Chinese Courses: A Review of the Best Learning Programs and Tools

chinese courses

Nowadays there is no shortage of free resources for learning a language: websites, apps, forums, videos, podcasts, you name it. However, many people are still looking for a more professional Mandarin course, the type that is generally paid. However, why should you pay for a Chinese course?

There are two main reasons for that:

  • Often, you must pay if you want the best resources. Who would take the time to develop high-quality learning tools for free?
  • The ultimate goal is to learn the language. And achieving this objective requires a long-time commitment. Personally, I’m more likely to stick to my goals when I’m paying some money for it. No matter if it’s a good gym, a reliable server for my website or a language course.

The problem is that there are so many different Chinese courses and finding the right one may be difficult.

Here you will find a listing of the main Chinese courses in the market and the differences among them.

Podcasts and Videos


FluentUFluentU is an innovative platform that uses a broad selection of videos as its learning materials. The videos include both videos especially designed for them as well as a selection of ads, music videos and documentaries, among others, with subtitles in Chinese and English.

However, FluentU is much more than a selection of videos with subtitles, as the platform offers a ton of additional tools to get the most out of your studying time, like flashcards, tests, and grammar lessons among others, all perfectly integrated.

$A FluentU subscription costs 30 USD per month; however, if you pay for a year in advance, you will only pay 20 USD per month, i.e. 240 USD per year.

iDo you want to learn more? Click here to read our full review of FluentU.

%You can try FluentU 14 days for free


chinesepodChinesePod is one of the most popular podcasts to study Chinese,

At the moment, it offers approximately 4000 lessons, each of which is around 15-20 minutes, and publishes a new lesson every day. You can study on the portal or use the app to download the audio and video tracks in order to listen to them wherever and whenever you want.

There are six difficulty levels, which makes this product suitable for advanced students as well. Each level is divided into different components, such as exam preparation, pronunciation, conversation, grammar, and characters, among many others, in order to cover all of the skills for each level. Each specific lesson includes audio tracks, videos, transcriptions, exercises, vocabulary, and flashcards. In addition, if you have a premium subscription, you can access other advanced functionalities, such as apps, downloading audio tracks, and grammar blocks, among others.

$ChinesePod costs 14 USD/month for a Basic subscription and 29 USD/month for a Premium subscription.

iClick here to read my full review of the software.

Yoyo Chinese

Yoyo Chinese is an online platform that offers a complete course for learning Chinese that covers all aspects of the language (vocabulary, writing, grammar and written and oral comprehension). The course is based on video lessons both from teachers as well as on real situations in China.

Yoyo Chinese focuses its program on learning Mandarin Chinese from a practical point of view in order to improve your real communication abilities (both written and oral), leaving more academic instruction on the language in the background. In other words, this is a course for people whose priority is to learn the Chinese used every day.

iHere you find our full review of the course.

%Try Yoyo Chinese now! The first 20 lessons are free! Also, use the coupon code “SAPORE10” to get a 10% discount for any course


chinsesclass101ChineseClass101 is another complete platform based on podcasts. The platform offers hundreds of podcasts of around 15 minutes that are perfectly organized according to the subject and level of competency. Each of them is structured in the same way, starting with a dialogue from an everyday situation followed by a complete analysis regarding vocabulary, grammar and culture.

Just like the two previous platforms, ChineseClass101’s podcasts are integrated into a platform that offers numerous additional tools to maximize learning and the concepts laid out. Among these tools, you’ll find flashcards, grammar lessons, and a voice recorder to improve your pronunciation.

$A ChineseClass101 Premium subscription costs 15 USD a month for a year plan.

iIf you want to learn more about this platform, I recommend that you take a look at our complete review of it by clicking here.

%Limited offer for new subscribers of ChineseClass101: The first month you only pay 1 USD for the Premium subscription.

Writing and reading Chinese characters


skritterSkritter is a software designed to teach you how to write Chinese characters and remember them.

