8 Best Chinese Learning Apps 2023

best chinese learning apps

Hi, dear reader. I’m guessing you are looking for a Chinese learning app that will be suitable for you to begin your Chinese learning journey. However, the overwhelming variety of apps to choose from has done nothing but make you feel more confused, right?

Actually, you don’t have to download them one by one and test them out yourself. I have reviewed several of the most popular Chinese learning apps for you. This article will save you a lot of time and effort in finding the one that is most suited to your own needs. As a native Chinese speaker as well as a certified Chinese language teacher, I have done my best to think about the pros and cons of each app to help you find the best Chinese learning app. Okay, let’s begin!

Duolingo: Learn Chinese For Fun

App store ratings: 4.7

Key features: 

  • free
  • stage mode
  • large community
  • cute mascot
  • daily and monthly goals
  • available on phone and PC

Let’s begin with the most famous language learning app – Duolingo. This beloved app has 37 million monthly active users. You can learn Chinese and 37 other languages on it. I think the most significant advantage of Duolingo is that all of its lessons are free. It’s great for learners on a budget. 

duolingo logo

Duolingo Chinese consists of four units, each containing multiple lessons. The main teaching content of each lesson is in the “Tips” section, which you need to read before taking the corresponding test. You can start the test whenever you feel ready. There are three main question types – listening, matching, and Chinese-English translation.

You have five hearts for each lesson’s test, like the health points (HP) in games. Thus, if you make mistakes more than five times, you will fail the test! Duolingo’s lessons are unlocked in order, so the learner can’t move on to the next one without passing the previous test. 

duolingo chinese curriculum

Furthermore, if you have been learning the Chinese language for a while, you may feel that learning from the first lesson is just a waste of your time. No worries – there are placement tests through which you can skip those easier courses. As a native Chinese speaker, I cleared the whole course with one life ; )

It’s also worth mentioning that Duolingo’s cute mascot, the green owl Duo, and several other main characters will accompany you during your learning journey! My favorite part of Duolingo is its incentive mechanism, where you can earn badges and unlock achievements by completing daily and monthly goals. For example, on the day of writing this article, the daily goals are:

  • Earn 20 XP
  • Complete three lessons
  • Score 90% or higher in three lessons

duolingo chinese

These challenges encourage you to go farther in the learning process by fostering a sense of accomplishment once you have completed them. However, it’s a pity that the content of Duolingo Chinese is not as rich as that of Duolingo Japanese, especially because Duolingo Chinese doesn’t have the “Stories” section yet.

Besides, Duolingo has two other flaws: (1) it’s free but has annoying ads that may end up distracting you; (2) some of the voice acting audio is computer-generated, which doesn’t sound natural to me. In any case, I think Duolingo is good enough for a free app.

Pricing: free with ads (or $6.67/MO without ads)

Download hereiOS | Android | web


LingoDeer: the Most Comprehensive Chinese Learning App

App store ratings: 4.8

Key features: 

  • interesting content
  • systematic curriculum
  • scientific teaching method
  • 100% authentic audio
  • exquisite UI design

LingoDeer is a language learning app that has been going viral among Asian language learners recently. You can use it to learn 13 main languages, such as Chinese, French, and Korean. As the name suggests, LingoDeer’s mascot is a cute deer that will accompany you every day of your learning journey.

lingodeer logo

LingoDeer Chinese course is also nicely structured. The curriculum is categorized according to both CEFR indicators and the HSK (an official Chinese language proficiency test administered by the Chinese government.) This framework is meant to give learners a clearer picture of their current learning level so they can use other supplementary resources to learn better.

lingodeer chinese curriculum

You may be wondering whether LingoDeer is just a boring, exam-oriented app. Not at all. LingoDeer has an interesting course framework, which will teach you in an entertaining way. Each lesson consists of several gamified lessons, two story practices tailored for reading and speaking respectively, and a final tips page that explains all the grammar points in the lesson clearly. By simply following the course step by step, you will make progress unconsciously. 

