We at Learn Mandarin Now recently undertook a survey asking 50 bloggers for their opinions about the best resources to learn Mandarin Chinese.
Today we are pleased to invite one of the well known Mandarin learning experts and language coach, Olle from Hacking Chinese, to give you his thoughts and comments about those resources voted as the top 5.
We have been following the Hacking Chinese blog for quite a while and really value Olle’s opinion on these resources—and, hopefully, our review can make it easier for you to select the resources right for you.
We discussed the following with Olle:
1. Pleco ranked first in our survey. I know you have been using this App, so how do you feel about Pleco in general? Which type of Chinese learners do you think Pleco is suitable for and who is likely to buy it?
Pleco ranked first for a reason. It’s the only app that I can wholeheartedly recommend to all learners. The free version includes an excellent dictionary with good examples, but I recommend all but the most casual student to get the basic bundle, which also includes stroke order diagrams, audio, OCR and the document reader. The latter is particularly useful because you can read digital texts in Chinese with definitions just one tap a way. This is an essential part of the paperless revolution in Chinese reading.
2. MDBG is a very popular online dictionary amongst Chinese learners. Do you like it as well or do you have other recommendations?
I think MDBG covers a different niche than Pleco, which is an app rather than a website. I use MDBG whenever I want to get basic information about characters quickly and without hassle. It has several useful features, including handwriting input, stroke order animations and links to other websites if you need more. Furthermore, MDBG is free to use. If you want to know about more dictionaries for learning Chinese, please check this article: 21 essential dictionaries and corpora for learning Chinese.
3. Wechat is used widely in Mainland China as it’s free and easy to use. I understand you don’t use Wechat often, so would you recommend other Chinese chatting Apps and software? Do you believe using such Apps is a useful approach for practicing Chinese?
I think the circumstances dictate which apps to use for chatting. I know far more Chinese-speaking people in Taiwan than on the Mainland and they obviously use other apps. I also know many native speakers not living in China and they also use the same social media apps that we do, including Facebook and Twitter. My suggestion is to check what people you want to interact with use and start using that. You should also check out Weibo and QQ, both very popular in China. I think chatting is a very good way of learning in general: Chat your way to better Chinese.
4. I recall that you recommended Anki in Hacking Chinese previously. Maybe you can talk about the unique points of this tool for Chinese learning and tell us why you recommend it—especially for those who have not heard about or used Anki before.
Anki is my favourite flashcard app/program because it is the most versatile. It allows you to do anything you want, including creating fill-in-the gap sentences, including custom audio, pictures and even video. You can customise the flashcards any way you like, with perfect control of what goes on the front and back (you can even have cards with as many sides as you want). Since you can do so much, it goes without saying that Anki is harder to use. You should get Chinese support installed if you use it for learning Chinese.
5. Skritter was recommended a number of few times as helpful in learning to write Chinese characters. We would love to hear your thoughts on this tool.
I think Skritter is the best tool available for learning to write characters. It’s the only one that gives you direct feedback and tells you that you wrote a stroke in the wrong direction, put it in the wrong place or forgot to hook a stroke that should hook. Being able to write characters on screen with this type of feedback is not only effective, it’s more fun as well. You can read my review of Skritter here: Boosting your character learning with Skritter. It should be noted that I now work for Skritter, too, but that review was written well before that.
Remember, with so many options out there these days, it’s important to find the best resources before starting to learn Mandarin Chinese—as the right choice will make learning Chinese that much easier—and that much more rewarding.