What’s the recipe for Chinese fluency?
Well, if you’ve already got the motivation to learn… just add internet access.
The internet is brimming with amazing language tools that’ll help you master any element of learning Chinese — everything from pronunciation to reading comprehension to essential Chinese idioms.
Ready? Let’s get cooking!
- What Makes a Website Good for Learning Chinese?
- The 15 Best Websites to Learn Chinese
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 15 Best Websites to Learn Chinese
The Chairman’s Bao
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.
FluentU is a website and app that helps you learn Mandarin Chinese through authentic videos like movie clips, music videos, talks, news and more.
Every video comes equipped with accurate interactive captions: Click on any word to see an in-context translation, pronunciation, example sentences and even other videos where the word is used. And since the in-player dictionary is contextual, you won’t need to guess at which meaning of the word is being used in each case.
You can reinforce what you learn from FluentU’s videos with multimedia flashcards and personalized quizzes that adapt based on how you answer questions. In other words, the better you get to know a vocabulary word, the less often you’re tested on your understanding of it. Various types of questions in these exercises let you practice your listening, typing and speaking skills.
The program is available to use directly on the FluentU website, but you can also install the iOS or Android app and continue from right where you left off on the go.
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 Language’s major advantages.
Chinese-Tools’ Chengyu Story Database
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, but 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.
If you want to learn how to speak, read and converse in Chinese online, Yoyo Chinese can do it all. This website prides itself on teaching Chinese through an English speaker’s perspective, making it super simple and fun. The founder, Yangyang Cheng, is the teacher of each lesson.
The lessons are all video-based. After watching the video lesson, you can download PDF lesson notes, test yourself with flashcards, take a quiz and listen to an audio review where you’re prompted to repeat after the native speaker twice.
Yoyo Chinese currently offers a grammar course, Chinese learning tips series, three Chinese reading courses and three conversational courses. The conversational courses are Beginner, Intermediate and Upper Intermediate, and the character courses are Character I, Character II and Character Reader.
In other words, it’s easy to see progress in your speaking, listening and reading all with this one website.
Perhaps the most popular website for finding MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses), Udemy offers several high-quality and affordable courses to learn Chinese online.
From HSK (Hanyu Shuiping Kaoshi) test preparation to beginner Mandarin courses, Udemy has a little something for everyone.
Great courses to start out with are the “Chinese Language for Beginners: Mandarin Chinese HSK 1-3” course and the “College Mandarin Chinese Course On Your Own: Beginning Level” course.
The purpose of MOOCs is to give learners as close to an in-class experience as possible—regardless of where they are. Many are structured like university courses and follow a syllabus, and others actually have start and end dates and are filled with tests, quizzes and homework assignments.
On Udemy, you get the best of both worlds—a structured Chinese course you can complete at your own pace.
Chinese Boost Grammar Page
If you’re looking for one website to teach you almost everything you need to know about Chinese grammar for free, Chinese Boost is where it’s at.
Their grammar page is extremely in-depth and is organized by level. They have grammar topics from level A1 (absolute beginner) to level C1 (advanced).
They also have topics organized by HSK level. Simply scroll to the bottom of the page to find grammar lessons for HSK levels one through five.
You can also choose grammar lessons with specific characters or simply work your way through their list of tags, keywords, parts of speech and functions.
CCTV Learn Chinese
This website consists of many video series designed to teach people Chinese through immersion. Their series include “Growing Up with Chinese,” “Happy Chinese Season 1: Daily Life Chinese,” “Happy Chinese Season 2: Tourist Chinese,” “Survival Chinese,” “Communicate in Chinese” and more.
Each video series is spoken in Chinese and takes breaks in between to explain important vocabulary or grammar topics. By learning with CCTV Learn Chinese, you improve your vocabulary, grammar and listening comprehension skills even as an absolute beginner.
Their “Growing Up with Chinese” series is one of the most popular and features 100 episodes. It teaches 300 of the most common Chinese phrases and has a host to explain each one to learners after listening to a conversation.
Another great place to learn Chinese through video and audio lessons, ChineseClass101 allows you to choose from a variety of “pathways” that have been created for your level. Each pathway includes a variety of lessons intended to be completed in chronological order, giving you a clear roadmap and a great way to measure your progress.
What’s more, each level has multiple pathways. So whether you want to focus on reading skills, business Chinese, Chinese culture or simple vocabulary, you can choose the pathway that’ll help you achieve your goals faster.
You can also add multiple pathways to your dashboard, so you’re not limited to working through only one at a time. When starting out, ChineseClass101 will recommend a certain pathway for whichever level you’ve chosen or been placed into after taking a test.
“Mandarin Chinese 1: Chinese for Beginners”
Another popular website for MOOCs is Coursera, and this MOOC in particular is excellent for beginner Chinese learners.
Offered by Shanghai Jiao Tong University, this course is structured just like a university class but you can enroll for free. The class does have start and end dates, however, so if you’re unable to enroll at the moment, you can always check back for new offerings.
The course is five weeks long and by the end of it, learners will know 150 words, 20 language points and how to handle five real-life situations in Chinese. It takes approximately 10 hours to complete and follows a syllabus.
This collection of Mandarin MOOCs is perfect for beginner and intermediate learners. The courses offered include Mandarin Chinese Level 1, Mandarin Chinese Level 2, Mandarin Chinese Level 3, Mandarin Chinese Essentials, Mandarin Communication and Mandarin Chinese for Business.
Each course is free and self-paced, meaning you work through the course on your own time and don’t have to stick to a schedule or syllabus from a teacher. However, if you’d like to receive a verified certificate at the end of the course, you only have to pay a small fee.
Pimsleur has been around for a while and has come a long way since its beginnings, from the price to the lessons themselves. Pimsleur teaches languages through an audio-based approach. While you used to have to buy expensive CDs, you can now access all your Pimsleur lessons for an extremely affordable subscription on the website and through the app.
Each lesson starts with a conversation you won’t understand. The lesson then introduces new words, sentences and grammar through having you repeat the native speaker and build sentences. At the end of the 30-minute lesson, you listen to the conversation again and can understand everything!
The Chinese course consists of five levels. Every level has 30 lessons, each lasting 30 minutes. Therefore, it’s extremely doable to complete an entire course in just one month at 30 minutes a day.
With the website, you can also access reading lessons, complete roleplay speaking challenges, practice with digital flashcards, earn badges for each lesson completion, test your knowledge in speed games and more.
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—with these 15 best websites to learn Chinese!