Top Best Apps to Learn Chinese – Instantly
Apps have become one of the most useful support tools for learning Chinese (and any language), as they offer an efficient way to fix knowledge and study in any place and situation.
However, there are currently hundreds of thousands of applications, most of which are ineffective or even useless.
This article evaluates some of the best apps to learn Chinese depending on which part of the language you want to reinforce.
I have been studying Chinese for more than eight years now. Unfortunately, I am too old to be a full-time student, and finding the time to study has been my biggest challenge. For this reason, I had to find a way to stay motivated and at the same time be efficient.
The Best App to Learning the Chinese Language Quickly for Beginners
- The features that a good app to learn Chinese should have
- One App Can’t Cover All Your Needs:A good App is going to be useful (and a wonderful tool) for revising lessons or learning new vocabulary, however, to master a new language you will need much more than this. Never trust a developer who claims that their app is the only tool you need to learn Chinese.
- Active learning: A good application must be based on an active learning type. This means that the app should ask you questions and force you to remember the correct answer.
- Customizable product: A good App must be flexible enough for you to adjust it according to your needs. For example, you should be able to decide to study the lessons or vocabulary that match your interests and proficiency level. The best way to stay motivated is to study only the things that you are interested in and can use in your daily life. Here you will find more information about the importance of personalization.
- Learn from your mistakes: A good app will “learn” from your mistakes – saving them – and forcing you to review what you’ve forgotten while skipping the parts you already know. I recommend finding an application that is based on spaced repetition software (SRS).
Skritter is the best app out there to learn how to write Chinese characters and it is available for Android and Apple devices you can try Skritter for free.
Some of the outstanding features of a skitter are:
- Flashcard system with SRS
- Writing tests directly on the touch screen
- Thousands of vocabulary lists
- Possibility to create your own vocabulary lists
- Graphic representations and mnemonic to help you remember the characters
- Traditional and simplified characters
- Video lessons to introduce new vocabulary
- Stroke order animations for typing each character
- Detailed statistics on your progress
- Character Audios
- Tests of tones and meaning of words
Important: Some older iOS devices are not compatible with the latest version of Skritter. You can download an older version of the app directly from your device (do not use the link on the Skritter website).
FluentU is without a doubt one of the best courses to learn Chinese on the market. The main goal of FluentU is to improve your level of proficiency through immersion in the language. To this end, they have developed a learning system whose main learning material is a selection of videos with subtitles adapted to all levels of linguistic competence.
FluentU has developed a flawless app to complement your study program, available for iOS and Android devices.
The app offers all the videos on the platform with interactive subtitles (you can click on a word to see the definition), memory cards (flashcards) based on the videos, vocabulary audios, and much more.
ChinesePod is one of the oldest and most prestigious platforms for learning Chinese and has recently developed an excellent app to follow your study program wherever you are. Its system is based on Podcasts of enormous quality, although the platform is much more.
The app offers all the services of the platform, including videos, podcasts organized by levels, and then support material such as lesson review exercises and flashcards with personalized vocabulary lists. The great advantage of the app is that you can download all the content so that you can use the app even without an internet connection.
The Chairman’s Bao
The Chairman’s Bao (TCB) app is one of the best apps for more advanced learners, but it can also be a good resource for beginners.
TCB is an online Chinese newspaper that has been simplified for those learning Mandarin. The newspaper publishes news on a wide range of topics written in Mandarin by native Chinese teachers using HSK word lists.
- Thousands of articles available:
- TCB write a large number of articles a year, all accessible and classified according to their level (HSK1 to HSK6+);
- Interactive dictionary: While you are reading an article you can click on any word and it will show you the pronunciation, the definition, and the possibility of adding it to your vocabulary list;
- Flashcards system: Once you have a vocabulary list you can use its flashcards system (with SRS system) to study the vocabulary;
- Character writing: You can see animations of how to write the characters and there is a tool to test if you remember how to write them;
- Simplified or Traditional Chinese: Unlike many other apps, TCB offers the possibility to read and study in both Simplified and Traditional Chinese;
- List of key vocabulary and idiomatic expressions: At any time you can consult the list of key vocabulary and idiomatic phrases of the article so that you do not miss any details.
At least once a year we update our articles on learning Chinese to include new resources we have found. When we add new apps, new free online resources, or new Chinese courses, we usually discard those where you can learn multiple languages.
The reason is very simple, the vast majority are designed to learn Western languages (English, German, French, Spanish, etc.) and Chinese, being a very different language from these, requires a different approach. However, there are exceptions like Memrise, which has no less than 88 languages to learn.
The Memrise app is based on their popular learning website and offers numerous lists that you can include in your study program such as the complete list of radicals, all the HSK vocabulary lists, the Chinese Grammar Wiki lessons, the vocabulary of the most popular textbooks among others.
However, the strong point of Memrise is not its lists but its mnemonics and its community, all integrated with SRS software so you don’t forget a thing. Basically, the software is designed to help you remember words using visual or conceptual mnemonic rules created and validated by both the developers and the huge community of learners they have. So basically by using Memrise you take advantage of the experience of students who have gone through the same process as you.
