With a dear friend literally on a plane to China as I type, I thought it would be a fun time to write a post about Mandarin apps for Apple products. I published a post about children’s apps awhile back, but these apps helped get me started in my Mandarin studies. They are great options if you want to start a self-study. Or if you are just hoping to learn a little bit before an upcoming trip to China. I think it would be very difficult to completely learn Chinese with apps, which is why we study together as a family. But they are a great beginning for sure! This list includes the apps that I used when I was getting started in my Mandarin studies. I’m sure there are many more that would be just as helpful, but these worked for me. If you’ve had success with any other Mandarin apps, I’d love to know about them!
Pinyin Trainer “will help you master those tones using Pinyin, the standard Romanization system for Mandarin Chinese. With almost 2,000 individual audio recordings and a variety of question-and-answer methods, it’ll keep you on your toes and improve your Chinese listening skills like nothing else. Plus, it’s got a complete guide to reading Chinese with the Pinyin system built right in.” This app is wonderful if you are brand new to Chinese and need to understand the difference in the tones. It took me awhile to train my ears to hear them correctly and this app is a perfect start.
Pleco Chinese Dictionary is “the ultimate Chinese learning companion – an integrated dictionary / document reader / flashcard system with fullscreen handwriting input and live OCR, from a company that’s been making the world’s best mobile Chinese learning apps since 2001.” Although I have this app, I haven’t come close to uncovering all of its capabilities. It’s known by many as the Chinese app to have.
TrainChinese has a” free and complete dictionary, thousands of vocab lists, example sentences, audio recordings, measure words and character animations – and a powerful flash card system featuring handwriting training!” I like this app because you can add more vocabulary lists if you want, you can listen to audio recordings, and it includes the English, pinyin, and Chinese characters.
Audio Trainer allows you to “hear native Chinese audio recordings and clear spoken English for words from thousands of themed vocabulary lists including HSK, TOCFL, lists by situation, Chinese level, frequency of use and so much more. Learn business Chinese, travel Chinese, how to bargain, argue, make friends…” This is another great app because it teaches a ton of phrases that could be applied to many different situations. I also like that you can change how often a phrase shows up in your practice list.
Chinese Number Trainer offers a game that allows you to “translate numbers to and from Chinese, test yourself with the quiz (watch out for that rocket) and present your contacts’ details in Chinese.” This one is great because it includes a native Chinese speaker for the audios, and gives you a ton of practice to really learn the numbers.
iLearn Chinese Characters Lite “introduces Chinese characters to non-native speakers or young kids in a fun and intuitive way: to understand their origins as pictures of the objects they represent.” Even though you may not be interested in becoming fluent in Chinese characters, it can be helpful to recognize a few of them while traveling in China. This is a terrific tool to get you started.
FluentU Chinese is a free app I was recently introduced to. It’s a coordinating app to the FluentU Chinese online language course. It’s different because it uses video clips to teach new vocabulary through immersion. It uses interactive video captions to help you learn the material. I have played around with it a bit and I like it a lot. It’s repetitive to help you learn the material, but not boring. It teaches vocabulary in different settings with different speakers too, which I also think is fantastic. It offers several different levels to start, so you will be engaged at whatever your level may be.
Chinese Skill is a a game-based app that was recommended to me by someone in the adoption community. It’s free and reminds me of Rosetta Stone (which I wanted to love but just couldn’t). It’s a method of teaching that doesn’t personally work for me right away. It feels a little too subjective and not as concrete as I prefer for my learning style. But after having some Chinese knowledge, I find it very engaging and a great way to review and learn new vocabulary. One lesson with a few skills is taught at a time. It’s definitely worth checking out!
Also recommended to me by someone in the adoption community is the Android app, Hanping Chinese Camera. Our household is filled with Apple users, so I can’t check this one out for myself. But it looks super cool because you point your camera to Chinese writing and it translates to English for you. Awesome, especially for travel in China!