15 Smartphone Apps to Teach Yourself Chinese

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Learning a new language is never easy, but Chinese can be one of the hardest for English speakers to master as it requires not only learning to speak a new language but also to read and write using an entirely different set of characters. Learners don’t have to go it alone, however. As the popularity of learning Mandarin has exploded over the past few years, so have the number of helpful resources catered to language learners that can aid in studying, learning, and practicing key language skills. Even better, many of these resources are available over a smartphone, making it possible to learn at any time and from anywhere and often at no or a very low cost. Here we highlight just a few of the best Chinese language learning apps out there today, offering language learners the chance to use flashcards, look up words, draw characters, and practice vocab on-the-go.

  1. Pleco Chinese Dictionary:

    Pleco is one of the best Chinese dictionaries currently on the market and, amazingly, it’s also free. Through the app, language learners can look up words, read documents, practice with flashcards, and even get help with writing Chinese characters.

  2. Radio Chinese Plus+:

    Expose yourself to Chinese language news programs, music, and more through this great app that connects you via iPad, iPhone, Blackberry, or Android to some of the top U.S.-based Mandarin radio stations.

  3. WCC Chinese Flashcards with Audio:

    Practice learning Chinese bigrams (two-character combination words) with flashcards and audio support that will boost both your spoken and written Chinese. Currently the app offers access to more than 20,587 bigrams, with audio that showcases a variety of different pronunciations.

  4. Chinese Writer:

    Learning to read and write Chinese characters can be challenging, but apps like this one can help. Chinese Writer uses a game-like format to challenge users to quickly draw characters. At present, the app offers access to more than 5,300 simplified and traditional characters, each with English explanations and proper pronunciation.

  5. Chinese Vocab Free:

    For beginning language learners, mastering basic vocabulary is essential. This app is an excellent way to do just that, presenting thousands of words that users have to correctly translate into one language or the other.

  6. Shi Zi:

    Shi Zi is an excellent tool to help students of Mandarin learn to read Chinese characters. To aid in memorization, the app displays the characters next to shapes of the physical objects they represent, organizes them into related groups, and tests users time and time again to reinforce learning.

  7. Play & Learn Chinese:

    Want to make learning Chinese a little more fun? This app can help, turning language lessons into fun games that will help you build vocabulary and memorize basic phrases.

  8. BoPoMo Help:

    Using Pinyin, this app will help learners more easily understand the meaning of Chinese words and characters as well offering the correct pronunciation for thousands of tricky characters.

  9. Dictionary and Flashcards:

    This dictionary and flashcards from Trainchinese can be an invaluable resource for language learning, as they make it possible to easily bring vocabulary study with you anywhere you go.

  10. AccelaStudy:

    This award-winning software is a must-have for language learners attempting to master Mandarin. It offers over 2,100 vocab words, a basic dictionary, flashcards, study planning, several different practice modes, and stats on your progress.

  11. Hanzi Warrior:

    This game allows you to save the world (virtually, anyway) while you practice Chinese vocabulary, pronunciation, and reading.

  12. Laokang Tone Test:

    Correct pronunciation is very important in Mandarin, as many words can have vastly differing meanings based on inflection and pronunciation. This application lets you practice speaking, comparing your pronunciations against correct examples.

  13. My Chinese Coach:

    Test yourself, play games, look up words, and much more through this user-friendly program.

  14. ChinesePod:

    Join ChinesePod online, download the app to your phone, and get started on tackling thousands of lessons for learning Mandarin. ChinesePod also includes course management and testing tools to ensure you stay on track throughout the learning process.

  15. Fuxi:

    If you need to review your language lessons, Fuxi can be a big help. The application organizes your vocabulary words into sets, creating a system that keeps you practicing the right words every day through flashcards and quizzes.

