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The Best Chinese Lessons

Where Can You Find the Best Chinese Lessons?

If you're interested in the language, you're in good company: according to recent statistics, there are more than 25 million people worldwide learning Chinese as a second language, with over 200 million people outside of mainland China who speak it! A few decades ago, eager students had to find a college offering Chinese lessons in order to learn, but today Chinese can frequently be found in high schools, enrichment programs, and even dual language or immersion programs for elementary school children.

Not one of the lucky ones to have classes nearby? Don't worry! There are many different options for taking Chinese online now too. Whether you want traditional-style lessons with detailed grammar explanations, multiple choice quizzes, and lots of repetition with flash cards, or you prefer a more modern, game-like approach, you'll have no trouble finding something that fits your learning style and your available study time.

Thursday, October 28th

2021 Chinese Lesson Reviews

Top Consumer Reviews Best-In-Class Blue Ribbon Award Memrise Review 5 Star Rating

Memrise

5 Star Rating
  • No cost to use basic Memrise account
  • More features available with paid Memrise Pro subscription
  • Uses video clips of native Chinese speakers in authentic environments
  • Access user-created content as well as Memrise lessons
  • Several fluency levels available
  • 30-day money-back guarantee
Top Consumer Reviews Best-In-Class Blue Ribbon Award

For over a decade, Memrise has helped more than 60 million people in nearly 200 countries to learn a new language. Their Chinese lessons do a fantastic job of helping you remember what you learn, but without the stress and pressure you might feel when using other instructional platforms.

Fun and memorable native speaker video clips

One of the biggest ways Memrise stands out from other language programs is their native speaker video snippets. For instance, if you start with Memrise Mandarin Chinese 1 - The Basics 1, your very first lesson will consist of learning how to say hello, yes, and no: in Pinyin, with the characters, and with short video clips in authentic Chinese settings (factories, tourist destinations, random public streets, you name it).

Will you top the leaderboard?

As you master each word, you'll see a little plant icon on the page start to "grow" to represent your progress. At the end of each lesson, Memrise tells you how many points you earned, the time spent towards any daily study goals you've set, and where you rank on the leaderboard. You can ignore that if it doesn't inspire you, but lots of people find it motivating to do just one more lesson if it means beating their nemesis for that day or week.

Full of "aha!" moments

We absolutely love how Memrise shows you so much about each thing you learn: how it sounds in real life, the Pinyin for pronunciation help, the characters in Chinese, and both literal and figurative translations. (For example, most people learn early on that "nǐ hǎo" means "hello" , but Memrise is the only program we found that took the time to explain that the literal meaning is "you good" .) Plus, with the video clips, you get the opportunity to see how native speakers look when they're speaking: what gestures they use, the expressions on their faces, and so on. Big points to Memrise for teaching that from the start!

Lots to learn for beginners and advanced students alike

It's almost impossible to "finish" the Chinese lessons on Memrise. There are three main courses, Chinese 1-3, with 22 levels in the first two and a whopping 89 in the third! And, if for some reason that's not enough, Memrise also allows users to submit their own courses for others to enjoy. Interested in Useful Cantonese for Hong Kong? Chinese Emperors? Dim Sum? How to read a Chinese menu? These are just a few of the user-created courses offered through Memrise's Chinese lessons.

Best Chinese Lessons

Free to sign up, pay to get all features

You can do a LOT with Memrise's free account, but if you want everything it has to offer it will require a subscription. A paid account lets you have much more control over how you practice what you've learned, like speed reviews or working on your listening skills alone. Each set of words and phrases finishes with review options, but most of them will be locked until you subscribe to Memrise.

Costs

  • Free for basic account
  • $8.99/month
  • $90/year
  • $139.99/lifetime membership

Won't cost an arm and a leg

If you choose to subscribe to Memrise Pro, you'll usually pay $8.99/month, $90/year, or $139.99 for a lifetime membership. But, there's almost always a promotion on offer if you're patient. You might get a discount in your email once you've used the free platform for a while. We've also seen annual plans at a 50% discount as we've returned to the Memrise site over time. Best of all, some students have scored a half-off discount on lifetime access through a special holiday promotion. Any paid plans on Memrise are backed by a 30-day refund policy, in the event that you change your mind.

First-place winner for Chinese lessons

Memrise is the best all-around option for studying Chinese. Learn with authentic videos? Absolutely. Get content that grows with you as you advance in fluency? That too. Easy and fun to use? For sure. Add "affordable" , "popular" , and "satisfaction guaranteed" to the list and you'll see why Memrise is the obvious choice among Chinese lessons in our review. This program earns our highest recommendation.

italki Review 4.5 Star Rating

italki

4.5 Star Rating
  • 2,500+ Chinese tutors to choose from
  • Hourly rates range from $4 to $40+ hour
  • Trial rate on first lesson for as low as $1
  • Fantastic way to get speaking practice, along with personalized homework, grammar lessons, and other instruction

Chinese is particularly difficult for native speakers of English. One big reason is that we often don't have anyone that we can practice with! That's where italki comes in and saves the day. This platform has over 2,500 Chinese tutors who will work with you one-on-one to help you master the language, whether you're starting as a true beginner or you have some experience already.

