The 11 Best Apps Everyone Needs to Learn Chinese Fast in 2021

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Mandarin Chinese is one of the most spoken languages in the world. It can seem like an uphill battle when you learn Chinese online, especially when you’re just starting out. With its unique characters and the fact that it’s a tonal language, Mandarin can be a little intimidating for English speakers to learn. 

A man writing Chinese characters

There are a lot of great apps and programs available to help you overcome these challenges though, and once you find the most effective ones, you’ll be on your way to fluency. There are a lot of them out there, so to save you some time, I’ve made a list of the best apps to learn Chinese to save you some time. You can read more about them below.

Overall Best App to Learn Chinese
Rocket Languages

Best Beginner Chinese App
Mondly

Best Chinese App for Speaking
italki

Best Listening App for Chinese Learners
ChineseClass101

Best App to Practice Reading Chinese
The Chairman’s Bao

Best Chinese App for Writing
Skritter

Best App to Learn Chinese Grammar
Ninchanese

Best Chinese Vocabulary App
Drops

Best Free Chinese App
Duolingo

Most Immersive Chinese App
FluentU

The list contains the best Chinese learning apps for all levels of Mandarin speakers. Some help you build a strong foundation in the language while others focus on specific or more advanced skills. I chose the apps on this list based on the skills they teach, how effectively they teach them, and their overall value and learning experience.

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Some are well-known language learning brands and others may be hidden gems. They’re all helpful though, and using any one of them will help you improve your Chinese language skills.

Best Apps to Learn Chinese Online Compared

DescriptionApp NameFree TrialMonthly Price*
Overall Best App to Learn ChineseRocket LanguagesSelect lessons$99.95**
Best Beginner Chinese AppMondly7 days$9.99
Best Chinese App for SpeakingitalkiN/AVaries
Best Listening App for Chinese LearnersChineseClass1017 days$8.00
Best App to Practice Reading ChineseThe Chairman's BaoSelect lessons$10.00
Best Chinese App for WritingSkritter7 days$14.99
Best App to Learn Chinese GrammarNinchaneseSelect lessons$10.00
Best Chinese Vocabulary AppDrops7 days$9.99
Best Free Chinese AppDuolingoFreeFree
Most Immersive Chinese AppFluentU14 days$30.00
Best HSK AppHSK OnlineN/A$18.00
*Monthly Price is the cost of a one-month subscription to the app. Discounts may be available for longer subscriptions.
**This price is for a lifetime membership. No monthly memberships are available.

To compile this list, I researched the prices, features, and overall effectiveness of over 20 different Chinese learning apps and analyzed reviews from several sites (including PCMag, TrustPilot, and the Apple and Google Play stores) to see other user comments and find consensus among them. Ultimately, I spent time using the apps, paying particular attention to the characteristics that not only differentiate them from other apps, but the characteristics that actually matter to Chinese learners.

If you’re still not sure which app to use after reading this list or which direction to go, I’ve included a guide below that lists key questions you should think about as you start to learn Chinese online. You can also check out a more complete list of the best language learning apps.

The Rocket Languages brand is well-known in the language learning industry. It offers a variety of language courses, including Chinese. The Rocket Languages Chinese course includes audio lessons to help you improve listening comprehension, as well as writing lessons. You’ll also practice pronunciation with the speech recognition software, which is actually pretty accurate.

One aspect of the Rocket Languages Chinese course that stands out among others is the language and culture lessons. Culture is also important when learning a language, and Rocket Languages definitely helps with this. In terms of its effectiveness, the lessons and activities definitely help you learn real-world, useful Mandarin Chinese. Instead of focusing on one skill, this app has a more well-rounded approach and helps you develop all skills (similar to Babbel, which unfortunately doesn’t offer Chinese).

The Rocket Languages Chinese course has three levels, and you only need to purchase them once. There’s no monthly subscription to Rocket Languages. Level 1 costs $99.95, Levels 1 and 2 together cost $249.90, and all three levels cost $259.90. You can try a few lessons for free before you buy to make sure you like the course. Rocket Languages also offers a 60-day money back guarantee.

