Chinese Language Learning – Some Free/Cheap Resources (Mandarin)


I’ve noticed if you search for recommendations or review of resources for learning Chinese, they will mainly focus on paid resources–some quite expensive indeed, like Mandarin Blueprint. For the poorer among us (like me), I wanted to have a list of free resources people can utilize in addition to the more well-known resources. These are going to be geared towards self-learning resources for adults and all for Mandarin, by the way. Most of them will probably focus on simplified characters instead of traditional. The majority of these are either for beginning-level or general-purpose learners, but I have tried to point out more intermediate-level materials where possible. I am not affiliated with any of these products or people.

**Completely Free**
– [Immersive Chinese](https://immersivechinese.com): relatively recent app/website for learning new vocabulary and mimicking pronunciation; very simple UI and one of my favorite resources, free or paid
– [TofuLearn](https://www.tofulearn.com): good for recognizing and learning new characters; has SRS capability and built-in vocab decks too. Very nice free alternative to paying for the SRS feature on Pleco or if you want something more dialed-in to Chinese-language learning than Anki
– [HSK Academy](https://hsk.academy/en): excellent website if you are primarily focused on preparing for the HSK exams
– [Yellow Bridge](https://www.yellowbridge.com): website with a lot of different resources, including flashcards, stroke order, reading center, dictionary, and HSK prep. Even has some cultural info and a “words in the news” section
– [Kong Long Mandarin](https://www.konglongmandarin.com): site to help you teach yourself Chinese by watching Peppa Pig in Mandarin
– [My Lingua](https://www.mylingua.world): recently advertised on this sub; gives you a news feed that reflects your current skill level and preference of articles out of five topics. Very new and probably has more value for intermediate learners but completely free and provides realistic news-based reading practice compared to fictional stories or random conversations
– [Slow Chinese Podcast](https://anchor.fm/jingmei-ma): only has 24 episodes, but a great listening resource that you can listen to anywhere you take your phone; like that it includes news and articles as well as stories. Geared towards HSK 3 level or higher–associated with Youtube channel [Chinese with Mei](https://www.youtube.com/c/ChinesewithmeiEveryday)
– [Slow Chinese podcast (OLD)](https://archive.org/details/slowchinese_201909): found this while looking for the previous resource; from 2009 and no longer produced, but the Internet Archive has preserved this relic of over 200 episodes of native Chinese speakers talking in slow Chinese. Podcast notes that it doesn’t guarantee the correctness of what’s being said since it’s native speakers and not teachers, but that gives it an authenticity that is hard to find in other listening resources, especially for free
– [Anki](https://apps.ankiweb.net): free general-purpose flashcard desktop and mobile app (paid on iPhone); not specific to learning Mandarin, but can be used to create SRS flashcards to reinforce vocab practice, and I’ve heard it has decks you can already utilize if you don’t want to put together your own
– [Tandem](https://www.tandem.net): free app to find a language exchange partner; has an involved application process that takes 7 days to get approved, but seems to be completely free
– r/language_exchange: subreddit for finding language exchange partners

**Youtube Channels**
– [Chinese with Ben](https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCsNTRu6HR-CX8McJGrZX8ZQ): talks about lots of topics including cultural info, but has an especially outstanding pronunciation course; worth watching him for that alone
– [Shuo Shuo Chinese](https://www.youtube.com/c/ShuoshuoChinese%E8%AF%B4%E8%AF%B4%E4%B8%AD%E6%96%87): friendly Chinese-language teacher living in Thailand talks about various topics related to learning Chinese; the videos where she is speaking about herself in slow, clear Mandarin are great for listening practice
– [Grace Mandarin Chinese](https://www.youtube.com/c/GraceMandarinChinese): very polished videos about Chinese pronunciation, grammar, expressions, and how to go about learning Chinese; even includes a basic beginners course
– [Speak Chinese with DaPeng](https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCNmZr4WBw71bdJYjaycLodA): most of his content seems to be in Chinese, so good for advanced beginner/intermediate learners looking for lots of free listening practice
– [Little Jun’s Chinese](https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCxwfNFy-i0jYgEZaJGp9CGA): has shorter videos about various vlog-like topics; she doesn’t have much content (yet) as some other people listed here, but might be a good option for something more on the entertainment side as well as educational, as she does some skits to teach stuff
– [FreetoLearn](https://www.youtube.com/c/DANLIAOFreeToLearn): (seems like the perfect name for this list, right?) actually found out about this channel in this subreddit a few weeks ago; geared more towards intermediate learners since she has so much listening content in Chinese. Apparently you get access to worksheets and stuff if you officially join the channel
– [GoEast Mandarin](https://www.youtube.com/c/goeastmandarinchinese): associated with the GoEast Mandarin paid courses, but their YouTube channel still has a lot of helpful free content; try starting with their “Beyond Class” series, or use their Chinese stories videos for listening practice
– [Learn Chinese](https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC3Pn8VIyeRUgXrlakYevdfw): I honestly have no idea about this one–just kind of ran into it–but it’s called Learn Chinese so it has to be kind of what we’re looking for, right?