Just as in other LingoDeer language courses, LingoDeer Chinese course uses 100% native speaker audio, without any robot-like voices to ruin your mood. “Tips” is the core component of each lesson. so please study them at your convenience. Then, if you think you are ready, you can take the test. Only those who pass the test can unlock the next lesson.

lingodeer chinese

The greatest appeal of LingoDeer is its “Review” function, which is designed based on the forgetting curve theory. This means that LingoDeer can automatically present you with what you need to review every single day according to what you have learned. 

At the same time, LingoDeer’s reward mechanisms, such as keeping a daily streak, can help you develop good study habits. As you learn more, “Travel Phrasebook” and “Character Drill” will take your proficiency in spoken Chinese and Chinese characters to the next level!

Pricing: Free with limited contents, monthly $14.99, annually $79.99

Download hereiOS | Android | web

ChineseSkill: the Best Chinese Learning App for Serious Learners

App store ratings: 4.8

Key features: 

  • rich content
  • video courses
  • systematic curriculum
  • HSK drill
  • cute panda mascot

Next, let’s take a look at ChineseSkill, another fantastic language learning app very well known among Chinese learners. Unlike Duolingo and LingoDeer, this app focuses solely on learning Chinese, presenting more content about the Chinese language than the previous two. Okay, let’s learn a little more about this app with a cute panda mascot!

ChineseSkill logo

Similar to LingoDeer and Duolingo Chinese, the main course of ChineseSkill is unlocked in steps. The lessons are arranged vertically and gradually progress from simple to complex. Each lesson has a specific topic and the curriculum is also quite systematic.

The best part of ChineseSkill is that there is a video class for each lesson. You don’t have to worry about not understanding them because all the classes are conducted in English.

ChineseSkill app

Why are the video lessons on ChineseSkill extraordinary? Because they can help you learn authentic Chinese. Take the video class of the first lesson, “Hello,” for example. Even though it’s just the beginning lesson, it offers much more than you would imagine—

You probably already know that “你好 (nǐ hǎo)” means “Hello.” However, close friends or family members do not say “你好” to each other because it is seen as a relatively formal greeting in modern Chinese. Actually, the two English loanwords “嘿 (hēi)” and “嗨 (hāi)” are widely used by the younger Chinese generation today. As you can guess, they’re respectively derived from “hey” and “hi.”

What’s more, this video class explains that the word order of both English and Chinese is SVO (Subject-Verb-Objective) and introduces this concept in detail. I think this grammar point is tricky for many beginners, but with the video’s explanation, things will become much easier. You don’t need to worry that watching videos will cost you a lot of time, because each video is just a few minutes long, being very concise and comprehensive.

ChineseSkill curriculum

ChineseSkill has a great deal of other content in addition to its systematic main course. Here I will just  give you a brief overview of each additional section:

  • Arcade – play games and improve all four skills
  • Speak Up – get conversational with authentic dialogues
  • Pronunciation – learn Pinyin and pronunciation rules
  • Character Drill – learn to write 1000 essential Chinese characters
  • HSK Drill – build vocabulary for passing HSK 1-6

To sum up, ChineseSkill is one of the best Chinese learning apps you can find. It improves your Chinese listening, speaking, reading, and writing in a fun way. Give it a shot if you are a serious Chinese learner.

Pricing: Free with limited content, monthly $14.99, annually $79.99

Download hereiOS | Android | web

HelloChinese: Best for Living in China

App store ratings: 4.9

Key features: 

  • real-life conversations
  • immersion
  • audio class

If I were to recommend a Chinese learning app for learners who wish to come to China, I wouldn’t hesitate to tell them to try HelloChinese! Although its main curriculum is not particularly exciting or well structured, its “immerse” section is excellent!

hellochinese logo

“IMMERSE” is one of the four buttons on the HelloChinese app menu, where you can learn about conversations through various daily life scenarios in China. There are multiple albums depending on which type of scenario you’d like to study, for example, “Ordering Food,” “Travel,” “Transport,” etc. Furthermore, one album contains dozens of videos, each corresponding to a specific scenario. 

hellochinese course

What’s really fun is that each video is taken from some Chinese movies and TV show clips. The developers have erased their original soundtrack and redubbed them to teach better. Take one of the courses, “Ordering at KFC,” for instance:

我要一个辣鸡腿汉堡。 (I want a spicy chicken burger.)

套餐还是单点? (A meal or just a burger?)

