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Saturday, August 20th
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 Originally made famous for its basic 30-minute audio lessons, Pimsleur has expanded its offerings to include software DVDs that include flashcards, games, and other more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.
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!
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.
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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