Your Essential Toolkit to Learn Chinese


Is learning Mandarin much harder than you expected it to be? Everyone knows it’s going to be difficult but they never assume it would be this difficult. In a sense, learning a language doesn’t get much harder than this.

Of course, you and I both know you’re up for the challenge. It just boils down to pinpointing the best way to learn Mandarin — luckily there’s more than one!

If you want to be able to speak Mandarin, you need to have the right toolkit at your disposal. Ultimately, you’re only as good as your toolkit. It’s imperative that you utilize all the teaching methods available if you hope to finally master the Chinese language

How to Learn Chinese With the Right Toolkit

You may already be engaging in more traditional teaching methods (like taking classes for example). This is no doubt a great way to learn, but it shouldn’t be the be-all and end-all of learning to speak Mandarin. It’d be wise to supplement classes with a few more effective methods, thus ensuring you have the right toolkit to move forward.

Here are a few things you should seriously consider adding to your Chinese language toolkit:

Take Part in a Language Exchange

If you’ve never heard of it before, a language exchange is a process by which you, a native English speaker, becomes acquainted with a native Mandarin speaker. The two of you then proceed to exchange languages as you teach one another.

Everyone knows that practice makes perfect, and speaking practice is one of the core elements of a language exchange. You each will have the chance to learn your target language as well as teach the other person how to speak your own native tongue. It’s a reciprocal partnership that mutually benefits every party involved.

Ultimately, this is a great way to learn how to speak Mandarin and it also provides you with an opportunity to assist someone who’s in the same boat as you. It’s a win-win.

Get your Hands on Some Useful Apps

Let’s face it: apps are here to stay.

Like it or not, we’ve all succumbed to the allure of outsourcing aspects of our lives to the convenience of an app. They’ve revolutionized practically every aspect of our lives — and, luckily, that happens to include teaching methods as well.

By now, you must already be familiar with some of the big players in the language app market. These apps have changed the way we learn languages and have made it something easily accessible in the palm of your hands.

No matter where you are or what you’re doing, you can always find an app that will make learning the Chinese language far more convenient than ever before.

So, which of these apps is most effective for you? Well, not every app is optimized for learning Mandarin, but here are a few that are proven to help you learn how to speak mandarin:

  • Pleco

Pleco is a free dictionary app available for Android and iOS. One of its most useful features is that you can use it when you’re offline and also as a nifty translation tool. The app allows you to capture text via your phone camera and have it translated back to you.

  • Google Translate

Google Translate is another practical tool that many people use to create direct translation from one language to another. It’s fast, intuitive, and very accurate. It can also perform text-to-speech translations if you’re looking to hear a rough approximation of what certain phrases should sound like.

  • Forvo

Forvo has the designation of being the internet’s most prominent pronunciation dictionary. Unlike typical dictionaries, Forvo has placed a large emphasis on providing users with a compendium of language pronunciations. Forvo provides users with the power to choose between a variety of pronunciations of the same word — whether it’s spoken in a different

accent or by a different gender.

  • Duolingo

Naturally, you had to know this was coming; it’s only the most popular language-learning app in the world. Duolingo’s main claim to fame is its ability to gamify the language learning process and keep users engaged and having fun. If learning a language seems like a slog to you, Duolingo might be worth your time.

  • Anki

Flashcards are one of the most effective teaching methods there is — who hasn’t used them to study at some point in their life?

Anki, which is Japanese for “memorization”, is an app that utilizes the power and effectiveness of flashcards to help users learn their target language. Anki is free and open-source, meaning that it can be used to learn several subjects, including how to speak Mandarin.

  • Google Chrome Extensions

One of the many benefits that come with using Google Chrome as your go-to web browser is the abundance of useful extensions. These extensions can serve a variety of purposes, but for today the main focus is on those which will help you to speak Mandarin.

Although there are several examples out there for you to explore, Zhongwen is among the most popular. It provides you with an effective pop-up dictionary that allows you to hover over Chinese words and see their direct English translations.

Free Online Resources

Of course, technology doesn’t just stop at apps — the internet happens to be a treasure trove of free language learning resources. If you’ve ever wondered about how to learn Chinese for free, you don’t need to look much further than these handy resources:

  • YouTube tutorials
  • Podcasts
  • Online forums (r/ChineseLanguage, etc)
  • Chinese grammar wiki

Each of these avenues will provide you with ample opportunity to test your skills, pick up some extra pointers, and, ultimately, immerse yourself completely in the experience of learning about the Chinese language.

Start Binging

Did you think you could get away with learning to speak Mandarin by just sitting on your couch watching TV? Well, you might be onto something!

The concept of learning a language by watching TV is not new by any means. In fact, newly-arrived immigrants have been doing it throughout the anglosphere for decades. Shows like Friends have inadvertently provided people with countless hours of language learning material — including Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp.

Ultimately, the reason for this is that shows and movies are an engaging and entertaining way to hear a language in action. They’re a great way to supplement some of the more dry teaching methods out there.

Plus, subtitles are an effective way to pick up on words and phrases. Luckily, they can be found on a variety of popular Mandarin shows on Netflix


Learning the Chinese language is no simple task. You’ve certainly got a long way to go. Ultimately, the best way to learn Mandarin is to equip yourself with the right toolkit.

Due to the proliferation of language learning resources and technology, the process of learning a new language has never been easier. There’s no shortage of free and easy-to-use tools out there to add to your repertoire.

No matter how hard it gets, just know that it’s never been easier. People have overcome much greater hardships when attempting to learn Mandarin (or any language for the matter).

You’re no less capable then they were and have everything you need in the palm of your hands — so get to it!

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Marketing team at That's Mandarin sharing news and views on Chinese language and culture.

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