Learning to read and write in Chinese used to be just for those taking the subject at university. However, thanks to the boom in the Chinese economy and the Confucius Institute, if you want to take Mandarin lessons, there are Chinese classes all over the world.
In fact, there are plenty of universities that offer degrees in Chinese, Chinese evening classes at community centres and language schools, and private tutors up and down the country who are ready to teach you all about the Chinese language.
In addition to all the classes and tutorials popping up, the Chinese language has seen a digital boom, too!
The Chinese language is now everywhere and, as a result, there are plenty of ways to learn the language with just the click of a mouse.
Learn Chinese with these Online Resources
As with most thing in our growing technological society, it is incredibly easy to teach yourself a new skill these days from the comfort of your own home. What's more, with many resources being designed to fit around our busy lives, you can also take many of them with you wherever you go!
Here are just a few examples of online resources that might be able to help you learn a new language like Chinese in 2020.
In the early days of the world wide web, there were only a few sites that held a monopoly on learning Chinese online and if you wanted to speak Chinese, you had a very limited choice. Nowadays, on the other hand, there are now so many sites that it can be difficult to work out which methods work the best and which sites you should be using to help you learn Mandarin Chinese!
Whether you're struggling with Chinese characters, looking for Chinese lessons, wanting to move to Beijing, or just interested in learning more about Chinese culture, these are the websites you need to visit.
The BBC Languages page has a dedicated section for Chinese learners. While the page is no longer updated, you can still find a whole heap of useful information and language lessons on the archived webpage.
For instance, you can find links to the Chinese alphabet, some mini-guides, printable guides, writing guidelines, news from China, online lessons, holiday phrases, information on school Chinese and much more.
Did you know that CBeebies has its very own Lingo show - a great way to learn Chinese through easy and fun content? There's a link to this too on the website!
Learning foreign languages on the Internet has never been simpler! You'll have probably noticed that learning Standard Mandarin Chinese on the Internet is becoming increasingly popular, too, and, as a result, it's never been easier to learn Chinese online.
If you're learning a language on your own or online, pronunciation might be something you'll struggle with since there's nobody around to correct you. This is where a site like Forvo comes in really handy!
While this site isn't geared towards teaching you grammar, vocabulary, phrases, or even tones in the traditional sense, every Chinese learner should add “Forvo” to their browser favourites. Forvo is a fantastic resource for mastering Chinese pronunciation. Just type whatever Chinese word you’d like to pronounce into the search bar and the website will tell you exactly how it’s pronounced.
In addition to words, there are also examples of full sentences, expressions, and idioms for you to listen to as well.
If you prefer to learn Chinese on the go, you should check out our apps for learning Chinese, too, some of which we have featured below.
If you want to improve your Chinese from the comfort of your own home, you need to get involved with communities of other language learners, too.
You have the option of looking for a pen friend, but this is a bit outdated in a world where absolutely anyone is available to connect instantly via an online chatroom.
Chinese Forums is one of the best places to go if you have any questions about learning Chinese or are having a problem. There are plenty of very active users who are happy to help absolute beginners as well as more experienced students. You can find the answers to almost all of your questions on Chinese here as well as meet other forum users who are just as interested in Chinese as you.
The best thing, though? It’s completely free!
Chinese Dictionaries & Search Engines
While dictionaries are great for looking up words, you’ll understand a word much better if you can see it being used in context or in a sentence.
This is where Jukuu comes into play. Jukuu is more than a dictionary, it’s a search engine for Chinese-English sentences and translations so that you can see both what the word means and how you’d use it in a sentence.
Personally, I find that these kinds of websites are far more useful than dictionaries since an out-of-context translation of a word can result in you completely misunderstanding a word or a whole sentence.
Discover more books that you can learn Chinese from...
Best apps for learning Chinese
Memrise is a website that includes plenty of different courses. There are plenty of different e-learning tools on their website for a variety of different languages including Chinese!
While Memrise is free, it also includes a “Pro” version that includes things like: Learn and review, grammarbot, pro chats, difficult words mode, speed Review, listening skills mode, video mode, and learning stats. The free mode, on the other hand, only includes the learn and review function.
FluentU is a platform that offers Chinese language classes through videos and includes a plethora of video resources for a variety of different languages. While it’s not free, there are “basic” and “plus” subscription packages which you can cancel at any time. The “plus” subscription for $20 a month includes:
iPhone, iPad App
Unlimited Word Lookup
Unlimited Videos, Audios
Create Your Own Flashcards
FluentU works by taking entertaining videos in the target language, transcribing them, subtitling them, and then translating them. All you have to do is watch them and pay attention!
