While going to the country where the language is spoken is almost always the best way to learn Chinese, your language-learning desire can sometimes be trumped by simply lacking the funds or means to travel and learn through immersion. However, a problem that often gets overlooked by both students and professionals is finding the time to actually study. It doesn't matter how interested you are in learning a language if you can never actually find the time to learn it!

Whether you’re on the bus on the way to work or university, in a doctors waiting room surrounded by old magazines, stuck in traffic while listening to the same 3 pop songs, or just doing some house work or chores, did you know that you could use your free time to learn a language?

You've probably already tried typing things like “learn Chinese” into Google. As you'll have seen, there are plenty of resources for those who want to learn Chinese online. Finding them is easy. Choosing the right ones is hard.

While technology doesn’t perform the miracles it often promises to, smartphones can be used effectively to learn languages from distant lands like Chinese.

Let’s have a look at the apps and resources that can help you to learn Chinese outside of Chinese language courses.


Whether you’re an absolute beginner, intermediate, or advanced student, this e-learning mobile app, which puts you in contact with native Chinese speakers, is a great addition to your Chinese private tutorials and is incredibly useful if you're hoping to become conversational or steadily working towards fluency.

How long does it take to learn Chinese?
Is there a Swiss Army knife app for teaching Chinese? (Source: Adrianna Calvo)

The app is available on both Android and iTunes and requires that its users create a profile including where they live.

Whether the user prefers to keep their location hidden or not, they can use the app to find Chinese people near them in order to practise the language they want to learn with them.

Once the user’s decided whether or not they want to show that they’re learning Chinese, the app will help them get in contact with native Chinese speakers so that they can get better at the language by.

Conveniently, these Chinese native speakers happen to be looking for someone who speaks English natively so that they can practise their English.

Once the two have been put in contact with one another, each user can correct their partner’s mistakes in the foreign language in real-time through chat in order to mutually help one another improve their foreign languages. You can also turn text into audio in order to hear the Chinese pronunciation.

If you're speaking to a Chinese native speaker who makes a mistake in English, you can immediately correct them in the conversation and they can do the same if you make a mistake in Chinese.

This isn’t like other chat clients such as Wechat, Whatsapp, or Facebook Messenger. The functions of this app are geared towards language learning

The goal of this app, which has 4 out of 5 stars on Google Play and has been downloaded 40,000 times, is to improve language skills through conversation, correction, and everyday conversation with native speakers of Mandarin Chinese.

Some key points about this app:

  • There are no smileys or emojis in this app since the goal is to express yourself through writing and speaking rather than “text speak”.

  • This app is “freemium”. This means that although it is free, some functions can only be accessed by paying for them.

  • It features a “feed” like on Facebook where you can keep up to date with your linguistic adventure.

If you're an exchange student who's just moved to Beijing, it's a great way to find someone who teaches Chinese or would just like to learn to speak English.

You should also check out our books for learning Chinese!

Anki for Learning as many Chinese Words as Possible

Anki is the flashcard app par excellence for those taking private Chinese classes!

Where can I find Chinese private tutorials?
Which apps should you be using to learn Chinese characters, tones, and vocabulary? (Source: kaboompics.com)

Highly recommended by almost every Chinese language learner, this app can be installed on both Android and iPhone. Users can use this free app to read, learn, and remember Chinese words and characters.

Let me explain how it works: The user can create or import a Chinese vocabulary list and test themselves using text, audio, images, speech synthesis, and spaced repetition in order to improve their Chinese.

With an interface that blends simplicity and flexibility, this app is made particularly special by the dedicated community around it. Thanks to the community, there are so many different vocabulary packets available for beginners, intermediate, and advanced speakers of Chinese.

Additionally, since the app is “open source”, there are a huge range of tools and extras being developed for it. This also means that it can’t go bust due to a lack of funding.

Did you know you could also learn Chinese by watching videos?

Write Chinese Characters Using Pleco

The Pleco app, which is available on Android and iPhone, is essential for anyone wanting to learn Mandarin Chinese.

Which are the best sites for learning Mandarin?
Some apps can use certain vocabulary, words, and expressions in order gauge a student's level. (Source: pixabay.com)

Recommended by Chinese bloggers and professors, this comprehensive app has a number of features that will help Chinese students improve in their foreign language.

  • Chinese-English Dictionary

The really special thing about this mobile dictionary is that you can draw the characters directly into it using your finger or write them out using the Pinyin phonetic transcription system.

  • Optical Character Recognition (OCR)

Optical character recognition allows the app to effectively “read” Chinese characters using your phones camera and subsequently give you a translation of these characters in English.

Another great feature of the app is that you can save the characters you’ve scanned using the OCR into a deck so that you can go back over them at a later point.

This is really useful for students learning to read in Chinese or intermediate students looking to expand their Chinese vocabulary. Unfortunately, this tool isn’t available unless you pay for the full version and the character recognition works better using the photo function than the live recognition.

  • Flashcard Function

This function allows you to practise memorising Chinese characters as well as revising characters that you’ve previously seen like those from your Chinese tutorials, for example.

These flashcards, which are quite easy to manage, can be used to create tests. This is particularly useful if you’re studying for a Mandarin Chinese exam, for example.

One by one, these Chinese characters will appear before you and you’ll have to prove whether or not you know them. Your final score will tell you whether or not you need to keep studying in order to improve. This feature, which is available in the free version, is really useful for students that are studying for the official HSK exams since you can choose the word lists for the level you’re studying for.


Learning how to speak a new language is tough and if you're desperate to learn the Chinese language, you're going to need to know more than just a few phrases . Even if you can speak Chinese perfectly and have a fantastic understanding of Chinese grammar, you still need to be able to read it!

Learning Mandarin Chinese without being able to read it will leave literature (which is a huge part of Chinese culture) beyond your grasp. Don't worry though! If you're taking Mandarin lessons (where you should be getting a lot of Chinese speaking practice), you should be using the Skritter app in your free time, to help you learn Chinese characters.

This app uses Spaced Repetition, a method that can help you learn a Chinese character with a 90% retention rate. While speaking Chinese is only half of your mission, if you want to become fluent, you need to be able to read, write, and speak! You can take Mandarin lessons London, Manchester or anywhere in the World!

You might also want to know about the best websites for learning Chinese...

Hello HSK

The HSK exam has its own official apps for students wanting to pass the exam with flying colours!

Where can I take the HSK exam?
The HSK exam uses simplified Chinese characters so you won't need to study traditional characters. (Source: stock.tookapic.com)

Since the apps are divided into levels, there are 6 of them and all of them are available on both Android and iPhone. They’re particularly useful for students who need to go back over something they might have missed during their tutorials.

The app, which has 4 out of 5 stars, features the following from the exams:

  • Listening

  • Reading

  • Writing Chinese characters

It includes a good mix of Mandarin Chinese lessons and exercises, making it essential for anyone who’s signed up for the exam. Additionally, it focuses on the key points of Mandarin, vocabulary, and expressions that you’ll see in the exam.

It also has HSK practice papers for students to get ready for the big day when they finally sit the most popular official exam amongst those learning Chinese.

To get ready for your HSK exam, you can also check out some of the best videos online for learning Chinese or find a tutor for lessons by webcam or in person, including Chinese lessons London.

Discover also the best tools for learning Chinese...

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Joseph is a French and Spanish to English translator, language enthusiast, and blogger.