Mandarin Chinese has become one of the most popular languages to learn right now. With more than 1.3 billion native speakers, Chinese is beneficial for enhancing your career and business opportunities.
However, learning Chinese is not easy for many, as the Chinese language is very different from Indo-European counterparts such as English, Spanish, or French.
Still, becoming fluent in Chinese by taking online Chinese courses is possible if you choose a high-quality one and invest your time in it.
The most important thing for people who want to learn Chinese is to find the right online course that suits their learning style from thousands of options available.
You don’t have to worry, because I have already selected the best ones for you, so you don’t have to waste your valuable time and money on a low-quality course.
This post is long. I suggest you use the table of contents below for better navigation.
Things You Have to Know
It is effortless to find online Chinese courses. Many learners are overwhelmed just by the number of options. Generally, there are two types of online Chinese courses available:
- Online private courses – You will learn Chinese live with an instructor on the platform or third-party video conference apps such as Skype or Zoom. The experience is similar to a typical private class, but you never meet your instructor in person.
- Self-study courses– You will learn Chinese online on your own from audio or video lessons. However, many providers might add extra features to help you learn Chinese, such as online flashcards or interactive exercises.
Each type has pros and cons that you should consider. I hope you understand before paying for any Chinese course.
Online Private Courses Pros and Cons
- Similar experience to in-person private courses
- Most learning platforms let you select your instructor.
- Customized Chinese classes: Your instructor can design a tailor-made curriculum that optimally suits your learning style and needs. For instance, you can get a crash course on Chinese conversational skills to prepare yourself before a business trip to China.
- Flexibility: You can select when to take the course based on your schedule.
- You can choose to pay hourly for course fees.
- It could be pricey. You should expect to pay an average of $15 per 1-hour class. New students need to learn at least 50 hours to understand basic Chinese, and many times that amount for intermediate and advanced levels. Thus, the total course fees could be thousands of dollars.
- Choosing the right instructor is vital for your success.
- A weak internet connection could ruin your learning experience.
- You might not be able to change your class schedule at the last minute, so you pay course fees to no avail.
Self-Study Course Pros and Cons
- Inexpensive. Some online Mandarin Chinese courses even start at less than the price of a cup of coffee per month. The pricing is even better if you get a lifetime deal or buy during a massive discount.
- Give you tons of language learning resources to self-study.
- Learn Chinese anywhere, anytime, without worrying about schedule.
- Ardent learners could master Chinese very fast, as the course is self-paced.
- Some courses do not teach every language skill equally. For example, some may skip the writing part totally.
- Explanations in the courses may not be good enough.
- No customization. Every student has to learn from the standard curriculum.
- Inconsistent quality. Some course materials are better at the beginning but worsen significantly when you reach the advanced level.
Other Tips for Selecting Online Chinese Courses
You could take both types of courses simultaneously to get the best of both worlds.
Taking a self-study Chinese course will save tons of money you have to spend on online private courses.
On the other hand, a 1-on-1 private tutor could improve your communication skills and provide answers to questions you have on the Chinese language after taking the self-study course.
Typically, you can get started for free on both types of courses. I suggest that you always get a free trial before buying any course, even though it is already at a 75% discount. This strategy will help you prevent spending money on classes that do not fit your learning style.
You should also try different Chinese courses before choosing one as well. This will give you more options to select.
When you try a free trial for a self-study course, if possible, don’t forget to audit the advanced part of the course. This is to check whether the quality of the course is consistent.
Finally, this post contains affiliate links. I will receive a small commission from course providers if you purchase through my link. I promise I will use this income to improve my website and create better content for all visitors.
Best Online Private Chinese Courses
Important Notice: Some providers in this post might be a full-fledged online language school specializing in teaching Chinese or a platform that connects you to native Chinese teachers.
There is a significant difference between the two.
|Language Schools||Learning Platforms|
|Courses to Choose||Numerous||Few|
|Payment||More Rigid (Monthly, Biannually)||Flexible (Hourly)|
For Courses to Choose, this means a language school offers a higher degree of customization.
For example, you can take industry-specific Chinese classes with language schools. This may not be possible for learning platforms.
eChineseLearning is unarguably the leading online Chinese language school. It was featured on many international media such as The Economist, Forbes, and Yahoo Finance.
As of 2021, the school has been teaching Chinese online for 15 years to students from more than 100 countries worldwide. Thus, you can rest assured that this school is credible and trustworthy.
1-to-1 Chinese Lessons
Every class taught by eChineseLearning will be 1-to-1. You will learn privately with top-notch native Chinese teachers.
All eChineseLearning instructors have received degree and professional training in Teaching Chinese as a Foreign Language and have years of teaching experience.
You can customize your class or choose one from this list:
- Regular – You will learn Chinese from basic to advanced by following the standard eChineseLearning curriculum, which has nine levels. You will develop every language skill throughout the track.