套餐。可乐不加冰。 (The meal. Coke, no ice.)

在这儿吃还是打包? (For here or to go?)

在这儿吃。 (For here.)

By watching the video, you will have a general idea of the conversation you are about to learn. Following the warm-up video section, “Key words & grammar” is meant to guide you through studying the critical words and grammar in the video in detail. If you find some content challenging to learn on your own, you can move to the next section, “Audio class.” There, tutorials will explain the conversation to you. After finishing the above three steps, you will have almost mastered the dialogue.

HelloChinese app

Then, there are two linguistic output sections: “Learn the dialogue” and “Do an exercise.The former is a dialogue exercise with the chatbot, and the latter contains listening and translation exercises from the text. Trying to output the content you have learned will help you check whether you have truly mastered it.

This app is suitable for Chinese learners who already have some basic knowledge and hope to practice conversations. If you’ve passed HSK3 or higher or wish to come to China China, just give it a try!

Pricing: Monthly $19.99, Annually $149.99

Download hereiOS | Android | web

HelloTalk: Best App to Chat with Native Chinese

App store ratings: 4.7

Key features: 

  • Chinese native speakers
  • language exchange
  • language community

When it comes to best language learning apps, Hellotalk definitely stands out. Why? Because unlike traditional language learning resources, HelloTalk let you learn a language buy using it, that is, chatting with native speakers. It has a large number of users, which means that you have the best chance of finding  your best language exchange partner.

hellotalk logo

On Hellotalk, you first need to select your mother tongue. After this, you need to set up your target language, Chinese. If you wish to learn more than one language, such as Spanish or Japanese, then a premium subscription is required to select more than one target language. The Hellotalk app is free, but you have to be a paid user if you want to unlock more features.

Once you have completed the above steps, you can start looking for a language partner. Click on the “Connect” button in the main menu and you will find native Chinese speakers who are learning English. Although there are many of them, it’s not always easy to find a suitable one. Carefully filling out your profile and showing a genuine desire to learn will get you more responses.

Hellotalk app

From my perspective, finding a long-term language partner is a significant accomplishment. Constantly communicating with different people at a superficial level may turn this app into an SNS. Another thing I ought to mention is that being polite to other users is essential. If you ever experience inappropriate behavior or harassment from other users, you have the right to report it.

Pricing: Monthly $12.99, Lifetime $149.99

Download hereiOS | Android | web

Du Chinese: Best for Reading Chinese Stories

App store ratings: 4.9

Key features: 

  • simplified and traditional Chinese
  • story reading and listening
  • new stories every weekday

Du Chinese is a Chinese storytelling app through which you can read many interesting Chinese stories. Each story text has corresponding audio, recorded by native speakers with standard pronunciation. In addition, each Chinese character in texts is marked with pinyin, which you can toggle on or off.

du chinese logo

Du Chinese does not offer a systematic main course, meaning that this app may not be for you if you are a complete beginner. Although this app categorizes the stories into six levels, from “Newbie” to “Master,” I would advise that you’re at least at the HSK1 level before you use it. You’ll find the below images in the first story in “Newbie.”

Du Chinese app

Furthermore, you can choose to learn simplified or traditional Chinese according to your learning goals. As you read the story, you can also tap on a word to check its corresponding HSK level, which can help monitor your learning progress.

Du Chinese is a good app that is rich in content. It can be used as a supplementary resource to further improve your Chinese reading and listening skills.

Pricing: Monthly $14.99, Annually$119.99

Download hereiOS | Android | web

Pleco: the Best Chinese Dictionary App

App store ratings: 4.7

Key features: 

  • 110,000 frequently-updated entries
  • flashcards

When I first saw Pleco in the App store, I was confused why this name was chosen for a Chinese dictionary. Suddenly, I noticed that its icon is the Chinese character “魚 (),” which means “fish,” and then it dawned on me: common Pleco!

pleco logo

Common Pleco is a kind of bottom feeding fish that lives on eating scraps and algae, so it’s also known as the sweeper. What a great metaphor! The pleco app is like a common pleco that helps you clear away obstacles on the road to success.