As soon as you register, you can download a list of characters (there are a lot). Afterwards, you can start a study session. The software will show you a phrase with a character missing or the meaning of a word with its pronunciation. Your job is to reproduce the character with the right order of strokes by using the touch screen of your tablet or smartphone, a pen tablet or your mouse.

If you make a mistake or don’t know how to write the character, the software will suggest to you the right stroke order. Thus the next time that you’ll see that specific character you’ll have more chances to remember it.

The interesting thing is that Skritter uses an SRS (Spaced Repetition Software) algorithm that shows you the characters with clever scheduling. In this way, you’ll remember a great ratio of the characters that you are studying (up to 90% of the characters according to Skritter’s website).

I believe that this new technology is going to supplant the traditional method to study Chinese characters (at least among those people that start to learn Mandarin after primary school) as to keep writing the same characters over and over again is boring and ineffective.

$A monthly Skritter subscription costs 14.99 USD. You can pay every month so you can stop when you want. Moreover, you get a week’s free trial.

iHere you find my full review of the software.

%If you sign up to Skritter using one of the links on this page with the coupon “SDC3952” you will get a 10% off in all plans (only new users).

The Chairman’s Bao

The Chairman’s Bao (TCB) is an online newspaper in Chinese whose articles have been simplified to be appropriate for people learning Mandarin. The newspaper publishes news on diverse subjects written by native Chinese professors using HSK vocabulary lists.

Nonetheless, TCB offers much more than that and is turning into a complete platform for learning Chinese. Based on the articles, you will find extremely useful tools, such as an interactive dictionary for you to easily look up vocabulary that you don’t know, the possibility of listening to the audio track for the article, a customizable SRS flashcard system, a tool to practice writing characters and the possibility of choosing between traditional and simplified Chinese.

$TCB costs 10 USD per month or 80 USD if you buy it for the whole year.

iIf you would like to know more about this platform, you can read our interview with Sean, one of its creators.

%If you buy a subscription to The Chairman’s Bao through the link on this page and you use the coupon “sdctcb1523” you will get a 15% discount on all plans.

Remember the Hanzi

Remember the HanziRemember the Hanzi is the method invented by James Heisig, the master of Kanji (the alphabet that Japanese people borrowed from China) and Hanzi, that is the typical Chinese characters.

The introduction of the book starts with the following sentence:

The aim of this course is to help you teach yourself, as quickly and efficiently as possible, the meaning and writing of the 3,000 most commonly used Chinese characters.

And the book does deliver what promised. However the method is quite controversial and, after I talked to several people that tried it (I did it myself), I believe that you should really understand what you want before starting using it.

The main issue is that the focus of this book is learning single characters while speaking Chinese requires – besides reading characters – a whole set of different skills.

$Remember the Hanzi costs 28.28 USD.

iClick here to read my full review of the book.

HSK Courses

HSK Test Preparation by Peking University

HSK exam courseAmong the many courses dedicated to the HSK exam, we’ve chosen the one offered by Peking University (Beida), since it seems to us to be one of the best when it comes to the matter of quality/price.

The course is offered through the study platform Coursera, and you can choose from courses dedicated to HSK levels 1, 2, or 3, and a course for HSK level 4.

The length of the course varies from 6 weeks (for the first level) to 10 weeks (for the fourth). At the end of the course, you can also get a certificate from Peking University (note that this is not the HSK certificate, for which you’ll have to pass the official exam run by the Confucius Institute).

$The course costs 49 USD a month, and there’s a seven-day trial period.

iIf you’re already learning Chinese but aren’t sure what your current level is, you can always take our free test for evaluating your HSK level.

Grammar Books

Modern Mandarin Chinese Grammar

chinese grammarModern Mandarin Chinese Grammar: A Practical Guide is one of the best rated Chinese grammar books in It’s also one of the most recent (it was released in 2006).

This book is divided into two sections. The first part is dedicated to traditional grammar items such as phrase order, nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs while the second part covers more general notions such as communication strategies, giving and seeking information, or expressing feelings.

$Modern Mandarin Chinese Grammar costs 36.45 USD.

iClick here to learn more abut this book.