The most important aspect of learning any language is to communicate, and the Rocket Languages program teaches you to effectively communicate in Chinese while building a solid foundation in Chinese culture.

Mondly is an app similar to some others on the list like Duolingo and Rocket Languages. Its activities walk you through the different aspects of learning Chinese, and the topics add to what you already learned in previous lessons. While it’s not the most innovative app in terms of content, it definitely is in terms of tracking your progress. As a beginner, it can be motivating to actually see the progress you’re making, and Mondly has a really cool way of doing this.

It’s a great app for beginners because the Mondly Mandarin lessons focus on helping you become conversational right from the beginning. They cover topics that are actually useful, and they hold your hand as you begin to learn basic skills you can use right away. Mondly is a cool app in both look and the technology behind it. You can even learn using Mondly’s AR (alternate reality) and VR (virtual technology) features!

A monthly subscription to Mondly costs $9.99 for one language, which is all you’ll need if you’re only learning Chinese. A yearly subscription for one language gives you a pretty decent monthly discount and costs $47.99. If you want to learn multiple languages at the same time, you can get a lifetime membership for $89.99. Mondly also runs special offers throughout the year, so check the website often! 

Mondly’s app can take you from complete newcomer to learning basic conversational skills in Chinese. It’s an engaging way to start learning the language, and it can set you up for success as you continue your language learning journey. You can learn more about the app in this Mondly review.

italki is one of the most popular language tutoring platforms in the world. It currently has over 800 Mandarin Chinese tutors to choose from, so you’ll definitely be able to find the perfect tutor for you. Each tutor offers their own lesson plans and packages, although you can always choose what you want to do in your classes. A lot of italki tutors also offer discounted trial lessons. With these, you can try a few different tutors to find the best ones.

The platform is really easy to use, and the process for booking lessons is also straightforward. When you start your search for an online Chinese tutor, it can be overwhelming because there are so many. italki lets you filter tutors by where they’re from, what other languages they speak, their price, availability, whether or not they’re a professional teacher, and native vs. non-native speakers. The italki platform is one of the most advanced language tutoring platforms out there, and it has some of the highest quality Mandarin Chinese tutors. 

The price of private Chinese lessons on italki currently range from $5.00 to $42.00 per hour. For trial lessons, there is usually a 50% discount on the full price. There are tutors for every budget, although if you want to study more specialized topics like HSM test prep, the cost of lessons may be on the higher end of this range.

italki is the best way to improve your Chinese speaking skills because it gives you the opportunity to practice with native speakers and focus on the specific topics you want to learn.

The ChineseClass101 program uses audio and video lessons to improve your conversational skills and abilities. The lessons are short and easy to manage and there is a lot of flexibility in the topics you study. While the main benefit of the ChineseClass101 app is improving your listening skills, it also offers a lot of other materials like vocabulary lists, slideshows, and flashcards.

There are literally thousands of lessons in ChineseClass101 and they cover most topics you’ll need to communicate in everyday situations. The audio and videos always use native speakers, and you can even choose to learn 1-on-1 with a private tutor. ChineseClass101 also aligns its content with the HSK test, which allows you to track your progress and easily determine your level of fluency. 

There is a free version of ChineseClass101 that allows you to access a few lessons, but if you actually want to use the full version, you need a paid subscription. The ChineseClass101 pricing has three different levels: Basic, Premium, and Premium Plus.

The price of each subscription also varies based on its length, which can range from one to 24 months. The cost of a Basic subscription is between $4.00 and $8.00 per month, a Premium subscription costs between $10.00 and $25.00 per month, and a Premium Plus subscription costs $22.88 to $47.00 per month. 

You can visit the website directly to learn the differences between each subscription level. No matter which subscription you choose though, ChineseClass101 will definitely improve your Chinese listening skills.

The Chairman’s Bao is an app that uses news stories to help you improve your Chinese reading skills. It offers over 7,000 lessons and it’s actually used by some of the leading schools and universities around the world. Its lessons each have an appropriate HSK level, and the lesson topics cover a huge variety of subjects, like animals, business, crime, pop culture, and world news. 

