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8 Awesome Chinese Learning Software Programs for the Modern Language Learner

We all know that immersion is a great way to learn Chinese.

But immersion doesn’t always involve buying a plane ticket. There are actually lots of ways to get Mandarin immersion without using a passport.

For example: Chinese learning software!

The eight programs below—including both dedicated language learning tools and Mandarin computer games—help learners immerse themselves in the language from anywhere in the world.


1. Wenlin Chinese Learning Software

For use on: Desktop

Price: Ranges from free to $198

The Wenlin company produces both a free and paid learning software that’s focused on Chinese characters. Wenlin has a robust word processing tool to make writing in Mandarin on your computer easier.

But that’s not the extent of the software. It’s geared towards helping you learn characters, so there are animations that help you learn how to correctly write characters by hand.

The paid version combines an extremely comprehensive dictionary with a powerful Chinese text editor and flashcard system. Simply point to a word with your cursor and get the definition; this makes immersing yourself much easier—you don’t have to spend time cutting and pasting characters you don’t know.

You can even read Chinese literature and news inside the Wenlin software—it comes as part of the package, so it’s an excellent way to dive into Chinese literature, too. The dictionary feature again means you can just focus on enjoying what you read.

2. KEY Chinese Software

For use on: Desktop

Price: Available upon request

Another great software for immersing yourself in Mandarin Chinese is the KEY Chinese software. Like Wenlin, one of the core features of KEY is an extremely robust dictionary, but that’s far from all KEY has to offer.

If you’re like me and have trouble remembering the correct tones (even of characters I know how to pronounce otherwise), KEY offers a fabulous solution, with the ability to color-code characters by tone—so you’re still practicing your character recognition but you get a hint about how to say them.

You can also use this software to take Chinese text from anywhere on the internet and create dynamic reading exercises and fill-in-the-blank review sheets. KEY will even annotate grammatical structures (if you choose that setting).

Seeing examples in authentic text will help you understand exactly how you should use words and structures yourself, and make it easier to understand the contexts they’re used in.

3. FluentU

For use on: Desktop | iOS | Android

Price: See current rates here; free trial available

FluentU is a unique language program that immerses you in authentic Chinese media with effective learning tools so you don’t get lost or overwhelmed. 

You can choose from a large library of video clips—scenes from TV shows, movie trailers, news segments, etc.—organized based on difficulty level and topic. Each video comes with interactive subtitles available in Chinese, pinyin and English.

As you watch, you can hover over any unfamiliar word in the subtitles to see its translation, part of speech and a corresponding image. 

FluentU Chinese Clip

Click on the word to see example sentences (with normal and slow-speed audio!) and other videos where it’s used. This means you can truly understand how the word is used by native speakers in natural contexts. 

If you want to review a word later, just add it to one of your flashcard decks. After you finish watching a video, you’ll take a personalized quiz to test your knowledge of the video’s key vocabulary. 

4. Rosetta Stone

For use on: Desktop | iOS | Android

Price: Ranges from $44.99 to $199.99; free trial available

It’s one of the heavyweights in the language learning world, and Rosetta Stone does offer some of the best software for language immersion that doesn’t require internet connection.

In the Rosetta Stone method, you’re shown photos paired with words in an all-Chinese environment. You explore the language on your own, first through sounds, then through words, then through sentences and finally through conversations.

There’s voice recognition technology to help correct the inevitable pronunciation troubles of a beginner or to help advanced learners refine their tones and pronunciation.

Rosetta Stone also has games and activities to help you have fun while continuing to work on your Chinese. And if you do feel like you need live tutoring, there’s a way to get tutoring through Rosetta Stone’s program.

Here’s our full review of the program for more information.

5. Duolingo

For use on: Desktop | iOS | Android

Price: Free; premium plans and in-app purchases available

Another famous language learning software, Duolingo is great for those who want to be deliberate about their lessons but maybe don’t have a ton of time to do so.

The gamified setup helps you learn Chinese vocabulary, grammar and even communication nuances with quick lessons, fun characters and motivating challenges like streaks and leaderboards.

With Duolingo, you can practice your Mandarin reading, listening and speaking skills. You’ll even get to learn and review Chinese characters in a way that’s logical and not overwhelming.

Though Duolingo’s Chinese course is not as robust as, say, its Spanish course, there’s already a wealth of information to help you either learn the basics or brush up on all the topics on offer, and more content is always in the works. Best of all—it’s totally free!

You can read our full Duolingo review here to learn more.

6. Memrise

For use on: Desktop | iOS | Android

Price: Free; premium plans range from $7.50 per month to $199.99 for lifetime access

Memrise, yet another big name in language learning circles, is all about vocabulary.

The program presents words in themed courses called “decks.” Memrise also provides native audio and video content, so you can be sure you’re learning the correct pronunciation (though it also includes a range of accents, which might be confusing if you’re hoping for a particular one).

Though the words don’t come with context or grammar, the software utilizes spaced repetition to aid in memorizing new vocabulary. That means it will show you words you have trouble remembering more often than ones you can recall easily, which is a scientifically sound way to study foreign language vocab.

If you want to learn more about Memrise, you can read our full review here.

7. 仙劍奇俠傳 (The Legend of Sword and Fairy)

For use on: Desktop

Price: Free for the Chinese version (above); $14.99 for the English version

While the previous Chinese software programs on our list are made for language learners, these last two are examples of programs that people in China use regularly.

You can immerse yourself in this type of program just as easily as a native Mandarin speaker can. 仙劍奇俠傳 is among the most popular video games in China (although it’s produced by a Taiwanese company).

Based on Chinese mythology, all six versions of 仙劍奇俠傳 focus on battles between gods, humans and demons. There are elements of wuxia in the games, and in fact the title sounds like that of a wuxia novel or movie.

This is a great video game to immerse yourself in Chinese, because it has enormous cultural relevance. If you’d like to know what it’s all about but don’t care for video games, there are also spin-off TV shows and a card game.

8. 魔兽世界 (World of Warcraft)

For use on: Desktop

Price: Varies by region

Maybe you’re intrigued by the idea of playing video games in Chinese, but you’d rather start with something a little more familiar? That’s a great strategy (and can be employed for reading and watching Chinese as well).

If you’re looking for a Western video game to play in Chinese, World of Warcraft is probably your best bet. It’s one of the most popular Western video games in China, so there won’t be a lack of resources or players to interact with in the language.

So even though it’s not a Chinese game, playing World of Warcraft in Mandarin and communicating with native speakers is a legitimate way to build cultural knowledge.

If you have an account, you can sign in by hovering over the person icon and then clicking on the blue button in the dropdown menu. The other admin links are underneath it.

How Chinese Immersion Software Helps You Learn

  • Software immersion increases your exposure to Chinese and gives you lots of opportunities to learn.
  • Chinese people, like many people from all countries, really like to play computer games, so using this type of software gives you a cultural cache that would otherwise be totally inaccessible.
  • Immersing yourself in Mandarin with the help of software is something you can do anywhere, anytime.
  • People spend a lot of time on their computers these days. Using software to immerse yourself in Chinese gives you an authentic experience—it’s how native speakers spend much of their time, too.
  • Software immersion is cost effective. Even the most expensive software programs are not as expensive as a course at a university or a trip to China.


Does this inspire you to try out some software ideas for learning Chinese?

Then go ahead—pick your favorite and get started!

加油!(jiā yóu!) — “You got this, come on!” (Literally, “Add oil!”)

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