15 Best Apps for Learning Mandarin Chinese
Are you trying to improve or learn Chinese? Look no further! Listed below are several applications for learning Chinese broken down by categories from dictionaries to character writing apps so you can feel confident in improving the skills you need to become fluent (or get by when you travel). Most apps include some form of subscription or purchase but they all include a trial period so you can test them yourself. Happy learning!
Du Chinese can help you to improve your Chinese reading skills. The app provides digital lessons where you can read by yourself or listen to an audio recording and read along. You have the option to display pinyin along with the Chinese characters, choose simplified or traditional Chinese characters. You can also lookup words through its dictionary or have sentences translated in English. The app contains various content and lessons, covering stories, daily conversations, Chinese culture, current events, the latest trends, and regular life in China. There are different levels of lessons to cater for beginners to advance with each session labelled with HSK levels 1 to 6+.
|Pinyin display||Simplified and Traditional|
The Chairman’s Bao
If you are looking for more advanced reading from the start, The Chairman’s Bao (TCB) is a great resource for those levels HSK 3-6 (though materials for HSK 1-2 are available). TCB provides reading sources as newspaper articles with the vocabulary of the HSK lists. All of their readings are tailored to HSK levels, which makes TCB a great app to hone your HSK improvement if your goal is to pass the tests. TCB uploads over 1,600 new reading lessons a year (approximately 4 a day) which keeps the content updated and interesting for all users.
|√ Advanced level Chinese learning||√ Dictionary|
|√ Reading||√ Flashcards|
|√ Simplified and traditional Chinese|
Offline Dictionary Apps
Pleco is a Chinese to English translation dictionary app that is very useful and frequently used for learning Mandarin. The great thing about Pleco is that it is an offline app so you don’t need to rely on internet connection to use it, you can quickly lookup a Chinese word or character on the go. Notably, you can look up an English word and find the translation in Chinese with sentence examples for each possible translation. The additional features for Pleco vary depending on the app’s software. Android phones have free access to some of the key features, such as handwriting recognition where you have the option to handwrite the characters instead of pinyin; and a Flashcard feature where you can add new words or characters to the vocabulary list in the flashcard and test yourself. It’s a great way to help you revise the words that you have learned. However, iOS users will have to pay for these additional features. An additional added (payable) feature includes optimal character recognition (OCR) where it allows to scan Chinese words from your phone’s camera and look them up ‘live’.
|√ Offline dictionary||√ Flashcards|
|√ Character writing recognition||√ Simplified and Traditional Chinese|
|√ OCR||√ Offline usage|
Hanping offers the benefits of Pleco by working offline, with an abundant of add-on features. Hanping light (free) offers limited stroke order animations while Hanping pro has a larger offering for learning strokes. In addition, Hanping frequently updates, offering plenty of sentence examples to sharpen vocabulary. Hanping also offers an OCR add-on as their key feature for instant translation of characters. The app is convenient for one-tap translation and learning stroke order from copying the character into other resources like eStroke and Skritter if you want to learn the stroke order. Hanping also has add-ons that specialize in pronunciation.
(not compatible for iOS)
|√ Advanced level Chinese learning||√ Dictionary|
|√ OCR (add-on)||√ Flashcards|
|√ Character writing recognition
√ Add-on pronunciation features
|√ Simplified and Traditional Chinese
√ Works offline
Character learning Apps
Learning how to write characters can be quite challenging, but Skritter makes it fun and easy. Skritter teaches the correct stroke order and enables the learner to remember how to write through muscle memory. Skritter offers instant feedback and uses special recognition software that helps the user focus on characters they are having trouble with. Skritter not only gives direct feedback but tracks individual progress which will challenge users to keep practicing and improving. Skritter boasts having over 9,000 lists which users can use (and create their own as well!).
|√ Organized learning||√ Flashcards|
|√ Spaced repetition software||√ Instant feedback on writing|
|√ Character writing recognition||√ Simplified and Traditional Chinese
Zizzle offers an excellent way to memorize characters – through funny stories. Good for all levels (but especially for beginners), Zizzle uses short stories with images and keywords to help learners remember the character, tone, and meaning of the word. For convenience, Zizzle breaks down its language learning into sections such as each HSK level and travel and business character etc. While Zizzle makes learning fun and less overwhelming, it does not teach stroke order. What makes Zizzle unique is that payment is flexible to the user and their goals. Learners have the option to purchase character packs outright (and have unlimited lifetime access to them) or a subscription with full access to content.
|√ Character visualization||√ Simplified Chinese only|
|√ Spaced repetition software||√ Activities for memorization|
For podcast lovers and visual learners, Chineseclass101 should be on the radar for learners of all levels. The program is available with both video and audio classes on the web and in your pocket (the app is called Innovative Languages 101). What Chineseclass101 lacks in comprehensive character learning, it makes up for with excellent pronunciation and listening skills. With thousands of lessons offered for all levels, a subscription will allow users to improve their speaking ability efficiently. Audio learning like Chineseclass101 is also more effective at breaking down and explaining grammar points.
