20 Best Apps For Learning Mandarin Chinese in 2021

  • Jasmine Chiam
    Written byJasmine Chiam
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20 Best Apps For Learning Mandarin Chinese in 2021

Are you looking for the best apps to learn Mandarin Chinese?

Learning Mandarin Chinese can be daunting, but the process is made simpler by the plethora of online Mandarin Chinese resources readily available.

These resources include apps (mobile and web) for learning Mandarin speaking and literacy skills.

So without further ado, read on for my personal recommendations on the best apps to learn Mandarin Chinese.

Best apps for learning Mandarin Chinese

Hello Chinese

HelloChinese

Hello Chinese is a game-based course app and a fantastic candidate for beginner to intermediate Chinese learners.

This is a hybrid-funded course that provides both free and paid content.

When you first enter the app, you will be asked if you’re a total beginner or lower intermediate learner, which then curates your learning experience according to your current level of knowledge.

Through Hello Chinese, you can learn about Chinese tone, pinyin, sentence structure, and grammar. Plus, the app is built with a unique feature that allows you to speak into the microphone to have your pronunciation checked.

This app also offers lessons to learn both simplified and traditional Chinese characters.

Like many other apps, your understanding will be checked frequently through an easy-to-use interface and a multitude of questions that become more challenging as your progress.

Pros/Cons:

Hello Chinese’s attractive and easy-to-navigate interface and game-based learning make the process all the more enjoyable.

There is a lot of free content available paired with in-depth explanations within the app, though the app is notably designed with elementary and lower-intermediate learners in mind.

Hence, advanced Mandarin speakers may be better off with another resource on this list!

Price:

Premium costs $4.99/month to 8.99/month, depending on the number of months you subscribe for at once.

Premium Plus costs $12.49/month to $19.99/month. The longer the commitment made, the lower the monthly subscription cost.

Skritter: Learn Chinese

Skritter

For those keen on picking up simplified or traditional Mandarin characters, here’s an app that will make your learning journey smoother-sailing.

Skritter is a Chinese (and Japanese) learning app that anchors its focus on teaching you how to construct Chinese characters rather than speaking or reading.

With a smoothly calibrated touchscreen feature for handwriting characters, Skritter will prompt you to trace out each Chinese character stroke by stroke before presenting you with a blank canvas screen to rewrite the character from memory.

With each character you come across in the app, you would be taught the tone and pinyin, the correct stroke order, and how to use it in a sentence.

Plus, you can select from an extensive range of decks with different topics of interest that cater to beginners and more advanced learners alike.

Pros/Cons:

The highlight feature of Skitter is this:

Skritter is a spaced repetition app, meaning that you’ll be automatically prompted to go back and review your completed decks. These reviews can be spaced apart by days, weeks, or months.

This technique consolidates learning by allowing you to review previously learned characters before they vanish from your short-term memory.

Unfortunately, you only get a short one-week test run before the trial period ends, and after that, you’d have to pay (a rather hefty fee) for a monthly subscription.

Price:

The app costs $14.99/month. A six-month plan goes for $59.99, a one-year plan costs $99.99, and a two-year plan is priced at $179.99.

See this Skritter review.

Duolingo

Duolingo Chinese

Duolingo has garnered massive traction and popularity amongst avid language learners due to its enormous coverage of 19 different languages available for learning, including Mandarin Chinese.

Duolingo is a game-based learning platform that utilizes attractive animations and graphics, engaging exercises, an exciting reward system, motivational tactics, and fun challenges to keep users hooked on learning Mandarin Chinese.

As you enter the app, you’ll be greeted with a list of different topics that comprehensively covers real-life conversational topics and scenarios.

Plus, the app does reasonably well at picking up words you may struggle with along the way so they can be given targeted emphasis.

Additionally, other intriguing features such as daily notifications reminders by their adorable mascot and a streak-based system (which keeps track of how many days use the app in a row) may help encourage consistent learning.

