How much Chinese have you actually absorbed from your high school lessons?
Maybe you remember how to ask your laoshi if you could be excused for the bathroom, or maybe you even remember the lyrics to Chinese karaoke classics like Peng You and Tong Hua.
But maybe you also want to be better and make the most out of the foundation that years of Mandarin lessons have left you. (Or you can start out with a blank slate — that’s cool, too!)
Learning a language has always been difficult; but, thankfully, we now have the modern tools to guide us. For those seeking to improve their Mandarin fluency for practical purposes such as business and being able to understand C-dramas without subs, we’ve gathered up some of the best Chinese learning apps just for you!
You can’t talk about language learning apps without mentioning Duolingo! Featuring over 30 languages to learn, this iconic bird app gamifies learning by allowing you to build vocabulary and develop your reading skills with a points-based system. For every lesson you complete, you gain experience points that let you compete with other players on a weekly scoreboard. You also progress through different levels as your fluency improves.
The advantages of this app are that it’s easy to understand and easy to use. Funnily enough, it also alerts you with vaguely threatening notifications that remind you to take your daily lesson. The downside, however, is that the app approaches Mandarin like it would every other language in the app, lacking a focus on grammar and the character-based system that Mandarin is built on.
2. Hello Chinese
If you like Duolingo but prefer to have something more suited to Mandarin Chinese, then Hello Chinese is one of your best bets! Like Duolingo, Hello Chinese works by letting you work through different levels, allowing you to build your skills from the ground up.
What makes this app great is that it incorporates pinyin reading (i.e. the romanized letter form of Chinese characters) as an introduction and places an importance on character writing, as well as having a more developed focus on grammar structures and sentence construction. Like all gamified apps, however, there is a limit to the exposure you have to the language, especially with the fixed vocabulary lists that they provide.
One of the most important skills to consider in learning Chinese is the ability to read and write characters. And it’s definitely easier said than done, especially when you consider stroke orders, character radicals, and all the other complex factors that have to do with a character-based language. But this is where Skritter excels.
Skritter’s special features include handwriting recognition, writing style corrections, stroke order guides, character decompositions, and even tone practice! If that sounds too complicated, don’t fret! It’s the app’s job to break down each character for you to learn. All you have to do is put in the work.
Technically, Pleco is a Chinese-English dictionary app, but practically every Chinese learner knows that Pleco is a necessity. After all, it’s not only the easiest way to look up characters that you don’t know but also one of the best ways to review them.
As a dictionary, Pleco allows users to look up Chinese words by typing either their pinyin or their English equivalents, as well as by handwriting the characters. For those wanting more convenient translations, the app also features an OCR function, which lets you look up a character’s meaning with your device’s camera, and a microphone function, which recognizes characters by sound.
If that’s not enough, Pleco also provides a stroke order guide for you to learn how to write selected Chinese characters. Once done with all of these, you can save the character you’ve just learned as a flashcard for you to review later on.
5. Hello Talk
There’s only so much you can learn without a language partner, and this is where Hello Talk provides. As a language exchange app, Hello Talk connects language learners from all over the world with native speakers of their language of choice — in fact, Chinese is only one of the many languages available on the platform!
Designed specifically for language learners to benefit from each other, Hello Talk provides a voice and text chat function equipped with translation and transliteration features. It also has a correction feature that users may use to help their partner recognize their chatting mistakes. But more than that, the app connects you with new people. Not only do you get to practice a language, but you get a new friend too — and that’s most definitely the best thing that this app has to offer.
At the end of the day, language learning apps are only some of the tools that you can use for studying Chinese. For the best results, we recommend that you also expose yourself to the language as much as possible: read a book, watch some dramas, or talk with a friend. The more practice you put into it, the better!
Want to practice Chinese? Try out your skills by watching these Netflix C-dramas!