|√ Conversational Chinese||√ Video and podcast lessons|
|√ Chinese grammar||√ Allows user to record and compare pronunciation|
Another great podcast style app is Chinesepod. The app and web version provide more than 4,000 lessons in both audio and video format. Just like Chinesclass101, the video and audio format is excellent for giving learners the opportunity to listen to Chinese speech and build listening skills. Additionally, Chinsesepod includes exercises to further practice with a dictionary and flashcards available. They also have special topics from pronunciation to HSK review.
|√ Conversational Chinese||√ Video and podcast lessons|
|√ Chinese grammar||√ Includes exercises to practice|
HelloChinese teaches you all the components of the language through activities. Best for beginners, the app will even teach you pinyin essentials if you need it. HelloChinese gives you literal translations, uses visuals, and videos to test your understanding through listening. Basic lessons are free, but there is a subscription available for additional features and access to immersive and training lessons. The free lessons focus on key vocabulary, proper pronunciation, pinyin, and stroke order for characters. Users will become very familiar with keywords and phrases (both written and spoken) quickly from the activities. While HelloChinese is well-rounded, the app will really only build you up to HSK 4. Once you reach a higher level of Chinese, you will want to supplement HelloChinese with the in-app purchases or an additional study tool to aid with learning characters.
|√ Free but with paid add-ons||√ games and activities|
|√ Well-rounded lessons||√ Engaging exercises|
Hello Talk allows users to practice your language skills with native speakers from China! If you have a solid base in the language, Hello Talk will benefit learners who can connect with Chinese speakers. The app includes voice, text, and even has translation in case you do not understand a word that that was sent. This app will allow you to meet with language partners to work with which can be a fun and rewarding way to practice. You might even be able to find a language partner in the city you are living in or planning to travel too. The app is free, but there is a premium version available for additional features.
|√ Learn from native speakers||√ Translation|
|√ Practice texting with pinyin/characters||√ Transliteration|
Video learning apps
If you’re a visual learner, FluentU can help you learn and improve your Chinese through video content. FluentU teaches grammar and vocabulary through video content spoken in Chinese, such as film previews and music-videos. The app also allows users to look up words in-app if they are unfamiliar. The only significant downside is that it is a little more expensive than other apps. However, if you are in the intermediate stages looking to speak and listen to Chinese better, it could be worth the investment.
|√ Visual content||√ In-app word search|
|√ Listening skills||√ Simplified and traditional characters|
Duolingo is a popular language learning app that also offers free Chinese lessons. While there is a premium service that creates an ad-free and offline compatible experience, the free version has all the free content needed to continue learning. The app divides lessons into small sections, which allows learners to focus on what is being taught. However, Duolingo is not the best app for beginners because the classes do not focus on pin yin and tones as much as other apps. Even if a learner is an avid Duolingo user, for beginning Chinese, it may be more useful to learn the functions of pinyin before using this app. A clear benefit to Duolingo is learners will end up picking up the grammar through the lesson activities.
|√ Grammar||√ Transliteration|
|√ Translation of characters||√ Handwriting|
Rosetta Stone is a trusted foreign language learning service where users can purchase subscriptions and learn through immersion. Rosetta Stone will be excellent for beginners learning to build a foundation in the language. They excel in teaching tones with speech recognition software. The program is also congratulated for teaching basic grammar. For learners looking to learn how to speak and string together basic sentences, Rosetta Stone is a great option. However, users will find character reading and writing lacking and will want another app as a supplement.
|√ Speech recognition software||√ Pictures and visual|
|√ Basic grammar||√ Organized modules and lessons|
Quick learning apps
Chineasy is a card app that will help you learn the foundations of Chinese characters and build a basic vocabulary. The beautiful app-design is well-worth the trial. Each lesson displays new characters with imagery that helps you memorize the character in question. Further, each card explains some of the history or logic behind the character which helps the learner understand more about Chinese culture and assists overall retention. The main downfall is that the app will not let you skip a lesson, so if you’re an upper-immediate/advanced learner, it may feel redundant to spend time on the basic characters. However, even if you are more advanced, you may pick up some new knowledge about the characters with the tips included on each card. If you are looking to refresh or build a basic vocabulary and knowledge of characters, this app is definitely worth checking out.
|√ Key Phrases and words||√ Gamified|
|√ Categorized vocabulary||√ Beautiful graphics and illustrations|
HSK Online is a leading HSK Testing app. After taking the initial test, users will be placed in their HSK level where they can review the HSK related materials in both reading and speaking activities. The benefit of HSK Online is that any incorrect answer is filed in a folder for users to re-review. Users can take one test on the free version but take unlimited tests on the subscription or lifetime access version. The App also includes over 30,000 practice exercises which are optimized to improve your performance.
|√ AI powered proficiency testing||√ Vocabulary training|
|√ Personalized study activities||√ Mock exams|
Other apps to consider
There are plenty of apps for learners to improve their Chinese. From reading, speaking, and writing, learning Chinese takes practice. Be sure to check out these apps, but there are plenty of others available online and through app stores. Two new up and coming apps include Noodle Chinese (only available on iOS) and Chinese Grammar (only available on Android).