So you have decided to start learning Chinese. This time for real (if you are still not convinced whether Chinese is for you, check out our article: 7 great reasons why now is the best time to learn Chinese!).
First of all congratulations! But the next question immediately arises, how do you even get started with learning Chinese? At one point or another, you will be wondering how the blessed internet revolution might benefit you on your own Chinese journey. Which are the Chinese learning apps or video courses or online Chinese dictionaries out of the thousands that are worth your time?
Well, luckily for you, you have come to the right place. Please find below a comprehensive (regularly updated) list of the best online learn Chinese resources out there!
1. Chinese Learning Method
Hacking Chinese: For an amazing overview of Chinese learning strategies for all levels and all the necessary skills I recommend Hacking Chinese. Olle Linge, the mind behind the blog, does a really good job in putting the process in focus and help you to improve the way you learn. He really goes into detail with memorization techniques, using different tools and just generally makes learning Chinese much more transparent.
Lingholic: Lingholic is a growing blog focused on language learning methods and they have compiled a masterpiece called How to Learn Chinese: Where to Start And How to Keep Going. Regardless of your current level, Lingholic gives you tips and hints on how to quickly reach your next Chinese learning milestone. Lingholic write about a broad range of topics, ranging from learning Chinese characters to tones essential for speaking Chinese.
Sensible Chinese: Equally awesome as Hacking Chinese and Lingholic is Kyle Balmer's blog Sensible Chinese. Kyle has great content (very detailed blogposts, videos and even free eBooks) on some of the methods he used to learn Chinese. Very helpful are also his tables containing the most commonly used Chinese characters and Chinese words. If you want to directly go all in with Kyle, you can also purchase one of the Chinese language courses with him.
2. Speaking and Listening
ChinesePod: A veteran in the Chinese eLearning Scene, ChinesePod has over 10 years of experience and thousands of audio and video lessons teaching tens of thousands of students from all around the world. So in other words, they know what they are doing. And they are doing it really well.
PopupChinese: This is the alternative to ChinesePod. On iTunes, they are the most highly rated Chinese teaching podcast. Like ChinesePod , PopupChinese also has great podcasts about everything related to China along with great explanations and very likable people!
Tudou and Youku: These are the Chinese equivalents of Youtube. They have a lot of Chinese TV shows and a lot of these vides have subtitles, too. So if you are already more advanced and want to get exposed to more "authentic" material, this is your place to go! Some of the Chinese shows like the notorious 非诚勿扰 are more than just hilarious.
FluentU Chinese: Another veteran in language learning, FluentU uses genuine video content from the internet to create their video based learning. There are videos available for different levels of Mandarin Chinese, all subtitled and you can also tap any word throughout for a direct translation.
When the video is done, you have the choice to ‘learn’ the words featured in the video with multiple sample sentences.
Slow Chinese: Another podcast! Unlike ChinesePod however, Slow Chinese deals with subjects having to do with the ancient and modern culture of China rather than everyday Chinese. The podcasts come with the accompanying text, which is (very helpful) also translated into a number of other languages, including German and Dutch.
3. Writing Chinese
Zizzle: Well, this one was obvious you might say! But on a serious note, we do believe that Zizzle is the most advanced app for learning Chinese characters out there. Instead of monotonous repetitive-writing, Zizzle transforms Chinese characters into beautiful visualizations and stories with funny heroes. Zizzle also comes with all the other perks you would expect from a top-notch mobile app, like audio support, spaced repetition, an intelligent testing system and customization possibilities.
The efficacy of the Zizzle mnemonic method has been compared to normal teaching the methods in a scientific study conducted by the University of Munich. The result: Student performance increased over 79%!
Skritter: Another veteran in the Chinese eLearning industry, Skritter allows you to write in your phone as if you are using pen and paper. The app then it tracks and evaluates, how "good" your writing is. Skritter is also boasting a number of pre-made decks for the different HSK levels and for the most commonly used textbooks.