Using Pleco to look up an entry (character, word, or idiom) will provide you with its corresponding pronunciation, word formation, and example sentences. For each entry, it offers as much content as possible to help you understand better.

pleco app

Pleco also provides stroke order diagrams of 500+ characters for free. The diagrams are animated and they will guide you on how to draw characters. All animations for 28,000 characters will be available if you purchase premium.

The “CHARS” of each entry show the radicals and components that make up each character and other visually similar characters. For example, the radical of “幸 (xìng)” is “,” and visually similar characters are “悻 (xìng),” and “睾 (gāo).” 

pleco entry lookup

Entry lookup on mobile dictionaries is often done by typing a character’s pinyin. However, sometimes we may be faced with the dilemma of not knowing the pronunciation of a word. To solve this problem, Pleco has included handwriting input and OCR as possible search methods. Besides, its flashcards feature is based on the SRS technique and can help you build a customized vocabulary database. All in all, this is a super handy Chinese dictionary app.

Pricing: Free (Basic Bundle$29.99, Professional Bundle$59.99)

Download hereiOS | Android | web

Scripts: Best for Learning Chinese writing

App store ratings: 4.7

Key features: 

  • Chinese characters
  • Image mnemonics

The Scripts app is produced by the Drops team. If you have used Drops before, you may know that it is mainly used for learning vocabulary. Scripts app includes the same kind of enjoyment and image-based mnemonics as in Drops.

scripts logo

The difference between the two apps is that Scripts requires you to write the characters on the screen, whereas Drops needs you to match words to pictures by constantly dragging them. In short, Scripts is focused on teaching you how to write characters.

I think Scripts is a great Chinese character learning app for beginners. It empowers you to quickly master a series of Chinese characters by combining numerous Chinese characters with images. This is an especially effective learning method for Chinese characters. But why?

scripts app

Chinese characters are pictographic, created by the ancient Chinese people by converting tangible things into visual symbols. For example, the Chinese character “口 (kǒu),” which means “mouth,” looks just like an open mouth. Therefore, as a native Chinese speaker, I highly recommend learning Chinese characters through image mnemonics.

However, you won’t want to use this app as your primary Chinese learning app because it does not offer any main learning course. In any case, it’s awesome as a vocabulary learning tool.

Pricing: Monthly $9.99, Annually$39.99

Download hereiOS | Android | web

Final verdict: which one is the best for you?

After going through my detailed analysis above, you may feel a little bit overwhelmed with information. The following table is meant to give you a simple review of each app: 

Chinese learning App Best for
Duolingo Learning Chinese with games
LingoDeer Learning Chinese comprehensively
ChineseSkill Improving overall Chinese skills
HelloChinese Learning Chinese for living in China
Hellotalk Learning Chinese by chatting
Du Chinese Reading Chinese stories
Pleco Looking up Chinese characters and words
Scripts Writing Chinese characters

best chinese learning apps

Author’s story: as a Chinese language teacher 

Hey, thank you for reading this far. Now, please allow me to introduce myself. If you, dear reader, don’t know me yet, I’m Jerry Lin, a Chinese boy born in 1998, and I’m currently studying for my master’s degree at Rikkyo University in Tokyo, Japan. 

I speak Mandarin, English, Japanese, and Xiang Chinese (a Chinese dialect in my hometown, Hunan Province). As you can see, I’m an unapologetic language enthusiast, and I think you are too. So let’s be friends~

In 2021, I passed the exam and received my certificate for teachers of Chinese to speakers of other languages (CTCSOL) from the Confucius Institute. It was incredible to know I was finally qualified to teach Chinese. Soon, I had several high school students from New England who had a keen interest in Chinese. We got along well, and with my guidance, they successfully passed the HSK 5 exam. Now they are applying for scholarships to Chinese universities.

Recently, I’ve been reading a lot of literature on second language acquisition and Chinese teaching theory, hoping to become more professional in teaching the Chinese language. To write this article, I downloaded over thirty Chinese learning apps, evaluated them all, and finally presented the above eight that I think are great. 

As a native Chinese speaker and a Chinese teacher, I wish highly recommend LingoDeer. Trust me it will be a fabulous mentor for you to learn Chinese. It’s okay if you still aren’t sure which app to progress with.

Try LingoDeer for FREE

Don’t forget to share this article if you find it useful. May you succeed in your Chinese studies!


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