What’s the recipe for Chinese fluency?
Well, if you’ve already got motivation to learn…
Then just add internet access.
The internet is brimming with amazing language tools that’ll help you master any element of learning Chinese.
All you need to do is pick the best tools for you.
And we’ve made that easy!
In this post, we’ll show you our 7 favorite websites for mastering Chinese.
These amazing sites will teach you everything from pronunciation to reading comprehension to essential Chinese idioms.
What Makes a Website Good for Learning Chinese?
- Using the website actually advances your Chinese skills. That may sound obvious, but it can be easy to pick a website that’s more entertaining than effective. Look for websites that have strong philosophies behind their learning tools and positive testimonials from users. Fun, engaging Chinese language websites can be awesome—just make sure you’re choosing one you know will work.
- It’s focused on specific learning goals. A website that’s great for learning characters but nothing else is a better choice than something that’s mediocre at everything.
Look for structured websites that can help you target your specific language weakness. Even broad, comprehensive language sites should be easy to navigate and offer different tools for different skills. Are there any websites that are absolutely amazing at teaching every single element of Chinese? I guess that’s the holy grail of online Chinese learning, but I don’t think it exists.
- A good website is cost-effective. That doesn’t always mean free—it just means that the price is reasonable compared to value. The great thing about websites is that they’re usually quite accessible and offer a range of pricing plans. Generally speaking, it’s not necessary to spend as much money on a website program as you would on, say, a private tutor.
The 7 Best Websites to Learn Chinese
An amazing resource for reading practice, The Chairman’s Bao is an online, interactive newspaper in Mandarin Chinese. The articles are written specifically for Chinese learners and are labeled by HSK level.
This site is updated daily and there are articles that are appropriate for elementary to advanced learners. You can toggle between simplified and traditional characters, and if you highlight a character or word, the definition and pinyin will appear to the right of the text. You can sort articles by HSK level or by topic.
The Chairman’s Bao is a great everyday resource, but of course, it’s particularly useful if you’re studying for the HSK. The ability to sort by HSK level means you can really focus on reading everything at the level you’re attempting to master. I’m a huge fan.
Are you more of a video person? Want to learn Chinese while getting exposure to real-life Chinese culture and content? FluentU is the answer.
FluentU pairs authentic Chinese videos from YouTube with personalized, interactive language learning tools. You can click any unfamiliar word in a video to get in-context definitions and example sentences. FluentU also transforms videos into engaging games and quizzes that’ll help solidify what you’ve learned.
There are tons of Chinese videos available that’ll teach you how the language is used by native speakers.
FluentU also has content for every level, so even beginners can dive right in and start learning to understand spoken Mandarin.
FluentU has a wide range of contemporary videos—like dramas, TV shows, commercials and music videos. In fact, below you’ll even see the song “Let It Go” from the hit movie “Frozen”:
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 a word is 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 Learn 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.
If you want more audio exposure, Chinese Voices is the way to go. This project comprises a series of podcasts recorded by native Chinese speakers in Beijing.
The podcasts are made specifically for Chinese learners, so the audio is a little slower and clearer than if they were chatting informally with a friend—it’s a great way to get accustomed to authentic speaking and accents.
Chinese Voices is also an excellent tool for cultural immersion. In the podcast, Chinese students discuss the joys and challenges of their everyday lives. It’s probably the best window into life in Beijing that you’ll get as a Mandarin Chinese learner, at least until you’re prepared to listen to and read native-level materials.
Even though many of the websites on this list have their own built-in dictionary functions, a dedicated dictionary is essential to truly mastering reading and writing in Chinese. The YellowBridge dictionary is the best in part due to the sheer number of features it offers.
For each character you look up, you’ll get a stroke order animation, a list of different possible pronunciations and meanings, character frequency ranking and a whole host of other information. There’s also a thesaurus (a great resource once you’re doing your own writing), and you can look up the etymology of characters and words. There are also example words for all of the characters.
While the main attraction is the dictionary, there’s even more to YellowBridge. You’ll find a flashcard functionality, lessons about stroke order and HSK study guides.
Rocket Languages is a comprehensive language learning tool, but its real strength lies in its audio lessons and pronunciation practice. These features will get you ready to have real-life conversations with native Chinese speakers.
The foundation of the Rocket Languages method is to listen to audio lessons. This is a fabulous way to get used to understanding Chinese. Since it’s not video-based, it’s also great for listening while you’re doing something else (say, commuting or cleaning up around the house).
The pronunciation tool allows you to focus on getting your pronunciations to sound native, another one of Rocket Chinese’s major advantages.
Chengyu are Chinese idioms that are based on stories. If you don’t know them, Chengyu can be baffling. It’s next to impossible to understand a given Chengyu if you don’t recognize the associated story.
Chinese idioms are a bit like vocabulary words; some are common, some are obscure. Some, like 马马虎虎 (ma ma hu hu, meaning “so so; mediocre”), are taught in the most basic Chinese lessons. It’s that much more interesting, though, to know that the idiom refers to a story about a painter who was so careless that you couldn’t tell if his painting was of a horse or of a tiger.
That’s why Chinese-Tools’ Chengyu story database is so useful. These stories have been simplified and rewritten for Chinese learners, but they provide enough of the basic Chengyu story for you to understand the idiom. The stories come with annotated Chinese, pinyin and English definitions.
These stories are like Chinese fairy tales. So not only are you getting reading practice with the story, you’ll also get really important cultural information and have some common ground with Chinese native speakers.
Arch Chinese is a great web-based tool for learning to write Chinese characters, as well as for learning radicals and mastering stroke order.
There’s an animated tool that shows you how to write individual characters, while worksheets provide guidance on effective learning methods and help you build good writing habits. One big advantage to Arch Chinese is that you can use the pre-made vocabulary lists, so you don’t have to spend a lot of time figuring out what to learn. You can just focus on learning.
A great starting point is Arch Chinese’s radical list. This will lay the groundwork for learning and understanding Chinese characters in a way that’s more than just rote memorization.
Arch Chinese also has a tone drill app that lets you practice tones both individually and as part of multi-character words. This is a fabulous way to internalize not only the individual tones, but also how the tones change as they are paired with other syllables as part of words.
Does this inspire you to move your Mandarin Chinese language skills forward with a couple of great websites? Now you know exactly where to start.
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn Chinese with real-world videos.