This article is a review of ChineseClass101, a popular online platform for learning Chinese through podcasts, although it is much more than just that.
What is ChineseClass101
ChineseClass101 is an online platform that offers a complete Chinese course for all levels, ranging from people who don’t know a single word to those who have already been studying it for a few years. The course is structured around hundreds of podcasts as the main study material and also contains a series of tools to help you consolidate what you learn from the audio tracks.
Features of the ChineseClass101 course
In general, ChineseClass101 offers you the following study tools:
- Audio and video lessons with transcriptions: ChineseClass101 has an extensive collection of audio materials covering all levels. It also has a small video library to support the audio tracks or to introduce some cultural aspects.
- Online and offline app: The app, available for Android and iOS, called Innovative Language 101, lets you study no matter where you are, regardless of whether you are connected to the internet or not, as you can download the lessons to your phone or tablet through the app.
- Vocabulary review with flashcards: The vocabulary introduced in the audio lessons along with the 2,000 most frequent words in Mandarin can be added to personalized vocabulary lists, which you can review later, through flashcards, tests or sideshows.
- English/Chinese dictionary: The dictionary allows you to input words in English or in Chinese characters and gives you the translation, the pinyin pronunciation and an audio file of it.
- Grammar: It contains an extensive database that currently contains 148 grammar rules ordered by level.
- Interactive voice recorder: This tool lets you record your pronunciation and compare it to that of a native speaker.
- Custom study program: Not all students have the same expectations or needs, and because of this, expert instructors can help you choose the best way to use the platform to get the most out of your studying.
- Personal help from a professor for questions: The platform offers a system that lets you chat with native professors to answer all of the questions you have.
Who is ChineseClass101 appropriate for?
While I still think it could be useful for people who live in China, in my opinion, ChineseClass101 is ideal for people who would like to Chinese in their country. The main advantage of this system is that it lets you get in contact with the real language that is spoken in China while at the same time teaching you cultural aspects in a pleasant way. I especially recommend this type of system for two types of students:
- Beginners: Starting to learn Chinese can be extremely frustrating if you don’t choose the right method. In general, the first lessons of conventional courses are torture and make you wonder whether Chinese is really the language for you. Because of this, starting with an enjoyable method makes you feel like you have learned something useful at the end of the lesson, which is essential in helping you get past the first motivational setbacks that Mandarin is going to give you.
- Students who want to take their Chinese to the next level: Of all the languages I know, Mandarin is without a doubt the language with the biggest gap between the colloquial language and academic language. In fact, it is common to see people who have studied Chinese for several years who are unable to have a basic conversation with a native speaker. In my opinion, this platform can be of great help in solving this problem and taking your Chinese to the next level. What I mean by this is that ChineseClass101 is an excellent complement to your conventional course, although I consider that conventional courses are still necessary.
How much does Chineseclass101 cost and what plan do I recommend?
This platform offers three types of plans:
Basic Plan: This plan costs 4 USD per month for a two year course and gives you unrestricted access to all audio tracks and PDF transcriptions as well as some basic introductory resources. However, it does not include the tools and functions that help you solidify what you learn from the audio tracks. I recommend this plan for people who want to get an idea of what this platform has to offer before moving on to a premium plan, as in my opinion, the tools associated with the audio tracks are necessary to get the most out of this course.
Monthly price: 8 USD (1 month), 7 USD (3 months), 6 USD (6 months), 5 USD (12 months), 4 USD (24 months).
Premium Plan: This plan costs 10 USD per month for a two year course, and gives you access to all parts of the platform except individual feedback. I recommend this plan for people who aim to use this platform to complement other courses.
Monthly price: 25 USD (1 month), 22 USD (3 months), 20 USD (6 months), 15 USD (12 months), 10 USD (24 months).
Premium+ Plan: This plan costs 25 USD per month for a two year course, and in addition to full access to all of the functions of the platform, it offers you a custom study plan and advising from a professor for the questions you may have. I recommend this plan for people who want to use this platform as their only study method , because this way, you will have an expert who will guide you in the most efficient way to use the platform and to learn Mandarin.
Monthly price: 47 USD (1 month), 41.67 USD (3 months), 36.67 USD (6 months), 26.33 USD (12 months), 22.88 USD (24 months).
What I like
- Audio tracks: There is an enormous quantity of audio tracks for all levels, and they are very well-structured. Each audio tracks is 15 minutes long and contains a dialogue at the beginning and afterwards an analysis and details of the new words (meaning and use), grammar points and the cultural context. The structure is very similar to the ChinesePod podcast (some of the teachers are the same as well), but the tools associated with these audio tracks are undoubtedly much better.
- Flashcards: This is one of the options that I like the best. The platform offers flashcards for all of the vocabulary in the audio tracks as well as 2,000 of the most frequent words, so that you can review vocabulary efficiently. It offers various options, including tests, sideshows and flashcards with SRS (which I recommend). What I like the best about this options is that the flashcards can be customized (you decide what vocabulary you want to study), they offer examples of the use of the word and they have a photo related to its meaning (this visual input helps you to remember).
- App: While the audio tracks can be downloaded and played on your cell phone while you are on the way to some place, this is not necessary, as the app is designed so that you can study wherever, even if you don’t have an internet connection.
- Custom study program: While this options is only a part of the Premium+ plan, I think it is very useful, as having expert advice is always good and helps reduce the chances that you will lose your motivation, which is very common when studying languages.
What can be improved?
- Complexity of use: Despite the fact that the website is well-organized so that you can find the resources you are looking for, I personally miss some sort of tutorial that tells you what to study every day depending on your level and availability. In my opinion, to take advantage of the full potential of the platform, it is necessary to know how to use each of the tools it offers.
- Videos: While the platform’s audio tracks are very high-quality and very useful, personally, I am not a big fan of the videos. The majority of the videos are intended to review vocabulary. While they are good support for the audio tracks, if your intention is to learn Chinese through videos, I suggest that you use others platforms like FluentU, which is very similar to ChineseClass101 but which is based on videos instead of podcasts.