The Chairman’s Bao is the best program to learn to read Chinese because it has lessons for every level. A lot of the lessons also include audio of the article. If there are characters you don’t know, the Live Dictionary translates them immediately when you click on them. On top of showing you the meaning of characters, the Live Dictionary also shows you the stroke order and helps you practice writing the character. 

If you want a subscription to the Chairman’s Bao, you have a few different options. The longer the subscription you choose, the greater your discount. A one-month subscription costs $10.00, a three-month subscription costs $25.00 (10% monthly discount), a six-month subscription costs $45.00 (25% monthly discount), a yearly subscription costs $80.00 (33% monthly discount), and a two-year subscription costs $140.00 (42% monthly discount).

For the serious Chinese learner, The Chairman’s Bao is the perfect choice. With high-quality content for all HSK levels, it’s an excellent resource to improve your reading skills, as well as your listening and writing skills.

Skritter is an app that focuses exclusively on improving Chinese writing skills. Its advanced technology can help you learn to write new Chinese characters quickly, efficiently, and most importantly, correctly. As you learn to write the characters, you’ll also learn their definitions, tones, and decompositions. The app also includes flashcards and additional features to expand your Chinese vocabulary.

The way Skritter approaches learning to write in Chinese is innovative and effective. It walks you through everything you need to know about new characters. It starts with the definition, then shows you the stroke order, then immediately asks you to write the character. As you make each stroke, the Skritter Chinese app checks your accuracy and offers advice to improve your writing skills. Its writing style corrections will quickly make your Chinese writing easily readable and precise. This is what makes it stand out from other apps like Clozemaster and FluentU.

The cost of a Skritter subscription ranges from $14.99 for a one-month subscription to $99.99 for a yearly subscription ($8.33 per month). There is also a six-month subscription that has a price of $59.99 ($9.99 per month). No matter which subscription you choose, Skritter offers a free 7-day trial so you can test out the app before committing to a subscription.

Skritter is the best way to learn Chinese writing available, and it will improve your skills as soon as you start using it. It’s an effective and efficient way to learn Chinese characters, and the price is definitely worth it for determined learners.

The Ninchanese app uses a gamified method to help you learn Chinese online. Its grammar lessons are particularly strong, and the app divides the lessons into both the HSK levels (1-5) and the CEFR levels (A1-C1). It’s useful for beginners to more advanced learners and it offers a wide range of grammar topics to help you communicate more fluently. 

The gamified structure of the Ninchanese lessons may be distracting for some, but it can actually make learning Chinese grammar more engaging and effective. The laid back and fun approach can also help you retain the information more effectively. The explanations in the grammar lessons are also in English, which ensures you’ll understand exactly what they’re describing. There are also plenty of examples in Chinese. 

Ninchanese offers a free version that allows you to go through a limited amount of lessons without paying. However, to go through all of its content, you’ll need a premium subscription. You can choose between a one-month, six-month, and yearly subscription. The longer your subscription, the greater your discount. A one-month subscription costs $10.00, six months cost $54.00 (or $9.00 per month), and a yearly subscription costs $96.00 (or $8.00 per month).

Ninchanese is an excellent tool to learn Chinese grammar online because of its simple and straightforward explanations and examples.

Drops is a really popular flashcard app because it takes flashcards to a whole new level. Its sleek design, wide range of useful words, and overall user experience make it stand out from other Chinese vocabulary apps like Memrise. With Drops, you’ll focus on characters and phrases you’ll actually use, and it’s spaced-recognition technology will make sure you remember them over time. 

Using the Drops app to learn Mandarin Chinese will expose you to a huge range of words and phrases you never knew you needed to learn. Most other apps have generic lists, like family members, days and months, and sports. Drops has all these too, of course, but it also has more interesting topics like pets, politics, and emergencies. You can read more about the app in this Drops review.

You can use Drops for free for 5 minutes every day. However, if you want to use it longer, you’ll need to get a premium subscription. A one-month subscription costs $9.99, a yearly subscription costs $69.99, and a lifetime subscription costs $159.99. All subscriptions give you access to all languages. 

