Learning Mandarin doesn’t just have to happen in a classroom. Today, there’s a huge wealth of apps that can help you on your language-learning journey, wherever you are.
Here are some of our favourites that you can download for free.
1) Best all-rounders
Ideal for beginners to Chinese Mandarin, Hello Chinese breaks down the learning process into short, fun tasks, which include listening, reading, writing and speaking exercises.
One of the best-known apps for learning different languages, Duolingo offers a number of courses – including Mandarin. It’s great for both total beginners and for more intermediate learners, who can take an assessment test to place them in the right level.
Similarly to Hello Chinese, ChineseSkill builds beginners’ knowledge with a series of bite-sized lessons and activities, including speaking exercises. It was developed by members of the Chinese Departments from Peking University, Beijing Foreign Studies University, National University of Singapore, and Indiana University.
Great for listening, speaking, reading and writing, LingoDeer’s lessons have been created by language teachers, and is another great app for beginners.
Ninchanese (Nincha Languages)
Another good option for beginners, Ninchanese gamifies the language-learning experience with easy-to-digest lessons and mini-games.
Designed to help users learn Chinese by HSK level and study for the exams, this app includes reading, writing, listening and speaking tasks sorted by levels 1–6.
2) Best for Grammar
Chinese Grammar Test (Android only)
Aimed at learners who already have some knowledge of Mandarin, this app breaks down grammar points by HSK level.
3) Best for Chinese characters
Anki is perhaps the most well-known and powerful free flashcard app out there. You can use pre-made or custom card decks, which are then presented using a spaced repetition system (SRS) to help users absorb new vocabulary as efficiently as possible.
While it also can be used as a flashcard app, Memrise also has a feature that lets you translate objects around you by using your phone’s camera.
4) Best for listening and reading
Including a number of free articles daily and more if you opt to pay for the app, Du Chinese lets you translate individual words and whole sentences, as well as choose articles by skill level. They also feature voice recordings taken from native speakers, so you can listen as you read or just listen.
5) Best for writing
Skritter: Write Chinese
Skritter helps you learn to write characters using the correct stroke order. While Skritter does come with a monthly subscription fee, you can try it out for free for your first seven days.
6) Best dictionary
Pleco lets you enter words in English, pinyin or Chinese characters to find their translations. You can also use your touchscreen to write characters, and see the words you look up in sentences for context.
Remember – while these apps provide a great way to learn from the comfort of your couch, there’s no better way to learn a language than immersed in it, while in its country of origin.
Check out Lingoinn’s homestay service, which lets you stay in the home of a qualified Mandarin teacher in their home in China.