There are lots of awesome resources for learning Chinese
This may surprise some people but the quality and variety of resources available to Mandarin learners are really high.
With the constant improvements in technology, the amount of a language that you can learn via online materials continues to grow. Not long ago, learning Mandarin independently would have been really expensive.
Nowadays, you can learn nearly everything on your own from online resources without spending much money.
Regardless of your budget, level, learning style, or focus area, you’ll be able to find something to help you.
Use something to structure your study plan
If you’re studying on your own, it can be easy to lose the benefits of a structured study plan. But, it’s easy enough to add structure to your own learning.
The traditional way to structure language learning would have been through textbooks. While textbooks are incredibly useful, I’ve always had a hard time sticking with them.
Luckily, there are some affordable, and free online courses that can help keep you on the right path (I’ll mention some of my favorites nearer the end of this article).
Be willing to try out different resources
Learning Mandarin is a long-term activity. You’ll be studying for years.
It’s hard to stick with only a couple of resources for such long periods of time. You should be willing to try out lots of different tools. If you get bored with one, there’s nothing wrong with moving on to another.
I think it’s also quite important to periodically assess your strengths and weaknesses.
For the first year of studying Chinese, I primarily used ChinesePod and Pleco’s flashcards. This led to my listening and vocabulary skills becoming high but my speaking and grammar fell behind.
By regularly assessing yourself, making adjustments, and altering your study plan, you’ll avoid major gaps in your Mandarin skills.
You don’t need to spend a lot of money
Studying doesn’t need to be expensive. If you go out and purchase or subscribe to lots of different resources, they can get costly.
Spending some money will get you access to better resources that are more convenient to use. But if you don’t have money to spend, there is still a plethora of high-quality free tools to help you.
Some of my favorite resources
There are far too many good resources for me to list them all here. But, let’s look at some of the best resources for a few different categories.
Online courses have become just as good, if not better, than traditional courses. Some of the best are Chinese For Us, Chinese Zero to Hero!, Yoyo Chinese, Ninchanese, Hello Chinese, LingoDeer, edX and Coursera.
It’s quite easy to find interesting content to read written using simpler language for learners. Some of the best options are The Chairman’s Bao, Du Chinese, Manga Mandarin, Wordswing, LingQ, MandarinBean, and Iron Mandarin.
You can practice writing characters with Skritter or TofuLearn. Alternatively, can also have passages you’ve written corrected for free in the notebooks section of italki.
There are lots of podcasts for learning Mandarin but the most popular is ChinesePod. Some others are Learn Mandarin Now, Slow Chinese, Coffee Break Chinese, and iMandarinPod.
Additionally, there are two popular platforms for making it easier to watch tv shows (FluentU and Yabla) but I prefer the free alternatives (CaptionPop and Captron.tv).
Obviously the ideal option for improving your speaking is having friends to speak Chinese with. But, even if you have a hard time finding any Chinese speakers, you can still improve your speaking skills.
For affordable online tutors, you can try out italki or Verbling. If you’d prefer a language exchange, then Hellotalk, italki, Speaky, Tandem, or Lingbe could all be helpful.
Additionally, for improving your pronunciation, try out Speechling or WaiChinese.
There are a few good places where you can learn grammar online for free, with the most popular being The Chinese Grammar Wiki. Ninchanese and Chineseboost also have lots of in-depth grammar lessons online.
Characters and Vocabulary
Zizzle and Outlier Linguistics are completely different, but both can help you learn Chinese characters. Pleco is an excellent dictionary. Memrise is a fun way to learn new words and Clozemaster can help you learn words in context.
Learning Chinese has never been easier
Even just a decade ago, finding good resources to study Chinese would have been difficult and expensive.
It’s amazing how quickly things have changed.
Nowadays you can find lots of excellent resources that are affordable, or even free, to fit all sorts of interests, levels, and areas that you’d like to improve.
Of course, it all depends on you, because you need to actually put in the time studying!
Background: I’ve tried out over 40 Chinese learning resources
I started studying Chinese seriously a few months after moving to Beijing in 2016. Prior to that, I wasn’t sure how much I really wanted to focus on learning the language.
I had struggled learning Spanish in the past, so didn’t have a ton of confidence in my abilities. Part of me just wanted to learn the basics so that I wouldn’t be completely helpless. After a while though, I really began to enjoy studying the language.
About a year later, I ended up starting All Language Resources.
I kept seeing people ask the same questions about which resources they should use to learn the language, or if a certain one was any good.
There are already some great blogs about learning Chinese, such as Hacking Chinese, Sinosplice, Sensible Chinese, and of course, DigMandarin.
At the time though, there weren’t many sites talking about which resources are worth using, and which ones are a waste of time and money.
I saw quite a few websites recommending courses that were expensive and terrible (Rosetta Stone, Rocket Chinese, and some others).
Although my Chinese is nowhere near good enough to teach the language, I figured that I could help others learn about the available resources and which ones could be worth using. That way, they could save some money and learn Chinese quicker.
There aren’t many Chinese learning resources that I haven’t tried yet. For these, I’ve typically used them over the course of several days, or in some cases, months and years. I’ve also tried out a bunch more but haven’t taken the time to write about them yet.