Best App To Learn Chinese

best app to learn chinese

This post title is a bit clickbaity because there is no single best app to learn Chinese. What works for my family’s learning style may not work for yours. However, I will share some of my favorite apps that we use to support our Chinese learning journey.

I’ve tried too many apps to count and this is a list of my favorite apps that have been effective in helping us continue to learn Chinese. There are no affiliate links on this page! These are the apps that work for our family. We enjoy them and genuinely recommend them.

Benefits of Chinese Learning Apps

Chinese learning apps are a great way to support your Chinese language learning. Educational apps can be a fun way to practice character learning and introduce new vocabulary via interactive and game-like elements, which naturally engage children and make learning fun. Apps also give parents a break by allowing kids to learn independently. Educational apps offer a break from traditional teaching methods and motivate kids to continue learning.

Chinese learning apps can be a valuable resource for families that do not have access to or the budget for in-person Chinese classes. Educational apps can be powerful tools for enhancing children’s education when used in conjunction with other teaching methods.

How our family uses Chinese learning apps

Ages 0-2

When my children were babies, I used audio resources to provide a language-immersive environment. This included CDs and streaming services such as Spotify to listen to Chinese songs and podcasts as we went about our day at home. As a Chinese language learner myself, listening to content in the target language was helpful for all of us.

I do not include any interactive apps for babies on this list. The most effective way for a baby to learn a language is through human interaction. Speak to them in the target language. I started learning Mandarin when my son was a baby. We learned together word by word. It was not easy, but not impossible!

Ages 2-4

I began introducing screen time at about age 2 but my son’s attention span was still quite short and he preferred my attention over the iPad. At about age 4, he started online classes on the iPad and had much more interest in cartoons. When they were younger, I would watch YouTube with them to monitor the content. Nowadays, there are so many streaming apps with better parental controls that we no longer rely on YouTube. At age 4, my kids were able to use some learning apps with my supervision. Many of these apps are not designed for younger learners and children often get stuck and require a parent to help.

Age 6+

My son is now in 4th grade and it’s harder to avoid screentime. His classmates chat about the different shows they are watching on YouTube and Netflix and he feels left out. We now allow an hour of screen time as long as homework is done, their things are tidied up, and they have completed their choice of learning app, which includes 20 minutes of Maomi Stars and iHuman, or 3 articles on Dot Languages.

At this age, they have a good grasp of how to use apps, especially character-learning apps like the ones listed below.

Best Apps to Learn Chinese for Kids

Spotify to Learn Chinese

Recommended Age: 0+

With Spotify, you’ll find a huge library of Chinese language content, including nursery rhymes, kid-friendly Mandarin pop, stories, and podcasts. Spotify Premium offers the added convenience of downloading music and playlists for offline listening, making it ideal for on-the-go learning, whether in the car or at your destination for screen-free entertainment.

Why I Recommend Spotify to Learn Chinese

Since my kids were babies, I’d have Spotify playing Mandarin content to immerse them in the language throughout the day. Activating our favorite storytime app while they played kept them entertained independently, allowing me to tackle meal prep or tidy up after our last activity. While Spotify isn’t a dedicated language learning app, exposing them to Mandarin content aids in reinforcing language learning by enhancing their listening skills, vocabulary acquisition, and overall familiarity with the language.

Some podcast episodes have transcripts. The text highlights along with the audio. Many of the songs also have lyrics that highlight the words to help you sing along!

See our favorite podcasts to learn Chinese

App Features

Interface Language: English, Traditional Chinese (Taiwan and Hong Kong), Simplified Chinese
Supported Devices: iPad, iPhone, Android phone, and tablets

Cost

  • Free with ads
  • $10.99 per month

Where to Install

Open Spotify

Netflix to Learn Chinese

Recommended Age: 2+

On Netflix, you’ll discover a diverse collection of TV shows, movies, documentaries, and original content available in Mandarin (Guoyu from Taiwan and Putonghua from China) and Cantonese. Stream original content from Taiwan, China, Singapore, Malaysia, and other Chinese-speaking countries, and also enjoy global content with Chinese language audio.