Multimedia Chinese Courses

Rosetta Stone

rosetta stone Chinese CourseRosetta Stone is one of the biggest companies that offer multimedia courses for learning languages.

Their approach is quite different as it’s based on the concept of “immersion.” At Rosetta Stone, they believe that the most natural way to study a foreign language is to learn it without any external help (such as an English translation).

Therefore, for teaching you how to say “cup” in Mandarin they may show you the word 杯子 (which means “cup”), let you listen to the correct pronunciation (“bēizi” in this case), and show you the photo of a guy who is drinking a cup of wine in a bar.

The basic idea is that you should learn the language the same way kids do, that is through the context and a trial and error process.

$Rosetta Stone’s first level course costs 161.10 USD while the whole course (five levels) costs 374 USD.

iClick here to learn more about it.


pimsleur Chinese CourseThe Pimsleur language method takes its name from Dr. Paul Pimsleur, who devoted his life to the study of language.

This method consists of a set of an audio CD or mp3 files. There is no written material as Dr. Pimsleur believed that when you look at one text in a foreign language you tend to read using the rules of your mother tongue.

So if you are American you’ll read the Chinese word “pain” as the English verb “to pay,” even if in theory you know that in Chinese you should pronounce it differently.

Even if this philosophy sounds right to me, the downside is that if you are like me – I mainly learn through my visual memory instead of also exploiting my auditory and sensorial memory – you’ll feel limited by the Pimsleur method as there is nothing to “see,” only audios.

The majority of people learn using a balanced combination of visual, auditory, and sensorial memory. However, there are a few people (like me, for instance) that mainly exploit a particular physical channel during their learning process.

Hence I can only recommend this course to the people that have a predominant auditory memory. However, before opting for this method, I recommend that you take a look at the podcast and videos section, as in my opinion, they are more complete platforms for a better price, and are specially designed for learning Mandarin.

$ The Pimsleur program (30 lessons) costs 203.23 USD, which is a lot of money. However, you can get the conversational course for as little as 29.83 USD.

iClick here to learn more about the complete course and here to learn more about the conversational lessons.

Chinese lessons via video conference

Currently, there are many Chinese schools that also offer their courses through their online platforms or via videoconference.

LTL Mandarin School

LTL SchoolLTL Mandarin School is one of the most renowned private institutions in China with several schools in China and other countries.

LTL has been teaching its students online for years. Their courses include several areas such as preparation (before coming to China), continuation (after leaving China), or completely standalone (no plan to come to China); also they are all tailored to the specific student’s needs. If you wish to learn about business Chinese, you can. Or, if you want to study a comic or newspaper, this can also be taught, allowing for 100% flexibility.

iClick here to read more about LTL Flexiclass


echineselearningeChineseLearning is one of the oldest online Chinese class platforms, with more than 14 years of experience. While its prices are somewhat high compared to other types of courses, it’s a good option for people looking for a somewhat more personalized course, as it has a large number of study programs.

iClick here to read more about eChineseLearning.

Cover Photo Credits: Photo by Olivier Le Moal on Depositphotos©

31 thoughts on “Chinese Courses: A Review of the Best Learning Programs and Tools”

  1. Thanks for such a wonderful range of resources to learn Chinese!

    1. I am a senior wanting to learn spoken Chinese to speak to people when next I go there. Which of the many resources offer audio pronunciation iation that can be slowed, as I find most spoken phrases are too fast cor me!?

    2. Also, I have a book of beginner vocab in lovely illustrations, however, it
    does not contain any audio. I’d like to photo or scan each phrase for audio pronunciation. I wonder what’s the best app or resource to help me here?. Id also like to then input to an SRS system.

    3. I’ll also be looking at your VPNs to upgrade from my current one, and your travel resources too.

    Many thanks!


  2. Great tips provided above! There is no real secret to learning language. It can take a while but it’s actually much more logical (and simple in its construction) than most people think. If you’re wondering how to learn Chinese, I can also recommend Mandarintern ( where you can find articles and information on China and the Chinese language. Mandarintern also offer Chinese language courses in China as well as online Chinese classes with professional Chinese teachers. You’ll also find articles and blog posts on life in China for people who are interested in what life’s really like in China.

