100 Free Tools & Resources to Teach Yourself Chinese

by Staff Writers

Learning Chinese is more than just a popular trend right now — it is also a smart tool to have with the rise of China as an important economic power. If you plan to major in business and may be working with the Chinese in your career, or if you just plan to travel to China for pleasure, learning to speak Chinese will be a crucial element to making your experience more fully developed. Use these great resources to get started on your Chinese lessons right away.

MIT OpenCourseware Classes

These free courses from MIT are an excellent way to begin your self-taught lessons in Chinese language and culture.

  1. Chinese I. This is the first of two semesters that introduce the basics of modern Chinese.
  2. Chinese II. Continue your Mandarin lessons from the beginning course with part two.
  3. Chinese III. The third class in this series continues building the basics of reading, writing, and speaking Mandarin.
  4. Chinese IV. This class is designed to build from the prior three in order to strengthen skills in reading and listening.
  5. Chinese V (Regular): Chinese Cultures & Society. After taking the first four classes, move on to this one that focuses on building skills beyond the textbook.
  6. Chinese VI (Regular): Discovering Chinese Cultures and Societies. Continue your practice in Chinese through an exploration of Chinese culture and society.
  7. Smashing the Iron Rice Bowl: Chinese East Asia. Learn about the Chinese culture throughout the 19th and 20th centuries and how those eras have impacted modern-day China.
  8. Traditional Chinese Literature: Poetry, Fiction, and Drama. Get a basic understanding of the major Chinese literary movements in English. Then you’ll be ready to start reading them in Chinese once you become proficient.
  9. Communicating Across Cultures. Discover some of the challenges people face when they interact or begin relationships with people from other cultures. The awareness you will learn from this class will come in handy whether you visit China or build any professional or personal relationship with the Chinese.
  10. Introduction to Asian American Studies: Literature, Culture, and Historical Experience. Learn how it is from the other side of the fence with this class that addresses many of the issues Asian-Americans experience in American society.

YouTube Videos

Watch these YouTube videos to hear the spoken words and practice saying them yourself.

  1. Chinese Lesson #1. Learn a few basic words in Chinese and learn how to write them, too.
  2. Chinese Lesson 2: Time. Get the basics on talking about time in Chinese.
  3. Chinese Lesson 4 – Day of the Week (Monday- Sunday). This video lesson teaches you the pronunciation of the days of the week. Take a look under the "more info" section to see how to write the words, also.
  4. Chinese Lesson 5 – Seasons. After watching this video, you’ll know how to say the four seasons.
  5. The Travel Linguist – Mandarin 101. Learn a few basics with this video that offers ten important words in Chinese.
  6. Chinese Lesson – Hotels: At the Front Desk. Practice checking into a hotel in Chinese with this lesson.
  7. Learn Mandarin Chinese Lesson 1 – Introduce yourself. The beginning of a series, this lesson teaches the basic greetings and how to introduce yourself.
  8. Learn Mandarin Chinese Lesson 2 – Greetings. Learn a few simple greetings in Chinese here.
  9. Learn Mandarin Chinese Lesson 4 – Courtesy. Being polite is important in any language. Find out how to say courtesy words such as "I’m sorry" and "Excuse me."
  10. Learn Chinese Mandarin Lesson 8 – In the restaurant. Watch this video to learn how to order in a Chinese restaurant and how to ask for what you might need.
  11. Learn Chinese Mandarin Lesson 11 – Family Members. This lesson teaches you how to say and read the words for various family members in Chinese.

iPhone Apps

Take your lessons with you anywhere when you use these iPhone apps to help you learn Chinese.

  1. Free Translator. Use this free translator, which uses Google Translate, to help you translate to Chinese.
  2. AccelaStudy. Learn Chinese with this app that provides vocabulary, quizzes, flashcards, and more.
  3. Free Chinese Essentials. Work on recognizing and understanding Chinese with this free app.
  4. KTdict C-E. This free app is a dictionary that goes from Chinese to English.
  5. iCED Chinese Dictionary. This dictionary will help you find Chinese words and their meanings.
  6. DianHua Dictionary. Not just a dictionary, this app will help you study and learn Chinese too with such features as flashcards and writing practice.
  7. Mandarin Chinese Free. Use this translator to learn basic phrases in Chinese.
  8. FREE Chinese Audio FlashCards. This app is a great way to drill yourself to see how much you are learning.
  9. FREE Chinese (Traditional) Audio FlashCards. Another flashcard app, this one uses traditional Chinese.
  10. iSpeak Chinese Lite. This app strengthens your speaking skills as you learn Chinese.
  11. 50 Chinese Words. Learn to write 50 Chinese characters with this tool that shows animated strokes, has audio, and even offers flashcards.
  12. Learn Chinese – ChinesePod. Get audio lessons and study tools to help you learn Chinese.

