Have you ever wanted to learn Chinese? Did you know that nowadays it’s easier than ever before!
Today’s article is a guest post from one of my best friends Gerhard Reus. He is a real polyglot as he speaks several languages fluently. Gerhard is Austrian so his native language is German. He also speaks Spanish, English, French and now also some Chinese.
I asked Gerhard to write a ChineseClass101 review because he explained it’s the best resource for learning Mandarin. Gerhard, the floor is yours. 🙂
(I also recommend that you check out Gerhard’s website Leaving-the-comfort.zone. It provides lots of wonderful content for people who are interested in traveling, new cultures and expanding the comfort zone.)
Mandarin is often considered as one of the most difficult languages to learn. Let me tell you in this article how I found the opposite to be true. Let me tell you how I found out that Chinese is easy and how I learn it today.
For a while, I was interested in learning Chinese. After traveling to Taiwan twice and making Chinese speaking friends through Couchsurfing I decided to give it a try. From asking questions and listening to the locals, I already understood that it might not be as difficult as it seemed to me.
How to Learn Chinese Language Fast – Asking the experts
When I was back home, I first asked my friend Roope, the author of this blog, for his advice. I knew he is an expert when it comes to language learning. Despite his general expertise for starting a new language, he recommended me “Why Chinese is easy?” by Benny Lewis. Maybe you have heard about Benny here on this blog or elsewhere. He is a legend. (Check out his Fluent in 3 Months course here.)
Benny Lewis book explained the differences between Chinese and our western languages in detail. Getting the sounds and the tones right seemed to be the first, most important and most difficult part. All the rest seems actually easier than in any other language I know. We can not cover this topic in depth here, but let me refer you to the book. It is about 60 pages long and includes two additional books for total immersion. For me, it was the kick starter on this journey.
How Did I Find Chineseclass101?
The next step was to find the right resources. Okay, I first heard about Chineseclass101 from Benny Lewis as well. He mentioned it as one of his favorite resources so I signed up for free in the beginning. I had a look at it and returned later when I realized that it is probably the best resource for Chinese learners. Let’s dive right into and find out why I think it is a complete online resource for everyone who wants to get serious with Mandarin Chinese.
Cost: Free $0, Basic $4/Month, Premium $10/Month, Premium PLUS $23/month. (DISCOUNTS AVAILABLE)
Overall Rating: 95 Out of 100
What is Chineseclass101?
Chineseclass101 is actually a podcast. The truth is, however, that there is a lot more to it. There are
- Vocabulary lists
- Grammar database
- Mobile apps
- Audio lessons including transcripts
- Video lessons
Below you can one short example of their video lessons:
Chinese Audio and Video Lesson
There are endless hours of both, audio and video lessons, available. So many in fact, that it becomes confusing when you try to find out where to start. My recommendation is to master pronunciation first like Benny Lewis suggests in his book. It is key to the Chinese language. Once you are comfortable you stay in the absolute beginner section. Choose one of the big compilations like “Key Phrases and Grammar” and you will be on your way.
I recommend following only one path at a time. A mistake I made, in the beginning, was switching between them. There are so many lessons available and its tempting to try something new, but it slows you down on your path to profound knowledge. “Key Phrases and Grammar” for example takes 20 hours. Meaning you commit to it keeps you busy for at least a week or two. And that is only one small part of the Absolute Beginners section.
It seems that, at the time of writing this article, they restructure the lessons library. There is an option to try a new interface and it sorts out one of the few things I disliked. The lessons were structured in paths as well as libraries. It took me a while to understand that lessons appeared in both and I would have to choose which one to use to not get confused. In the new interface, there is only the library divided into the four skill level and the bonus section.
Every lesson has a vocabulary list, lesson notes, and a transcript. The transcript and the lesson notes can be downloaded as a pdf and they are useful to review your lessons afterward or to read along while listening. I like to print the transcript and either read it quickly at the end of my studies or later on in the day for some spaced repetition and additional visual learning. My favorite feature though is the vocabulary list and its features.
