Ever hit a bullseye before?
Thrown a strike at a bowling alley? Scored a basket with nothin’ but net?
It’s a nice feeling—aiming, executing and getting that perfect, precise result.
Learning a language doesn’t always feel that way. Sometimes it feels like your shots keep going out of bounds or even backwards. But then there are those glorious victories when you’re able to target a language skill, work at it and, eventually, master it.
If you’re looking for more of that feeling, you’ll definitely want to start exploring Chinese e-learning resources.
Most e-learning resources for learning Mandarin Chinese are best for specific language competencies. For example, some are great for improving your character writing skills, others are more focused on helping you speak and others will sharpen your reading comprehension.
In this post, we’re going to look at some of the e-learning resources that’ll help you target your learning to shore up your weak points and advance in the areas that matter to you.
Of course, for Chinese learners who want to improve multiple skills at once, or beginners who are still getting familiar with the basics, we’ve got some comprehensive e-learning courses for you, too.
But first, let’s take a look at why e-learning resources can be so beneficial to Chinese learners.
Why Use E-learning Resources?
Looking for convenience, affordability and effectiveness? You’ll find it all with e-learning tools. Here are some of the top benefits of e-learning:
- It’s available 24/7. Can’t sleep? Use your time to study a bit of Chinese. Want to get in some grammar practice early in the morning before work? Your lessons are right where you left them.
- Study on your schedule. Most e-learning tools allow you to study for five minutes or an hour. If you only have a few moments to spare as you wait for the bus, you can still practice a couple characters. Or if you’ve got tons of time to kill at the DMV, you won’t run out of Chinese to learn.
If you use these tools consistently, you can easily find time to learn Chinese without drastically altering your work or personal schedule.
- It’s affordable. Some e-learning tools are free, and even the ones that aren’t won’t set you back nearly as much as a local university course or even regular tutoring sessions.
- E-learning tools are typically targeted toward specific language competencies. Like we mentioned above, that means you can focus on the particular skills you need to build.
- It works. Many e-learning options really do make it easier and more fun to study Chinese.
10 E-learning Tools for Reading, Writing and Speaking Chinese
Are you ready to dive in with e-learning for Chinese? Here’s a list of some great e-learning tools you can try out, broken down by the language skills they target.
Comprehensive Language Courses
This self-study course was developed by the Foreign Service Institute, where U.S. diplomats learn languages to prepare for assignments overseas. It’s arranged in thematic modules and geared toward beginners. This course is somewhat like Rosetta Stone, but unlike the Rosetta Stone materials the FSI course is accompanied by a robust handbook filled with written exercises.
This course is probably best for students who have no background with Chinese. It’s self-paced, but comprehensive and structured. The expectation is that you start at the beginning and work your way through the material.
Created by one of China’s most prestigious universities, this course is also designed for the absolute beginner. It’ll give students a foundation in Mandarin Chinese. It covers phonetics and speaking, but is geared toward learners who are interested primarily in conversation. As such, it doesn’t cover Chinese characters.
This course is also only seven weeks long, so it’s hard to do much more than decide if studying Chinese is actually something you’re interested in. It’s not self-paced, though. You are expected to follow along with the course each week for the duration of the seven-week course. So if you’re the type of student who benefits from a structured learning environment, this is a good option for you.
If you’re the kind of person who likes to watch videos online (and who isn’t?), FluentU is a great way to practice your Chinese comprehension.
FluentU takes native Chinese content, including commercials, music videos or short films, and adds interactive subtitles to help learners understand the video and pick up new vocabulary at the same time. You can easily pause the videos and get an in-context explanation of the vocabulary you don’t recognize.
FluentU is much more robust than a simple video platform. As a learner, you can save vocabulary that’s new to you and use FluentU’s spaced repetition software and quizzes to practice and master that vocabulary. FluentU will remember what you’ve already learned and recommend further content based on that information, creating a truly personalized learning experience.
FluentU offers a unique cultural immersion opportunity. Because the videos are made for native Chinese speakers, you can get a window into Chinese society and media while learning the language.
FluentU has a wide range of contemporary videos, as you can see here:
FluentU brings these native Chinese videos within reach via interactive captions. You can tap on any word to instantly look it up. All words have carefully written definitions and examples that will help you understand how they’re used. Tap to add words you’d like to review to a vocab list.
