Apps for Learning Chinese Online

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Apps for Learning Chinese Online

Mandarin is the most spoken language in the world. Mandarin has several characteristics that render it particularly challenging to learn, especially for native English speakers. Without a working familiarity with the language of the host location, expatriates can face obstacles far beyond simply getting by in day to day situations. Additionally, “tone” changes the meaning of words, but is difficult for native English speakers to discern, as tone is not used in the English language. Of course, it is possible to get along with the daily laowai situations like taxi commute, food orders in a restaurant or doing your errands in a grocery store… but learning Chinese online will not only allow you to do more, it will also help you get to discover the real China life by talking to the locals.

The good news is that mastering the essential elements of communication, even in the most difficult languages, can be accomplished with the right approach and the extra boost of motivation and commitment. Here is a list of some popular apps, amongst a multitude of choice, to help you on your way to learning Chinese online:


Pleco is an attractive dictionary app that many expats in China swear by. The add-ons are unbelievably expensive but unfortunately necessary. However, although the standard features are limited, the app shows you the Simplified (Mandarin) characters beside “traditional” (Cantonese, Japanese) characters, which can be helpful in different countries. We recommend the free version for English-Chinese translation.

Pleco app for learning chinese online

Chinese Skill

Chinese Skill is free app that’s great for beginners as it helps learning Chinese online in a fun way. If you had used Duolingo with another language and loved it, you would be using this app a lot. The design and interface are really friendly, featuring a smiling panda to help you learn step by step. Also, the content is designed according to categories like food, numbers and colors—so you get the learning in a rather systematic way while having some fun.

Mind Snacks Series

Maybe it is designed for kids, we don’t know, but it works well for those looking to memorize basic vocabulary. You receive 50 lessons with around 20 pieces of vocabulary each. You are then tested in mini-games, things like helping a frog match a word to a picture to eat it. It’s perfect for memorizing basic words and phrases in an engaging way.

mind snacks logo for learning chinese online

HSK Test

When you’ve finally reached a certain level of Chinese fluency, you may want to get certified. The Hanyu Shuiping Kaoshi, or HSK test, is the People’s Republic of China’s standardized test for non-native speakers, such as foreign students, overseas Chinese, and members of Chinese ethnic minorities. An HSK certificate can be used to prove your Chinese proficiency for colleges and jobs. This iPhone app will help you prepare for the big exam. It has thousands of sample questions, covering a wide range of difficulties. This is another app by Popup Chinese. As such, you can find even more resources on their site.

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