Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the ultimate showdown of Chinese Language Apps vs. Mandarin Schools! Both contestants are fighting to reign as your method of learning Chinese language. Tonight, they’ll fight their way through 5 different rounds to prove their expertise in the factors that make them worth or not worth your time and money while learning Mandarin.
Here are the rounds:
Ready…. Set…. Fight!
1. Effectiveness in learning Mandarin
The effectiveness of a language learning method can be analyzed in terms of how fast the language can accurately be introduced and retained.
- Mandarin Apps can introduce Chinese language in a structured manner, at whatever pace you’d like.
- Apps will usually make use of video, picture, and audio to present the language and show examples of its use. A variety of visuals and audio can be powerful for remembering what’s been learned.
- Apps can also give you exercises to practice the language, and give you immediate feedback on whether or not you’ve done the exercises correctly.
- Apps generally don’t have a way to correct your pronunciation.
- There is no one to have conversation with using the language. Speaking is important for retention.
- While they can tell you if you’ve answered the practice questions correctly, they can’t correct other sentences you want to make using the language you learned. And you’ll likely make quite a few mistakes!
- Also, there generally isn’t someone available in the app to answer your questions. This is quite significant as you’ll probably have quite a few questions for every bit of language you learn.
- Language school textbooks introduce language in a structured manner, and teachers push students to learn it at a challenging but reasonable pace.
- After learning the language, teachers and classmates are available for practice conversations.
- Teachers can correct students’ pronunciation.
- They can also check for understanding and correct mistakes.
- Teachers are available to answer any questions students have regarding the subject matter and other uses it may have.
- While an app is a personal learning experience, a classroom usually involves other students who have potential to slow down the pace in the class. If the class sizes are small, this generally isn’t a problem. But if there are 7+ students in the class, it could take a while for the teacher to check for understanding from everyone and answer questions.
- Textbooks lack the use of video, which can result in a lack of interesting audio / visuals useful for memorization.
For Effectiveness, we give apps a 6 and schools an 8.
Sustainability has mostly to do with sustaining one’s long-term interest in Mandarin. When you lose interest in Chinese, the learning process dramatically slows down, or even comes to a halt.
- Varied video content, if well-produced, can act as a mini TV series. Video lessons are usually quite good at keeping users interested in learning Mandarin.
- Apps usually don’t provide anyone to talk with. In order to maintain interest, it’s important to experience the language through meaningful conversation.
- Schools provide a language environment with teachers and fellow students. In classrooms, dorms, and cafeterias you’ll have ample opportunity to use Chinese to have meaningful conversations and form personal relationships. This will keep your interest in the language stimulated on a daily basis.
- Textbooks can be a bit monotonous.
For Sustainability, we give apps a 6 and schools a 7.
We can measure convenience in relation to how much learning Chinese will interfere with your daily life. Can you juggle Chinese learning with work, family, etc? Also, when you have questions, how easy is it to find the answer?
- Mandarin learning apps can be used on a phone or laptop, anytime you want. Are you on the bus? Waiting in a doctor’s office? Learn Chinese while you wait!
- The time of day you choose for study can be easily customized to fit your work and social life.
- When you have a question about your studies, it can take quite a long time to find the answer. Looking up the language in a dictionary app doesn’t usually provide a concise answer.
- When you have questions, a teacher is available to answer them immediately.
- Careers often are required to be put on hold when enrolling in a Mandarin school, especially if you choose to study at a language school in China. Classes usually take place during normal work hours. (However, for college aged students, or those between careers, this isn’t much of a problem.)
For Convenience, we give apps a 10 and schools a 4.
Accountability is important. What happens when you’re tired, busy, or just “don’t feel like studying today?” Will you still study, or put it off to another time?
(no accountability points for apps)
- There is no required study time.
- There is no one to personally push you to keep studying.
- Notifications from Youtube, Facebook, Instagram, etc. will appear on the same device from which you are learning Mandarin, and can easily draw you away from the learning app.
- There is a set time of day in which you’re required to be in class.
- Daily homework and scheduled tests require you to study outside of class.
(no accountability penalties for Mandarin schools)
For Accountability, we give apps a 0 and schools a 10.
- Chinese learning apps are much cheaper than learning at a school, usually between 100 – 200 RMB per month.
(no cost penalties for apps)
- Schools usually provide a dorm and cafeteria food for cheap, which can dramatically cut the cost of living.
- Mandarin schools are usually more expensive, with full-time course load tuition ranging from 5000 – 10000 RMB per month.
For Cost, we give apps a 10 and schools a 3.
And that’s it! The fight is over.
Let’s see how our contestants did.
What?! A Tie? I hate when that happens, don’t you? It looks like you’ll have to decide which is better for you based on your situation.