iTunes Podcasts

Subscribe to these podcasts to get Chinese lessons brought right to you.

  1. Mandarin Chinese. Get video podcast lessons from Emory College Language Center here.
  2. Chinese – SurvivalPhrases. This podcast teaches you phrases that will help you get by in a restaurant, when greeting people, and more.
  3. World Learner Chinese. Expert teachers of Chinese as a second language lead these lessons.
  4. These fun, self-paced lessons will have you speaking Chinese in no time.
  5. Learn Chinese & Culture. Get at least three podcasts each week that teach Chinese language through lessons about Chinese culture.
  6. Think and Talk Like Chinese. Each of these podcasts include a few vocabulary words in Chinese as well as information about China.
  7. Chinese Tutorials. These video podcasts let you see and hear the lessons as you learn.
  8. Learn Mandarin Chinese with Subscribe to these podcasts and learn Chinese through lessons that range from pop culture to traditions.
  9. Two-Minute Chinese Lessons. Anyone can devote two minutes to learning Chinese, and these podcasts fit the bill.
  10. Let’s speak Chinese!. This podcast isn’t current any more, but offers a few past lessons for learning Chinese.
  11. Learn Chinese with Video Podcast. With 63 past episodes, you’ll have plenty of video podcasts here to get your Chinese going.
  12. Slow Chinese. Practice your listening skills with these audio podcasts, then visit the website for practice on writing skills.

Online Translation Tools and Dictionaries

Use these tools to reinforce what you are learning, to practice your skills, or test your progress.

  1. Bing Translator. Translate a Chinese web page into English with this tool.
  2. Google Translate. Google can help you translate anything from a word to an entire web page with this tool.
  3. Yahoo! Babel Fish. This tool is similar to the Google Translate tool and can handle a word, phrase, or an entire web page.
  4. Windows Live Messenger. Learn how to do the same thing with Windows Live Messenger here.
  5. Google Talk. Read this blog post to learn how to translate your Google Talk chats into Chinese, then go back and study them to see how much you are learning.
  6. SpeakLike. Purchase this service to have any email, chat, tweet, or blog translated for you.
  7. Freelang. Not only can you find dictionaries and get words and phrases translated, you can also find common expressions, language-learning software, and more.
  8. English-Chinese Online Dictionary. Type in the English word and get a Chinese translation with this simple tool.
  9. Chinese-English Dictionary. Type in a Chinese word; select whether it is simple, traditional, pinyin, or English; and get the translation.
  10. Chinese-English Talking Dictionary. Enter either Chinese or English words and get information about the word, see stroke order for the Chinese character, learn etymology of the character, and more.
  11. English Chinese Dictionary and Chinese English Dictionary. Find seven different dictionaries to help you translate from Chinese or from English.

Online Communities

These online communities are a great way to connect with native Chinese speakers and practice your Chinese first-hand.

  1. italki. Connect with other members to practice your Chinese or locate a native-speaking Chinese teacher at this site. Some services are free and others require payment.
  2. Chinese Pod. This service provides lessons, study tools, and communication with teachers. While the service isn’t free, you can get a free trial to get started on your lessons.
  3. xLingo. Connect with others to practice your Chinese in forums, on a blog, and even create flashcards.
  4. Livemocha. Livemocha offers free tips, online lessons, and a community for practicing. They also offer audio and video lessons and professional tutors for a fee.
  5. VoxSwap. Participate in chatrooms and forums or, for a more personal experience, connect with individuals to practice your Chinese.
  6. MyHappyPlanet. Communicate with members or use lessons designed by members to strengthen your Chinese.
  7. UniLang. This online language community provides plenty of opportunities for meeting others, practicing Chinese, and even translating.
  8. Language Exchange. Find a language partner and chat in the text chat room, get lesson plans, and more.
  9. LingoPass!. This community sponsors a structured conversation group as well as general and business forums.
  10. eChineseLearning. Learn from live teachers in China with this service. Use the free trial if you don’t want to purchase anything.
  11. Twitter. Find Chinese speakers to practice your newfound language skills or follow feeds such as @Chinese_Voice.
  12. Chinese social networking sites. If you really want to find native speakers and are feeling confident in your skill, learn how you can join Chinese social networking sites to practice your language skills.

