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Rocket Language's Mandarin Chinese lessons program is simple and effective, giving you the skills you need to learn the modern Chinese language. Whether you are new to the Chinese language or already have some experience with it, Rocket Chinese will improve your ability to use Chinese conversationally.
Each level within the Chinese package contains the following:
Other course features include the My Vocab vocabulary builder, the Phrase Finder, progress tracking with badges and leaderboard access, lifetime course access, and two "Survival Kits" that help students quickly master targeted vocabulary within specific Chinese conversational situations.
Rocket Chinese offers a 20-minute audio lesson as a free trial with no credit card information required, along with several "Hear It Say It! Write It! Know It!" examples on the website. Although, we had some trouble trying to get our voice samples to record, as well as figuring out how to use the special "pinyin" keyboard in order to enter the characters for the answers in the examples.
We love Rocket Language's 100%, 60-day money-back guarantee, though you may not need it: more than 1,500 users have given the program a perfect five-star rating.
Learning a new language - especially one with a completely different writing system from most Western languages, and pronunciation tones that are critical to master - might be scary at first. However, Rocket Chinese works hard to help students master conversational Chinese as easily as possible. We particularly like their well-rounded approach to language teaching, their free samples, and their customer-friendly return policy. If speaking Chinese is on your to-do list, Rocket Chinese is one of our favorite programs. They earn our highest rating.
Transparent Language's Chinese lessons strive to deliver "radically better language learning, in one complete experience". Their program uses speaking practice (users compare their speech to a native speaker's), multiple choice questions, listening exercises, detailed grammar lessons and more in order to approach learning Chinese from many different angles. While their instructional methods seem to be fairly similar to other programs', where Transparent Language stands out is in the fact that they offer Mandarin and Cantonese instruction, though the latter is only available in the online format and not in CDs or audio course.
Prospective customers will appreciate the 14-day free trial of their online Chinese lessons, and no credit card details are needed to access it. Because many Transparent Languages' users report that the system has a less rigid structure than other language programs in our review, we suggest that students make full use of the trial offer to see if the more flexible approach is a good fit for their motivation level and self-discipline.
In the event that a customer is not satisfied with their Chinese lessons, Transparent Language does give a full refund for all of its products, within six months of purchase for any physical/downloaded product, and a full refund prior to the next billing cycle for subscription members of Transparent Language Online.
Transparent Language is one of the few Chinese lesson programs that has an option for live instruction and tutoring. It's more expensive than the basic program, of course - $299 for an 8-week, customized online course that meets weekly, and/or $99 for 90 minutes of one-on-one online tutoring at the student's level of proficiency - but the investment may be worth it for students who need a bit more structure and personalized attention, especially with the tonal aspects of Chinese pronunciation.
We give Transparent Language's Chinese lessons high marks for including both Mandarin and Chinese options, and for offering live tutoring/instruction for those who want more in-depth help.
Rosetta Stone is one of the best-known names in language instruction. Their model to language learning is what they call "Dynamic Immersion": instead of teaching Chinese by translating from English to Chinese and vice-versa, or using rote memorization, Rosetta Stone Chinese emphasizes learning as naturally as possible - similar to how a child learns his or her first language.
Rosetta Stone Chinese has a free demo that presents several words - without translation, so as to be immersive - that walks the learner through several simple vocabulary matching exercises. However, there were no sample activities that used actual Chinese characters, so we were unable to determine at what point those characters are introduced, or what type of instruction is provided to help students learn to recognize and use them. And, where other Rosetta Stone demos include speech recognition activities, the Chinese trial does not; given the importance of tones in speaking proper Chinese, we had no way of telling how sensitive the speech recognition is within Rosetta Stone's instruction.
Rosetta Stone has a good guarantee/return policy: where in the past, their 30-day, no risk, money-back guarantee only applied to their CD products, it now includes any of Rosetta Stone's Personal or Homeschool editions, from online subscription to downloads and CD-ROMs.
As one of the most widely used programs for learning languages, it's no surprise that Rosetta Stone has many reviews that describe their Chinese instruction as fun, useful, and worth the investment. On the other hand, it is easy to find other reviews complaining that using Rosetta Stone does not actually result in language acquisition that is as simple as learning one's first language. Of course, no program can deliver a truly immersive experience comparable to what a person gains by living within a culture that speaks the target language.
In general, Rosetta Stone's Chinese program is likely to be useful for most language learners, especially given the number of students who have already experienced success using their methods. We recommend that prospective customers keep an eye on Rosetta Stone's pricing and make sure to take advantage of any special offers, to keep the program affordable.
Innovative Language's ChineseClass101 program provides a wide variety of language instruction levels, from brand-new language learners to those looking to refine their understanding of specific Chinese dialects.