And you’d be surprised at how many people consistently use the app just to keep their streak going (myself included). 😅

Pros/cons:

Depending on your expectations and what you wish to achieve through this app, Duolingo can drill the basic knowledge of sentence structure, choice of word, and character recognition into your mind pretty effectively.

And the best part is that you can get all their content for free.😊

However, Duolingo only offers simplified Chinese character learning as of now.

And, unfortunately, their game-based system will dock hearts (lives) with mistakes made. Once you run out of hearts, you won’t be able to proceed until these refill with time, or you could restore them by going back to previous lessons and completing them successfully.

I think that this system leaves me extremely scared to try and make mistakes.

Price:

The Duolingo app is free, though you can purchase Duolingo Plus at $6.99/month. The Plus plan just gives you the free reigns to make as many mistakes as you’d like without being penalized, in addition to ad-free usage and tracking your progress.

Getting the Plus plan is unnecessary, in my opinion.

See our Duolingo review.

Zizzle

Zizzle

Zizzle is a well-designed app that utilizes eye-catching and exciting graphics to help learners digest new Mandarin characters. Hence, if visual learning is your strong suit, feel free to take this app on a test run!

Currently, the app is best suited for HSK Level 1 till Level 6 learning (till more content is released).

Their lessons are neatly organized into topics. Under each topic, you’ll then learn increasingly complex Chinese characters through captivating (and strangely funny) storylines captured via illustrations.

All characters will have their English translation and pinyin displayed, and you’ll be taught how to use them in a sentence. For more complicated characters, its breakdown will be demonstrated, too.

After learning a single character, your understanding will be assessed through a quiz, in which you’ll have to answer correctly to progress.

And don’t worry, you have infinite tries. 🤗

Pros/cons:

I find the illustrations and graphics a little cheesy but funny and entertaining.

Additionally, having complicated characters broken down into simpler sections may help you remember the characters better, though there is no on-screen writing feature to enhance learning further.

Unfortunately, if you’re keen on mastering traditional Chinese characters, you’d have to usher your interest someplace else. Only simplified Chinese is covered in this app.

Though not a dealbreaker, another downside is not being able to keep track of the characters or topics you’ve learned. There’s no change of color or icons to indicate that you’ve completed the lesson, which can get a little annoying.

Price:

A one-month pricing plan goes for $9.99, while a three-month plan costs $24.99. You can purchase a one-year plan for $59.99.

Alternatively, you may purchase a few Zizzle Character Packs to receive lifetime access to certain decks for $49.99/deck.

Learn Chinese AI - Super Chinese

Learn Chinese AI

Learn Chinese AI is a wildly popular app that presents lessons via well-designed animations and graphics. It also has a built-in speech recording feature that assesses your pronunciation as you speak into the microphone.

Through this app, you’ll be learning Chinese characters, pinyin, their English translations, and how to integrate these characters into natural sentences.

Though you’ll learn to recognize and write Chinese characters, the app doesn’t drill them into your memory as some other apps do. Hence, you’ll have to memorize and revisit them proactively, so they’re housed comfortably in your long-term memory.

The ‘small test’ section then serves to check your understanding of sentence construction, listening, and speaking.

Pros/cons:

If you’re an intermediate or more advanced learner, the app allows you to take a level test that assesses your current knowledge.

This allows you to skip the more beginner-friendly lessons and proceed straight ahead to the juicy content best suited for your level.

However, if you’re a serious learner looking to commit pre-allocated hours towards learning Mandarin, the free plan will only keep you going for 10 minutes each day.

Price:

Subscribing to Super Chinese Plus costs €9.99/month, €24.99/three months, or €59.99/year. The Plus plan will give you unlimited access to the app.

LingoDeer

Lingodeer Chinese

LingoDeer is another multi-language learning app with impressively well-developed lessons for learning Mandarin Chinese.

Upon landing on the main page, you will be greeted with five distinctly different courses: Chinese 1, Chinese 2, Fluent Chinese (conversational-focused), Travel Phrasebook, and Character Drill.