Choose from community tutors and professional instructors

There are two types of teachers on italki: community tutors and professional instructors. The difference is what you'd expect: while they can all help you learn Chinese, individuals labeled as "professionals" have formal training in language teaching. Whichever type you prefer, you'll have lots of people to choose from as you browse their profiles.

Play the intros

We recommend that you play the intro videos of any that catch your interest: you'll be able to see a little bit of their personalities and determine how well you can understand their English (which is important for your learning!). There are a few filters you can use to narrow down the choices, like other languages they speak or their country of residence, but the most helpful filters are missing: ratings, completed lessons, or overall experience on the italki platform. In the meanwhile, you may want to click the little hearts to mark any favorite profiles, allowing you to go back after you're done browsing and choose the best one(s) for your learning goals.

Costs

  • From $4/hour to $40+/hour
  • Discounted rates on your first lesson

Plenty of experience

Although you'll find tutors and teachers who are new to the platform or have only completed a few lessons, there are lots who have ample feedback and a well-established history. For example, we found a professional teacher who simply goes by the name "Rose" and who had over 8600 completed lessons at the time of our review. Watching her 7-minute intro video, we got a clear picture of her English fluency and even her philosophy on life! Clicking on her profile, prospective students can see where she lives, her educational background, and how much she charges for lessons (ranging from $18 for a trial lesson to $20+ for Conversational American English/Mandarin Chinese or $35+ for Business Chinese).

Best Chinese Lessons

No-hassle scheduling based on where you live

Let's say you're ready to book a lesson with a great italki tutor. Simply click on his or her calendar and all available time slots will be shown in your time zone, which is detected according to the time on your computer or phone. In the case of Rose, we were able to book a lesson within a day, and there were lots of open time slots over the following seven days. If you have your heart set on a particular tutor or teacher but don't see any availability in their calendar, just click on "Contact Teacher" to see if they can fit you in another time.

Lots of five-star feedback

You'll have a hard time finding anyone with a bad thing to say - about italki or the instructors there. Almost every Chinese teacher has a perfect five-star rating, and you can read many reviews from students who describe their amazing experiences with the Chinese lessons they received.

Still not the right option for every Chinese learner

With so many positives about italki, would it surprise you if we said that it's not the best fit for every student? Think about it: if you're very timid or you get really embarrassed when you make mistakes, your first exposure to Chinese lessons might be too uncomfortable if it's a one-on-one video session! And, speaking of video, italki isn't your ideal way to learn Chinese if you don't have a quiet environment with a great internet connection: you can't work one-on-one with a tutor if you're sitting in a noisy cafe or using spotty public WiFi.

Best Chinese lessons for learning to speak fluently

That being said, italki is one of our all-time favorite resources for thorough language learning, especially for conversational fluency. After all, what good is it to learn Chinese on paper if you are totally tongue-tied the first time you try to speak it? The teachers and tutors at italki have an excellent track record for high-quality, approachable instruction, the prices are affordable, and you literally have thousands of options at your fingertips. While italki takes a less-than-conventional approach to Chinese lessons, it's one of the first places you should go if you want to learn the spoken language well.

Rocket Languages Review 4 Star Rating

Rocket Languages

4 Star Rating
  • Free guest access
  • One-time cost of $149.95 (or $99.95 with promotional discount) for lifetime access
  • Can also pay in six monthly installments ($27/month, or $19/month with promotional discount)
  • Four modules with 12-13 lessons in each one
  • Each module includes four interactive audio lessons, four or five language and culture lessons (which also include grammar), and four writing lessons (to learn how to write Chinese characters)
  • 60-day money-back guarantee

Rocket Languages is a well-known service that offers effective lessons for beginners. Used by hundreds of thousands of people worldwide, from individuals learning from home to employees with company-sponsored access (like Deloitte and Pentel), this platform is one of our favorite resources for entry-level Chinese lessons.

Content gets updated

Chinese is the first of the Rocket languages we evaluated to have updated lessons. That's a big plus, because in the past this platform gave the impression of being completely static and never changing the content to reflect current times. In fact, several of the Chinese lessons had been revamped just a few months prior to our review. These updates help keep Rocket high in our rankings, staying more competitive with other services that refresh their content on a weekly basis.