- Survival/Daily – This is a crash course in Mandarin Chinese. You will learn how to communicate effectively in everyday life in China, thus suitable for people who plan to visit China soon but don’t have time to take lengthy Chinese courses.
- Business Chinese – You will learn the proper usage of Chinese in the business environment. Similar to the regular course, this course is divided into nine levels starting from the very basics. This course is for business people who want to prepare themselves before doing business in China.
- Industry-Specific – ChineseLearning teachers can teach you industry-specific Chinese that involves a considerable number of technical vocabularies. You can see the industry list here.
- Test Prep – This is a specialized course for those who plan to take Chinese exams such as HSK, AP Chinese, SAT II Chinese, GCSE/IGCSE Chinese, and many others. Your teacher will evaluate your progress and choose suitable materials and training methods for students to achieve the highest test score.
- Culture and Business Etiquette – A course designed to teach you Chinese culture and business etiquette, which can be essential to build a long-term relationship with Chinese business partners.
- Other courses: eChineseLearning has other courses that teach Chinese creatively. For example, you could learn Chinese from movies and songs or even learn Chinese for dating.
Besides Chinese classes for adults, eChineseLearning has classes for kids as well. Those will be taught by specialized instructors who are experienced in teaching Chinese to kids.
Course Structure and Pricing
Students will learn Mandarin Chinese face-to-face with teachers by using the eChineseLearning website and app.
Each lesson is 50 minutes long. You can schedule your class 24/7. Hence, You can always pick a class time that is most comfortable for you.
eChineseLearning has a bit of a complicated pricing structure. How much you pay will depend on two factors:
- Course Length: The longer the course, the lower the price per lesson. For example, each class of a one-year course will cost you less than that of a six-month one.
- Regular or Specialized Courses: If you choose a specialized course such as a test prep course, you will pay 20%-40% more than an ordinary course.
For a regular course, you should expect to pay from $11 to $23 per hour.
Free Assessment and Free Trial
Those who have learned Chinese before but do not know which level you are in the curriculum can take the free 30-minute live assessment from an eChineseLearning instructor.
This is much better than machine assessment because you will be evaluated in every skill, reading, listening, writing, and speaking skills by a professional.
eChineseLearning also invites every learner to get a free trial to try its system and teaching style. Thus, don’t forget to take this opportunity, as well.
TL;DR Pros and Cons of eChineseLearning
- Top-notch instructors from mainland China
- A large variety of Chinese courses to choose from + ability to customize
- Best for those who need an industry-specific or advanced Chinese course
- Suitable for beginners and other levels of learners alike
- Excellent free assessment by native Chinese teachers
- Can schedule the class 24/7
- Free recordings of your Chinese lessons and individual progress report
- For the best price, you need a long-term commitment (for example, three classes a week for one year.) In other words, eChineseLearning uses a rigid pricing structure.
- More expensive than other alternatives
- Clunky and outdated website
- eChineseLearning has just created its apps. Technical problems could flare out.
- Slightly complicated money-back guarantee policy. However, it’s essential to read this beforehand. Many learners did not, so they had later problems asking for a refund.
In my opinion, eChineseLearning is possibly one of the best online private Chinese schools.
However, to learn successfully with them, you will need a long-term commitment. This may not be suitable for those who have a busy and inconsistent schedule.
Italki is a great platform for language learning and a solid competitor to Verbling. Learning Chinese online with Italki is easy and inexpensive, suitable for every level of learners.
Though the platforms are very similar, Italki teachers are different from Verbling’s. This is because the platform allows “community tutors” to teach students.
These community tutors are native or near-native speakers who use a certain language well but with no formal teaching experiences and certifications.
Still, Italki has certified professional teachers for you to choose from. On the platform, you can filter this by choosing either professional teachers or community tutors.
Course Structure and Pricing
The process is quite similar to Verbling. You choose the instructor you want and start booking a trial lesson.
If you are satisfied, you can buy more lessons to start learning Chinese properly. Each lesson will be 60-minute long, though some teachers offer a 30-45 minute lesson as well.
Unlike Verbling, Italki’s trial lesson is not free. You need to pay for a lesson but at a steeply discounted price. Second, you have only 3 quotas to book a trial lesson at this price. Thus, please use it well.
Teachers and tutors can set hourly rates on their own. Professional teachers normally charge higher rates, starting from $10-$15 each hour.
Community tutors charge slightly less. Most teach at the rates of $8 or even less per hour.
TL: DR Italki Pros and Cons
- Inexpensive. Customizable video lessons with a qualified Chinese teacher could start at $10 an hour. Pricing is probably one of the lowest on the market.
- No restrictions on off-platform communication
- Pay per lesson. The pricing structure is very flexible and transparent.
- No free trial
- Searching in-depth for suitable instructors is not doable. You can only search for teachers who can teach business Chinese, test prep, kids, and conversation, but not teachers who can teach advanced Chinese, etc.