The Chinese 1 course covers learning for beginners (HSK 1-2), while the Chinese 2 course encompasses intermediate-level learning materials (HSK 3-4).

The app seems to delegate similar-weighted emphasis on vocabulary, grammar, sentence structure, tone, and pronunciation.

Though there isn’t a feature that checks your pronunciation as per some of the previous apps, you can record yourself practicing it, and the app will play it back to you.

Pros/cons:

The smooth, neat, and intuitive interface is enjoyable to navigate.

Plus, there are several languages you can choose from to set as the app’s default language, such as French and Korean (meaning you can learn Chinese using a different language).

In this app, you can expect a plethora of exercises such as matching Chinese words with their translated meanings, listening activities, on-screen handwriting practice for Chinese characters, and filling in the blanks with the right choice of words.

While these may get a little repetitive, each bite-sized lesson is meant to solidify the memorization process of characters. In the long run, your character recognition skills will massively improve.

A big chunk of their content is free, though additional topics, lessons, videos, and tips sit behind a paywall.

This app may be best for beginners and lower intermediates only, as no in-app test can propel you straight to more advanced lessons.

Price:

To become a Premium Member, you can pay $14.99/month, $39.99/three months, or $79.99/year.

See this Lingodeer review.

Memrise

Memrise Chinese

Memrise is another popular language-learning app that offers an arsenal of language lessons you can undertake, including courses for Mandarin Chinese (simplified).

Their content is suitable for beginner and intermediate learners, and they collaborate with native Mandarin speakers who have concise and clear pronunciations.

Hopefully, you won’t just be learning new words but mastering them, too.

You’ll constantly be faced with review quizzes that assess your understanding throughout. And if you’re feeling bold and adventurous, their speed review is a race against the clock, nudging you to recall what you’ve learned quickly.

Pros/cons:

This app offers fun and engaging lessons that serve to expand your vocabulary, sharpen your natural fluency, and enhance your pronunciation.

The free version is nicely packed with great features, and hence, you may only wish to purchase the paid plan if you’re a higher-level learner.

Unfortunately, those keen on learning traditional Chinese or sharpening their Chinese writing skills may be better off with another resource on this list.

Price:

Memrise Pro is currently priced at $8.99/month or $139.99/lifetime.

HSK Online

HSK Online

Prepping for HSK exams can be nerve-racking, but this neatly designed app may be a key player in your preparations and help ease some of that stress off your shoulders.

It offers tons of practice opportunities through mock and actual test papers, strategically guiding you to improve your listening, reading, writing, and vocabulary skills.

However, being a test-preparation app doesn’t deem it ineffective for day-to-day Mandarin Chinese learners. In fact, HSK Online is a strong propellent for improving vocab, comprehension, reading, speaking, and listening skills for many language learners.

Pros/cons:

The analysis feature of this app sets it apart from others.

After completing their past papers or mock exams, the app will provide a test report, showing you how well you scored, which questions you stumbled on, and which areas remain your weakest.

With this, you can review the answers marked red (incorrect) to check the correct answer and hence, learn from your mistakes.

However, if you have no current knowledge of the Mandarin language, you may find yourself grappling to keep up.

Price:

The VIP pass gives you access to a personalized study plan, HSK 1-6 learning materials, AI learning, in-depth grammar explanations, and guidance from online teachers.

You can get lifetime access for ¥698 or a monthly pass for ¥118/month.

Speechling

Speechling Chinese

Offering traditional and simplified Chinese content, Speechling is a multi-language-learning platform that joins forces with native language speakers to help users improve their grammar, intonation, word choice, and articulation.

Drawing from the name of the app itself, you may have predicted that the app’s focus steers towards improving natural conversation fluency to reach a native level—and you’re right.

You can listen to a native male or female speaker (depending on your preference) enunciate a word or phrase before you’re given the option to record yourself repeating after them.

This recording can then be submitted to a Speechling coach who will pinpoint and correct your mistakes (if any) and have that feedback relayed back to you within 24 hours. Pretty cool, I would say.