Free guest account to try a lesson

What, exactly, will you get with Rocket Chinese's lessons? If you'd like to get a taste for yourself, sign up for their free account. You'll see that there are fun dialogues to listen to, language and culture lessons that include grammar, and writing lessons for mastering Chinese characters. To reinforce what you learn, each lesson ends with flashcard review, a listening activity, a spoken dialogue where you play both roles, and finally a quiz to wrap it all up.

Extra features for (more) practice with Chinese characters

Rocket Chinese adds some features you won't find in all of their languages. Just look under the Extra Testing heading at the bottom of your lessons. We found Write It! Pinyin and a Sort It! Hanzi activities there: Rocket describes them as "great supplementary practice if you've been studying characters outside of your [Rocket] course" . The good news is, your work there won't affect your ratings in the Dashboard - and they give you more writing and character recognition practice than you'll find with many rival providers of Chinese lessons.

Best Chinese Lessons

Costs

  • Free guest account
  • One-time fee of $149.95 ($99.95 with promo pricing) OR
  • $27/month for 6 months ($19/month with promo pricing)

Hooray for one-time fees!

As you may have already noticed, lots of Chinese programs require you to pay an ongoing monthly subscription, sometimes discounted if you pay for a year or two in advance. Not with Rocket! Here, with a one-time fee of $149.95 (or an installment plan of $27/month for six months), you'll have access to all of Rocket Chinese - forever. Keep an eye out for discount offers too: during our most recent review, we found a promotion of $99.95 (or $19/month). Under $100 for some pretty fantastic Chinese lessons? Yes, please! And, you're covered by a 60-day money-back guarantee: whether you get a discount or not, you'll still be able to get a refund if you start using Rocket Chinese and decide it's not the right fit.

Great choice for beginning Chinese lessons

Rocket Languages rarely gets a first-place ranking because of their lack of content for more advanced students. On the other hand, we frequently give the company our strongest recommendation for beginning language learners - and Rocket Chinese is no different. These lessons are approachable, and they address all four modalities of language use: reading, writing, listening and speaking. The provided cultural insights are valuable, too. If you're just getting started with learning Chinese, Rocket should be high on your list, especially if you like the idea of learning without the pressure of an ongoing subscription cost.

Chinese Class 101 Review 4 Star Rating

Chinese Class 101

4 Star Rating
  • Five levels of Chinese instruction, from Absolute Beginner to Advanced
  • Several paid plans to choose from
  • 60-day money-back guarantee
  • Content refreshes weekly
  • 7-day free trial of Premium features
  • Get one-on-one help from professional teachers with Premium Plus membership

Innovative Language Learning offers a vast number of target languages in their "Pod 101" and "Class 101" series. Their Chinese Class 101 content doesn't disappoint, with lessons ranging from Absolute Beginner to Advanced (and three other levels in between).

Dial down the sales pitch, please

One thing we notice with all of the 101 courses by ILL: they're heavy on the sales-y introductions. Sure, you can sign up for lifetime free access and get quite a bit to study with your no-cost account - but you'll have to wade through several pages of "pay $1 to get these offers, today only!" and "you'll never get this offer again!" Feel free to take advantage of it, but know that you will have more than enough to try out Chinese Class 101 without the dollar intro materials. On the plus side, when you create your free account, it usually comes with seven days of access to the Premium features and then reverts to the no-cost package automatically, no credit card necessary.

What's your fluency level?

Remember those different options for difficulty? When you set up your Chinese Class 101 account, you'll be asked to self-identify your fluency: Absolute Beginner (you might be able to introduce yourself or say "ni hao" or "xie xie"), Beginner (can already read from 180-350 hanzi, count to 100), Intermediate (can read from 350-650 hanzi, use prepositions), Upper Intermediate (can read from 650-1,000 hanzi, use more advanced grammatical constructions), or Advanced (can read from 1,000-1,500 hanzi, know how to use adverbs, understand complex sentence structure). It's exciting to find Chinese lessons with such extensive content for more experienced students: most programs assume you're a beginner and fail to include much beyond that level. And, if you get in over your head (or underestimate yourself), you can change your level at any time in your student dashboard.

It's okay to muddle your way through the pretest

For reasons we still don't understand, Chinese Class 101 starts out with a proficiency test, even if you've chosen "Absolute Beginner" as your level. There are 26 questions, and you can't skip any of them; there's no shame in selecting "I'm not sure" for all of them, or making random guesses just for fun.

Well-rounded Chinese instruction

Your next lesson is automatically loaded into your student dashboard. Most lessons here include an audio lesson (look for the large "play" triangle at the top of the page), dialogue (which can be viewed in Simplified or Traditional Chinese Characters, English, Pinyin or all of the above), vocabulary that you can listen to and then record yourself for comparison, followed by lesson notes that may explain grammar, illustrate cultural highlights, and so forth.