    (The story originally appears on onlinecollegecourses.com)

  • ranjanxroy

    Great list but one more addition: love the Qingwen dictionary

    • Chris

      word. I always wonder why Pleco gets all the shout outs. QingWen is underrated, and a much better dictionary as far as Im concerned. It has some key features that make it a better learning tool, like… if you look up a word, it will often put that word in a sentence for you so you understand context. And when there are words in that sentence you dont know… just choose them and it gives you their meaning… and then creates new sentences.

  • http://www.madeiracloud.com/ Daniel O’Prey

    15 iPhone Apps to Teach Yourself Chinese. Where are the Android options!

  • http://twitter.com/StartUpNoodle Shlomo Freund


  • http://www.facebook.com/krzysztof.krol.9210 Krzysztof Król

    I recommend Lingling – more than one million people around the world use this application. It allows to learn 1,000 new words per month with Chinese language. You can download for free for android:


  • PerfectHSKword

    Free apps (iOS) for mandarin Chinese learner.
    All-in-one for HSK test.
    Recorded by top class narrators! Both man and woman voice!


  • Cassie

    try Magic Chinese

  • July Ju

    Thanks for the list, it’s really helpful. I also use this app to improve reading skill.
    Chinese Stories – Elementary
    There are some free stories and can easily memorise the vocabularies I don’t know before.

  • Paul – xLngLabs

    Hi, for anyone interested in learning Chinese we have just launched the free version of our upcoming game on the Google Play store. Based on the old classic snake game it’s fun and addictive. Try it for free at https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.xlng.snake&hl=en Would love to hear back from people

  • Evan Staff

    As a member of the Skritter team, I’m a little confused and disappointed that we weren’t mentioned once in this article. Most power learners of Chinese would probably agree that we offer one of the best apps out there.

  • Zacharias Fisches

    not mentioning skritter? poor job guys

  • Charles

    We have just released an app for preschoolers to learn basic Chinese vocabulary: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/mandarin-chinese-vocabulary/id836174367?mt=8

  • HelloTalk

    HelloTalk is the world’s biggest mobile language exchange social app, with more than 50,000 active Chinese users, with the following features:

    * Text to Speech
    * Transliteration
    * Voice to Text
    * Auto sentence correct by native users

    It’s really a dream app for people who want to practice Chinese because they will instantly find thousands of native Chinese dying to practice language with them.

    Here’s some reference article links:

    HelloTalk App on iFanr (Chinese article)


  • ideamost

    – Learn Chinese is one of the most interesting apps of “TalkingLearn” series.
    It is specially developed for those who are learning and practicing oral
    Chinese. With this app, you will not be afraid to speak Chinese at all. Download link: http://www.talkinglearn.com/.

  • Jamie Connaught

    HSK Locker, free android app as your pocket companion in memorizing the complete level 1-6 of the HSK word list

  • ChineseSkill

    ChineseSkill is the Most Effective Chinese Learning App since 2014. (4.7 Rating in AppStore and Google Play)
    Vedio: http://bit.do/VPuy
    AppStore: http://bit.do/UU2X
    Google Play: http://bit.do/UU24

  • leong vivien

    Download this mandarin word game! It has helped improve my mandarin tremendously!


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  • Qwenty

    Im using Memrise since march and I’m completely addicted to this app to learn chinese. There are tons of courses, you can take the subjects you like (the 100 verbs most used, the HSK 1 or HSK 5 etc.). I really like the variety of the exercices, you have audio (so you can repeat the words and improve your speaking skills), they use pinyin and chinese characters. I’ve learnt all the characters for HSK 1 and 2 within 6 months (just using it when I take/wait for the train lol), there are alos sentences.. It’s really a great app, but you need to speak english unfortunately (my mothertongue is french and there is no chinese courses in french…><). To me this app is very fun, and it was the only way i found to be able to memorise the characters (my chinese teacher also uses "quizlet" posting the characters we see in classes, which are a little bit different than the HSK ones, it's useful too, but I prefer Memrise cause I can challenge my korean friend who's also studying chinese with memrise ^^).