  3. Sborto
    Thanks for the info on Chinese languages. As a 5 times visitor (to China) last year it is about time for me to start learning Chinese. When I try to download your e’book your site says I’m already registered. Trouble is some Malware crashed my computer last year so I have nothing before that crash. They wanted some kind of “Bit Coin” ransome. I don’t even know what a Bit Coin is or where to get them.

    1. Hello Phillip, not sure what ebook you’re referring to, as we don’t sell any ebook ourselves, at the moment. You’re probably referring to some of the courses we reviewed in this article, however you shall contact the right service provider, not us!



  4. I have recently discovered the free ChineseSkill app for iOS (possibly for Android as well), which combines the best aspects of Rosetta Stone (pictorial) with rigorous interactive exercises, complete with normal and slow-speed audio. There are multiple-choice and bidirectional translation exercises, grammatical patterns, and even animated, interactive character stroke exercises. There are many, many exercises by subject, and it even scores your efforts. I highly recommend it! And it’s free!

    1. I’ve tried ChineseSkill and I’m not convinced of their study program. Also if I remember well it isn’t completely free

          1. I discovered a few days ago that the Chinese Skill app has a completely changed interface that I don’t like at all and they have gone subscription. However, a negative review of Chinese Skill on the Apple App Store recommended Hello Chinese as a substitute, and it turns out Hello Chinese is almost exactly like the old Chinese Skill app. So if you liked the old Chinese Skill, the free Hello Chinese app is now the best bet.

    2. Thank you so much! I’ll check this out. Currently, I am using, which enables slightly slower speed listening, which is helpful.

    3. well,you can not only studying on that APPs you can try to talk to Chinese they are always helpful. In China, a large number of people can speak English, so don’t be worry.

  5. Hi,
    I am looking for a program/app where I can type in a sentence and it will read it SLOWLY for me (in Chinese). For example, on Google translate, I can do this but the speed is rather fast for me. Do you know of anything available?

  6. So as a visual learner, which course have you found most useful? I’ve tried a bunch, and haven’t found one yet that feels like it fits me.

  7. Just read your awesome posts. So glad I chanced upon this site. We teach the Mandarin language at our institute and your site provides very rich content!

  8. Thanks for finally writing about >Chinese Courses: a short review of the most popular learning tools <Liked it!

  9. I am a teacher at Zhangzhou Institute of Technology, China. My study focuses on Natural Language Processing. Based on this technology I have developed a software to help users read texts in Chinese. Smart Chinese Reader offers several advantages over traditional learning programs, including: Learn by using, Higher precision for Chinese word segmentation, Full text translation, Full text pronunciation, Handling traditional and simplified Chinese characters simultaneously, No Internet connection required, etc.

    Smart Chinese Reader is free. You can download it from Any feedback / constructive criticism is highly appreciated!

  10. Hi, I’ve just read some of your articles and found you quite familiar with China and Chinese language, thus, I am writing to ask do you have some interest in taking our free trail Mandarin lessons and giving some feedback to us.

    Our institute named Beijing Mandarin located in Hong Kong, we our team are working on a online Mandarin platform which providing professional Live Class and e-learning resources aimed to serve more Chinese learners around the world. So we are looking forward to your advice.

    Thank you!

  11. I wanted to add to this list and recommend Rhythmic Mandarin. VERY good starter. Mostly auditory and gives you many ways of remembering the words. The selection of topics and phrases is exactly what I needed in my daily situations.

    1. Hey Ya Te,

      thank you for the tip. It’s quite cheap but, looking on Amazon, I understood that is for beginners at the moment I’m not motivated on buying it.

      Today I spent one hour on Skritter, it’s quite additive. Really good stuff to learn how to write : P

      Info for the readers, Ya Te is a good friend of mine and he and his wife organize a weekly Cine Forum in Shanghai.

      If you are interested check their website

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