Best Chinese Lessons

...and there's more

Your lesson pathways aren't the only ways to study Chinese on this platform. On your dashboard, you'll also find bonus audio and video content, vocabulary lists for specific situations (like legal terminology or phrases for writing an email), and free monthly gifts that may include PDF cheat sheets, apps and audiobooks, and beyond.

Costs

  • Free access to thousands of lessons
  • Basic membership: plans range from $8/month to $96 for two years
  • Premium membership: plans range from $25/month to $240 for two years
  • Premium+ membership: plans range from $47/month to $549 for two years

Options for getting personalized help

You'll need to pay for a membership if you want to keep access to all of the features we mentioned (like full dialogues and detailed lesson notes). Chinese Class 101 isn't very explicit in explaining what the Basic membership gets you for about $8/month, because their focus is on the Premium packages. For $25/month, all of those tools are open to you, but if you need a little extra guidance you should consider the Premium Plus tier. At $47/month, you'll be assigned your own teacher. They'll customize a learning plan for you, assign homework and give you feedback when you turn it in, and assess your written and spoken fluency in Chinese. No matter which pricing level you choose, there are discounts for paying for a year or two in advance, all covered by a generous 60-day refund policy.

Best resource for multiple fluency levels

Chinese Class 101 is an excellent choice if you expect to study Chinese for a long time: there'll be no need to switch platforms as you advance in levels, because it's all right there. We recommend working one-on-one with an instructor through the Premium Plus service, particularly if you tend to get overwhelmed and would benefit from some hand-holding to keep you focused. Although we'd like to see all of Innovative Language Learning's services drop the sales pitches, we still give Chinese Class 101 a big thumbs-up overall.

Busuu Review 3.5 Star Rating

Busuu

3.5 Star Rating
  • 2 options for Chinese lessons: Complete (with beginner, intermediate and advanced content) and Chinese for Travel
  • Free basic membership
  • Personalized study plans with Premium Plus membership
  • Certification testing available
  • 14-day money-back guarantee on paid plans

In Cameroon, there's an endangered language called Busuu - which is also the name of a language learning platform for many other languages, including Chinese. The company proudly states that if you use Busuu's Premium level for at least 22 hours, you'll come out with the equivalent of a college semester of learning (according to an independent study). Interested?

Easy to set up a free account

You can get started with Busuu with a free membership: just enter your email address and the language you want to learn (namely, Mandarin Chinese) and you're off! To set up your account, you'll indicate what fluency level you're hoping to achieve, ranging from A1 (beginner, introductions and asking simple questions) to B2 (upper intermediate, understanding most of a movie or TV program). You also set how often you'd like to study at what time of day you'd like Busuu to send you reminders. Then, once you've entered how many minutes you'll spend studying Chinese each day, you'll get an estimate for how long it will take you to achieve the fluency level you want. For example, starting as an absolute beginner and studying seven days a week for 10 minutes, we were told to expect to reach a B2 fluency level in about seven months.

Learn Chinese with characters and Pinyin

Busuu starts off by explaining that it uses both Chinese characters and Pinyin in their lessons. After teaching you how to say hello both ways, it teaches you that Chinese is tonal: an important distinction we don't see explained by all of the Chinese lessons in our review. You'll be introduced to basic words like hello, thanks, sorry and goodbye. Moving onward through the A1 lessons, you'll learn how to talk about yourself, get an introduction to Chinese characters, and much more: there are a total of 46 lessons in this level alone.

Chinese content from levels A1-B2

Too easy? No problem. You can move along to any of the other three levels on Busuu. There are 31 lessons in A2, 21 lessons in B1, and 24 lessons in B2. You can access content in all of the lessons across every level, but you won't be able to use all of the features unless you subscribe. For instance, the A1 Lesson 2: What's Your Name has Vocabulary, Dialogue, Quiz and Conversation, but the quiz is locked for anyone with a free account.

Best Chinese Lessons

Costs

  • Free for Basic membership
  • Premium membership: $9.99/month
  • Premium Plus membership: $13.99/month
  • Discounts available when you pay for 12 or 24 months in advance

Two types of paid memberships

How much will you pay for full access to Busuu's Chinese lessons? There are actually two tiers to choose from, Premium and Premium Plus. At the Premium level, you'll pay $9.99 a month; that unlocks most features like offline learning and more lesson content. But, the bigger perks come at the Plus level for $13.99/month. That's where you can get your fluency certified by McGraw Hill, get unlimited feedback from native Chinese speakers who also use Busuu, and have a personalized study plan developed for you. A paid plan is also required if you want to study more than just Chinese. Pricing on Busuu is discounted when you pay for a full 12 or 24 months at a time, and there's a 14-day refund policy.

Chinese specifically for travelers too

We appreciate that Busuu offers travel-focused Chinese lessons too. Why learn how to introduce all of the members of your family when what you really need is to hail a taxi? If this is what you need, click where it says Complete Chinese and then select the travel course. There are nine lessons there, ranging from getting a restaurant recommendation to buying tickets for an event or a tour.