Vocabulary lists, Flashcards, and Dictionary
There is a vocabulary list for every lesson and you can save words from the lessons to your word bank or to flashcards. I love these lists to track my progress and for spaced repetition. There are also pre-made vocabulary lists about different topics and lists with the 100 and 2000 most common words. With 2000 words in Chinese you can already say a lot. Your vocabulary grows exponentially because many words are a combination of other words.
Each word is written in simplified Chinese and you can choose romanized letters or traditional Chinese next to it. Furthermore, there is audio for each word and not only that. The lists can be used as a vocabulary builder. That means it reads the whole list for you with silence in between.
What makes it even more useful, especially for advanced users, are the example sentences. Every word has one. They are most useful for understanding the words in context. There are too many functions on the site to explain them here in detail, so I recommend you to just go over to Chineseclass101 and sign up for a 7-day trial and have a look.
ChineseClass101 App – Three Mobile Apps for Online and Offline Use
The innovative Language App is your true Chineseclass101 companion. It lets you enter all the lesson, audio, and video, and lets you download them as well. What I like the most about this App is the user-friendliness. It is extremely well structured, even better than the website itself. It’s available for Android and iOS, is included in your subscription. The downloaded content can be used while you are offline and enables you to study wherever you are.
The daily dose App is included in the subscription of Chineseclass101. It gives you topics for each day. If there is a holiday or anything special for the date it will be about that. If not there will be another topic in the form of a written article, a short podcast, and a video. It also shows the month, the day of the week and the date in Chinese. Using it is entertaining and easy to implement in your routine. To me, it almost feels like reading the newspaper.
There is a third App, word power Chinese, that’s not included in the subscription. It’s a Vocabulary Trainer and for €9,99 on iOS or Android. For iOS, there is a lite version available for free, but it only includes 200 words. Even though it is certainly not necessary, it’s a one-time payment and if you want a mobile vocabulary trainer I am sure it is worth it. I have not bought it, however, because I use Anki, Memrise, and study on the Chineseclass website.
Chineseclass101 Pricing – How Much Does a Subscription Cost?
There are several plans available, yet the choice is simple. The basic plan costs $4,- a month and includes all the audio lessons with pdf files. No custom vocabulary lists, flashcard, lesson transcription and so on. The premium plan, on the other hand, costs $10,- a month and includes everything except personal instructions from a real teacher that are only included in the premium+ plan for $23,- per month.
That means the premium plan is standard and the right choice for most of us. The basic plan, in my opinion, is not enough and the premium+ is unnecessary. So the cost, for most of us, will be $10,- per month. But wait a second. I paid $84,- for 2 years of premium. Means I paid $3,50 per month. How did I do that? Just sign up now and get a discount. And that brings me to the next topic.
What I Dislike About ChineseClass101?
They send you lots of emails once you have signed up. You can, of course, turn the emails off and it is not a dislike as such. A funny fact is that it doesn’t stop when you are premium. You will still receive emails and you even still have the green upgrade button on every single page of the website.
As I said before the content, even if it is very well structured, was sometimes confusing to navigate at first. But it seems they realized that as well and by the time I write this post there is a test for a new, clean user interface. Both of these points are not a dislike per se and I guess you already noticed that I am still a huge fan of their products.
Who should consider subscribing to Chineseclass101?
It is suitable for beginners as well as advanced students who want to take their skills to the next level. But especially for beginners, there are hours and hours of material. I believe that especially for Chinese it is important to get the basics right from the beginning. This massive beginner section is, therefore, very valuable and allows you to profoundly kickstart your journey.
Closing Words from Roope
Thank you very much Gerhard for sharing your experiences and knowledge about ChinesClass101. I really appreciate it.
For my blog readers (Yes, you there on the other side of the screen!) I would also like to show other tools that could improve your Chinese skills. There are incredible tools online and you don’t actually never need to go to an “old-school” course if you don’t want. Just click links below to read more about other great resources:
- Mimic Method (Improves especially your pronunciation)
- Speechling (Teaches you lots of new phrases and helps you to master the correct pronunciation)
- Babbel (Language learning game)
- Preply and Italki (Language learning communities)
I hope you have enjoyed reading this article and I wish you all the best with your Chinese journey.
How have you studied Chinese? What resources have been the best? Have you also used ChineseClass101?