Although the basic version of the app is of very high quality, there is also a Pro version that greatly improves it (according to the authors, it increases learning speed by 60%). The Pro version also includes unlimited access to all learning modes, the ability to customize your lists and difficulty level, accurate statistics of your learning pace, and finally video support and the ability to practice with native speakers.
Anki is the most popular SRS-based software for studying using flashcards and probably one of the best apps for revising your lessons and/or learning new words. Anki allows you to create your custom decks or download decks from its public database, at the time of writing this post there are almost eight hundred decks for studying Chinese. I’m sure you can find one that’s right for you!
Duolingo: Memorize the lexicon and learn the grammar
Duolingo is a software that offers lessons to learn a large number of languages.
Although Chinese was added relatively late (compared to other languages), it has become one of the most popular languages among students using this platform.
Apart from offering functions similar to those of Memrise and Anki, Duolingo also seems perfect for learning grammar, since in many exercises you are asked to order lists of words to create sentences with complete meaning, translate sentences, etc.
For now, Duolingo is free and can be used as a smartphone app (iOS or Android) and as PC software. Please note that as long as you sign in with the same account, the app and the pc version will be synced automatically.
Hello Talk and WeChat
Hello Talk is, without a doubt, an ideal app for those who have been learning Chinese for some time and don’t have the chance to use it in real situations. The app uses the new possibilities offered by new technologies to connect language students from all over the world.
Hello Talk is similar to whatsapp but with the peculiarity that you can chat with people you don’t know and who are native speakers of the language you are studying. The only thing you have to do is download the application, register on the platform, say what your native language is and what language you are studying (and your level), finally you will be able to see a list of native speakers (in our case Chinese) that you are studying your language and chat with him/her. In other words, Hello Talk is an advanced language exchange search engine.
In addition, Hello Talk offers you other options, of which I would highlight the instant translator, very useful when you are chatting in a language that you do not know very well.
Although Hello Talk is specially designed for language learners, if you want to get in touch with native Chinese who are close to you, I would recommend that you try WeChat (Weixin in Chinese) , a kind of WhatsApp that is extremely popular in China but much more advanced. WeChat allows you to meet new people, acts as a social network (similar to Facebook), and much more. The good thing about WeChat is that it is mainly used by Chinese and allows you to contact people depending on the distance they are from you.
Hello Talk and WeChat are both free and available for both Android and iOS
Hanping is an Android app that is, in my opinion, the best offline Chinese/English dictionary and an essential tool for anyone learning Chinese.
The lite (free) version of Hanping includes a very complete Chinese/English dictionary where you can look up words using pinyin, characters, or English. Currently, the lite version also includes audio and handwriting recognition.
The latest versions of Hanping also have two interesting tools, the first one is free and allows you to copy your searches to the clipboard or send them to stroke (to know how you write the word stroke by stroke), to Skritter, to the NICU online dictionary, to the google translator and many other online tools.
The second tool is an optical recognition software that costs 9.99 USD, this tool will allow you to get instant translations of a written text anywhere with your phone’s camera (it only recognizes short texts and standard characters. Do not try to translate the note that Your Chinese roommate wrote to you why it won’t work! : P).
I recommend taking a look at the add-ons as new features are constantly being added, some free and some paid. Some of the latest interesting add-ons are: Animations of how characters are written (only for the pro version 3.99 USD), a pronunciation practice app (free), and the Cantonese dictionary (9.99 USD)
Pleco is available on Android and iOS devices and is an all-in-one app: offline dictionary, flashcards, optical character recognition, handwriting recognition, stroke order diagrams, audio pronunciation, and text reader.
Offline Dictionary: Pleco, in my experience, is almost as good as Hanping and hands down the best Chinese/English dictionary for Apple devices. In addition, it offers additional dictionaries for more specific vocabulary (such as the dictionary of traditional Chinese medicine), but most of them are not free.
Flashcards: The Lite version of Pleco offers very basic software to review vocabulary using flashcards and without the SRS algorithm, the software based on SRS is an add-on that costs 11.29 USD.
Optical character recognizer: Probably one of the best on the market and very similar to Hanping, you can try it for free, but if you want to link this tool with Pleco dictionary you will have to download the add-on (11.29 USD).
Handwriting recognizer: This tool is available in the Lite version and it works quite well, it is really useful if you want to know the meaning of a character that you know how to write but not the pinyin pronunciation.
Stroke order diagrams: You can use this tool to learn stroke by stroke how to write a character, this option is also an add-on and costs 5.64 USD.
Audio Pronunciation: Also available in the Lite version, both male and female pronunciation of individual characters. There are some more complete paid add-ons, such as full word pronunciation, synthetic audio for sentences, or Cantonese pronunciation.
Text reader: This is a useful tool and it is also available in the Lite version, if you copy a Chinese text to the clipboard and then go to the text reader, it will appear there and you can press the words you don’t know to get the pronunciation and translation.
