Tons of language learning apps have emerged in the attempt to jump on the mobile e-learning bandwagon. To stand out from the crowd, they’ve been trying to approach learning from different angles, either by gamification or by integrating social factors to liven up what can be – lets be honest – a very dull process.

No matter what perspective they take, the basic idea is to give learners a good reason to stay motivated over the long-run. Although motivation is crucial for all language learners, Chinese presents an especially daunting challenge as one of the toughest languages for native English speakers to grasp.

Shanghai-based startup Amanda, is attempting to approach this challenge from en entirely different perspective: culture.

“For most learners, the language itself is but a tool to know China better, to know how modern Chinese people see the world and how that view is different from a westerner’s.” said Zoe Zhou, co-founder of the company.

Amanda (sounds similar in Mandarin) delivers eight curated stories everyday in both English and Chinese through a clutter-free interface. The stories are hand-picked from a vast sea of local red-hot topics to keep users updated with the most authentic and current stories happening right now in China.


Supported by technology from Chinese Voice software provider iFlytek, Amanda offers audio recordings for entire articles and individual words to assist with pronunciation. In order to cover the learners on both ends of the proficiency scale, Amanda selects ‘featured words’ in each article, helping beginners to get started with the most basic words. On the other hand, more sophisticated users can learn the new words specifically or even read the whole article.

In addition, users also can save favorite words and phrases to the customizable wordlist and then synced with their Amanda account. The app is now only available in iOS for iPhone and iWatch, but the Android version is coming very soon.

Launched in this year, Amanda is co-founded by Guan Wang, Zoe Zhou and Charles Li, three entrepreneurs with expertise in language learning, digital marketing and product development. Before Amanda, the trio worked several years at EF Worldwide, an international language trainer, where they gained an understanding of the mobile language learning industry.

“Tons of traditional learning services characterized by well-structured and systematic tutorial models are available on the market. These systems are based on the presupposition that the learners can maintain their initial perseverance and time commitment over time, which is rarely the case.”said Guan Wang, co-founder of the company.

“With Amanda, a service designed for mobile, we didn’t try to solve all the problems but use authentic and interesting content as an ice-breaker to show learners that Chinese is not as difficult as it seems and learning Chinese can be an enjoyable experience.”

“At present, nearly 50% of our users come from the U.S., while around 30% are foreign expats living in China”, explained Zoe. She added that the team is planning to cooperate with partners with a goal to add more content on different verticals, like recruitment, travel and technology.


Amanda Co-founders: Charles Li, Zoe Zhou, Guan Wang (L-R)

image credit: ShutterStock

Emma Lee (Li Xin) was TechNode's e-commerce and new retail reporter until June 2022, when she moved to Sixth Tone to cover technology and consumption. Get in touch with her via or Twitter.

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