Not enough opportunity to speak Chinese

Our only hesitation with Busuu is its limited focus on speaking Chinese. Most lessons have a lot of opportunities to repeat words and phrases into a microphone, but the only place you record your spoken Chinese here is with those native speaker-assessed assignments - and then you're at the mercy of those volunteer helpers. Plus, despite Busuu kindly explaining that Chinese is tonal, we didn't see anything in the A1 lessons that addressed that.

Try the free content before subscribing

There's a ton of Chinese content for a wide range of fluency levels on Busuu, much of which can be accessed at no cost. That's great! It'll be a long time before you run out of new things to learn here. On the downside, the lack of speaking exercises is worth keeping in mind: if spoken fluency is your goal, Busuu won't give you the practice or the feedback that is going to be most useful. We suggest trying out Busuu's free account for a while before committing to a membership.

Mondly Review 3.5 Star Rating

Mondly

3.5 Star Rating
  • App-based Chinese lessons
  • Uses games, contests and leaderboards to keep you motivated
  • Can practice conversations with Chatbot and Augmented Reality
  • Has voice recognition for practicing your Chinese accent

Pimsleur is a household name among language learners. Originally made famous for its basic 30-minute audio lessons, Pimsleur has expanded its offerings to include software DVDs that include flashcards, games, and other more visual methods of instruction to accompany their audio lessons.

Vocabulary revolves around themes

You can create a free account with Mondly and try out the "Hello" introductory lesson for Chinese (or any of the other 40+ languages in their library). You'll set your learning level as beginner, intermediate or advanced, but keep in mind that even at the advanced level, the content is still pretty basic. You can use Mondly as an absolute newbie or as a more experienced student who needs to get some review in. There are usually six lessons in each vocabulary theme, like Family, Pets, and City Tour. Depending on the subject, you'll get anywhere from 60-200+ new words and 30-80 phrases per topic.

Gentle, entertaining way to start learning new words and phrases

How does Mondly work? Let's say you're just starting out with the "Hello" lesson for Mandarin Chinese. Your first exercises will be matching the words "father" , "mother" , "brother" and "sister" with pictures, and then with the Pinyin (the approximation of how it would be pronounced with the English spelling). You can also use the toggle button at the top of the page if you'd like to see how it's written in Chinese characters - though we suggest primarily using the Pinyin setting at first. We love how smoothly Mondly moves from simple words to phrases to sentences: we never felt like there was a "gotcha" where it was trying to trick us into choosing the wrong answer, and we were pretty excited to be able to imitate some basic sentences at the end of the "Hello" material.

Not a lot of grammar

If you like digging into the mechanics of how Chinese works, you'll be a little disappointed by Mondly. The focus here is definitely conversation, through memorization of important words and phrases. You can "look under the hood" , so to speak, by clicking on the little blue box next to the "Redo" button when you finish a lesson; for example, on the "Hello" lesson you'll find the conjugations of "to be" in the present tense. But, that's a far cry from actually teaching you how that grammar works - and how you might use it to make up your own sentences in the future.

Best Chinese Lessons

Subscription needed for most content, features

You'll need a paid membership to get the most out of Mondly, since your free account only includes the first lesson in each language. A subscription also gives you access to the Chatbot and Augmented Reality features unique to this service. You can try one Chatbot conversation for free: it lets you "talk" back and forth with a bot like you would an actual person, and it's a solid way to work on your skills. But don't worry: you'll get suggestions for how to respond and you can play the audio for how to pronounce it before you give it a go. There's no trial for the AR feature, but it essentially allows you to superimpose a digital person on your environment and interact with him or her - in Chinese! Cool or creepy, we're not sure, and yet you won't find anything like it with other Chinese lessons!

Costs

  • $9.99/month for 1 language
  • $47.99/year for 1 language
  • $89.99 one-time payment for lifetime access to all 41 languages

Prices vary but they're affordable

Want to know how much you'll pay to use all of Mondly's features? Us too! We're only halfway kidding: we've visited Mondly a lot, and every time it seems like the cost is a little different. More often than not, you'll see "regular" pricing at $9.99 for month-to-month access to Chinese, or $47.99 for a full year. Mondly also has a promotional offer we've seen more than once, giving you a year of access to all of their languages (which could be 33 or 41, depending on which part of the site you look at!) for that same cost of $47.99. Finally, once in a while we've been offered a super-deal of lifetime access to all Mondly languages for the bargain price of $89.99.

No satisfaction guarantee

Mondly is one of the few providers of Chinese lessons that has no refund policy. For that reason, we recommend that you start with a month-to-month plan. You can always upgrade if you really love the platform - or if you get offered one of those mega-discounts later on.

