The 5 Best Apps for Learning Chinese (1)

The 5 Best Apps for Learning Chinese

A fully comprehensive course with a well developed app. Lessons are taught by a range of engaging native speakers.

Olly’s course is based upon his unique ‘storylearning’ methodology. His method is fun and effective.                            

A well-structured course with a linear syllabus, perfect for beginners due to it’s thorough explanations and detailed notes.

Learning Chinese is no easy task, and with an endless choice of apps on the market it’s hard to know where to start. Luckily for you, we’ve compiled this list of our 5 best apps for learning Chinese, based on our experience personally using them and testing them all out. 

Each app has its own unique style – some are best for just learning the Chinese characters whilst others are just great all-round courses. Whichever app you choose to go for, bear in mind that everyone has their own preferences and specific learning styles when learning a language, so what works for us might not be your best fit.

So without further ado, let’s jump right into it! Coming in at number one on our list is our personal favorite – ChineseClass101.

Best Overall

ChineseClass101 is technically an online course, but their mobile app has everything you need to access their comprehensive library of lessons, and more! The instructors at ChineseClass101 teach you Chinese through a series of professionally-made video and audio lessons. What’s unique about ChineseClass101 is the fact that you are not limited to a set syllabus but can actually pick and choose your lesson ‘pathways, as they call them, to fully customise your own syllabus based upon your goals and interests.

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It comfortably hits the number 1 spot on our list for one main reason – it covers everything. For a beginner or intermediate in Chinese, we feel it is the best option to keep you engaged and learning, providing you with an enormous array of useful content – up to date cultural information, a focus on listening skills (in addition to reading, writing etc.), and the use of authentic dialogues and videos from real native speakers.

Click here to read our in-depth review of ChineseClass101.

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Most Effective

This one’s really only useful if you’re already at an intermediate level of Chinese, so if you’re just starting out it’s best to skip this one for the time being (but keep it in mind for later). We kept this option on our list because we just love the teaching methodology, making it one of the most effective techniques for rapidly improving your Chinese language skills.

The-5-Best-Apps-For-Learning-Chinese-Olly-Conversational-Chinese-Course

Olly Richards is a well-acclaimed polyglot, having taught himself over 8 languages and developed a massive range of language courses, each one modelled on his own method he developed for learning languages – through stories. His intermediate conversation courses are a little different, and instead focus on authentic dialogues covering loads of useful topics. 

However, the central methodology is the same – to immerse you in as much new language as possible. Only after spending plenty of time with the audio does he then give a comprehensive, line-by-line breakdown of the entire audio clip. You are sure to learn loads from this course, plus everything can be accessed on mobile or downloaded offline.

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Most Comprehensive

Coming in at number 3 is Yoyo Chinese, a comprehensive video course that takes complete beginners right through to an intermediate level using a very effective and highly engaging teaching style, delivered by the founder (and course designer), Yangyang Chen.

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The course is broken down into multiple sub-courses that each focus on a different skill – reading, writing and conversational skills. It’s ideal for anyone who easily gets overwhelmed since everything is explained in very easy to understand terms, using clever analogies and memory techniques that are suited to the native English speaker. In the custom-built app you’ll find flashcards, downloadable lesson notes, review quizzes and more – and better still, the first 45 lessons are free!

Click here to read our in-depth review of Yoyo Chinese.

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Best Budget Option

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, it’s unlikely you haven’t heard of duolingo, everyone’s favorite go-to option for language learning. Despite having it’s flaws, it’s still a great entry-level option for anyone starting Chinese, especially if you’re on a budget. The course is logically structured and gets harder as you progress through all the levels, covering everything from family to eating out.

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The main benefit with duolingo is its ability to keep you engaged and motivated – it’s highly gamified. You’ll earn ingots and be able to spend them on bonus levels and all sorts of goodies, and the friendly old owl will be your personal cheerleader throughout every lesson.

Click here to read our in-depth review of Duolingo Chinese.

