This article is an exhaustive review of Yoyo Chinese, a popular online platform for learning Chinese interactively.
What is 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 for 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.
Description of Yoyo Chinese courses
Currently, the Yoyo Chinese platform has three study programs, two conversational Chinese levels (basic and intermediate) and one basic characters level. Nonetheless, they will soon be releasing an intermediate-advanced conversational Chinese program and are currently releasing more character courses.
The two conversational courses are divided into 6 levels, each of which is divided into multiple units (around 10). That means that in total, each course has around 60 units. In addition, each unit is composed of multiple short lessons. Below I detail the components of lessons:
Videos are the basic materials for lessons. They are normally short videos that last a maximum of 5 minutes. There are three types of videos: lessons from a teacher where you can learn new concepts, interviews where you can practice the concepts learned in real situations and combinations of the two of them.
Videos are this platform’s main asset. Yangynag (the teacher) is a very effective communicator and the use of graphic resources makes things very clear and entertaining. Interview videos provide an additional element, letting you get in touch with the Chinese that is really spoken on the streets of China.
This part of the lesson is intended to break it down into parts, introducing new concepts so that students can revise and practice them. It is basically divided into two sub-parts:
- Review: In this first section, the concepts and vocabulary from the lesson are reviewed through flashcards, audio tracks and listening to and recording pronunciation, among other options.
- Quiz: The Quiz section will let you take a small 20-question test to see if you’ve learned the lesson’s concepts. There are many types of exercises: multiple-choice questions, putting sentences in order, matching pairs and connecting audio tracks to images, among others.
Learn on the Go: This option lets you go over your lessons when you’re not online or only have your cell phone and don’t want to use too much data. In other words, this is downloadable content. Each lesson has specific materials, and some of the options are:
- Lecture Notes: A downloadable file in PDF format that clearly lists the grammatical points and vocabulary from the lesson.
- Audio Review: Audio tracks that you can listen to in order to practice the vocabulary from the lesson. You can listen to them at normal speed or slow them down to focus on pronunciation details.
- Dialogue Replay: In more advanced lessons where dialogue takes place (interviews with native speakers), you can listen while reading the dialogue in English, Pinyin or characters. In this section, you can also reduce the speed to listen to parts that you find unclear. When you slow down the speed, you will be listening to the dialogue in standard Mandarin recorded by the Yoyo Chinese team and not the original dialogue.
There is currently only one characters course, which covers the 300 most common Chinese characters (they are planning two more courses for up to 600 and 1,000 characters). The course is divided into 6 levels with a total of 24 units each composed of multiple lessons. Lessons are divided into the following:
The videos for this course are excellent and introduce characters one by one, explaining their parts, how to write them, their graphic meaning and how they are used in phrases or to form words.
This part of the lesson is intended to go over new characters and practice using them. It is basically divided into two sub-parts:
- Review: In this first section, you go over characters and words by using flashcards that let you view the character, check its meaning, listen to its pronunciation and even write it with your keyboard.
- Quiz: The Quiz section will let you take a small 20-question test to see if you’ve learned the new characters. There are many types of exercises: multiple-choice questions, writing characters with the keyboard and matching pairs, among others.
Note: you don’t need to have a Chinese keyboard installed on your computer or cell phone, as the platform lets you write without needing to install anything.
These are downloadable PDF files that contain the characters from each lesson, their meaning, examples of how to use them, how to write them and how they are written in different types of sources, among other aspects.
On the course homepage, you can view your stats (for example, the percentage of questions you get right on tests, the consecutive days that you have studied or the number of flashcards studied), where you left off the last time that you studied and the last videos viewed. All of this is really useful for not getting lost and motivating you to study.
Flashcards help you review the vocabulary from the lessons that you have studied, and are an essential tool if you want the course to be effective. So, spend at least 5-10 minutes per day on them. The platform’s version of flashcards is inspired by the famous Anki and SRS systems.
The resources section offers you additional materials to complete the course:
- Yoyo Chinese Pinyin Chart: An interactive pinyin (Chinese phonetic system) chart that is very useful for beginners.
- Reference Videos: Additional videos on top of those offered in courses, which are both free (Google hangouts) and paid (Chinese Grammar Video Series and Chinese Learning Tips Video Series).
- Download Center: Here you will find all downloadable support materials and flashcard vocabulary lists for all lessons. You will also find other extremely useful materials, such as study plans or e-books with advice for learning Chinese.
Yoyo Chinese regularly publishes articles and videos on the language, society and culture in the Middle Kingdom. Studying Chinese is much more than learning a new language; it lets you get to know a thousand-year-old society and culture. I think that this blog is a good complement to your studies and a way of checking out the platform’s quality before buying its courses.
Who is Yoyo Chinese recommended for?
As mentioned previously, the Yoyo Chinese platform is designed so that students can learn Chinese practically and efficiently. For these reasons, it is particularly recommendable for the two types of students below:
- Beginners who want to learn Chinese practically: Learning Chinese isn’t easy, especially for speakers of Western languages. Many students with no previous knowledge of the language find themselves feeling vertigo upon starting their studies, and can be easily frustrated when starting conventional courses, which tend to be boring and impractical. Yoyo Chinese is especially recommended for beginners, as the fact that it is practical and entertaining can help you to maintain your motivation. Nonetheless, if you really want to improve your language knowledge in depth, Yoyo Chinese can be complemented with other study systems more focused on the formal and cultural aspects of the language.
