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Busuu Review

Wednesday, September 28th

2022 Chinese Lesson Reviews

Busuu Review 3.5 Star Rating


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


  • 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.

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.

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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.
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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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