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Wednesday, May 18th
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.
...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.
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.
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.
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:
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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