Why I Recommend Netflix for Young Chinese Learners

Watching shows in Chinese is a fantastic way to boost language skills. It’s not just about learning vocabulary; you can pick up on pronunciation, and everyday words, which is important to understanding how Chinese is used in casual conversations. Visual cues and actions add deeper context to the language. Watching shows is a fun way for kids to practice Chinese, making language learning an immersive and enjoyable experience for everyone.

Parental features make Netflix safer to use than YouTube. You can block keywords and set the ratings based on your child’s age. Opt for the subscription without ads.

Other apps I recommend to stream Chinese language shows

App Features

Interface Language: English, Traditional Chinese (Taiwan and Hong Kong), Simplified Chinese
Supported Devices: iPad, iPhone, Android phone, and tablets

Cost

  • Plans start at $6.99 per month

Where to Install

Get Netflix

Maomi Stars Chinese Learning App

Recommended Age: 4 to 7

Looking for a fun app to teach kids Chinese characters? Maomi Stars is a Chinese learning app designed by a mom specifically for children to learn Chinese. My kids love Maomi Star’s gamified method of teaching up to 400 characters. This app helps support the curriculum we are using to learn Chinese characters.

Why We Recommend Maomi Stars

Someone once mentioned that I am the tech mommy blogger of Chinese learning, which is ironic because I work in tech and kept my kids off devices as long as I could. We don’t even have a TV. My son started to really resist reading Sagebooks and I was desperate for additional support on our learning journey. I must have tried a dozen apps for kids until I learned that Maomi Stars launched their own Chinese Learning app. It is one of the only apps that both my kids enjoy using. I thought my son, 8 at the time, would find it’s too “babyish” as he would say, but he found the app to be a lot of fun and engaging. Maomi Stars is one of the 2 apps that I continue to subscribe to!

A notable feature of Maomi Stars is the option to set the app interface and audio to English or Chinese. This is a huge help for parents like me who are learning Chinese with their kids. The other apps I have found, the interface is all in Chinese and I need to use my phone to translate the text in order to use the app. Maomi Stars is designed for both Chinese learners and heritage families.

There is no affiliate link or commission—I truly and genuinely recommend this app.

App Features

Languages: Mandarin, Cantonese
Writing System: Traditional Chinese Characters, Simplified Chinese Characters
Interface Language: English and Chinese
Supported Devices: iPad, iPhone, Android phone, and tablets

Cost

  • $0 limited free version
  • $7.99 per month (one user)
  • $14.99 per month (up to 3 users)

How to subscribe to Maomi Stars

Go to the Maomi Stars website to learn more and install the app to start learning Chinese!

iHuman Chinese App

Recommended Age: 6 to 8

One of the most talked about apps in the overseas Chinese learning space is iHuman Chinese and for good reason. iHuman Chinese introduces 1,300 commonly used Chinese characters. The app begins with the simplest characters and progresses to more advanced characters. The iHuman Chinese app features animated lessons, children’s songs, interactive activities, and a collection of 130 leveled picture books. You can also download characters to learn offline!

Why We Recommend iHuman Chinese

iHuman Chinese has the best illustrations of all the apps that we have tried. The app is well-designed and the animations are top-notch. The app is gamified to keep children engaged. The animations are also appealing to older children like my son who is now 9 years old. Although we are focusing on learning Traditional Chinese, my kids begged to have this app. The lifetime subscription gives both of my children access to the app with their own profiles.

Read my review of iHuman Chinese

App Features

Languages: Mandarin
Writing System: Simplified Chinese Characters and Pinyin
Interface Language: Chinese
Supported Devices: iPad, iPhone, Android phone, and tablets

Cost

  • $6.99 per month
  • $47.99 per year
  • $69.99 lifetime subscription

How to subscribe to iHuman Chinese

The app interface language is Simplified Chinese. I was able to use the Google Translate app on my phone to navigate the app and complete my subscription. iHuman did launch an app for English speakers learning Mandarin, but it was too much English for me. I wish they combined the features and allowed users to select the interface and audio language.

