How to Learn Chinese (Mandarin): 6 of the Best Ways to Learn Chinese Quickly
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你好吗. Do you want to understand what Chinese characters mean when you see them? Or maybe you want to take a trip to Shanghai to see the Oriental Pearl TV Tower? Whatever your reason for learning Chinese, there are tons of resources available that can help you. This article compiles some of the best and most effective ways. There are traditional methods, like using textbooks, as well as some unique options like listening to podcasts or taking online classes with a tutor from China.
Best Chinese App
Best Chinese Course
Best Chinese Tutors
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.
China is also a cultural hub. It has one of the oldest histories, with over 3,500 years recorded. China also has a thriving arts scene. There are many prolific authors, painters, poets, and philosophers from China. Speaking Mandarin will help you understand the history and culture of this complex country. This guide will help you find a way to learn Mandarin quickly and enjoyably.
How Long Will It Take You To Learn Mandarin Chinese?
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Table of Contents
Study with High-Quality Chinese Books
How to Learn Chinese (Mandarin): Follow These Steps to Become Fluent Fast!
There’s no magical secret to learning a language. It takes hard work and dedication. But one of the best tips for learning any language is to set up a language learning routine. Consistency is important for seeing steady improvement and not forgetting what you already learned. Also, using a variety of different ways to study can be helpful to fill in any gaps that other resources might have.
Another great way to learn is to immerse yourself in the language. If possible, practice with a native speaker. You can find a language exchange partner on an app like Tandem or take classes through a platform like italki. You can also find tons of authentic material on YouTube or other media channels. Let’s take a look at some of the best resources for learning Mandarin.
Use the Best Chinese Apps
Language apps can be a very convenient way to learn Chinese. You can use them on a phone, computer, tablet, etc 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 are each unique and can help you depending on your language goals.
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 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 uses cool technology to make learning Chinese vocabulary and grammar interesting. It’s the app on this list that’s most like a game and the lessons are short and interactive. It also has features that let you track your progress, which encourages you to keep studying. It’s best 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 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 really sounds like. 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 that 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 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.
See more online Chinese courses
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. 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. It focuses on real-world applications and functional language. The courses use the HSK curriculum and are designed to help you pass the corresponding level of the test. 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 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. 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 probably the best way to improve fluency and speaking skills in any language. But it can be difficult to practice if you don’t know anyone that speaks Chinese. Taking classes with an online tutor makes it easy to practice conversation from the comfort of your home on your own schedule. Italki, Preply, and Mandarin Tutor are safe and reliable platforms with tons of teachers ready to help you learn.
Italki has over 1,000 Chinese tutors available for classes. The italki platform is secure, so your payments will be safe. Because you choose the 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, and 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 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 Happiness Guarantee that lets you take as many free trial classes as you want until you find a teacher that you like. You can learn more about the platform in this Preply review.
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.
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. The book includes a rhyme for each character (which helps with memorization) and practice exercises that teach how to correctly write the characters. It’s recommended for beginner learners. See what other reviewers had to say here.
Chinese Demystified: A Self-Teaching Guide
Chinese Demystified is a good 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, most reviewers recommend using this book once you have a basic understanding of Mandarin, or alongside another language app. Check out what other reviewers thought of the book.
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. Reviewers found the book to be challenging, but incredibly useful. You can also read what other reviewers had to say here.
Watch Chinese YouTube Videos
Watching YouTube videos is entertaining, so why not watch them to make language learning fun! Watching videos gives the added benefit of having visuals to help you better understand the content. The YouTube channels below focus on instructional videos, but you’ll be having a great time while you learn.
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 that teach useful grammar and vocabulary. Since she is a teacher, she knows how to explain topics in a helpful way. Her videos are short, some only lasting a few minutes, but you can hear and practice correct Chinese pronunciation.
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 and others that teach Pinyin and basic 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.
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 levels have lessons on interesting cultural topics. 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 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. It’s like you’re learning Mandarin from a friend.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.