- Residents of China with or without Chinese language knowledge: For people moving to or living in China, the main priority is to be able to learn Chinese to use it in daily life, and academic aspects are an afterthought. Yoyo Chinese is perfect in this sense, as it is focused on efficient and practical language training without excessively neglecting other important aspects of Chinese, which if not introduced correctly result in problems in the future.
How much does Yoyo Chinese cost and what plan do I recommend?
First of all, you must know that after signing up you’ll be able to try the 20 first lessons for free. However, if you want to access the whole program, you’ll have to purchase a course.
Beginner Conversational Course: The complete course costs 129 USD, and if you buy by levels, the first course costs 10 USD and the remaining ones cost 29 USD (Total 155 USD if you purchase them individually).
Chinese Character Course: The complete course costs 149 USD, and if you buy the lessons individually, they cost 29 USD each (total 174 USD).
Intermediate Conversational Course: The complete course costs 149 USD, and if you buy the lessons individually, they cost 29 USD each (total 174 USD).
Chinese Grammar Video Series: 29 USD.
Chinese Learning Tips Video Series: 29 USD.
Obviously it’s better to buy the full course, but if you’re not convinced by the trial version, you can always buy the first level (10 USD) and check out the complete functionality of the course.
What I do recommend for people who are starting to study Chinese or have a basic level is that they buy both the conversational course and the characters course, as studying Chinese without learning characters is not recommendable at all in my opinion.
What I like the most
- The Yoyo Chinese team: Both Yangyang and the entire Chinese team are highly professional and are excellent communicators, as can be seen in the very high quality of their videos. You can watch the course presentation video (above) to get an idea of what I’m talking about.
- Real Chinese: One of the things that I like the most about this platform is that they use a large number of videos with interviews with real people (not actors) as teaching materials, which is very useful if your goal is to communicate with native speakers.As I mentioned before, the upper-intermediate course hasn’t come out yet, but I want to try it, as according to the information from the people at Yoyo Chinese, they recorded the videos in four different parts of China – Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen –, making it so that students can be exposed to the accents and ways of speaking in different parts of China.
- Use of graphic resources: The course is well-designed to be intuitive, highly-graphic and easy to follow through the use of numerous visual resources. The use of graphic resources is very useful for helping you to retain new concepts. In addition, I especially like this aspect because it allows students who aren’t native English-speakers to follow the course without much trouble.
- Short lessons: You don’t always have a lot of time to study, but it’s important to be consistent in your studying. One thing that I really like about Yoyo Chinese is that its lessons are very short (videos don’t tend to be longer than 5 minutes), clear and graphic. Because of this, even when you only have a little bit of time, you can find a moment to complete a lesson and not lose the habit of studying. Who doesn’t have 15-20 minutes a day to study some Chinese?
- Characters course: For me, this is the most valuable course on the platform, because the subject is particularly ideal for teaching with videos. I also think that it is a very useful resource not only for students but also for Chinese teachers to use in their classes.
- Student help: Yoyo Chinese is composed of a relatively small group of people that take the work that they are doing very seriously. Because of that, if you contact them, they will always respond personally and will take care of your specific problems or the questions that you may have.
- Payment system: One of the things that I find the most interesting is the platform’s new payment model for courses. Instead of paying a fixed amount each month (like the majority of courses), at Yoyo Chinese, there is a single payment for your entire life. Because of this, the time that goes by doesn’t matter, as you will always be able to access the platform and review the lessons that you purchase. It’s as if you are buying a book to learn Chinese, with the difference that in this case, it’s interactive.
What could be improved?
Although the platform is excellent, there are always things that can be improved. Below, I detail some of the aspects that are missing:
- Mobile app: Although the platform can be easily accessed on mobile devices, it is clear that a well-designed mobile app could be very useful for students using it whenever they have free time to improve their Chinese. From what I understand, the team is already working on this project.
- Offline content: While it is possible to download certain materials, it would be nice to be able to access the complete course without being connected to the Internet, as it is not always possible to be connected. Nonetheless, I understand that this implies certain technical difficulties in ensuring that copyright is respected.
- Levels: We are well aware that the team is working on releasing new courses, but it’s clear that at the current moment, Yoyo Chinese is not useful for somewhat advanced students.
- Flashcards: Here at SDC, we are big fans of flashcards and would like the flashcards to be a little bit more customizable (being able to add other study lists). In addition, flashcards are much more useful if they promote active learning (if there’s some type of question). It would also be good to include a way to practice writing characters, like something similar to what skritter offers. In any event, flashcard lists can be downloaded, letting you practice the vocabulary from the courses on other platforms.
- Dialogue: One of the common problems with these types of courses is that in the end, people end up learning a bunch of phrases and vocabulary, but the connection between them is missing for them to be able to generate real conversations. Although the platform covers dialogue quite well, it is missing longer dialogues that are more than just simply questions and answers.
- Online classes: If Yoyo Chinese offered online classes (with real professors) to complete its study plan, that would be perfect. This is really important to help students apply what they learn in each lesson.
- Too much English: It’s normal for beginner levels to use another language to explain concepts, but after a certain level, it’s better to try to explain things in Chinese without having to use a second language.