The salesy tactics used by Innovative Language might be a turn-off to some prospective customers. The main site promises a free account with lifetime access, but no further information is available until you enter your name, email address, and level of learning (absolute beginner, beginner, intermediate advanced), and then activate your account once you receive the email (alternately, you can sign up using your Facebook account). The confirmation page then takes you to a "limited, one-time offer" that includes the following:
In order to access this "one-time offer", you'll need to pay $1 as a "bandwidth fee". Otherwise, click on the "No Thanks" link and it will take you to your main account page. On that page, we got yet another "special offer", explaining that we had now been given a 7-day free trial with access to the entire lesson library and Premium tools, but we could get a 10% discount if we upgraded to a subscription plan that day. Fortunately, the sales pitch seems to finish there, as you can jump directly to audio Absolute Beginner Lesson 1, "Meeting: What's Your Name in Chinese?"
In that initial 15-minute lesson, you will find a basic lesson explaining how names are very different in Chinese, along with a simple introductory conversation between two strangers. We thought it was a neat feature that members can ask Cho, a native speaker helper, for help with choosing a Chinese name - or getting an approximation of the pronunciation of their own name - in the comments section at the bottom of the page. Also be sure to check out the spot at the top of the lesson that says "Download PDFs". Here you'll find a transcript of the lesson, lesson notes (including the approximate pronunciation using the familiar English alphabet, or the "Romanization"), and checklists to help you track your progress through the materials.
We felt that, for many learners, figuring out what to do first, second, and third would be confusing. The learning dashboard shows the recommended lesson progression under the "My Pathway" heading, access to flashcards and other tools, and access to the "My Teacher" feature included with Premium Plus memberships. Do we start with Self-Introduction? What do we add to the courses we're taking? It was challenging to determine what we needed to do next, to make sure we were progressing in the most logical way.
We did notice that there are video lessons in addition to the audio lessons we were led to in the dashboard, so we went to the series "Learn Chinese in Three Minutes". Those videos made more sense than the audio files, but we weren't sure if we needed to follow the instructions to "add course to dashboard". Also in the Absolute Beginner Videos section, we found one entitled "Chinese Reading Comprehension for Absolute Beginners", which would be very useful for those who need to master both written and spoken Chinese. We recommend that students go to the Lessons navigation at the top of the page, and select "Learning Paths": here you will find groups of lessons categorized as Absolute Beginner, Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced.
We were also initially confused by the pricing for Innovative Language's packages. On one page, it said that their packages were priced at $4/month for the Basic plan, $10/month for the Premium package, and $25/month for Premium+; however, on the main pricing FAQ page, the prices were listed as nearly double those amounts. The difference? The higher prices are for a 1-month subscription, and the lower prices reflect a 50% discount given for a 24-month subscription. Keep that in mind as you decide which plan meets your needs and your budget, and be sure to compare the features offered at each subscription level (e.g. interactive voice recording is included with Premium and Premium+ only, while printer-friendly lesson notes are included with all paid memberships).
Innovative Language does offer a guarantee. If you are unsatisfied with your membership at any level, you may request a refund within 60 days. Be aware that you will only be refunded for the unused time on your membership plan.
Because of the breadth of the content offered and the solid variety of teaching approaches (e.g. audio, video, MP3 downloads, mobile apps), we give Innovative Language's ChineseClass101 a respectable rating. This rating would improve with fewer hoops for prospective customers to jump through in order to check out what the Chinese program has to offer, and less emphasis on the sales pitch.
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.
Pimsleur is also one of a very small number of Chinese programs that offer lessons in both Mandarin and Cantonese, though the latter is only available in a 30-lesson audio format. This is important for students who may plan to use their skills strictly in Hong Kong, rather than on the mainland or in Taiwan where Mandarin is the most prevalent.
Pimsleur lets users download a free 30-minute Chinese lesson from the website, to try out their audio; we felt that we were left with a good understanding of a basic conversation in Chinese after giving it a trial run.
However, we would have liked to sample what Pimsleur provides in its DVD software, especially since Chinese characters are drastically different from English and other languages written using the Roman alphabet, and because the tonal nature of Chinese makes it valuable to be able to have one's speech evaluated in contrast with a native speaker's.
In lieu of a satisfaction guarantee, Pimsleur instead offers a Proficiency Guarantee according to some very specific terms: users must purchase a Pimsleur Level 1 program (Mandarin or Cantonese), complete the course, and take a novice-level test on an independent website. If the user fails that exam, Pimsleur will issue a full refund. We're not sure if this applies to a purchase made that included levels 1-4, or how someone studying just the audio lessons in Cantonese would then be able to take any kind of written exam on the other site.
Of all the products in our reviews, Pimsleur is the most expensive, with purchases of MP3 or audio CDs surprisingly more expensive than the DVDs that include the audio files. (Pro tip: we did notice that if we left the tab open long enough in our browser, we did get a pop-up for 30% off and free shipping on any order).
Given its primary emphasis on learning by listening, Pimsleur may be best for students who want to study their Chinese lessons on the go, with the understanding that additional effort will need to be made to grasp the written aspects of the Chinese language.
LingQ (pronounced like the word "link") takes readings from actual Chinese print material such as books and newspaper articles, downloading audio lessons to review, and connections with native speaker helpers and tutors as the foundation of its Chinese lessons.