Du Chinese translates to “Read Chinese” and helps to instantly translate sentences or words with just one tap. The app presents a text and a voice reads the words, making it easy for foreigners to learn the correct pronunciation and grammar.
The app has a modern interface and design with thousands of positive reviews. On Google Play, for example, the app has received around 6,000 reviews with a score close to 5/5. More than 300,000 students have downloaded the app and I am one of them.
With such a good score, it’s no wonder it’s a freemium app. The currently available subscriptions are as follows:
- Basic: free with limited lessons
- 1 month: $11.99
- 6 months: $54.99
- 12 months: $89.99
What I like about Du Chinese is that it is very flexible and you can choose both the topics you want to learn about and the difficulty. This makes it easy to customize your experience and learn Chinese step by step.
It’s also worth mentioning that Du Chinese allows you to save words for later review by using a Pleco-like system, ie cards. You can use both simplified and traditional characters when learning Chinese with the app, which makes it useful if you plan to live in Taiwan, Hong Kong, or mainland China.
In short, it is a must-have app if you want to learn Chinese wherever you go and have a fun experience. Du Chinese adds 5-6 lessons every week and there are currently over 1,000 lessons available, categorized by topic and difficulty.
Hello, Chinese is an acclaimed and easy-to-use app that has received hundreds of thousands of positive reviews on Google Play. The app has a score of almost 5/5 on Google Play and Apple Store.
What sets Hello Chinese apart from other apps is that it offers game-based learning, which is fun and interactive. In addition, it has several interesting and useful functions that will help you improve your learning. For example, Hello Chinese can correct your pronunciation for better speaking tones, which is important for Chinese people to understand you.
The app also offers courses created based on HSK education and levels, helping you prepare for your next exam. Not forgetting that you can use the app offline and track your progress across multiple devices thanks to the Internet of Things.
Although it’s free, there are also in-app purchases:
- HelloChinese Premium: $8.99
- HelloChinese Premium+: $19.99
The app is useful for people who want to learn basic Chinese (up to 1000 words and 350 characters). Students who just want to learn spoken Chinese also find it useful as you don’t need to learn how to write the characters.
This app is worth a try if you want to learn Chinese wherever you are, whether you’re just starting out or want to improve your vocabulary and pronunciation.
Chinese Skill is an “All in one” app, that is, it more or less covers all aspects of learning in a single app. It is well designed and its graphics and games make it quite attractive.
However, I consider that the previous apps are much better in the different aspects of the language.
The free version of the app only covers some basic aspects and is a bit incomplete, so if you want to use the full potential of the app, I recommend purchasing the premium version that costs 5.42 EUR per month for an annual subscription or 9.99 if you pay month to month. . Keep in mind that this app is not a substitute for studying and no matter how much you say, you will not be able to learn Chinese in 3 months.
Despite being very simple, this app can be useful for those who want to do a quick review before taking one of the official HSK exams.
The app is based on multiple-choice questions from the official HSK vocabulary lists and has a good SRS algorithm. The main problem that I see is that the vocabulary is unlocked little by little starting with HSK1, so if you are at higher levels, at the beginning it can be a bit heavy to review all the basic vocabulary.
The app is free
Frequently Ask Questions:
Is Pleco free?
Pleco is one of the best Chinese translation apps and a freemium product. The free version is enough for many people, but you can opt for the additional packages they offer if you want to go further in learning the language.
Pleco has two packages, the basic package that costs $29.99 USD and the professional package that retails for $59.99 USD. The first option includes all of Pleco’s non-dictionary plugins such as enhanced typing, flashcards, OCR, text file reader, and all four audio pronunciation plugins.
The professional package is different in that it also includes ABC English Chinese, ABC Chinese-English Comprehensive, Guifan dictionary, OCR, enhanced typing, etc.
That said, you can also purchase individual plugins, such as dictionaries.
How does Skritter work?
Skritter is great in that it lets you practice your handwriting and you get feedback from the app. You can use it on your smartphone or iPad and it teaches you standard character composition and stroke order.
The difference between Skritter and many other applications is that you will know if you are doing it right or not. The application has a notepad that allows you to write and practice the characters you want. Skritter is more expensive, although a free week is offered. The plans are as follows:
- 1 month – $14.99
- 6 months – $59.99
- 1 year – $99.99
- 2 years – $179.99
What is the best free app to learn Chinese?
It’s hard to say as it depends on personal preferences and the language you study. Pleco is one of the most popular freemium apps for learning to handwrite and practicing new words. You can pay for extra features, it’s easy to use, and it’s handy if you come across a Chinese word you don’t understand.
HelloChinese is another great freemium option that has received many positive reviews online. It has an average of 4.8/5.0 from about 235,000 ratings. It is a wonderful tool and resource for people who are just starting to study Chinese and provides an introduction to correct pronunciation.
There are many options available in the market, I recommend that you try a few to see which one suits your preferences.