The Drops Chinese app is an effective and fun way to learn Chinese characters and vocabulary. By using it, you’ll become more conversational and easily navigate everyday conversations.

Duolingo is a free language app that has the infamous green owl as its logo. Its Mandarin Chinese course is the same as all of its other language courses, and it can help you learn basic Chinese. Its course is perfect for learners who want to learn Chinese in a more structured environment. Duolingo also stands out among other free Chinese apps because it helps you improve all communication skills (reading, writing, speaking, and listening).

While learning Chinese on Duolingo, you’ll go through a variety of activities that help you absorb new Chinese grammar and vocabulary. As you progress through the lessons, you’ll always build on what you previously learned. This is helpful for learners who like more guidance as they study Chinese. Learn more about the app in this Duolingo review.

Duolingo is completely free to use, although it is ad-supported. This means that advertisements will occasionally interrupt your learning. If you want to remove all advertisements, you can subscribe to Duolingo Plus, which costs between $6.99 to $12.99 per month.

For beginners and more casual language learners, Duolingo is the perfect way to learn Chinese. It’s simple, entertaining, and best of all, free!

FluentU is an app that adds a transcription and translation to videos in Chinese. It includes music videos, movie trailers, news clips, and more. It’s an excellent way to immerse yourself in the Chinese language while also learning more about Chinese culture and society. There is a huge selection of videos available and you’ll always find something fun to watch. You can read more about FluentU in this review.

The way FluentU blends its video content in with useful and practical language learning content is really unique. As you watch videos, you can read a transcription and translation of what’s happening in real time. If you want to learn more about a specific word or phrase, you can click on it and FluentU shows you how it can be used in different contexts. It also shows you all other videos that use that same word or phrase. 

FluentU offers a lot of value in terms of its content, but it also has a higher price point than most other language apps. A monthly subscription costs $30.00 and a yearly subscription costs $240.00 (or $20.00 per month). You can get a free 14-day trial to FluentU to see if it’s a good learning tool for you, so it’s definitely worth checking out.

FluentU helps blend traditional language learning with complete immersion, and it does it really well. Being a company based in Hong Kong, its library of Chinese content is extensive and offers something for everyone.

The HSK Online app is specifically for Chinese learners who want to take the HSK exam. It tells you exactly what level you’re at and offers a personalized study path to help you reach the next level. When you use HSK Online to learn Chinese, you’ll study grammar and vocabulary, as well as improve your listening and reading skills.

What makes HSK Online stand out from other test prep materials is the fact that it includes everything you need to successfully pass the exam. It uses artificial intelligence to teach you what you need to know, it has in-depth grammar explanations to help you understand tricky topics, and it also includes mock exams. 

The price for the HSK Online app varies based on the length of your subscription. The price of a one-month subscription is ¥118 (around $18.15), a yearly subscription costs ¥488 (around $75.00), and a lifetime subscription costs ¥698 (around $107.50).

Studying for your HSK exam with HSK Online will help you attain a better test result in a shorter amount of time. Because it’s specifically designed for the exam, HSK Online helps you make the most of your study time and focus on topics that will likely appear on the test.

How to Learn Chinese Online

Learning Chinese online can be intimidating at first because it’s a new language with new vocabulary and grammar. It can also be overwhelming because there are so many resources available and all of them seem to have different strengths and weaknesses. When you’re just starting to learn Mandarin, it’s important to consider a few things. This quick guide will show you how to learn Chinese online effectively and efficiently.

Know Why You Want to Learn Chinese

The first thing you need to consider when learning Chinese is why you want to learn it in the first place. Are you interested in the culture? Do you want to live in a country that speaks Chinese? Or do you want to visit China someday? 

Knowing why you want to study the language can help you figure out the best methods to study the language. There’s no reason to learn Chinese with HSK Online if you only want to visit China for vacation someday, and using Duolingo won’t be helpful if you want to study at a university in China.

Use Your Study Time Wisely

Once you know why you want to learn the language, you should focus on making the most of your study time. Everyone is busy and study time is always limited, so using it wisely will help you learn Chinese faster. 