Fun, inexpensive way to learn some basics in Chinese

It's true that Mondly isn't the most robust way to learn Chinese. There are other services out there that go much more in-depth to teach grammar, tones, and cultural context. And, we wish that this platform came with some kind of refund policy, especially since it's hard to see how far their content advances later on and whether it's appropriate for more advanced students. However, if you're just looking for a fun way to start speaking basic Chinese and you're on a budget, Mondly's a decent option.

Rosetta Stone Review 3 Star Rating

Rosetta Stone

3 Star Rating
  • Free trial for three days
  • Teaches Chinese through immersion
  • Voice recognition tool helps you practice your accent
  • 30-day money-back guarantee

Everyone has heard of Rosetta Stone, one of the most famous providers of language lessons. But, in the past, most people couldn't afford the steep price tag of the CD-based program often found in mall kiosks and featured by in-flight magazines: $400 or more! Fortunately, Rosetta Stone has kept up with the times and now offers Chinese lessons that are 100% online - and just as affordable as many other providers out there at $35.97 for three months, $95.88 for 12 months, or $299 for lifetime access to all of the languages in their extensive learning library.

Immersion-based Chinese lessons

Rosetta Stone's language lessons stand out because of their immersive approach to teaching. How did you learn English? Naturally, from your environment, and through lots of repetition. They want to help you learn Chinese the same way: no tedious grammar explanations or worksheets, but lots of repetition of keywords matched with images.

Get a free trial for three days

Because this approach to teaching is so different, we strongly recommend that you take advantage of the three-day trial Rosetta Stone offers. You'll have to search for it a bit: scroll down to the bottom of the main page and look for the box that asks for your email address. Select Chinese (Mandarin) in the dropdown menu and type in an email address. (You don't have to confirm the email address you enter, which means you can enter a fake one if you'd prefer not to give Rosetta Stone your actual contact info just yet.)

Choose the profile that matches you and your goals

As you set up your user profile, you'll be asked to specify your current fluency level: Beginner, Intermediate, or Advanced. If you've already studied some Chinese previously, you may want to select advanced: even at that setting, the actual content seems to stall out at a fairly basic level and you might not be as challenged as you're expecting. After that, you'll indicate your reasons for taking Chinese lessons, like travel or family, so that the words you learn will be best suited to your needs. Last, you'll tell Rosetta Stone if you're an adult male, adult female, or child, in order for the voice recognition system to be set accordingly.

Best Chinese Lessons

Lots of settings for Chinese characters and Pinyin

Rosetta Stone defaults to Pinyin: the equivalent Roman script for how the Chinese is pronounced. They don't make it obvious, but they actually offer lots of ways to have the material presented. Click on the button that says han in the lower right-hand corner: you can choose to see Pinyin only, simplified Chinese characters with or without Pinyin, or traditional Chinese characters with or without Pinyin. (Simplified is used in mainland China, while traditional is found in Taiwan, Hong Kong, and overseas Chinese communities.) We were relieved to see that Rosetta Stone Chinese uses Pinyin as a default; in many of their other languages that don't use the Roman alphabet we use in English, this program often went straight to the foreign-to-us characters with no English approximation of the pronunciation. We recommend choosing one of the Pinyin-and-characters settings, so that you're visualizing the way Chinese is written while learning how to say it.

Costs

  • $35.97 for 3 months of Mandarin Chinese lessons
  • $95.88 for 12 months of Mandarin Chinese lessons
  • $299 ($179 with promo pricing) for lifetime access to all languages

Very difficult for beginners

While Rosetta Stone feels pretty comfortable for many "easy" languages like Spanish and Italian, most English speakers will likely feel frustrated with a more "difficult" one like Chinese. We did! Your very first lessons at the beginner level include images like boy, girl, man, woman, eats, drinks and reads, individually at first and then strung out into longer sentences. But, there's never an explanation as to what they mean or why they're put together that way: you're just supposed to internalize it without explicit instruction. That's really aggravating for most adults who want to understand why what looks like a very long sentence simply means "The girl drinks" .

Extra tools aren't much help

Rosetta Stone lets you skip around in the lessons as desired, and also offers other help under the "Explore All Content" link at the top of your dashboard. That includes interactive stories you can listen to or read aloud, an audio companion with downloadable files, and an "alphabet" tool to help you begin to grasp Chinese characters. None of this, however, led us to feeling comfortable with Rosetta Stone's Chinese lessons. Where can we learn about the different tones that are so famously challenging for English speakers? Or the overall grammatical structure that is vastly different from what we might know from German, French, or our own language? All of these unknowns left us feeling discouraged about learning Chinese through this platform.