Pros/cons:

It may be an uphill struggle to keep up with this app if you’re starting right from scratch. Hence, work on learning the foundational basics of Mandarin before returning.

Nevertheless, for upper-level beginners, intermediates, and advanced learners who are keen on polishing their natural fluency, you’re at the right place.

Aspiring and ambitious learners can record themselves tackling questions, describing pictures, or going wild in freestyle mode and have those recordings sent to a coach for feedback.

With practice and pointers from native speakers, natural fluency can be fostered effectively.

Price:

With the ‘Forever Free’ plan, you can access their complete curriculum and receive up to 35 coaching sessions each month.

The ‘Speechling Unlimited’ plan costs $19.99/month gives you unlimited, personal, and one-on-one coaching sessions and complete access to their offline premium content.

Read our Speechling review.

FluentU

FluentU Chinese

FluentU is an app that supports both simplified and traditional Chinese character learning.

Real-world videos are the primary learning material offered via this app, and you could deem it the ‘Youtube for language learning.’ Anyhow, mastering a language from solely watching videos can be a tedious process.

And here’s where FluentU works its magic.

Their video clips are categorized based on difficulty and hemmed with various features: A loop function to replay sections, pinyin and language translations that can be toggled on and off, as well as Chinese subtitles.

Pros/cons:

First off, their free trial only lasts two weeks, and then you’ll be charged a rather expensive fee to maintain access.

You may also feel that their app lacks structure and guidance, requiring more proactivity on your end if you want to learn effectively.

On top of that, FluentU doesn’t produce or film videos from scratch, but rather, they’re extracted from a database of video content uploaded by different people. Some of these are of stellar quality, but others can be awkward and unnatural.

Nevertheless, some of their videos can still be entertaining to watch. Plus, the app comes with features like quizzes, flashcards, and spaced repetition exercises to help reinforce your learning.

Price:

The app costs 29.99/month or $239.99/year.

Read our FluentU review.

Ninchanese

NinChinese

Ninchanese leads the pack in terms of beautiful graphic design and captivating storytelling. This app utilizes a gamified platform and adorable characters to liven up the process of learning Mandarin.

You’ll improve your Mandarin reading, vocabulary, grammar, listening, speaking, and writing skills through a series of different activities and games crafted into structured lessons.

And yes, you’ll get to choose between traditional or simplified Chinese characters as you learn.

Pros/cons:

The course levels offered cater to beginner, intermediate, and advanced learners, and you can start with whichever ‘world’ suits your level best.

Plus, there’s a whole lot of content and lessons to experiment with, which somewhat transforms this app into a one-stop Mandarin learning center that dribbles into all facets of language learning.

The app also strikes a neat balance between utilizing gamification techniques to keep you engaged without compromising the quality of content.

Unfortunately, the app does not provide recordings of native speakers but instead uses somewhat robotic and automatically generated enunciations.

Price:

While the free plan only allows you to access limited content, their complete plan, priced at $10/month, $54/six months, or $96/year, will garner you unlimited access to all their courses and features.

The Chairman’s Bao

Chairman's Bao

This app acts as a news website targeted at upper-beginner, intermediate, and advanced Mandarin learners.

At first glimpse, The Chairman’s Bao content can seem intimidating, especially for new learners.

However, their news articles are etched with features that make learning smoother. There are audio recordings by native speakers teaching you how to pronounce words, and an interactive live dictionary provides you with the translated meanings of any words you highlight.

Furthermore, their news articles are categorized into different HSK levels, so you can dive right into those that accommodate your learning needs.

Pros/cons:

This app is updated daily with fresh and high-quality content that would make an interesting read.

Keeping yourself busy with one or two articles a day would boost your grammar, listening skills, reading skills, character recognition, and vocabulary.

Of course, you would need some core knowledge of the Chinese language to utilize the full capacity of this app. Another downside is that no full-sentence English translations are provided, so you may have to perform a little guesswork here and there.

Price:

To access unlimited content on this app, you can pay $10/month, $25/three months, $45/six months, $80/year, or $140/two years.

