If you sign-up to Yoyo Chinese using the promo code 10NRES, you’ll receive a 10% discount.
Yoyo Chinese is one of the only self-study courses that gives you a set study schedule and plan. This is complete with lessons, review, and assignments. Some of it is done very well and other parts are worth skipping.
Yoyo Chinese plans for you to study about 40 minutes per day. The first part of every day is the new lesson. This is a video that will likely last between 4 and 10 minutes, with some shorter and some longer. The video lessons break down the topic with a lot of detail. Generally, this will include a few different ways to say the dialog. She often will break the sentence down into the words’ individual meanings so you can see how it fits together into a sentence. Sometimes this goes too far to where she over-explains things even at the intermediate level.
Yoyo Chinese does a great job of explaining beginner concepts but the downside is that the lessons have more English than Chinese being spoken.
I really like the cultural information she manages to tie into the lessons very naturally. Grammar concepts are also explained very clearly.
Many of the lessons involve asking a few people a question in an informal environment. This is something I really like about Yoyo Chinese. The host will ask a few people the same question and the responses will vary significantly. This does a couple things which I really like. First, it allows you to hear how people actually speak Chinese and not how they’re “supposed to” speak. Many things are said in an informal manner and may not be grammatically correct. This is perfect because it’s how people actually speak. She’ll also then explain what they said and what would be the grammatically correct way to say the same thing. This gives you a nice balance of knowing how to speak correctly and how people actually speak. It’d be like learning to say “How are you?” and “How’s it goin?” If you only learn “How are you,” then you’ll be lost when someone asks you in another way.
Daily study schedule and assignments
One thing that draws a lot of people to Yoyo Chinese is the daily study schedule and assignments. Having this structure can help a beginner student figure out what to study. While I think the videos are very high quality and like the way the progress. Unfortunately, I find the assignments and study schedule to be lacking.
Let’s take a look at a fairly typical daily assignment
- Watch the video (4 min) – No complaints here
-Study lecture notes (10 min) – This lecture notes (below) basically write out the vocabulary and dialogue for you to review later. They often suggest covering half of the paper and trying to translate it from one language to the other.
-Audio review (8 min) – The audio review isn’t bad but it’s not great either. It’s of course very important to practice speaking but the structure of the audio review isn’t my favorite. There’s just so much English spoken that it’s frustrating. Every word or phrase is started with “say ___” then she says it twice in Chinese leaving a pause for you to repeat. It’s a solid review of the lesson but I think a bit overdoing it. At this point, you’ve already watched the lesson and reviewed the notes. I think it’d be better just to have cut the English out entirely and focus on speaking practice.
-The next two parts of the daily assignment are going back and reviewing the audio review segment of previous lessons. I think I’m bothered by this because I feel like the study schedule and assignments they have are a huge part of what makes Yoyo Chinese different than other products, but with any course, you can simply go back and review previous lessons. When I see each day has 40 minutes of assignments, I guess I hoped it would be original material created for reviewing.
-The last two parts of the assignment are reviewing lessons on Anki. I didn’t try this but I think it’s great that they get you started using Anki flashcards. I think everyone should use SRS flashcards with Anki and Pleco being the two best options available.
I have two major complaints about Yoyo Chinese.
First, I wish they had created original assignments for you to practice what you learned. Given how they really stress the daily study schedule and homework, I feel a little cheated that this is pretty much entirely just reviewing material you covered before.
My second complaint is that there is just such a higher proportion of English to Chinese. In some ways, I understand because they focus on beginner level students. However, I think beginner students would benefit from hearing and speaking more Chinese.
The Yoyo Chinese Blog
Obviously, you can read the blog for free. The reason I’m mentioning it here is that sometimes the assignments will include reading a blog entry. Again, it feels they’re trying to use materials they’ve created in as many ways as possible without necessarily having the students’ best interest in mind.
This isn’t to say that the blog assignments are necessarily bad or a waste of time – though they may be. For example, early on there was an excellent blog post about pinyin that I could see being very helpful for the students it was assigned to. However, a counter-example, there was a blog post included as an assignment about slang food terms. I actually found it to be an interesting read but not particularly helpful for learning Chinese – especially at the level it was included in.
This is free and I just wanted to include it in this review because I think any beginner level student would benefit from it. There are some good articles as well here.
Use the promo code 10NRES to receive a 10% discount on your subscription.
The cost structure is rather unique with an exceptionally high cost for one month. I’m not sure I’d recommend the one-year subscription either because hopefully, you won’t be at the beginner/lower intermediate level for that long.
Final thoughts about Yoyo Chinese
Yoyo Chinese is definitely a good resource for beginners to learn Chinese. They try to be a standalone course that can get you from knowing very little Chinese to basic conversational. I don’t think they can be the only thing you use to study Chinese. You should consider supplementing your Chinese listening with Chinesepod (read my review) or ChineseClass101 (my review)
Second, I think you may need to improvise a little to get speaking practice. For example, looping the dialogues and mimicking the speaker. Also, it may be worth looking into Glossika (read my review of Glossika), WaiChinese (my review) or simply mimicking other study materials you have – preferably ones that use less English.
While the aim of the Beginner course is to get you to a basic conversational level. Having actual conversations is a much more challenging and rewarding experience. You can find tutors for less than $10/hr on italki (review) that can help take you from having studied it to actually being able to use it.
While it sounds like I have a lot of complaints about Yoyo Chinese, I really do think it’s a good product still. I’ve yet to find any resource that does everything well. Yoyo Chinese is great for beginner students. I really like how the lessons progress in a logical and useful manner. The lesson concepts are explained very clearly. They’ll also be there to answer your questions. So, if something is confusing, you can post in the lesson comments and will get a reply.
There are some free lessons on Yoyo Chinese that you can try out. They also offer a 15-day full refund. You can visit Yoyo Chinese here.
You can use the promo code 10NRES to receive a 10% discount on any plan.