Web Resources

These websites offer tons of resources, tools, and more to help you learn Chinese.

  1. BBC Chinese. The BBC sponsors this site that provides guides, games, and more to help you learn Chinese.
  2. Mango Languages. If you have a library card, then you can access Mango Languages for Chinese lessons.
  3. Learning Chinese Online. Get everything from pronunciation to learning numbers to Chinese grammar here.
  4. CSLPod. Sign up for a free account and get lessons, podcasts, and more.
  5. Peace Corp Mandarin in China. Click on these lessons from the Peace Corp to start learning Chinese, and be sure to sign up for the podcast to keep learning.
  6. This site offers 31 lessons in Chinese to supplement any other lessons you are taking.
  7. Chinese Lessons with Serge Melnyk. Listen to the mp3 or read the PDFs with these simple lessons.
  8. Learn Chinese Online. Find words and phrases, grammar lessons, and writing practice here.
  9. Learn Chinese Online. Sharing the same name as the previous site, this site is different and also offers tons of great resources for learning Mandarin.
  10. Chinese Learn Online. Choose from one of three methods to get your lessons here (one is free and the other two are low-cost).
  11. Conversational Mandarin Chinese Online. Work through this book by Tianwei Xie online or download it for a fee.
  12. On-line Chinese Tools. From flashcards to dictionaries, this site provides plenty of tools to help you learn Chinese.
  13. Find lots of video and audio files here to help you learn the basics of Chinese you may need while traveling.
  14. Chinese Learner. This site provides grammar, writing help, reading, speaking, and even a lyrics to a few Chinese songs.
  15. Learn Chinese Online: Free Beginner’s ‘Introduction to Mandarin’ Tutorial. Work your way through this tutorial to learn the basics of pronunciation, characters, and grammar.
  16. Min Multimedia Learn Chinese. Learn to read, write, and speak Chinese at this site for free. You also have the option to become a member for only $10 a year.
  17. Get two basic lessons, seven additional lessons, and links to other resources to help get you started.
  18. You will find 15 downloadable mp3 lessons here to help you understand basic phrases.
  19. Learn Chinese. This site provides Mandarin lessons in mp3 format as well as some writing lessons and additional information about China.
  20. Use this flashcard system to learn Chinese in as little as 5-10 minutes each day. Both free and low-cost options are available.
  21. Popup Chinese. Find simple lessons here after signing up for a free account.

Writing Chinese

Learning to write Chinese doesn’t have to be difficult when you use these tools and resources.

  1. Skritter. While you will have to pay for the full version of this tool, practice writing your Chinese characters with this easy-to-use tool.
  2. Arch Chinese. This program will cost $20 for one year, but offers a system designed for English speakers new to writing Chinese.
  3. How to write Chinese characters. Learn the basics of stroke and component order to understand how Chinese characters are drawn.
  4. Chinese Language Program. Get a ton of lessons on reading and writing Chinese here.
  5. Learn Chinese Everyday. Each day you can learn how to write a different Chinese character at this site.
  6. Write in Chinese. Click through the many pages here to see a Chinese character written and translated for you.
  7. Chinese Numbers 1 – 12. Designed by 3rd graders, anyone can use this tool to learn how to write and recognize the first twelve Chinese numbers.
  8. Learn to Write Characters. Click on any character to see the stroke order so you can practice the correct way to write Chinese characters.
  9. Type in Chinese On-line. This tool has you type in English to receive a Chinese translation.
  10. Chinese Input Method. Use this tool based on pinyin to write Chinese on your computer without needing special software.
  11. Type Chinese. Here is another pinyin tool to help you write in Chinese.