Eight essential online tools for learning Chinese

The United Nations celebrates Chinese Language Day every April 20. This date also honors Cangjie, a mythical figure who is believed to have invented Chinese characters about 5,000 years ago. Today, there are almost 1.2 billion Chinese speakers and a growing number of learners who aspire to be fluent in the most widely spoken language in the world. The following online tools, apps and resources could help make Chinese language-learning less laborious and more enjoyable for all.

1. Pleco

The most downloaded Chinese–English mobile dictionary, the Pleco app uses Optimal Character Recognition (OCR), which allows learners to look up Chinese characters using the phone’s camera or by drawing them on the screen. Another noteworthy feature is the customizable flashcard system that remembers the characters you have trouble learning. Recently, the company also collaborated with the successful Kickstarter campaign, The Outliers Dictionary of Chinese Characters.

2. Skritter

Practice writing Chinese characters by tracing and drawing the characters on the screen with the Skritter app. It also gives you essential tips and rules on stroke order. For example, “Top to bottom, left to right. Horizontal strokes first.” iPhone and Android apps are also available so you can scribble on the go.

3. Youku Tudou

A result of a merger in 2012, Youku Tudou is China’s most popular and biggest video website. The name aptly stands for “What’s best” and “What’s cool” in Chinese. As the country’s version of YouTube with original Chinese content, it allows learners to access thousands of videos, from cartoons, TV dramas and variety shows to daily news programs. Watch and learn from your chosen online content to help improve your listening ability in a more entertaining way.

4. Chinese Pod

One of  the first major Mandarin podcasts, Chinese Pod, lets you learn by watching over 3,500 lessons covering a vast scope of topics and diverse levels. With over 800,000 users, this site is making waves in the Chinese learner community.

5. e-Chinese Learning

If self-study is not your thing, taking online lessons might be for you. e-Chinese Learning offers one-to-one online Chinese lessons anytime and anywhere you are in the world. This site offers quality lessons via Skype for learners of all ages and fluency levels. You can learn from native, professionally trained and experienced Chinese teachers from China and other parts of the world, who conduct and customize lessons according to your needs and goals.

6. Hacking Chinese

This portal offers various tips and strategies for learning Mandarin more efficiently. Learners can access relevant articles, resources and challenges to enhance their listening, writing, speaking and reading skills. Hacking Chinese provides comprehensive and timely information on how to effectively learn Mandarin, in clear English. The author behind the site is a Swedish native, Olle Jinge, a fluent Chinese speaker, who shares advice and effective strategies from a successful learner’s point of view.

7. Hello Talk

Hello Talk is the first language exchange social networking app. Join groups of interest and connect with native Mandarin speakers worldwide. You can use it to send text messages, ask questions, and learn the right pronunciation by sending audio clips and listening to them. This app will also help you find a language exchange partner and learn Chinese in a more interactive way, so you stay engaged and don’t lose your motivation.

8. FluentU Chinese

Immerse yourself in Chinese content and watch the best videos with English and Chinese subtitles. From movie trailers and TV commercials to music videos, FluentU Chinese offers entertaining content no matter your interest or hobbies and fluency level.  FluentU also offers relevant content with real-world context so you can expand your vocabulary base more naturally. One favorite feature is the hover dictionary that pops-up with word definitions and example usages.

Do you know other handy tools and apps for learning Chinese? Share them!

Jenie Gabriel

The author

Jenie Gabriel

Jenie creates and coordinates content for Gengo's marketing team. Originally from the Philippines, she was an advertising creative in Singapore before moving to Tokyo. In her spare time, you’ll find her wandering around the city or planning her next escapade.

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