This means you can enjoy real Chinese videos from Chinese-speaking countries rather than materials that have been specifically for language learning. This method works by enabling you to create your own immersion environment where you can experience Chinese-language culture for less than the cost of a plane ticket. There are also quizzes so that you can test yourself and see how you’re progressing.
Finally, there’s also an app available so that you can benefit from your FluentU subscription whilst you’re on the go or waiting for a bus, etc.
Also discover how may videos you could learn Chinese from!
DuoLingo is yet another language app offering simple lessons to language learners in bitesize chunks. You also have the benefit of audio as well as written and visual content. By downloading the app, you can dip in and out of language lessons and see how you progress with updates and targets and mini tests!
You can use DuoLingo alone or in conjunction with another learning method to really boost your language skills.
Online Courses & Proficiency Tests
The Coursera platform is a Massive Open Online Course (commonly known as a MOOC) which was founded by professors from the Stanford University. The platform includes over 2,000 courses and currently has over 28 million registered users. Of course, Chinese language courses make up some of the courses available on the platform.
There are literally tonnes of different courses for those wanting to learn Chinese from beginners, intermediate, and advanced classes to HSK preparation courses and a large number of these courses are run by universities in China, too!
Global Exam is a platform that offers training for language proficiency tests including the DELE (Spanish), DELF (French), WiDaF (German), and, most importantly, the HSK for Chinese. The platform includes 120 HSK training sessions of which 24 are HSK training exams. This gives you 180 hours of practice and nearly 9,000 questions.
You can also use the scheduling feature to plan your training and revision sessions in order to make effective use of your time. As you get closer to the day, you can also make use of the exam mode and take practice HSK exams under exam conditions.
You’ll also get detailed corrections so that you know where you’re going wrong and links to where you can study the things you got wrong. Don't forget to keep track of your progress with the detailed statistics and see how effectively you’ve been using your time, too.
You’ll hardly be surprised to find out that this service isn’t free. However, if you get an annual subscription, you’ll end up paying just over £150.
Radio & Podcasts in Chinese
Shanghai Media Group’s FM 101
When it comes to listening to Chinese radio, you don't have to understand everything they are saying to learn something. Sometimes, just listening to the way they speak - the pace, the way enunciate, all of the ups and downs etc - can be really helpful in learning how to speak Chinese like a native.
If you chose to listen to a pop radio station like the above, just in the background while you get things done around the house, you may find yourself getting drawn in and beginning to learn things subconsciously. What's more, you'll get to hear what is popular and recent in 2020 in terms of pop music!
Coffee Break Chinese
Coffee Break Chinese is a podcast series featuring a native Chinese lady and a foreign man. During the 30-minute session, she explains lots of things to him about the language and Chinese culture and he repeats after her and tries to put it all together. This is great because it's like listening in on a language lesson and benefiting from a seemingly private class.
Because it is presented as more of a conversation, it's not as cringeworthy or boring as some language lessons can feel and also it features long stretches of dialogue and colloquial chat.
There's only one series so far and it isn't too pricey so it's worth a try!
Learning Online with Tutors
We could hardly have written an article on online Chinese resources and not mention ourselves, could we? Aside from immersion (which is by and far the best way to learn Chinese how to speak a new language), the best way to learn Chinese is with a Chinese teacher or tutor.
While there are plenty of exceptional online Chinese courses (as we've mentioned above) and free Chinese resources, they all lack one thing: a personalised approach.
When you study Chinese (just like any other language), you will inevitably hit a few speed bumps on your road to fluency. This is where a private tutor can help.
Since a private tutor teaches you and only you, their lessons are geared towards your strengths and weaknesses and your own personal goals. For example, if you're just starting out, they can use the Chinese Pinyin transcription system to help you learn new vocabulary. If you're looking to move to Mainland China, they can focus on conversational classes and get you speaking Chinese as soon as possible. Whether you're looking for Mandarin lessons London, tutors for Chinese in London, or Cardiff or anywhere else for that matter, you can find them with us.
Of course, while private tutorials aren't as cheap as some of the other methods you can use to learn to speak Chinese, they are significantly cheaper than a flight to China and are definitely the option you should be taking if you've already bought your flights and need to get to grips with the language before you go.
If you're looking for a textbook to complement your Chinese course, you should check out our list of best tools for learning Chinese!