We’re lucky to live in a world where there are so many resources for learning Chinese.
Learners don’t have to shell out substantial tuition fees to attend a college course or study abroad to learn Mandarin anymore.
These days, people can learn Chinese directly from their smartphone!
In fact, many learners are already familiar with a popular app called HelloChinese.
But does this language learning resource really live up to the hype?
We took the time to test out and review HelloChinese so you can make a more informed decision on whether or not this app is right for your language journey.
First, let’s take a look at what exactly HelloChinese does and how it works.
Also, the links in this post are affiliate links, so by purchasing HelloChinese, you’ll be supporting our efforts to keep bringing you top-notch language learning content on the FluentU blogs.
What is HelloChinese?
HelloChinese is a language-learning app for mobile devices. It uses a daily learning goal approach to help learners attain a conversational level of Chinese.
HelloChinese boasts quite a few features:
- Chinese speech recognition
- The ability to write 汉字 (hànzì) – Chinese characters by hand
- Game-based lessons
- Pinyin courses for newbies
- Customizable and personalized interface
- Daily training exercises
- Mini curricula for different language needs
- Study progress trackers
- Offline capabilities
- Traditional and simplified Chinese character support
HelloChinese Review: Which Language Skills Will You Develop with This App?
When compared with other Mandarin language apps, HelloChinese definitely holds its own. Regardless, it does have its pros and cons that learners should consider before downloading it.
First Impressions and App Appearance
Right away, HelloChinese has a neat little feature.
You can sign up and log in immediately, as is normal for most apps like this. But HelloChinese also has a “let me try” button so users can test out the app before going through the process of signing up.
At a glance, the app is very clean and user-friendly. Your homepage, or the “Learn” section, has a map that shows the trajectory of your lessons, with sections like Pronunciation, Basics I, Basics II and so on.
The next section is “Train,” which features a bunch of different games. However, all but one of the games are behind a paywall.
The third section, “Immersion” features immersive lessons, the majority of which are behind a paywall.
Some of the lessons are free and are divided into several learning levels: Elementary, Beginner, Pre-intermediate and Intermediate. Each immersion lesson offers a different immersive experience. These include videos, audio files, voice recognition, roleplay and point-and-tap exercises.
The final section, which is called “Me,” shows your account name (if you signed up) and your daily goal progress. It also displays the total amount of time you’ve used the app.
The notification bell at the top of the app is essentially an ad system where users will receive messages promoting HelloChinese’s YouTube channel.
The “🌿” section is a sort of miscellaneous section. From here, you can choose to review with native speakers (behind a paywall) and review areas that you’ve struggled with. You can also view a character bank of the hanzi you’ve learned as a reference point for review.
Okay, so we keep mentioning that certain features are hidden behind a paywall. So what are the types of accounts and their corresponding prices?
There are two premium options: Premium and Premium+.
Premium ranges from $3.33 to $6.99 per month. The longer of a commitment you make, the lower your monthly cost—for example, you’ll pay less per month if you sign up for a year upfront than just three months. The Premium membership allows users to access the smart review system and all training games.
Premium+ ranges from $12.49 to $19.99 per month. This membership has all of the Premium benefits, plus access to immersion lessons and customer support.
Unfortunately, it’s clear that the HelloChinese app is mainly designed with beginners in mind. You can skip the pinyin lessons if they’re too easy for you, but otherwise, the app seems to be very basic in its lesson content.
On the plus side, there’s a “take a shortcut” option to skip easier lessons, so learners can determine pretty quickly if the lessons are challenging enough for them.
The Good: Speaking, Pronunciation and Listening Skills
When starting out, you get to learn the basics about what pinyin and hanzi are, how tones work and the bottom basics of Mandarin overall. Each lesson section is pretty short, so even on-the-go learners can get through a section fairly quickly.
You’ll pick up Chinese speaking and listening skills through interactive lessons on the lesson map. Pronunciation in the audio clips is fairly good, as is the voice recognition for lesson quizzes that assess your accent. We deliberately mispronounced various words in the quizzes, and the app caught all of them easily.
It becomes pretty apparent that the app lacks video lessons, which can be very useful for visual language learning as well as for hearing vocabulary and native accents in context. If these benefits sound appealing, FluentU could be a great resource to pair with or replace HelloChinese.
FluentU takes real-world videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.
FluentU naturally eases you into learning the Mandarin language, and you’ll learn Chinese as it’s spoken in real life.
The program has a wide range of contemporary videos that cover a wide range of interests and levels, 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 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 quizzes turn 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 learning, then suggests content and examples based on what you’ve already learned. In other words, you get a 100% personalized experience.
Try FluentU in your browser or, better yet, download the FluentU iOS or Android app today!
The Bad: Writing Skills
Unfortunately, HelloChinese is greatly lacking when it comes to teaching learners how to write. So much of written Chinese involves stroke order, pattern and character radicals, and you don’t get much of those details through this language learning software.
The app also doesn’t teach learners how to type in Chinese.
The So-so: Reading Characters and Written Tones
Each lesson section features Chinese characters accompanied by their romanization, so it’s easy to associate Chinese pronunciation with the appropriate character.
As we mentioned earlier, this app isn’t really suited for advanced learners. There doesn’t seem to be a way to make lessons focus solely on Chinese characters rather than both characters and pinyin. Removing pinyin translations would make lessons more suitable for advanced students.
HelloChinese has an extensive vocab library. You can only access the characters you’ve already learned from the leaf menu, which is actually very beneficial. Learners tend to get ahead of themselves with app dictionaries, but HelloChinese makes you take it slow and review only the characters you’ve already learned in the lessons.
The So-so: The Craziness That Is Chinese Grammar
HelloChinese does take the time to explain certain grammar concepts. Every once in a while, the lessons will dip into the “what” and “why” of Chinese grammar, but there’s very little information available on complex grammar concepts.
However, beginner learners get a pretty clear and concise explanation of different basic grammar concepts early on. It just doesn’t go anywhere after the first few lessons, and the focus starts to shift primarily to listening and reading.
Conclusion: Should You Try HelloChinese?
The short answer? Yes! Smartphone language learners should definitely download this app and take it for a spin.
Because HelloChinese lacks so much in the way of writing Chinese characters, it would be wise to supplement this app with worksheets or another Chinese character-writing app.
HelloChinese also doesn’t have a lot of fluency tools, such as real-world conversations and videos. FluentU would be a great supplement for this, as our app is entirely video-based and focuses on passive and active listening for fluency.
What do you think about HelloChinese as a language-learning resource?
Give it a go!
Em Casalena is a published author, freelance writer and music columnist. They write about a lot of stuff, from music to films to language.
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn Chinese with real-world videos.