better free resources. Not to mention the countless affordable apps, websites, podcasts and tutors that will help you learn Chinese much quicker.
They spend a fair amount of effort comparing themselves to Rosetta Stone and explaining why they’re better.
I don’t know if Fluenz or Rosetta Stone is better and I don’t particularly care. Both are very expensive for what you get. I wouldn’t recommend either of them.
Let’s find out why I’m not a fan of Fluenz and what would be better to use in its place.
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Don’t judge a book by its cover.
Or, in this case. Don’t judge an app based on the cat in the logo.
I seriously underestimated Ninchanese. I had reviewed around 25 Chinese learning resources before finally getting around to trying it out. I’m honestly not sure what took me so long. I had the app downloaded on my phone for months. I even opened it up and played around for five or ten minutes before getting bored and moving on. I gave up on it far too soon.
It’s much better than I expected. I thought it was a silly game but really it’s so much more than that. It’s one of the best resources for learning Chinese.
Ninchanese is fun. Many apps try to use points and gamification techniques but for the most part, it doesn’t help much with motivation. Ninchanese actually feels like a game. It’s fun and somewhat addicting. I found myself studying more than I otherwise would have in an attempt to climb the leaderboards.
Don’t let the fact that it’s a game lead you to not take Ninchanese seriously. It’s extensive. Seriously, there is an absurd amount of content. Many resources claim they can take you from absolute beginner to fluent. Generally, this is BS. Ninchanese comes as close to following through on that claim as anyone could hope to.
Ninchanese takes a broad and deep approach and they manage to pull it off quite well. The lessons cover vocab, grammar, speaking, listening and typing characters. They don’t just skim over these topics. Everything is very in-depth. That’s not to say Ninchanese is perfect or that it’s the only resource you should use. There’s quite a bit of room for improvement. But, they do a lot of things well and at a very affordable price.