The best 5 Chinese apps for learning Mandarin in 2017
How technology makes it easier than ever to learn Chinese!
In the past, before the internet, learning a new language (esp, Chinese Mandarin) was quite challenging for non-Chinese.
First, you had to find and purchase study materials. And, even if they were good study materials, you still needed to find a native speaker who was good at teaching. If you didntl live in China or somewhere with a Chinese speaking population (aka the whole Western world!) this was very difficult.
The birth of internet and apps have transformed the entire Mandarin learning journey. It enables us to learn new things in the most effective and the least time-consuming way. In this blog, I’m going to tell you about 5 very useful Chinese apps that I’ve used for learning Chinese and are your best bet to learn in 2017!
Wait…why should I use apps for learning Chinese?
Before I start talking about the apps, I will tell you why you should start using Chinese apps for learning Chinese, if you haven’t done so:
- You can study on the move
- Accessible even there is no teacher present
- Can bring your classroom/native teacher with you everywhere
- Reduce trouble of finding the right learning materials and teachers
- Gamification removes hurdle to study
- Make learning process fun
- It’s a lot cheaper than the traditional mode of study
My 5 favorite Chinese apps for learning Chinese
There are actually a lot of Chinese apps that you can use to learn Mandarin in the app store. Among them, I’m going to tell you about the 5 Chinese apps that actually have worked for me.
Memrise: Learn a new language (Android and iOS)
Basic version-free for both androids and IOS; Pro version- $8.93 per month
Memrise is one of the fun apps to learn Mandarin and other languages (no less than 88!).It is a very useful app in learning and memorizing new vocabulary.
Memrise is actually a community platform for learning languages. You can sign in and follow others like Facebook. Members can also take courses and earn points to compete with friends. But, personally, I mainly use it as a vocabulary learning app.
I like this app because it makes learning Chinese vocabulary very fun and easy.
The best part of Memrise is actually its memes (anything that helps you create a connection between a word and its meaning) and its SRS system.
The SRS software is designed to help you remember words by using visual and conceptual mnemonic rules. So, it is very helpful for students who have difficulties remembering new words.
I haven’t tried the pro version yet. But they said pro version can help you learn 60% faster than the basic version.
You can check out more about Memrise here: Memrise
Learn Chinese – TutorMandarin (Android only, iOS coming soon)
Free for the apps including free trial of classes; can get 1-on-1 classes with native speaker for a price as low as $10-20.
TutorMandarin is a premium Chinese app which offers you a personalized learning platform with 1-on-1 native tutors.This is by far my most favorite app to learn Chinese in all 4 skills at a different level. As I’ve mentioned above, finding a private native tutor is very troublesome and costly (especially if you do not live in the Chinese-speaking country).
TutorMandarin is the Chinese app for you if you are very serious about improving your Mandarin skills to a higher level. It has built in courses that are designed around HSK standards. It also provides a transparent list of professional native tutors in one place which makes finding tutors a lot easier!
But what I like most about the app is its Learn Chinese videos, articles about the Chinese culture, and flash cards which they updated constantly. Unlike the Chairman’s Bao, Tutormandarin’s articles are written in English so everyone can read. The best part is you can get access these free.These contents are quite useful for us who want to learn Chinese for professional use especially if you want to learn Mandarin for your career development.
For me, TutorMandarin is the platform where I can learn Chinese professionally with my own tutor and also gains more insight into the Chinese Cultures at the same time. Their 1-on-1 native tutor classes are affordable and make this app the best of both worlds.I highly suggest you give it a try: Learn Chinese Online 1-on-1 Online Chinese Tutors“.
You can check out more about TutorMandarin app here: TutorMandarin
Pleco Chinese Dictionary (Androids and iOS)
Free for the app; add-ons can cost from $14 – $80
Pleco is also another must have app for me. It is a very useful dictionary among other Chinese apps with lots of add-on feature to support your Chinese learning journey. But I mainly use it as a dictionary.
Pleco is both mainland and Taiwan friendly. You can search in a lot of different ways – Chinese (Pinyin/Zhuyin) to English, English to Chinese and Camera based Chinese camera (OCR) and etc.
It even has the Cantonese dictionary but you need to purchase to get full access to the Cantonese audios.OCR stands for optical character recognition is also another add-on which helps you decode some printed Chinese if you focus your camera on it. Amazing, right?
But this is not my favorite feature. My favorite is the feature that allows to search in handwriting.You can search the Chinese word by writing directly on its fullscreen handwriting input. This makes Pleco the best dictionary app for the beginners who do not know the pinyin or Zhuyin (pronunciation).
You can check out more about Pleco here: Pleco
Skritter Chinese (Androids and iOS)
Free for 1st-week trial; $14.99 per month subscription
If you’re someone like me…then you’re not very good at writing Chinese characters. That means Skritter is a tool that you should consider using. Nowadays most of us are using pinyin to type in Chinese characters. Therefore, it is not surprising that even some of the native found difficulties when they need to write on paper.
Skritter is simple. It makes you learn by writing the characters by hand.It guides you through the writing stroke order and also gives you constant feedback. You can learn Chinese characters from 100 of famous textbook vocab list. You can also learn tonnes, definition, pinyin at the same time.
That’s not all. Skritter will tell you how many wrongs you have last week and how much you improve this week. So sometimes it becomes a little bit addictive(in a good way); wanting to compete against my past scores.
You can check out more about Skritter here: Skritter
The Chairman’s Bao (Android and iOS)
Free for app; subscription fee of $10 per month and $80 per month
The Chairman’s Bao is another awesome app to learn reading and listening Chinese. It is a revolutionary app that allows it subscribers to read Chinese news. Usually, it is impossible for most of us who have just started learning Mandarin to read Chinese new.
TCB solve this problem by categorizing news into different HSK levels (1-6). The first sample in each level is free. But you will need to subscribe to read more. TCB also provide the audio recording of the article read by a native speaker which is a great way to improve your listening.
They have news from various industries – business, technologies, fashion and so on. The news is not that long: would probably take 10-15 minutes to read. They usually update 5 to 6 news for each level every day so you don’t need to worry about having to read the same new again and again.
The best part is that they provide live dictionary which you can use to retrieve definition instantly.The dictionary also has the animation of stroke order and even allows you to practice writing.But it’s writing feature is not as complete as Skritter.
Another great feature which makes TBC stands out is its grammatical explanations.TCB offers a complete HSK level-targeted list of grammatical explanations for each lesson.
You can check out more about TBC here: the Chairman’s Bao
Overview of all the 5 must have Chinese apps to learn Chinese
All of these Chinese apps I’ve mentioned above have really assisted me in my learning Mandarin journey. Each of them serves a different purpose:
- TutorMandarin is where I can learn all 4 skills with my private tutor
- Memrise focus on vocabulary memorizing
- Skritter help me improve writing of those vocabularies
- TCB enables me to read Chinese news to improve my reading and
- Pleco serves as a dictionary
As you can see even though these 5 Chinese apps are not the same, all of them complement each other and make my Mandarin learning journey a lot easier. If you want to find an individual school or teacher who can provide all of those services, it’s impossible.
“ Will you go to 5 different schools or just use these Chinese apps which you can carry along with you and learn whenever you free?”
Last time I was also one of those strong-headed guys who think the traditional model of going to school is the only way to learn new things. But once you started using the apps, you will realize that they are a lot more efficient and there are endless opportunities to expand our knowledge horizon within the short amount of time.
So, these are my most favorite Chinese apps for learning Mandarin. What are yours? Who knows, maybe your app might make a difference for other people! Comment below and tell me more about your choices!