Better options exist for Chinese lessons

For more familiar languages that use the Roman alphabet, Rosetta Stone presents a challenging-but-not-insurmountable way to learn: by immersion. Unfortunately, we've found that with languages that don't use the letters we already know (like Chinese, Russian, Korean, and so on), this platform expects too much learning to happen on its own and doesn't provide enough context - linguistically or culturally. It's fantastic that they give everyone a three-day trial, and we're thrilled that this program is so much more affordable now than in the past. However, we feel that most people looking for Chinese lessons will find Rosetta Stone more difficult than other programs in our review.

Fluenz Review 2.5 Star Rating

Fluenz

2.5 Star Rating
  • Lifetime access for a one-time fee
  • 30-day money-back guarantee
  • Up to 3 levels of Mandarin Chinese available
  • Can be used on mobile app and desktop
  • Can have up to 3 user accounts per household

Fluenz believes the best way to learn Mandarin Chinese - or any other new language - is by referencing the one you already speak well: English! This addresses one of the biggest frustrations many students have when taking Chinese lessons: being expected to "just pick it up as you go" by listening, with no direct explanations of what is being presented.

Plenty of help in English

Fluenz teaches Mandarin through video tutorials and "workouts" where you practice what you've learned. Everything is written in Pinyin: the approximation of the pronunciation using the Roman alphabet we use in English. The tutor, Yi Wei, offers explanations and strategies for word order, tones and pronunciation, sentence construction and vocabulary.

Three levels of Chinese lessons

There are three levels of learning available for Mandarin Chinese. Levels 1 and 2 include the basics like writing in Pinyin, identifying the tones (sounds plus marks), counting and making comparisons, and other topics to help you gain the ability to navigate through a new city. Moving up to Level 3, your Chinese lessons will include how to speak about the past and future, how to handle situations like exchanging money and dealing with technology, and so on. As far as we could see, Fluenz Mandarin doesn't delve into writing in simplified or traditional Chinese characters, relying solely on Pinyin. If it's important to you to be able to read and write in Chinese, this probably isn't going to be the right program for you.

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No free trial

Fluenz is the only program in our review that doesn't offer any way to "try before you buy" : no sample lesson, no week-long free access to the student dashboard, nothing. If you choose to buy Fluenz Mandarin sight-unseen, at least you can rest assured that your purchase is covered by a 30-day satisfaction guarantee.

Costs

  • $258 for Fluenz Mandarin 1 + 2
  • $187 for Fluenz Mandarin 3
  • $318 for Fluenz Mandarin 1 + 2 + 3

One-time fee, no subscription needed

Unlike many Chinese lessons, Fluenz doesn't require you to pay a monthly fee to access their program. Instead, you buy the level(s) you want and then use it for as long as you like, for up to three user accounts per household. You'll pay $258 for Fluenz Mandarin 1 + 2, $187 for Fluenz Mandarin 3, or $318 for Fluenz Mandarin 1 + 2 + 3. Sometimes Fluenz has promotional discounts: we got a pop-up as we browsed that offered to send us a code via email.

Needs more transparency and content to be competitive

While Fluenz Mandarin gets a lot of positive feedback from users, so much so that it's used by the Navy's Special Warfare Command, it just doesn't measure up to most of the Chinese lessons in our review. Plus, with no apparent way to learn Chinese characters and only three levels of content, this platform doesn't seem to be as well-rounded as some of the higher-rated programs we evaluated. We'd need to see a lot more upfront - like access to a dashboard or some kind of sample lesson - to move Fluenz up in our rankings.

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Continued from above...

Of course, Chinese probably isn't going to come to you as easily as a Romance language like Spanish or French. Not only do you have a completely new writing system to comprehend - one that uses characters instead of letters, too - but the tonal aspect of Chinese is notoriously difficult for English-speakers to master. (For example, a single change in tone can make the difference between saying "to buy" or "to sell" , "flower" or "painting" , or "panda" and "chest hair" !) You'll want to choose Chinese lessons that help you learn what you need most - like travel phrases or everyday conversation - while teaching you the well-rounded basics too.

How can you tell which Chinese lessons are right for you? Here are several things to look for as you consider different programs:

  • Pricing Structure. Will you be locked into a monthly membership fee, or is it a one-time cost? A recurring subscription might keep you motivated to learn, or it might go to waste if you're not diligent in your studies.
  • Approach to Teaching. Some lessons are very traditional, while others immerse you directly into Chinese with no grammar lessons at all. There is Chinese instruction that focuses mostly on conversation through memorizing important words and phrases, as well as programs that teach you how to read, write, understand and speak the language.
  • Difficulty Level. Almost all Chinese lessons are suitable for beginners. What if you've already studied the language for a while? Be sure any program you're considering has enough material for you to make progress, and take advantage of the sample lessons or free trial that may be offered so you can see for yourself.
  • Satisfaction Guarantee. Once you've paid for your Chinese lessons, can you get your money back for any reason? Not every provider offers a refund policy, making it even more important to see if there's a way to try it out before you commit.