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Most Immersive

We LOVE FluentU, it just had to make it onto our top 5 list. Whilst it’s not strictly a language course, there’s a ton of value to be had from it as a supplementary learning tool. You can think of FLuentU as youtube for language learning. You can binge watch your way through thousands of level-appropriate video clips that are nicely categorised into such things as movie trailers, music videos, vloggers, instructional videos, interviews etc. The interactive platform then gives you an instant translation when you hover your mouse over a word in the subtitles, and even tests you on your newly learnt vocabulary.

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As mentioned, it shouldn’t be used as a primary learning source, but rather an additional extra to improve your listening skills and to boost your vocabulary. We love how the app automatically logs all the words you know or don’t know, and then gives you a nice indicator for each video to tell you how many words you already know and how difficult it’s likely to be, before you even begin the video.

Click here to read our in-depth review of FluentU.

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Runners-up for Best Chinese App:

Our list wouldn’t be complete without at least giving these runners up a mention, which are still 100% worth checking out.

Rocket Chinese is a very comprehensive language course which covers everything from writing to speaking. They’ve incorporated a handy voice-recognition software into the lesson dialogues which is a nice touch since many language programs are lacking when it comes to speaking. The lessons are primarily audio-based but come with plenty of supplementary notes and loads of memory based games and quizzes.

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Rocket Chinese is a very comprehensive language course which covers everything from writing to speaking. They’ve incorporated a voice-recognition software into the lesson dialogues which is a nice touch since many language programs are lacking when it comes to speaking. The lessons are primarily audio-based but come with plenty of supplementary notes and loads of memory based games and quizzes.

Click here to read our in-depth review of Rocket Chinese.

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3/5
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3/5

All the other apps we’ve mentioned so far use quite generic methods for learning the Chinese characters. They work, but it’s certainly not the best way to learn. Chinese has thousands of characters, and memorising them all can be quite a challenge. This is where Skritter comes in. It’s a brilliant tailor-made tool for learning Chinese characters that utilises research-based methods such as active recall and spaced repetition to create a very effective learning tool. 

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There’s no other app that has such a smooth on-screen handwriting tool, and the way it curates purpose-made example sentences for each character is a huge bonus – one that really enhances your ability to retain the new information. Skritter is for learning characters only and doesn’t provide anything on grammar, conversation or reading.

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Pimsleur has been around for a long time, but it’s effectiveness still endures. It gets you using useful phrases from the very beginning through a structured syllabus of 30 minute audio lessons. It’s immersive so don’t expect to see any grammar explanations or much English being spoken. Instead, you are first introduced to a native speed conversation and then prompted to repeat each phrase, each sound being meticulously broken down to get you speaking with the right pronunciation. You can then participate in the dialogue when prompted.

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Many students feel that their speaking and listening skills have massively improved since taking the Pimsleur Chinese course. It’s a great option for those looking to quickly get conversational before a trip to China, but not if you are looking to get a high level understanding of how the language actually works, or are looking to be able to read and write Chinese.

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Last on our list is italki, an app we always recommend to students who need extra speaking practice. It’s perfect for connecting you with an affordable native tutor who can work around your schedule and adapt to your needs. It’s the perfect complementary app to use alongside a structured course or textbook.

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Conclusion: The 5 Best Apps For Learning Chinese

So, there you have it. Overall, it really depends on what you are looking to improve to be honest. For a complete beginner looking for an all-encompassing course that’ll keep you engaged and progressing, we recommend checking out ChineseClass101. Likewise, Yoyo Chinese will give you everything you need, but with a more structured approach.

For those already with an upper-beginner/intermediate level of Chinese, check out Olly’s conversational course, and for a quick and easy way to achieve a basic conversational level, we recommend Pimsleur. Unsure which to start with? Give Duolingo a try. Bonus points go to FluentU (awesome for vocab) and Skritter (for learning Characters).

We hope this list helps you decide which Chinese-learning apps are right for you, and we wish you the best of luck along your language learning journey! 再见! (zài jiàn)!