Du Chinese

Du Chinese

Du Chinese is a Mandarin-learning app focused on reading Chinese that provides learning content to newbies through advanced and seasoned learners.

For many, navigating the app is a breeze. The interface is simple, and you’ll get to dive right into reading content on par with your mastery level.

The app functions to improve your character recognition, knowledge of sentence structure, grammar, and vocabulary and give you a glimpse into Chinese culture and lifestyle.

Pros/cons:

The app’s features allow you to check the pinyin, pronunciation, English translation, and even HSK level of words you aren’t familiar with. With a reasonably extensive library of articles, you’ll definitely find content that matches your level snugly.

Nevertheless, there is solely a heavy focus on reading, not on character writing or stroke order.

Price:

Like previous apps, you can subscribe for unlimited access. A one-month subscription costs $11.99, a six-month subscription costs $54.99, and a twelve-month subscription costs $89.99.

Pleco

Pleco

Pleco is a dictionary-in-your-pocket app perfect for absolute beginners, intermediates, and experienced learners.

The app’s purpose is to help you handle almost every possible real-life scenario in Mandarin. For example, this powerful app can help you understand a menu and signages in Mandarin or read an ingredient list.

Its primary function is a portable Chinese-English dictionary, where you can key in Chinese characters, pinyin, and handwritten characters, or use a visual feature to input words through your device’s camera.

Pros/cons:

Pleco serves to expand your vocabulary, improve your character recognition, and sharpen your speaking skills.

You can learn new words and their English meanings, discover how to use them in different contexts and sentences, and even pick up their pronunciation by listening to playbacks by native speakers.

And a big plus is that this app is free.

Nevertheless, some features are still locked behind a paywall.

Price:

You can purchase a basic bundle for $29.99 or a professional bundle for $59.99. Individual add-ons can also be purchased at different prices.

The features included in each package are explained on their website.

Chineasy

Chineasy

Chineasy was developed with a weighted focus on beginner learning.

Chineasy aims to help new learners memorize and recognize characters (traditional or simplified Chinese) with a series of illustrations and graphics.

You can improve your character recognition and reading skills from their bite-sized lessons, but not so much so for listening or writing.

Pros/cons:

Unfortunately, there’s no option to jump track beginner lessons if you’re an upper beginner or intermediate learner. Everyone starts from lesson 1.

Plus, Chineasy focuses on single characters. Because of this, you aren’t given much information on using words in complete sentences or how the contextual meaning may change with different word pairings.

Nevertheless, the app utilizes aesthetic designs and eye-catching graphics to help new learners memorize and remember characters better.

But if you’ve already got some Mandarin knowledge tucked up your sleeve, a more extensive and in-depth learning app would probably suit your needs better.

Price:

To unlock unlimited access to the app, you can purchase their plan for $4.99/month, $39.99/year, or $139.99/lifetime.

ChineseSkill

ChineseSkill

ChineseSkill is another Mandarin-learning app that has comprehensive beginner-friendly lessons and attractive graphics.

Serving as a one-stop center for improving your listening, speaking, reading, and writing skills, ChineseSkill operates on various activities and game modes to keep you entertained while you learn.

Additionally, their games help you refine your vocab, learn characters and their stroke order, and work on your tone and grammar. And I kid you not—their games can get pretty addicting.

Pros/Cons:

There’s no amplified focus on a single facet. Instead, this app sharpens your Mandarin knowledge and skills all-round, and you’ll get to fortify your understanding of grammar, sentence structure, and word choice.

In fact, the app is deemed a well-structured course that guides your learning from scratch up to HSK level 4 with bite-sized lessons.

The only major downside of this app is that advanced learners probably won’t benefit much from it.

Price:

The pricing in your local currency can be found under the ‘Premium’ tab of the app.

Language Drops

Language Drops

Language Drops stands out from the pack due to its beautiful design and immersive graphics. Its simple interface also eases navigation, and you’ll be offered 5 minutes of learning every 10 hours via the free plan.

