Fact-Check & Editorial Responsibility: Kris Broholm
HelloChinese promises to teach Mandarin in a fun, interactive way, whether you’re a complete beginner or already have the fundamentals under your belt.
In this review, we’ll break down the main features of HelloChinese, its pros and cons, and whether we think it’s worth a download. We’ve even included some in-program screen shots to give you an idea of what to expect.
One app will never be enough to make you fluent in Mandarin, but HelloChinese is about as comprehensive as you could hope for. There are hundreds of lessons and activities to choose from with thorough grammar explanations and an easy-to-navigate interface.
While advanced learners won't benefit much from the course, it is the perfect introduction for beginners. Whether you're learning for travel, business, culture, or simply personal interest, this app has something for everyone.
TL;DR Pimsleur Review
If you haven't got enough time to read this Pimsleur review, here's a quick summary:
- Hundreds of lessons
- Speech recognition technology
- Great for beginners
- Pronunciation and writing practice
- Comprehensive lessons
- Free and premium options
- Limited reading practice
- Premium options are quite expensive
- Not the best for upper-intermediate learners
Reliability disclaimer: I downloaded HelloChinese from the app store and gave it a thorough test over a few days to get to know it better.
What is HelloChinese?
HelloChinese is currently one of the top rated apps for learning Mandarin Chinese. While it may still be behind the likes of Duolingo, its advantage lies in its language specification.
Before using the app, I had no prior knowledge of Chinese. With beginners in mind, the app walks you through the basics in listening, speaking, writing, and character recognition.
Throughout the course you can expect games, videos, audio lessons, role play activities and special topics, such as “Ordering at KFC in China”. Pretty essential stuff, right?
What can you expect from HelloChinese?
First off, HelloChinese is the most fun I’ve had when using a language app. Creators who are passionate about Mandarin and teaching are clearly behind it’s fast development and success.
The length and breadth of lessons and material is enough to keep learners with even the shortest attention span engaged long enough to make decent progress.
There are grammar explanations accompanied with podcast episodes (if you prefer to learn on the go), vocabulary activities, and hilarious speaking exercises to test what you’ve learnt. It’s one of the most comprehensive language apps we’ve used so far.
What are HelloChinese’s main features?
The course is broken down into topics, starting off with the basics, like greetings and school then moves on to more complex topics such as the environment, Chinese culture, and apologising. If you already know some Mandarin, you have the option to test out and skip ahead.
The main syllabus layout looks comfortingly familiar to other language apps, with a clear sense of progressions and cute, cartoon-esque design.
The beginning topics include 3 lessons, plus ‘Teacher Talk’ and ‘Speaking’ sections (which are limited for free users).
The lessons introduce new vocabulary through pictures, videos and match-up activities. There’s always a handy grammar explanation to break the structures down and keep you on track.
Of course, learning to write and understand written Chinese symbols is an important part of the process. The app’s writing feature helps you memorise the symbols by suggesting visual association techniques.
There are probably more effective methods out there to learn Chinese writing but hey, it’s good to start somewhere, right?
A definite advantage is that there is no limit to how much you study at a time. There are restrictions on the content for free members but that doesn’t stop you from working through the main syllabus at your own pace.
After learning new phrases, it’s important that you practice saying them out loud. Here, you can listen to the phrase, record yourself repeating it and see the areas you need to work on. Great news for the pronunciation perfectionists: you can re-record as many times as you like.
In the role play activities, you record yourself in a simulated conversation (at a fairly fast speed) that covers the previously learnt phrases. The system rates you out of 5 for each phrase and at the end gives you an overall score on your performance.
Not only do you have access to the main lessons, but there are built-in podcast episodes that discuss confusing points in more detail.
The episodes normally feature a native speaker and an English speaker that offer useful tricks and tips in the current topic. They’re all accompanied with a written summary (not to mention the fun gifs). This feature definitely helps to make the mundane a little more digestible.
In addition to the daunting writing system, Chinese pronunciation is enough to make people shy away from learning it.
HelloChinese has pronunciation lessons dedicated to solving this particular issue. The lessons take you through the syllables and the tones in manageable chunks. The phonics are written in Pinyin (the romanised system for writing Chinese) to help with understanding and memorisation.
Who is HelloChinese best for?
HelloChinese is perfect for complete beginners up to intermediate learners. Unlike other apps, the content is hugely varied which is a bonus for people who like to switch from one activity to another.
For those with a tighter budget, the premium subscription might be a stretch but the generous amount of free content won’t stop you from enjoying the benefits of the app.
If you’re serious about learning Mandarin, we’d suggest this as a supplement for your own classes or other resources to boost your level fast.
How much does HelloChinese cost?
The app has 3 subscription options: free, premium, or premium +. There is enough free content to keep you happy learning for a long time, but your access to the “cool” content is significantly curtailed.
The premium plan costs $8.99/month, with yearly options available. The premium plus + is considerably steeper at $19.99/month, but you’ll have unlimited access to all of the apps features. HelloChinese is a great option for beginners looking for an effective, free resource.
Alternatives to HelloChinese
HelloChinese vs. Duolingo
If you want to focus on Mandarin, it makes more sense to go with an app that solely caters that. If you want to switch between other languages, however, convenience recommends ye ol’ faithful Duolingo. The latter is a reliable resource for vocabulary but if you want to get speaking simple sentences from day one, HelloChinese takes the 蛋糕 (cake).
Check out our full review of Duolingo.
HelloChinese vs. Pimsleur
It seems such a shame to compare these apps when the two together sound like a match made in beginner heaven. Pimsleur is a repetition-based software designed to get beginners speaking and understanding basic conversation as soon as possible. Combined with HelloChinese’s vocabulary and grammar practice, we think it’s the perfect Mandarin survival kit to prep you for your next trip.
Check out our full review of Pimsleur.
HelloChinese vs. Skritter
Skritter is a popular app for people learning Chinese and Japanese. It specifically teaches you how to write and read in Chinese and, judging by the countless positive reviews, it’s as effective as it claims to be. If you’re a beginner looking for an all-in-one app, though, HelloChinese might be the better choice.
Our Final Thoughts
HelloChinese is one of the top apps on the market right now for beginner and intermediate learners of Mandarin. The platform is well-designed, user-friendly, and it achieves what it set out to.
In terms of content, the developers have gone above and beyond. If you’re a paid subscriber or a free user, you have hours of engaging lessons to work through and assortment of exercises to keep the process fun.
Overall, this app has few flaws and is the perfect addition to your language learning favourites. Whether you're looking for a supplement to your own study or just curious about learning Mandarin, HelloChinese is a download you won't regret.
Kris is the founder of Actual Fluency, and has spent the last 8 years becoming an expert in language learning software, methods, and techniques.
Originally from Denmark, he now lives in Portugal and speaks 5+ languages at varying levels. His other interests are Wine, Online Marketing, and Travelling.