HanziCraft: This online tool helps you to break down Chinese characters into their components in an easy and intuitive way. It also provides you with the pronunciation, the meaning and a list of words that use that character.
4. Chinese Dictionaries
Pleco: This is probably the best Chinese dictionary for foreigners out there. They have the most important meanings and very useful phrases for every character, you can break down every character into their radicals and if you are willing to pay some extra money, the app comes with amazing OCR (optical character recognition). If a Chinese character doesn't exist on Pleco, it probably doesn't exist at all.
Hanping Dictionary for Android: Another very good choice if you are using Android. The "Lite" version is available for free and it does most of the things that Pleco does as well. A big bonus for Hanping is that they are very integrated with other Chinese learning apps and tools: For example, you can "send" characters to Skritter or GoogleTranslate.
5. Flashcards for Chinese
Anki: Anki is the most popular tool for flashcards and spaced repetition. It is an extremely flexible piece of software that let's you add images, audio etc. to your cards. There are also quite a couple of great free decks by other users that you can simply use.
Memrise: As with Anki, Memrise let's you create flashcards with text, images, audio, memes etc. There are a number of really great pre-made decks for Chinese based on the HSK levels. Memrise also has a Pre-Version which costs around USD 60 a year and gives you additional insight on your learning progress.
6. Reading Chinese
The Chairman's Bao: : The Chairman's Bao is a great resource for student friendly Chinese articles. The newspaper published news on many topics, such as business, science, sport technologies and other, all written in Mandarin by Native Chinese teachers.
The biggest plus of the Chairman's Bao compared to simply opening a Chinese newspaper is that the articles are classified according to the HSK levels, so that you can choose which articles are the right ones for you. They also have native speakers reading the articles aloud, and break down some of the vocabulary and grammar.
Decipher Chinese: Similar to the Chairman's Bao, Deciphers Chinese breaks down Chinese newspaper articles into different HSK levels. Apart from articles, the app comes with a bunch of useful features like a built-in Chinese dictionary.
The Marco Polo Project: This is for the more advanced. They present a diverse selection of new writing from China – non-fiction and social commentary from leading intellectuals and independent bloggers - formatted for non-Mandarin natives, with bilingual titles, tags, and author biographies. Their selection reflects the diversity of Chinese writing today.
Want to imrpove your reading and writing in Chinese? Download Zizzle for Android or iOS!
7. Chinese Grammar
Chinese Grammar Wiki: A very young but really comprehensive resource on Chinese grammar. They present Chinese grammar in a very structured way. So if at some point, you hear/read a sentence and are unsure about the construction, you are sure to find help there.
Duang Mandarin: Duang Mandarin is a Facebook community where the founder Patrick regularly posts commonly used Chinese phrases to highlight a certain grammar issue. These phrases are visualized in beautiful Facebook posts to further aid your memory.
8. Connect with Native Chinese Speakers
HelloTalk: One of the best effects of the above mentioned blessed internet revolution is that is offers everybody the chance to connect with people all around the world without leaving their bed! Using the HelloTalk app, you simply select which languages you want to learn and you can instantly start chatting off with a native speaker.
TutorMandarin: Using the same idea employed by HelloTalk, you can obviously not only connect to the average John Doe, but you can also directly reach out to professional Mandarin tutors online! TutorMandarin, a really new app available for Android, does exactly that. Why don't you go ahead and book a free trial?
9. Even More
Ninchanese: Ninchanese is for you if you like Chinese and cats, or if you just like cats generally. It's currently a web platform that teaches you Chinese in a fresh and gamified way. You earn rewards as pass along your journey. One of the coolest features apart from the cats is that you can challenge your friends online.
Mandarin Weekly (每周中文): With the vast amount of resources out there, it is hard to stay up to date and source all the blogs, videos and apps on learning Chinese. Luckily for you, Mandarin Weekly does exactly that. Reuven, the founder of Mandarin Weekly crawls through the internet and puts together a list of the most handy links with some explanation and sends it out every week as a newsletter. Make sure to subscribe today!
Have fun and good luck!
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