A paper with Chinese characters on it. When you learn Chinese online, you can focus on improving different skills like writing.

If you want to improve a specific skill in Chinese, you should focus on improving that skill. An app like Drops will teach you vocabulary, italki will improve your speaking skills, and The Chairman’s Bao will help you read better.

If you want more of a general course to follow to practice every skill, choose one that breaks lessons down into shorter, manageable chunks of information. This will help you comprehend each lesson more effectively and also help you remember it over the long term.

Find a Chinese App That Works for You

There are so many apps available, and a lot of them waste your time. Finding a Chinese app that has high-quality lessons and material is essential. You should also find one that helps you learn in a way that you understand, too. That’s why we create this list of the best apps to learn Chinese.

The list saves you the time of searching for the best Chinese learning apps and can get you on your way to learning Chinese how you want to learn it.

Study Consistently and Track Your Progress

Studying grammar for three hours every day won’t help you become fluent. Once you find the app you want to use, study for small amounts of time at the beginning. When you’re starting to learn a new language, it can be information overload. It’s more important to study consistently every day than it is to study for long periods of time every once in a while.

A man studying Chinese online with a tutor.

Tracking your progress can also help you along in your language learning journey. It’s motivating to look back and see what all you’ve learned, but it’s also helpful to see which areas you may need to study more. If you see you’ve studied a lot of grammar but don’t know a lot of words, you can adjust your study schedule to include more vocabulary.

Immerse Yourself Whenever You Can

No matter which app you use to learn Chinese, it’s always important to immerse yourself in the language any chance you get. Watching TV shows and movies or listening to music with an app like FluentU can reinforce what you learn in your lessons. It can also help you become more conversational because you’ll hear native speakers have natural conversations.

It may seem like a waste of time to immerse yourself from the beginning. If you start listening to Chinese as soon as you start studying it though, you’ll be surprised how quickly you start learning new words and phrases!

Best App to Learn Chinese Online FAQ

Duolingo can be a decent introduction to the Chinese language, but it shouldn’t be the only app you use. It’s good for learning basic concepts, but Duolingo doesn’t teach you to write in Chinese and its speaking and listening resources are limited. There are much better apps out there that can help you learn to communicate in Chinese, like italki, Rocket Languages, and The Chairman’s Bao.

The fastest way to learn Chinese is to study consistently and focus on improving your communication skills from the beginning. Using apps like FluentU, Skritter, and ChineseClass101 can help you learn to read, write, speak, and understand Chinese quickly. By studying for short periods of time every day, you’ll be surprised how much Chinese you can learn in 6 months.

The best method to learn Mandarin is to find high-quality tools that teach you to read, write, speak, and comprehend the language. These include apps like FluentU, Rocket Languages, and italki. Using apps and programs like these on a consistent and daily basis will help you learn Mandarin effectively, efficiently, and eventually, fluently. Shorter study sessions are also better than longer study sessions because you’ll remember more over time.

It is definitely possible to learn Chinese on your own. There are a wide variety of apps, books, podcasts, and videos available that make it possible to learn Chinese online. Immersing yourself in the language is one of the best ways to learn a language, and you can always find movies, music, and TV shows online. You can also use tutoring platforms like italki and Preply to speak with native Chinese speakers online.

You can build a solid foundation in Mandarin within 6 months if you study consistently and use high-quality resources. It’s difficult to become completely fluent in a language in 6 months, but you can definitely be conversational within this period. To learn Mandarin in 6 months, it’s best to use apps like italki and Rocket Languages because they will help you improve your communication skills as soon as you start. Six months goes by quickly, so it’s important to dive right in if you want to learn as much as possible in that time.

How long it takes to learn Mandarin depends on a variety of factors, like how much time you dedicate to learning it, how often you learn it, and the quality of the apps and other resources you use. In general, it can take around 18 months to become fluent in Mandarin if you are a serious learner who studies everyday, immerses yourself in the language every chance you get, and practice speaking with native speakers. More casual learners will take much longer to learn the language.

Chad started Langoly to help others learn and teach languages more effectively. He's a language enthusiast, and loves reviewing language learning and teaching resources.

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