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How to Learn Chinese (Mandarin): 6 of the Best Ways to Learn Chinese Quickly

Kelsey Wetherbee Published on November 11, 2022

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Are you looking for the best resources to start learning Mandarin Chinese but don’t know where to start?

In this article, I’ll show you the most effective ways to learn Mandarin and the best resources you can use. There’s everything from the best language-learning apps and courses to the best Mandarin books, YouTube channels, and podcasts. No matter your level or learning style, you’re sure to find something suitable for you.

The Langoly team has over 5 decades combined of teaching experience and follows a strict methodology when reviewing products. We have personally tested and reviewed over 600 products on this website and helped many language students with their studies. After reading this guide, you’ll be one step closer to reaching your Mandarin language goals.

Best Chinese App

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Try Rocket Chinese

Best Chinese Course

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Try Chinese Uncovered

Best Chinese Tutors

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Try italki

It’s no secret that Chinese is difficult for English speakers to learn, but it’s also an important language. There are over a billion speakers of this language. Being able to communicate in it will allow you to speak with about one-fifth of the world’s population. It’s also an important business language. China’s economy is booming and is one of the largest worldwide markets. Speaking Chinese can help you get a job in China or with a company that has business ties with this country.

How to Learn Chinese (Mandarin): Achieve Fluency with These 6 Proven Methods

There’s no magical secret to learning a language. It takes hard work and dedication. But the best way to learn Mandarin fast and effectively is to use a variety of resources. One book or podcast alone can’t cover every topic necessary to learn a language. Using a variety of the 6 types of resources on this list will give you a better all-around knowledge of the language. For example, you could use a book to learn how to write Chinese characters, but using an app can be more effective for teaching vocabulary and grammar.

How Long Will It Take You To Learn Mandarin Chinese?​

What is your current level?

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Beginner
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B1
Intermediate
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Upper Intermediate

What level do you want to reach?

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Advanced
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How many hours will you study each day?

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The methods and resources included on this list were selected because of their effectiveness to learn Chinese. We follow a strict testing methodology to make sure any products we recommend are high quality and worth your time. Any of the products you see below will help you master the challenging Mandarin language.

great wall of china

Use the Best Chinese Apps

Language apps are a convenient way to learn Chinese. You can use them on a phone, computer, or tablet so you can study anywhere and at any time. Many apps have gamified the learning experience, making it addicting to log in and learn more every day. The 3 apps below, Rocket Chinese, Mondly, and FluentU help you in a unique way depending on your language goals.

Commitment: Low
Price: Low-Medium
Convenience: High

Look at more Chinese apps

Rocket Chinese

Rocket Chinese is the best app on this list because it’s the most comprehensive way to learn. The detailed audio lessons walk you through each step of learning Chinese. In each lesson, you’ll practice listening, speaking, grammar, vocabulary, and more. It’s not the most fun app on the list, but in my opinion, it’s the best for serious learners. You can try Rocket Chinese free for 7 days or read more about it in this Rocket Chinese review.

Mondly

Mondly uses cool technology to make learning Chinese vocabulary and grammar interesting. It’s a gamified app and the lessons are short and interactive. Mondly also uses innovative technology to track your progress and it even has AR (augmented reality) lessons to make learning an immersive experience. I recommend Mondly for beginners who want to start learning Chinese vocabulary. You can try Mondly free for 7 days, or read more about it in this Mondly review.

FluentU

FluentU is a unique way to practice listening to the Chinese language. It uses authentic content, such as shows, movie trailers, and audio so you can hear what Chinese sounds like in a natural context. The Mandarin course is one of the most developed on the app. It has thousands of videos and flashcards for you to study. It’s best for learners who already have a basic level. You can try FluentU free for 14 days or learn more about it in this FluentU review.

Take an Online Chinese Course

An online course is a structured way to learn Chinese. They are easy to follow and have progressive lessons that build on what you’ve already learned. They often include live or video lessons accompanied by independent practice material, so you are developing all language skills. Chinese Uncovered, Chinese Zero to Hero, and YoYo Chinese are three quality options that are comprehensive and effective.

Commitment: High
Price: Medium-High
Convenience: Medium

See more online Chinese courses

StoryLearning: Chinese Uncovered

Chinese Uncovered is part of the Story Learning series. As the name suggests, you learn Chinese through a story. In each unit, you listen to a chapter of the story that is entirely in Chinese. Then you watch video lessons that teach important grammar, vocabulary, and pronunciation topics from the chapter. Each unit has extensive lesson notes and practice exercises to reinforce what you learn. To me, these additional resources add great value to the course. There isn’t a free trial, but you can try Chinese Uncovered with a money-back guarantee. If you aren’t satisfied, they will refund your entire purchase.

Chinese Zero to Hero

Chinese Zero to Hero is a series of courses available through the Teachable platform and has had over 36,000 students. The courses use the HSK curriculum and are designed to help you pass the corresponding level of the test. I like that, although it corresponds with the HSK levels, It focuses on real-world applications and functional language. There are many different pricing options and bundles available based on your level and how much you want to learn. You can preview any course for free to see if you like it before buying.

