Remember, if you can, the days of the early internet.
When we were online but not yet connected by social media.
Before we carried super-smart communication devices in our pockets at all times.
This was the time when chatrooms and forums reigned.
Everything from dating, to hobbies, to gaming, to news were discussed on these message boards of old. You could meet new people—or at least, a version of them with a funny avatar and an obscure username.
That’s not to say they’re completely extinct in the wake of social media, however.
Internet forums are alive and well among language learning communities. If you’re trying to learn Mandarin Chinese or need a language-learning buddy, we’ll show you seven forums to check out, each with their own pros and cons.
But first—are Chinese forums really all that useful when we have applications and other resources to pull knowledge and help from?
What Are the Benefits of Chinese Language Forums?
- You can easily find a language-learning partner or tutor through forums. Posting in a forum is a great way to meet a native Mandarin speaker who can help you practice the language, or other learners to trade study tips with.
- Forums are great spaces for quick language questions and tips. If you want a community of Chinese language learners to help you out periodically with questions, tips and advice, you can definitely find it on forums.
- Connecting with other learners can help you gain some confidence in your language-learning journey. Ever feel stuck or hit a roadblock? If you’re learning the language online by yourself, it’s easy to feel like you’re not smart enough or just not good enough at learning a second language.
Once you become a part of a forum-based community, you’ll find out pretty quickly that this isn’t the case.
- Forums are almost always free. That’s right, you won’t have to pay for an app or for special access. A vast majority of message boards are free to access and post on.
Chinese Language Forums: 7 Marvelous Message Boards for Learning Mandarin
Reddit is a massive online forum that has a subreddit (or specific sub-forum) for just about anything you could think of. And yes, that includes the awesome Chinese Language subreddit. To become a part of this community, all you have to do is subscribe, read the rules and get to posting!
The subreddit has quick access to a Mandarin translation thread, pinned at the top of the page. It’s specifically designated for learners to ask for translations of difficult words and phrases.
A ton of people are active on this subreddit. Whenever I’ve personally visited, at least 80 people have been online at one time.
The subreddit’s rules state that you can’t post without interacting with the community—meaning that you can’t just post a question without also participating in other discussions.
This isn’t such a big deal (and remember, even if you’re a Mandarin newbie and can’t offer much linguistic help, you can still share study insights and expand on other’s questions). But if you’re looking for a forum where you can get answers to one-off questions quickly and for free, then this Reddit forum may not be for you.
If you’re not a fan of Reddit and want a Chinese language forum that matches its consistent activity, you may find Forumosa to be a great alternative.
There are so many sub-forums on this board. Language aids, advice on Taiwanese restaurants, work advice, tutor resources—you name it. Plus, most of those sub-forums have their own sub-forums as well, so your language advice can get super specific.
The layout of Forumosa isn’t exactly aesthetically pleasing or easily accessible. But it does more than make up for that in terms of the pros mentioned.
There’s also a primary focus on Taiwan more than any other Mandarin-speaking region, which might be a little restrictive to those looking for resources on traveling to Beijing or another mainland city.
Linguaholic’s Chinese Language Learning Forum is pretty simple in terms of setup. From the page above, you’ll find links to six sub-forums covering general discussion, grammar, idioms, 汉字 (hàn zì) — Chinese characters, literature and conversational Chinese practice.
The sub-forums are diverse and offer lots of practical guidance for you to improve your language skills. There don’t seem to be a lot of rules to abide either, with the exception of a spam ban.
Upper-beginner learners and above will appreciate the Chinese-only forum for a more immersive experience. The overall organization and variety of sub-forums also makes this a particularly productive forum to explore.
This forum is slowly fading away, which is a shame! While some of the sub-forums are lively, others are pretty dead. It’s definitely worth checking out if you’re looking for a language buddy to trade conversations with or if you have a question, but don’t expect an immediate answer.
You’ll find posts on subjects such as finding a job in Beijing, plus specific translations of obscure words, tutor recommendations by area and a plethora of e-book resources.
Tons of information cover both of these sub-forums. If you have a specific question, you’ll get an answer here.
If you’re not in the mood for posting, you can also surf through the posts that are already up to find some pretty valuable information that could help you on your language journey—and maybe even answer some questions you didn’t know you had.
This forum, like Linguaholic, leans a bit on the slow side. However, it’s far from dead.
You also have to make an account to post on this forum.
Chinese-forums has been around since 2003 and is one of the oldest still-active Chinese language forums out there.
Nothing has been lost to age with this forum. There’s still an incredible amount of activity on just about every single sub-forum.
The sub-forums are fantastic and there are quite a few of them. You can get basic translation in an (almost) instant, share resources for learning and passing the HSK exam, tips for listening, advice for studying and much more.
They even have a whole grouping of sub-forums dedicated to helping students get Chinese visas, teaching in China and advice for living in a Chinese city.
You’ll need to make an account to post anything, but as we’ve seen that isn’t so unusual for these types of forums.
Scrabbin is a pretty awesome site to help out learners of any language, not just Mandarin Chinese. When it comes to their language forum, there’s always quite a bit of buzz.
People are constantly posting, so don’t expect this forum to die anytime soon. It’s a great place to find language exchanges that can carry over from the forum—lots of people post looking for Skype exchanges or WhatsApp buddies.
The language-buddy setup of Scrabbin is super simple. You have the option to search for native Chinese speakers who are interested in learning other languages. If English isn’t your first language and you want to also learn Chinese, you’re sure to find a Chinese speaker who’s studying whatever your native language is. Hurrah for the community!
The actual “forum” portion of Scrabbin isn’t divided up into sub-forums for different languages, so it’s very crowded.
InterPals is quite similar to Scrabbin in that it’s focused on connecting you with another person for the purpose of language exchange.
The Learning Languages sub-forum is by far the best one to post in when looking for a Chinese pen pal and the forum is fairly active.
This website also has quite a few great reviews from people who met lifelong international friends here.
The Chinese-specific forum is kind of dead. People are making posts, but few are responding to those posts. If you’re an advanced learner, there’s no shame in leaving a post there requesting a language buddy.
If you’re a beginner, this won’t be that much of a loss, as much of the Chinese forum is written in 汉字 (hàn zì) — Chinese characters. In other words, you’ll be getting some key reading practice just by browsing the forum.
It’s important to think outside the box when it comes to learning a new language. It’s not all about strict lessons and practicing all by yourself. Forums can provide incredible communities that are available to support you all the way to fluency.
Have fun exploring these exciting 贴吧 (tiē ba) — web forums!
Em Casalena is a published author, freelance writer and music columnist. They write about a lot of stuff, from music to films to language.
And One More Thing…
Since you’ve made it this far, you’re obviously serious about learning Chinese.
FluentU can help.
FluentU lets you learn real Chinese from dramas, TV shows, commercials, music videos and more. It naturally eases you into learning Chinese language, and you’ll learn Chinese as it’s spoken in real life.
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.
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn Chinese with real-world videos.