**Can be Used as Free Resources**
– Chinese books and movies from library: check to see if your local library system has any books or movies in Mandarin. (For books, especially try to see if they have any American kids books in translation). You might have to utilize a library transfer to avoid travelling all over town to different libraries
– Chinese social media (WeChat, Douyin, Weibo, etc.): okay, so not exactly language learning, but might help you get exposure to seeing Chinese used in real life or finding a language partner, especially if you don’t already have anyone to communicate with in Mandarin
– find Chinese textbooks and readers online: if you know where to look they’re there
– check your favorite (or just easily accessible) news website and see if they offer a Chinese-language version; for instance, you can read the [BBC’s site in Chinese](https://www.bbc.com/zhongwen/simp), and if you get confused you have the convenience of being able to switch back to the English version to figure out what’s being said

**Free Version** (by free version I mean a version you can continue to use for free indefinitely, not a free trial)
– [Pleco](https://www.pleco.com): renown dictionary app that needs no introduction; can buy add-ons but the free version is still very serviceable
– [HelloChinese](http://www.hellochinese.cc): app to help with vocab, pronunciation, and sentence construction. Very Duolingo-like UI, and one of the few free resources that includes character writing. Lessons are organized by topic, like food, family, etc. Won’t get you much past a beginner level, but solid free features for forming a foundation in Mandarin.
– [MandarinBean](https://mandarinbean.com): excellent podcast for improving listening and reading skills. Over 600(!) lessons for free, plus free mock exams. And their paid plans are $30/yr or $40 for two years–probably the cheapest paid resource I know of. Paid plans give you access to lesson transcripts (in both simplified and traditional), answer explanations, and grammar videos/exercises. If you can only spend less than $45 and want to hone in on your listening and reading, this would be it.
– [Dong Chinese](https://www.dong-chinese.com): website that focuses on learning to read, write, and listen to Chinese characters; I like that it suggests media based on your vocab level and lets you practice writing characters (and seeing the evolutionary history of a character is really cool, to me anyways). Free version limits you to one lesson and media item every 12 hours but even with that limitation it is still very comprehensive and helpful. Plus, you can reach out to them if you really want to use it more often but can’t afford to (please don’t abuse!)
– [Du Chinese](https://www.duchinese.net): Chinese reader app and website. Has paid content but there is also enough free content (categorized by difficulty) to keep you occupied, especially if you use it alongside other reading-focused resources like maayot or Dong Chinese. Also like that it lets you save words to focus on later in a flashcard system.
– [maayot](https://www.maayot.com): another reading-focused app and website that introduces new vocab in context. The free account gives you a Chinese story once a week; the paid plan ($10/month) provides you with a daily Chinese story, quiz, writing prompt, and recording. Would definitely recommend newcomers to wait on this resource though–at least to HSK 2–because even the beginner level includes a lot of vocabulary a novice learner may not have encountered yet, so you wouldn’t get the most out of it.

**Cheap Resources / *Other**
– [Preply](https://preply.com): site to find a language teacher; compared to italki, has more teachers on the cheaper side, starting at $2/hr. (Be sure to choose wisely, though!)
– *[Skritter](https://skritter.com): well-known app for learning Chinese characters, including writing them; not cheap in and of itself, but when you first sign up, it offers a generous 50% subscription discount, which makes it $15 for six months or $25/yr and is well-worth it.
– *[YoyoChinese](https://yoyochinese.com): So this is not cheap in terms of upfront pay, but it is one of the very few resources to offer a once-and-done pay option; regular price for lifetime access to Yoyo’s courses is $300, but if you buy it on sale ($200 or less) and you use it for at least a year and a half, you end up paying less than $10/month effectively. They have been running $150 deals on lifetime access for their 10-year anniversary this year (2022), so keep an eye out for that. (Plus it’s an excellent resource, even if on the more expensive side!)
– [Domino Chinese](https://www.dominochinese.com): I personally hesitate to recommend this course, since it does not focus on tones or pronunciation hardly at all which can throw off a complete beginner (it does offer a separate pronunciation course, but it is very surface level). Plus, it’s pretty disorganized in terms of what words you learn when and the quality of some of their videos. All that being said though, if you use coupon OLDSCHOOLCOOL when signing up for the DominoOpen course, you can get it for $5/month, which is very cheap all things considered. (If you have the money though, I would recommend saving up for YoyoChinese or Chinesefor.Us instead, both of which are more thorough and polished. And I *highly* recommend against paying $15/month for Domino!)
– LTL Language School: currently offering 3 hours of free online Flexi Classes; see [this link](https://flexiclasses.com/3-free-hours) for details
– *Chinese printing guide from u/NSFL2001: a fellow redditor here has been creating guides on how to print Chinese characters; it’s not really a resource insofar as you won’t learn Chinese just by reading these, but they are interesting, so I wanted to mention them. First one [here](https://www.reddit.com/r/ChineseLanguage/comments/s1d78s/hi_i_am_starting_a_new_series_on_printing), most recently one [here](https://www.reddit.com/r/ChineseLanguage/comments/ua7x13/record_10_heres_one_with_big_difference_between).

Also, as just a general tip, even if you can afford to pay for certain resources, don’t forget to check review sites; they will often have a coupon code you can use to sign up for cheaper than advertised (usu. 10%-20% off)–I know GoEast Mandarin offers a few. Plus, many (not all) paid resources will offer you a discount when you first sign up for their free trial and/or right before the free trial ends, so keep that in mind as well.



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7 Comments

  1. wittywalrus1 May 7, 2022
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  6. lozztt May 7, 2022
  7. MXSMAO May 7, 2022
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