Below is our unbiased ChineseClass101 Review. Note that we have affiliate links in this post, but we ONLY recommend products that we have used and genuinely like!
With over 1.1 Billion fluent speakers, Mandarin Chinese is a no-brainer to learn for anybody with any sort of business and/or personal ties to Asia. The Chinese economy is also the second largest economy in the world behind the United States and is a manufacturing giant. There is a good chance that the phone you are reading this on and the clothes you are sitting in right now were made in China by Chinese workers speaking Chinese. It is for these reasons and many more that Chinese language skills are tantamount to success in all aspects of life.
ChineseClass101 (formerly ChinesePod101) is a well-designed and comprehensive language learning program. The creators have rooted their learning philosophy in a dynamic fusion of auditory and visual lessons, a learning style that works for many.
With thousands of lessons to choose from amongst four skill levels, ChineseClass101 could keep you busy for years. Each lesson includes detailed supplementary information that can be downloaded as a PDF and studied at your leisure. New content is constantly being added in new formats that reflect current user study trends.
What We Liked About ChineseClass101
When we tested the ChineseClass101 program, we were blown away by the presentation, the detail, and the effect it had on improving our Chinese quickly. Our team was already accustomed to the quality of language programs created by the Innovative Language team, and the Chinese edition exceeded our high expectations.
Lots and Lots of Lessons
The ChineseClass101 philosophy of learning through immersion and context proves to be useful to many aspiring Chinese language learners.
The lessons are intuitive, well thought out, and there are a lot of them: they offer an incredible 2425 lessons broken up over five study levels.
Here is the ChineseClass101 lesson breakdown by study level as of July, 2019:
- Absolute Beginner: 636 video & audio lessons spread over 31 modules
- Beginner: 316 video & audio lessons spread over 19 modules
- Intermediate: 288 video & audio lessons spread over 13 modules
- Advanced: 181 video & audio lessons spread over 5 modules
- Bonus: 1004 video & audio lessons spread over 6 modules
Because the course is so comprehensive and includes hundreds of hours of content like this, you likely won’t need to buy any additional programs.
Focus on Real World Understanding
ChineseClass101 seeks to teach the language through real world scenarios that also include information about the application, vocabulary, and grammar. Each lesson provides thoughtful context to help the learner understand, as well as information regarding China’s cultural norms.
Extremely Thorough Lesson Plans
Each module of the ChineseClass101 program is based on a different theme, for example:
- Chinese Holiday Words (10 lessons)
- Perfect Conversation Guide for Chinese Life (25 lessons)
- Top 25 Chinese Questions You Need to Know (25 lessons)
From the beginning to the bonus materials, lessons have been thoughtfully planned out by a multinational team of language experts, and it really shows. Audio and video lessons are thorough, easy to understand, and come with useful supplementary information that teach the dialogue in Simplified & Traditional Chinese, English, & Pinyin.
What We Didn’t Like About ChineseClass101
Full disclosure: we loved this program, and think it is a dynamic and effective way to learn Chinese. But we can’t fully advocate for one aspect of the language course: the teaching of the writing system.
Lack of high quality lessons on the Chinese Writing Systems
The audio and video lesson format can only go so far in teaching Simplified and Traditional Chinese. While the romanization is helpful to learn what Chinese words and phrases sound like and how they are spelled out, there is a lack of lessons teaching the components of the writing system.
To be fair, teaching the Chinese writing system is an incredibly difficult task. Most modern dictionaries contain over 20,000 individual characters and the language constitutes the oldest writing system on the planet. Chinese characters have served as the inspiration for the Japanese, Korean, & Vietnamese languages, and Chinese is quite commonly referred to as the world’s most difficult language to read and write.
What Are The Lessons Like?
As mentioned above, the lessons span between 5 different modules that represent different Chinese difficulty levels. The lessons tend to vary depending on the module, but they all share commonalities. First, the lessons are all structured similarly. They start with a video or audio component and include a lesson transcript below.
Each lesson has a vocabulary section that highlights new words. In the browser version, there are sections for you to take your own notes, create flash cards, and ask questions to the staff.
One function that we really liked is that all of their lessons have a comment section and instructors will almost always reply to questions! This type of feedback is absent in nearly all of their competitors and is another reason why we like their products so much.
Another powerful learning tool is the ability to download the entire lesson plan as a PDF. This feature gives the user the ability to learn in their own style and pace.
ChineseClass101 vs. Competitors
As mentioned in our Japanese Pod 101 review, we believe Innovative Languages make some of the best language programs our there. That said, they are not the only good option out there.
We believe that an effective Chinese language instruction program should address three critical components of the Mandarin Chinese dialect. Those are:
- Chinese Grammar
While some basic Chinese grammar mimics that of the english language (SVO, or Subject + Verb + Object), Chinese sentence structure tends to deviate significantly from other languages. It’s important that a language program highlights these considerable differences.
- Chinese Tones
Tones and voice inflections have a huge impact on the meaning of words and even entire sentences. An effective language program needs to address the tonal/pronunciation aspect of Chinese speech correctly and effectively.
- Chinese Characters
When your language requires between 2,000 – 3,000 individual characters just to read a newspaper, you know the the writing system is important. Chinese characters are difficult to learn, however any effective language program should address teaching them.
How Much Does It Cost? And Is It Worth The Money?
ChineseClass101 has three tiers of membership; Basic, Premium & Premium Plus. Anybody considering paying for the paid tiers should first consider their level of commitment to learning Chinese.
Casual learners may consider the Basic plan, while those who want to learn Chinese quickly should consider Premium Plus. The top tier is recommended for those who are able to make a serious time commitment in order to take advantage of the 1-on-1 instruction.
Discount Code for 30% Off
Since we like and use this program ourselves, we reached out to the course creators for a discount for our readers. They’re currently offering perapera readers an incredible 30% off any purchase of ChineseClass101 Basic or Premium. That works out to only $2.80 per month for Basic and $7.00 for Premium; less than a trip to Starbucks. This is a great deal if you’re serious about learning Chinese and want to take your learning to the next level.
Conclusion: Recommended, But You’ll Still Need A Chinese Textbook
Chinese is a very difficult language to learn, and no language learning program will be perfect. However, ChineseClass101 does a great job at providing a structured curriculum, while still offering flexibility to choose the way you study.
The 1 on 1 lessons in the PremiumPlus tier offer excellent value, and we believe would be a significant boost in learning Chinese. That said, we still recommend you supplement the course with a dedicated Chinese textbook to really learn the writing system.
All in all, we recommend ChineseClass101 for students of Chinese who are auditory/visual learners, from absolute beginner to intermediate.
Have you used ChineseClass101? What do you think about our review? Let us know in the comments.