What’s the best Mandarin learning software?

Why learn Mandarin?

China is a fast growing economy, already the second largest in the world. Being able to speak Chinese can give you the upper edge in your career and open up a wealth opportunities (both business and professional) now, and in the future.

The Chinese language is broken up into many regional dialects, however the official dialect that is taught in all schools is Mandarin. The second most spoken dialect is Cantonese. If you are interested in learning Chinese, Mandarin is your best bet, as it is the most spoken dialect in China.

Challenges to learning Mandarin– Why software helps

Mandarin can be difficult to learn, however in some aspects it is actually easier to learn than English. Let’s take a look at why this is:

Why is Mandarin Difficult?

  • Tones: Chinese languages are tonal (unlike Korean and Japanese). This means that the way you inflect the pitch of your voice can change the entire meaning of a word. This can be particularly troublesome for English speakers who are not adapted to hearing these tones. Fortunately there are only 5 tones in Mandarin, and with practice, you can easily identify them.
  • Writing: The Chinese language does not really have an alphabet like English, French, Spanish, etc. Instead, the Chinese language is written entirely using characters. This can be an issue, since you cannot really sound out a word phonetically from simply looking at a Chinese character.

Why is Mandarin Easy?

  • Grammar: Chinese grammar is remarkably simple compared to that of English or French. There are very few rule exceptions and verbs and nouns require very little conjugation. Tenses in Chinese are very easy to implement as well.

Whereas a Romance language such as Spanish or French (or even German), may be studied on your own from books, the radically different nature of Mandarin requires some extra attention. Pronunciation and tonal accuracy is very important, so you need something more than just a book.

Language learning software represents a great solution to the difficulties that you can encountered when trying to learn Mandarin. But which software is the best for learning Mandarin? Here’s our Top 3 recommendations:

1. Learn Mandarin: Fluenz Mandarin 1+2+3 with supplemental Audio CDs and Podcasts

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Price: $298.00 on Amazon.com

Rating: 9/10

Fluenz is hands down the best language learning software if you are interested in studying Mandarin. The 1+2+3 pack represent a great value as it is composed of 75 learning sessions that last about 2 hours each. Thats 150 hours of learning — a full course indeed!

What I like about Fluenz is how it stresses the correct tonal pronunciation, which is really the most important aspect of learning Mandarin as an English speaker. The format of the video lessons are extremely motivating and you always feel like you have learned something substantial at the end of the lesson. Each lesson is structured meticulously and all the concepts are explained clearly. When learning a new language as an adult, it is important that all the concepts are properly explained. Fluenz achieves this exceptional instructional clarity, and for that, it receives my top recommendation.

Fluenz really covers all the foundations and practical aspects of the Mandarin language. After you finish the entire Fluenze course, you should have no trouble ordering food, asking for directions, and shopping in China.

Other great features of Fluenz includes:

  • Extra podcasts that you can use to practice while you are in the car or on the go
  • Great customer support
  • Reference dictionary to look up words

TutorMandarin.net — Personal Online Chinese Tutor

Finding a personal tutor to learn Chinese can be very useful for beginners, especially when learning pronunciation and tonality. While there are many opportunities to find a local tutor in China, you can also consider finding an online Chinese tutor. An online tutor saves you the hassle of travelling to each lesson and offers greater flexibility when traveling.

One online Chinese tutoring service is TutorMandarin.net. Based in Taiwan, they offer one on one lessons with native Chinese speakers through video chatting / conferencing over the internet. Some of the features of the service include:

  • Experienced Chinese language tutors with degrees in Chinese language teaching
  • Personalized learning plans
  • Accessible on the web with any device (tablet, phone, computer)
  • Lots of online resources (videos, flashcards, etc)
  • Systematic lessons based on the HSK curriculum — useful if you are looking to get certified

TutorMandarin also offers a free 50 minute trial lesson / language evaluation.

Last Words

Learning Mandarin can really open up a great number of opportunities for business or jobs, and as China’s economy continues to grow at an incredible rate, these opportunities will only increase. Mandarin however is not a language that can be learned in the same manner as other European languages. Having a software tool to help you with pronunciation and other fundamental differences in the Chinese language is extremely beneficial in your studies of Mandarin.

There are also many different online options that are free that you can use to learn Mandarin. Just make sure you get a VPN before you leave so you won’t have any restrictions on your internet.

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