Given the substantial differences between learning Chinese versus languages based on the Roman alphabet (for example, German, Italian, or Spanish), we would have liked to see more specific examples of LingQ's Chinese methodologies. (The site also makes no mention of whether the Chinese taught is Mandarin, Cantonese, or both). Both the sample lessons and the testimonials all refer to learners of other languages, and given the complexities of Chinese characters and the tonal aspects of the spoken language, we found ourselves wondering just how effective LingQ's program is at teaching "meaningful Chinese", as they put it.
We also were less than impressed by the paid nature of LingQ's connections with native speakers. A one-on-one conversation with a native speaker costs $5 for 15 minutes, and a 100-word writing correction costs $5 (and there was no specific explanation as to how Chinese writing would be counted, whether that's in actual Chinese characters or transliteration into the Roman alphabet). With the ease of connecting with native speakers around the world for free, we wonder if the value of those paid interactions would be worth the investment.
With so little detailed information specific to LingQ's Chinese lessons (compared with other languages they offer), we strongly recommend that prospective students sign up for their free trial before committing to a membership.
Unforgettable Chinese focuses on speed-learning using a mnemonic tool they call "Linkwords": associating new Chinese words with familiar English ones (e.g. "The Chinese word for DOOR is MEN. Imagine MEN keep on walking into DOORs"). Students picture each image in their minds for ten seconds, in order to retain the association. However, in both the demo accessed by the green "Start the demo" button, as well as the demo of the MP3 audio course, we felt that the English words being associated with the Chinese phrases actually encouraged poor pronunciation of the target words, especially with respect to the tonal nature of Chinese.
Unforgettable Chinese only offers one level of Mandarin Chinese instruction, which may be helpful for beginners but be of limited use for students who have a basic understanding of the language. Additionally, we saw nothing on the site to indicate that Unforgettable Languages' Chinese program teaches how to read or write Chinese characters, further limiting its usefulness for many students. We strongly suggest that prospective customers try the provided demos, to see if the "Linkwords" method and program content will be sufficient to make a difference in their progress with the Chinese language.
On a more positive note, we like Unforgettable Chinese's satisfaction guarantee: customers can get a full refund within 30 days of purchase, for any reason.
Unforgettable Chinese primarily focuses on retention of vocabulary, which might be helpful for beginners who need help remembering Chinese words and phrases. But, with no apparent written lessons, and vocabulary that feels out of context (e.g. the demo taught words like "tree", "plate", and "red"), Unforgettable Chinese gives the impression of being a flashcard review system more than a well-rounded method of learning Chinese. That is why we suggest that students looking to learn or improve their conversational and written Chinese skills consider other products in our review.
Strokes International's Easy Learning Chinese claims to conform to the European Framework for Languages (Levels A1, A2, and B2) in its CD-ROM program, Chinese 100 for Beginners. Unfortunately, it is difficult to get past the errors on the website in order to determine if their program is effective.
For example, when clicking on the link for more information, the product page describing the program's components comes up only in Italian, making it impossible to reliably discern how the program is delivered (unless, of course, you speak Italian or another Romance language and can somewhat figure it out). Even clicking on the general "Program information" link returns an empty page. Finally, on the "Shipping & Returns" portion of the site, no actual return policy is given - just costs for shipping within and outside of Europe.
Strokes Easy Learning continues its losing streak with its free mobile apps, which haven't been updated since 2014 and have almost no reviews. If you're shopping around for reputable Chinese lessons, we highly recommend that you choose one of the better-rated programs in our review. Easy Learning just doesn't inspire much confidence in their product, given the glaring errors and omissions on their website alone.
With more than 16% of the world's population who speak Chinese as their first language, it's no wonder that modern education is prioritizing learning Chinese as a foreign language. From immersion-based elementary schools to language learning programs found online, it is estimated that as many as 40 million non-native speakers around the globe are currently studying Chinese.
There are two primary dialects of Chinese: Mandarin, or "Standard Chinese", the official language of China and Taiwan; and Cantonese, the official language in Hong Kong and Macau and influential in the Guangdong Province. While the two are similar, Chinese students may want to focus more on one or the other, depending on their purposes for using the language.
From beginners learning the intonation of a simple ni hao to those looking to fine-tune their knowledge of Chinese characters and pronunciation, students have many programs from which to choose to help them better grasp the intricacies of the Chinese language. When deciding which Chinese lessons will be the best option, we recommend getting a feel for each program's methods.
The most well-rounded Chinese lessons use strategies to reach different learners - visual, auditory, and so on - through flashcards, pronunciation practice using a microphone to compare the student's speech to that of a native speaker, games, and other online resources.
On the other hand, some Chinese programs focus on a single approach to teaching the language (for example, worksheets or audio lessons) that may or may not be the best way for a particular student to learn.
When choosing a program for Chinese lessons, there are several things to consider. These include:
TopConsumerReviews.com has reviewed and ranked the best Chinese Lessons available today. We hope these reviews help you learn the most common language around the globe quickly and easily!
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