YoYo Chinese

YoYo Chinese breaks Chinese down into manageable chunks. It uses short video lessons that focus on Chinese dialogues. Each lesson has additional practice material and quizzes to help you reinforce what you learned. You can also track your progress to see how quickly you are improving. One useful feature is the ability to switch between traditional and simplified characters while using the practice material, providing a more comprehensive experience. If you sign up for an account, you can access a free lesson to see if you enjoy the course before buying.

Find an Online Chinese Tutor

Talking with a native speaker is one of the best ways to improve fluency and speaking skills in any language. But it can be difficult to practice if you don’t know anyone who speaks Chinese. Taking classes with an online tutor makes it easy to practice conversation from the comfort of your home and on your own schedule. italki, Preply, and Mandarin Tutor are safe and reliable platforms with tons of teachers ready to help you learn.

Commitment: Medium
Price: Medium-High
Convenience: Medium

italki

italki has over 1,000 Chinese tutors available for classes. The italki platform is secure, so your payments will be safe. Because you choose your teacher, they can create a curriculum based on your needs and language goals. Teachers set their own prices for classes so there is a wide range of prices to fit all budgets. I like that most teachers offer a discounted trial lesson to see if they are a good fit for you. If you’re interested, you can learn more in this italki review.

Preply

Preply is a similar language learning platform with over 2,000 Chinese teachers available. You can filter teachers based on the languages they speak, what country they’re from, and availability. Like italki, teachers set their own prices for each lesson so you can find one that fits your budget. Preply has a satisfaction guarantee. You can take a discounted trial class, but if you aren’t happy with your tutor, Preply will book you another trial class for free. You can learn more about the platform in this Preply review.

Mandarin Tutor

Mandarin Tutor is a learning platform exclusively for connecting students with a Mandarin teacher. You can take 1-on-1 lessons via Skype or Zoom. Lessons can be customized to your needs, such as Chinese for business or HSK test prep. Each tutor has a profile page and video, so you can see what they are like before taking a class with them. You can take a free trial lesson to see if Mandarin Tutor is right for you.

Study with High-Quality Chinese Books

Did you know the Chinese invented block printing, which helped with the mass production of books and the spread of literacy? Learning Chinese with a book just makes sense! Books are also a practical way to study because they are portable, easy to use, and you can skip to what you want to learn. Fundamentals of Chinese Characters, Chinese Demystified: A Self-Teaching Guide, and New Practical Chinese Reader are three excellent options with tons of great reviews on Amazon. You can see other excellent options in this Chinese book guide.

Commitment: Low
Price: Medium
Convenience: Medium

Fundamentals of Chinese Characters

Fundamentals of Chinese Characters is a useful complement to another learning method, such as an app or course. It’s not meant to be a stand-alone book, but rather a comprehensive guide to teaching simplified Chinese characters. My favorite part of the book is that there is a rhyme for each character (which helped me remember) and practice exercises that teach how to correctly write the characters. It’s recommended for beginner learners. You can learn more about the book here.

Chinese Demystified: A Self-Teaching Guide

Chinese Demystified is a useful book to teach yourself Chinese grammar. It has straightforward and clear explanations that are easy to understand. It uses Pinyin, traditional, and simplified characters so you can understand it no matter how far you’ve advanced in learning the Chinese writing system. Because there is no CD or online audio, I recommend using this book alongside another language app or with an online tutor so you can practice listening and speaking. Check out Chinese Demystified here.

New Practical Chinese Reader

New Practical Chinese Reader is designed for adult learners from beginner to intermediate. The book follows the HSK curriculum, and the goal is to help you communicate in Chinese by looking at language function and culture, as well as developing skills such as reading, writing, listening, and speaking. I recommend also using the workbook alongside the textbook to practice what you learn. You can see if this book is right for you here.

Watch Chinese YouTube Videos

Watching YouTube videos is entertaining, so why not watch them to make language learning fun? Videos have the added benefit of using visuals to help you better understand the content. And there’s such a wide variety that you can find exactly what you want. The YouTube channels below focus on instructional videos, but you’ll also have a great time while you learn.

Commitment: Low
Price: Low
Convenience: High

Everyday Chinese

everyday chinese homepage

Everyday Chinese focuses on common words and phrases that are used in practical situations, such as ordering at a restaurant and chatting with friends. The video lessons are taught by native Chinese teachers with years of experience. The videos are short and entertaining and are a great way to pick up new words and phrases in Chinese. They have new videos every Wednesday.

Learn Chinese with Yi Zhao

Yi Zhao is your personal Chinese teacher. In her series of videos, she teaches the common structures and patterns found in the Chinese language and builds on them so you learn useful grammar and vocabulary. Since she’s a teacher, she knows how to explain topics in a helpful way. While she has content for HSK levels 1-3, the majority of her content is made for absolute beginners. She does a great job of breaking down the new vocabulary and showing the correct pronunciation that any learner will be able to follow along easily.