Human Chinese Website

Dot Languages – Chinese

Recommended Age: 6+

This app is great for adults and kids! Practice your Chinese reading skills with the Dot Languages Chinese app. Play games to learn the core Chinese characters for each article, then strengthen your Chinese character comprehension by reading simple articles. There are many topics to read about to keep you interested.

This is the perfect app to follow Sagebooks 500 or for anyone who has learned the first few hundred most common Chinese characters.

Why we recommend Dot Languages – Chinese

I appreciate the seamless user experience offered by the Dot app. Its articles, designed for quick 2-5 minute reads based on individual reading levels, make reading practice feel effortless. If you encounter an unfamiliar Chinese character, simply tap it to hear the pronunciation and see the definition. You can also play the audio for the entire article and follow along. The Dot app has so many features that you can choose the features that suit your preferences, schedule, and skill level. The variety of engaging games keeps the practice sessions interesting, and the option to incorporate personal content, such as your own articles, children’s book text, or song lyrics, adds the next level of customization to your reading practice.

The app’s developer, also a Chinese language learner, thoughtfully designed the app based on the challenges he faced while learning Mandarin. Although the app is already kid-friendly, the developer is actively introducing more age-appropriate content to engage younger children and make the learning experience even more interesting for them.

App Features

Languages: Mandarin
Writing System: Traditional Chinese Characters, Simplified Chinese Characters
Interface Language: English and Chinese
Supported Devices: iPad, iPhone, Android phone, and tablets
Skill Level: HSK 1 to 9

Cost

Save 15% with code: LANGUAGEGIFT89
To use the promo code, you must subscribe through the website and NOT through the app.

  1. Free: read 5 articles per week
  2. Premium: $18.60 per month or $135 per year

Where to Install

Dot Languages App

HK Lexical List

Recommended Age: 6+

The HK Lexical List APP is a lifesaver for Chinese learners, and it costs less than a Boba! For someone who can speak Chinese but can’t write, this app allows me to say a word or phrase and it displays the Chinese characters.

This app displays the characters really big and is perfect for learners who need to look up Chinese characters to write.

Why I Recommend HK Lexical List

We use the HK Lexical list to look up characters that we have not learned yet or do not remember how to write. My kids can use the voice-to-text feature to say the word or phrase in Chinese, and the app will display the characters. They can see the stroke order and learn how to properly write the characters. There is even a feature to generate writing practice worksheets!

App Features

Languages: Mandarin, Cantonese
Writing System: Traditional Chinese Characters
Interface Language: English and Chinese
Supported Devices: iPad, iPhone, Android phone, and tablets

Cost

  • Free with ads
  • $5.99 for lifetime use without ads

Where to Install

HK Lexical List App

Chinesimple HSK 1-5

Recommended Age: 14+

Why I recommend Chinesimple

Chinesimple makes learning Chinese characters fun with its diverse range of 15 engaging games covering various aspects such as spelling, pronunciation, grammar, stroke order, and more. Whether you prefer Traditional or Simplified characters, the app lets you tailor your experience. With options to toggle Pinyin, explore flashcards, and tackle HSK mock tests, it truly caters to individual learning styles. And here’s the exciting update – they’ve recently introduced a mahjong board game to the app!

Please note that this developer also offers two versions of the app for children YCT3 and YCT4. They seem to be available for Android at this time so I have not tested the children’s apps.

App Features

Languages: Mandarin
Writing System: Traditional Chinese Characters, Simplified Chinese Characters
Interface Language: English, German, French, Italian, Spanish, and Russian
Supported Devices: iPad, iPhone, Android phone, and tablets
Skill Level: HSK 1 to 5

Cost

  • $0 limited free version
  • $6.99 per month
  • $49.99 per year
  • $69.99 lifetime

Where to Install

Chinesimple App

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