In this post, I will share with you the only apps you need to supplement your Mandarin Chinese language-learning lessons. These apps are for serious learners. They are not gamification apps that only teach you a small subset of words and sentences.
The focus of these apps will be vocabulary-building and reading skills, with a lesser focus on listening and comprehension skills.
These apps utilize the official HSK (Chinese Proficiency Test) resources, so you'll know how to measure yourself in terms of fluency and level after a certain period of learning. Plus, if you ever decided to get a Chinese-speaking job or relocate to a Chinese-speaking country, you would probably need to take the proficiency tests. Learning with these apps will give you a significant boost in preparations for your exams.
Now then, let me introduce you to the apps — there are only 2 of them.
Pleco Software - The #1 Chinese dictionary app for iOS and Android
The #1 Chinese dictionary app for iOS and Android
This app will be your main vocabulary learning tool.
Pleco is a combination of a dictionary and learning-resources. One of its best feature is the flashcard system. The main flashcard system is free, but there is an option to upgrade for a one-time fee for more sophisticated features like a built-in spaced repetition system.
Don't worry, the main flashcard system is more than enough for our purpose, but I always advocate to pay for a service. The people who built the tools are real people who rely on their product sales to make a living. The least we could do it to pay for their work.
Here are some tips when using the flashcards:
- Make sure you have selected HSK in the categories.
- If you are just starting out, select only HSK 1 and go through the deck as many times as you need.
- On a flashcard, you can click on the Chinese letter to see the meaning.
- If you are planning to live in Taiwan, Hong Kong, or Macau, learning traditional Chinese characters will be advantageous. So, make sure to turn on the traditional letters option in the settings, and it'll appear on the flashcards.
- You can view sample sentences made from the word on the flashcard. This will help you to get a picture of how the word can be used in a sentence.
Todai Easy Chinese
This app will be your main reading, listening, and comprehension practice tool.
Todai Easy Chinese is an excellent all-in-one tool for learning Mandarin Chinese. The app has a built-in newsreader, dictionary, HSK exam resources, videos, and podcast. All the main features of this app are free, but you can upgrade for a one-time fee to remove ads. Again, I'd recommend for you to pay to help support the developers.
Here are some tips when using the app:
- If you are planning to live in Taiwan, Hong Kong, or Macau, learning traditional Chinese characters will be advantageous. You can turn on the traditional Chinese characters option by tapping on the flag at the bottom of the screen.
- When selecting to read a news article, look for English-translated articles. These articles have an English flag annotated below the title.
- When reading a news article, you can tap on a word to reveal the definition, and play an audio recording of the whole article (doesn't help much though since it's not natural).
- After you feel slightly comfortable reading Chinese sentences, you can now try the HSK materials.
- The podcast materials are okay, but I'd recommend using a proper podcast app like Spotify or Google Podcast to practice your listening and comprehension skills.
These 2 apps are more than enough to supplement your Chinese Mandarin lessons in terms of learning vocabularies and reading practice. If you are a serious learner, don’t waste your time with gamification apps, or look for the ‘perfect’ app. Practice every day with these tools, and you will definitely see an improvement.
If you'd like to discover more language-learning resources for over 20+ languages, I've compiled my top picks and selected resources in a single Notion database.