To help you get the most out of your language studies, TopConsumerReviews.com has evaluated and ranked the best Chinese lessons available online today. We're confident that this information will help you pick a program that fits your unique learning style and fluency goals.

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Chinese Lesson FAQ

With China being the most populated country in the world, it will come as no surprise that an estimated 1.31 billion people speak Chinese - approximately 16% of everyone on the planet! And, that only includes those whose first or native language is Chinese, not those who are learning it as a second (or third!) language.
There are seven primary dialect groups in Chinese: Mandarin, Yue (or Cantonese), Min, Kejia, Gan, Xiang and Wu. Mandarin is the most widely used and is the dialect you'll most likely use if you travel to Taiwan, Singapore, or China, particularly in the northern regions. Most Chinese lessons are based on Mandarin.
Chinese is one of four languages ranked as a Category IV by the State Department's Foreign Service Institute: a designation that means that, for native English speakers, Chinese is "exceptionally difficult" (along with Arabic, Japanese, and Korean). However, if you're patient and hard-working, you can learn to speak and write in Chinese!
Many experts recommend focusing first on learning how to speak Chinese. The written language is extremely complex, because it's based on pictographs and not a phonetic alphabet, and most learners have a bigger need to communicate orally than in writing. Chinese is a tonal language, where shifting the "shape" of one's voice can change a syllable into a different word. (In Mandarin, for example, the syllable "ma" can mean everything from "mother" to "horse" and even "to scold" depending on the tone!) That can be very tricky for non-Asian learners to master, making it a great place to start.
There's no way to study Chinese that's more convenient than online lessons. You don't have to worry about making it to class on time, being able to register for a course, or turning in homework! Studying Chinese online is also much more affordable, and it lets you take things at your own pace.
Depending on whether you're using a Mac or PC (or an iPhone or Android), there are different steps you can take to enable a Chinese keyboard. Your best bet is to do a search based on the operating system you've got and follow the steps to turn on the Chinese language functionality.
No! You can choose classes with one-time fees for a complete course or a monthly subscription for continuous access, but both types of Chinese lessons are very affordable. For example, one popular program has a 12-month membership for just $16.66 per month, and another offers two levels of Chinese lessons for $249.90. You'll have a hard time finding an in-person class for less than that!
Sometimes. If you've subscribed to a monthly plan, you'll probably be able to cancel future recurring payments. If you've paid for a package of Chinese lessons, some platforms will allow you to request a refund within the first 30-60 days of use. However, your best option is to use any free lessons or resources that the language program offers prior to purchase: many sites have partial or full lessons you can try before you buy, or a 7-day trial you can use before your payments kick in. That's a great way to find out if the Chinese lessons you're considering are a good match for how you learn and what you want to get out of your studies.

Why Should You Learn Chinese?

In this day and age there are lots of reasons to invest in learning different languages. But what are the reasons to learn Chinese specifically? You might be questioning which language you want to learn next, and if so Chinese would make an excellent choice. There are many reasons to learn the language of such an illustrious culture, and this list will only be an abbreviated version, but it's something to strongly consider if you are up to the challenge.

One reason to learn Chinese is probably the easiest to understand - do it for the culture! China is a country with a beautiful and fascinating history, and learning the language is one more way to learn about the culture. If you ever visit China, you'll be glad you took the time to learn the language, and it'll help you understand more while you're there. And even if you never visit China, it can be a fun experience for yourself that also gives you a peek into a whole different part of the world.

Another, more specific reason for learning Chinese is for the future. Right now, China has connections with almost every country across the globe, and learning the language to communicate could be very helpful. From being a translator, to hoping to work in business, a smart language to learn would be Chinese. China works with a lot of countries, and is a massive producer of various items, so learning how to negotiate and talk to people in their own language would go a long way towards making a good impression.

Chinese is a very difficult language to learn, and there are many different ways you can communicate with it. That being said, learning Chinese could open several new doors for you. You could impress people with your knowledge, and even expose yourself to Chinese pop culture. You would see a whole different side of the world through Chinese movies and literature; things so easily get lost in translation, but by cutting out the middleman and doing it yourself, you make sure you are hearing everything correctly. You must look at the challenge of learning the language as an invitation instead of an obstacle. You are bringing yourself to new heights, and perhaps you will inspire more people to join you, by learning Chinese as a second language.

For these reasons and many more, learning Chinese is a great decision. Use your time and money to learn a new skill that could be invaluable to you for a variety of reasons. As long as you remember to respect the culture it comes from, learning Chinese can be a very healthy and exciting goal to work towards achieving. Join millions today in learning a whole new world through the language of China.

The Best Reviews of Chinese Lessons