From the description page, you can access interactive transcripts under the Dialogue tab, or review words and phrases under Vocab.
FluentU’s Quiz Mode turns every video into a language learning lesson. You can always swipe left or right to see more examples for the word you’re learning.
The best part is that FluentU always keeps track of your vocabulary. It suggests content and examples based on the words you’re learning. You have a 100% personalized experience.
Character Recognition and Writing Practice
Learning characters isn’t just about rote memorization… but there’s a certain amount of memorization involved, even if you learn all the radicals and do your best to think of characters as collections of radicals. There are still a ton of characters to just remember. True to its name, remembr.it makes this process easier.
remembr.it is more than a flashcard system. Learners don’t upload their own flashcards, but rather register for a pre-made course. There’s a simplified Chinese characters course and traditional characters course, both of which include more than 2,000 characters representing 98 percent of the most commonly used ones.
remembr.it starts by teaching the basic characters, then focuses on teaching characters that sound the same. This is to reinforce the phonetic component of many characters—and that’s why knowing your radicals is such a good idea, since many radicals are phonetic.
Another advantage of the remembr.it course is the focus on easily-confused characters. This is very useful, especially for beginners who may be struggling to keep those characters straight.
Skritter is one of the stars of the Chinese e-learning tools. It helps users learn not just to recognize characters, but also to write them, and write them with the correct stroke order. Skritter uses spaced repetition technology to remind learners of the characters they’re learning at precisely the right intervals for maximum retention.
Skritter has pre-made sets of characters and vocabulary, or users can create their own flashcard sets based on characters from a course or from some other source.
Speaking and Conversation
Whether you’re looking for a virtual language exchange or a private (but also virtual) tutoring session, italki is a great option that’ll help you improve your conversation and speaking skills.
On this platform, you can search through hundreds of profiles for paid teachers. These teachers are either professional language educators (who generally charge more) or community tutors, who are untrained native speakers and usually charge less.
You can also find language exchanges on italki. With a language exchange, you can pair up with native Chinese speakers who are willing to help you improve your Chinese in exchange for your help with English.
This online tutoring agency is somewhat more straightforward to use than a platform such as italki, because you don’t have to choose teachers yourself—you just sign up for tutoring sessions. The tutoring at eChineseLearning is all done one-on-one, live over Skype. All of the teachers are trained professionals. There are time slots available 24/7.
When you sign up for tutoring with eChineseLearning, you take a free assessment to gauge your proficiency and specific goals. You can also choose tutoring packages from among a wide selection tailored to different age groups and learning needs.
If you’re more of an app person, HelloTalk might be for you. It’s a smartphone app that facilitates language exchanges, including free phone calls between you and your language partner, no matter where you and that person are located.
HelloTalk also has an in-app feature that lets you save your favorite… well, anything. You can make lists of vocabulary you’d like to remember, save audio files you come across or make notes of specific corrections your language partner is always making.
The app also has text-to-voice capabilities, so you can type out words, phrases and sentences in Chinese and listen to them in a standard pronunciation and then compare that pronunciation to your own!
If you’re looking for a mostly smartphone-powered way to connect with native Mandarin speakers, HelloTalk is for you.
If you’re planning to take the HSK, you might need a specialized prep program. Global Exam offers just that.
It offers test prep programs for language proficiency exams, including the HSK. There are 120 HSK training sessions, including 24 practice tests for each HSK level. You’ll also get motivational boosts including study scheduling tools and testing advice. The Global Exam guarantee promises a steady increase in your score and performance with their tools.
Looking for something a little more lighthearted for your HSK prep? The Chairman’s Bao has Mandarin Chinese newspaper articles that’ve been simplified to make them appropriate for learners. The HSK prep gem? The articles are categorized by HSK level, so you can focus on reading and really understanding the articles at the level you’re studying for.
Unlike Global Exam, The Chairman’s Bao isn’t about crushing practice tests. You’ve probably guessed from the name that it’s a fairly tongue-in-cheek site, but it’s nonetheless quite useful for learning Chinese and practicing for the HSK!
This is just a small preview of all of the many e-learning resources out there for learning Chinese. Now’s a great time to dive in!
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn Chinese with real-world videos.