The app claims you can learn over 2000 Chinese characters, but more importantly, it generates visual associations with these characters to enhance memory retention.

There is a well-balanced mix of lessons and games you can experiment with that are engaging and effective. Plus, Language Drops enables you to choose the words you wish to focus on, hence, customizing your learning experience.

Pros/cons:

Language Drops is an effective vocabulary-learning app where beginners can learn about Chinese radicals, practice writing Chinese characters, and pick up their correct stroke order.

Nevertheless, 5 minutes of free user time every 10 hours is extremely limited and will keep your hands tied.

Price:

The Premium plan removes the 5-minute cap and costs $9.99/month, $69.99/year, or $159.99 for a lifetime membership.

Read our review of Language Drops.

Anki Flashcards

Anki

Anki Flashcards brings a unique language-learning strategy to the table. Anki Flashcard is essentially a flashcard app that supports language learners in retaining what they learned through a Spaced Repetition System.

Spaced repetition is a popular learning technique whereby your learning content is displayed at optimal intervals on a repetitive basis to help boost memory retention and strengthen comprehension.

Anki works just like physical flashcards. You can choose to create and customize your deck of flashcards that caters optimally to your learning needs.

Pros/Cons:

Anki can be very effective for language learning in multiple aspects. You can use Anki to help you recognize and memorize Chinese characters along with their pinyin and meanings or even reinforce your knowledge of proper sentence structure and grammar.

Plus, you can utilize their massive resource database of ready-made deck cards that come in many different languages.

Nonetheless, you will require some knowledge of the Mandarin Chinese language (or any language you’re studying) for that matter because no foundational or fundamental lessons are provided via the app.

Price:

Anki is free on Android but costs $25/lifetime for the IOS version.

HiNative

HiNative

HiNative is, in essence, a Q&A app that connects language learners with native speakers. Through this app, you will receive answers to your questions related to languages, countries, and cultures.

Learning the language from native speakers can give a fantastic insight into natural conversational practices and fluency, which occasionally is missing in structured courses that just go by the book.

HiNative operates by what goes around, comes around. You’ll earn points by helping others and answering their questions, and the more points you collect, the higher your questions are ranked amongst others.

Pros/cons:

HiNative caters to almost every imaginable language in the world, including Mandarin Chinese.

This app is a fantastic way for you to pick up Chinese without formal lessons through the guidance, tips, and advice provided by native speakers themselves.

However, your questions may go unanswered at times. Plus, the clunky and messy interface may be a little confusing to navigate when you first start.

Price:

The Premium subscription gives your questions the priority, so they’re ranked first above others. This subscription costs $5.68/month.

M Mandarin

M Mandarin

Here’s one for comic and manga lovers.

M Mandarin is distinguishable from competitor apps due to its unique teaching technique that uses comics.

This app covers vocabulary that meets the HSK requirements and allows you to dive headfirst into day-to-day dialogues.

All comics are sorted based on their level of difficulty, and their suspenseful plots and captivating storylines serve you keep you entertained while you learn.

Pros/cons:

While reading the comics, you can click on any speech bubble to play audio recordings performed by skilled voice actors. You can also assess the pinyin and translation of the dialogue by double-clicking on the speech bubble.

Your learning is further consolidated by occasional summary videos that reiterate some cultural and grammar points you may have encountered while reading.

Price:

Add-ons are priced at a starting cost of $0.99.

There are plenty of apps to learn Chinese as well as other options

While learning from textbooks could be preferable for some people, they’re not for everyone. Apps may be a more convenient option.

You may also wish to diversify your learning experience by including Chinese courses, podcasts, and even Youtube videos.


Know of any excellent app for learning Mandarin Chinese that has yet to be included in the list?

Spill the tea in the comments below. I’m more than happy to hear from you!

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Donovan Nagel
Donovan Nagel - B. Th, MA AppLing
I'm an Applied Linguistics graduate, teacher and translator with a passion for language learning (especially Arabic).
Currently learning: Greek
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