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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.
Despite living in China and spending a lot of time studying Chinese, I felt that my speaking ability lagged behind my listening and reading skills. The reason is simple. I spent far more time practicing listening and reading.
While I could have basic conversations – I didn’t have much cadence or confidence in my spoken Chinese. I was often in my head trying to figure out the tones and felt like I was always stumbling over my word choice. My decision to hold off on working on my spoken Chinese was partially a conscious decision as well. I put more emphasis on my listening skills because I felt like being able to understand what was said was more important than being able to speak well.
The other part of it was just a byproduct of my personality and habits. I’m very introverted. Even in English, I spend more time listening and reading compared to speaking. This personality trait transferred to my studying. I would listen to Chinesepod (my review) or read news articles on The Chairman’s Bao (my review) on my way to work and in my free time. Once a week, I would have an hour long conversational class with a tutor from Italki (my review).
The vast majority of my Chinese studying time wasn’t going towards learning how to speak – and it showed.
That’s when I decided to try Glossika.
Waichinese is one of the buggiest, most problematic apps I’ve used but I still highly recommend it. Learning to speak Mandarin with good pronunciation is something you can’t ignore or hope for it to come naturally. The sooner you begin improving your pronunciation, the better off you’ll be. If you’re a beginner student, it may seem like learning pronunciation can wait, but correcting pronunciation mistakes gets harder the longer you’ve been making them.
Click here to read about learning pronunciation as a beginner at Hacking Chinese. (While you’re there, bookmark the page and read everything you can.)