ChineseFor.Us

Chinese For Us is one of the most well-organized YouTube channels on this list. There are clear categories for the videos, so you can focus on exactly what you want to learn. For example, there is a great series on learning the different tones that are used in Mandarin, an essential building block for beginners. There are also videos that correspond with the different HSK levels to help you pass the test. I liked the series on Pinyin because I learned how to pronounce words right away while I worked on the longer process of learning Chinese characters.

Listen to Chinese Podcasts

Podcasts are a more modern way to learn a language, and it definitely has its benefits. With podcasts, it’s all about the audio, which is a great way to practice listening and understanding. Best of all, if you have a device and headphones, you can listen to a podcast anywhere and at any time. The podcasts below, ChineseClass101, Coffee Break Chinese, and Talk Chineasy are three high-quality options with tons of episodes for you to enjoy.

Commitment: Low
Price: Low
Convenience: High

ChineseClass101

chineseclass101 homepage

ChineseClass101 is an online platform and mobile app with hundreds of podcast lessons available. The levels go from complete beginner all the way to advanced, so there’s something for every learner. The beginner podcast lessons focus on teaching the basics of Chinese vocabulary and grammar, while the more advanced ones have lessons on interesting cultural topics. I like ChineseClass101 because of the sheer amount of content there is. There are also quizzes, vocabulary lists, transcripts, and more. ChineseClass101 offers a completely free membership with new lessons every week, or you have the option to pay for a subscription to access all of the content available. You can also read this ChineseClass101 review for more information.

Coffee Break Chinese

The idea behind Coffee Break Chinese is that you can improve your Mandarin in about the time it would take you to relax and have a cup of coffee. Your hosts Crystal and Mark have a conversation about different Chinese language topics, and Crystal (a native Mandarin speaker) offers Mark gentle corrections and answers his questions about the language. Each lesson includes a transcript and lesson guide, which I found very helpful since I’m a visual learner. You can try out the first few lessons for free to see if Coffee Break Chinese is a good choice for you.

Talk Chineasy

With Talk Chineasy, your host ShaoLan teaches useful Chinese phrases as well as shows glimpses into Chinese culture. Each lesson focuses on a new phrase and you learn how to pronounce it correctly as well as information about why it’s said that way. There are tons of topics to choose from, like art, nature, and travel. Recently, they released an app that uses visually appealing designs to help you remember Chinese characters.

How to Learn Chinese: Final Thoughts

Although learning Chinese might seem like a hard language, it’s definitely not impossible. But you do need the right tools for the job. Using a high-quality resource, such as the ones on this list, can help you improve quickly. And hopefully, they are enjoyable to use so you will want to keep practicing. You’ll be saying ni hao in Beijing in no time!

Want to learn more? Check out our Chinese Mandarin resource page.

How to Learn Chinese: FAQ

How long does it take to learn Chinese?

The US Department of State considers Chinese to be a very difficult language for English speakers to learn and estimates that it takes 88 weeks, or 2200 class hours, to reach a proficient level. This is because there are many linguistic differences between these two languages.

To see how long it will take you to learn Chinese, check out this Fluency Calculator.

How can I learn Chinese quickly?

To learn Chinese quickly, you’ll need to dedicate a lot of time to studying and have a consistent learning routine. Another way to learn quickly is to use a variety of resources since each one has its own strengths. For example, podcasts can help your listening and understanding, but taking an online course might be better for learning vocabulary and grammar concepts.

How do I learn Chinese at home on my own?

There are many options to learn Chinese at home, but one of the most popular is to learn with a language app. They’re convenient and can be a fun and interesting way to study. Other people might prefer to take online classes, either privately or in a group. There are also new options that are being developed, such as watching YouTube videos and listening to podcasts.

How hard is it to learn Chinese?

Chinese is considered a category IV language, or an exceptionally difficult language for English speakers to learn. This is because there are significant linguistic differences between the two languages, such as different writing systems and pronunciation.

How do I learn Chinese fluently?

One of the best ways to become fluent in Chinese is to study with a qualified teacher. It’s possible to reach a high level of Chinese by studying on your own, but to reach an advanced level, receiving specific feedback from a teacher will greatly help. Another way is to practice talking with native speakers to learn how everyday Chinese is spoken.

How do I learn Chinese for free?

There are many ways to learn Chinese for free, including podcasts and watching YouTube videos. Some language apps offer some or all of their content for free, such as Duolingo and ChineseClass101. Many public libraries and universities offer a free subscription to Mango Languages.

Kelsey Wetherbee

Kelsey is the Content Manager and Editor of Langoly. She is a TEFL-certified English teacher with more than eight years of classroom experience in three different countries. She’s an avid language learner with an advanced level of Spanish and is currently studying French. Whenever possible, she loves to travel and enjoys meeting people from all over the world. Connect with Kelsey on LinkedIn.

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