- Italki recently disabled the browser version, so you now have to use the Italki app as the only way to learn Chinese and other languages.
Verbling is a haven for those who value simplicity, flexibility, and professionalism in language learning. This platform connects language learners to professional language instructors around the world. You can also learn other languages besides Chinese as well.
All of the Verbling instructors have verifiable teaching experience. Thus, the quality of Chinese lessons is certainly high-quality.
In Verbling, there is no standard curriculum or course levels. Your teacher can customize everything for you, so you can start learning Chinese according to your preference.
The first step is to select the right instructor. You can select them by evaluating their profile, video introduction, reviews, course fees, and many more.
Suppose you need a specialized course, such as an HSK course or AP Chinese. You can use filters to find instructors that can teach you.
Next, you will book a free trial with your selected instructor to evaluate their teaching style, whether it suits you. If you are satisfied, you will then buy a lesson and make a payment.
The great thing here is that you can book a trial lesson with unlimited teachers. Thus, you can take your time to find the best instructor you can learn Mandarin Chinese with.
Similar to eChineseLearning, your face-to-face learning will be on the Verbling platform or app. Thus, you don’t need to install third-party apps at all.
There are also other language tools on the Verbling platform that will assist your Chinese learning, such as online flashcards and collaborative textpads. You can also read an assessment by your instructor to track your progress.
Teachers set their own hourly rates, which are directly quoted on their profile. Typically, popular teachers set higher prices per hour. Your total course fees would depend on whom you choose to learn with.
On average, you should expect to pay $15-25 per hour.
Students can buy as few as 1 lesson on Verbling. Still, you can buy in bundles to receive an extra 8% discount.
TL, DR Verbling Pros and Cons
- Easy-to-use platform
- Transparent and flexible pricing structure
- Tailor-made course
- Can book a trial lesson with unlimited teachers
- Numerous excellent teachers to choose from
- Good language resources
- Learning Chinese with popular teachers could be pricey.
- The Verbling app has many technical problems. Taking lessons from the browser might be a better idea.
- Verbling does not allow students and teachers to have off-platform communication. This means your teacher cannot share his or her social media account and email address with you.
Best Self-Study Online Chinese Courses
Below are the best online Chinese courses for self-study. Every course is self-paced. This means you can learn as fast or slowly as you wish.
Some courses are not a suitable choice for every learner. For example, some may only be good for beginners, while some could be great only for people who want to develop writing or listening skills.
I will provide this information in the headings. Please make sure you read them before proceeding. This would save a lot of your time.
4. Chineseclass101 (All-rounder)
If you’re looking for an all-rounder Chinese course, you don’t have to look elsewhere.
Whether you are a beginner or an advanced Chinese learner, Chineseclass101 is one of your best choices to learn Mandarin Chinese.
Personally, I rank this Chinese course on the top above major brands such as Rosetta Stone and Pimsleur.
Audio and Video classes
Chineseclass101 teaches the Chinese language to learners, mostly through audio lessons. The audio course is separated into two groups: Season classes and supplementary classes.
Season classes are the main curriculum of Chineseclass101. For each Season class, you will listen to a conversation between two people. One will be a native speaker with a perfect Beijing accent. Another person will be a student who studies abroad in China.
Below is a structure of every Season class in order (based on my experience):
- The class starts with a dialogue that simulates everyday situations such as dining at a restaurant, buying a pencil, going to a bank, and many more.
- The native speaker explains the vocabulary and grammar associated with the dialogue.
- Subsequently, the student will ask the native speaker about Chinese grammar structures and vocabulary usages. I find this part helpful as it could help clarify any confusion you may have.
- The native speaker then teaches more about Chinese culture or etiquette related to the dialogue.
In general, each class will be 10-15 minutes long. Besides the audio, you will have detailed lesson notes, which comprise dialogue breakdown, grammar points, English translations, vocabulary lists, and many more to help you study.
For every 2-3 lessons, there will be a multiple-choice assessment that tests your Chinese knowledge you learned from audio lessons. This is beneficial for strengthening your memory of Chinese vocabulary and grammar.
As of now, more than 100 hours of content belong to Season classes alone.
Chineseclass101 also uses videos in its course. These videos are mostly brief exercises for reading and listening comprehension. However, there are some videos where the instructors are teaching Chinese grammar as well.
Other Study Tools
Apart from Season classes, there are supplementary audio classes that teach you Chinese grammar, vocabulary, culture, conversation, and many more. This would help strengthen every language skill as no other Self-Study Chinese course could.
This would bring the total length of audio and video content to 325 hours. If this is not enough, Chineseclass101 adds new content every day. You will never be short of content to learn!
Besides this content, Chineseclass101 also creates tools that help you learn Mandarin Chinese. This includes spaced-repetition flashcards to improve your vocabulary and voice recording tools to help your pronunciation.
My Teacher is a premium plus feature of Chineseclass101. Every student who subscribes to this plan will be assigned to a Chinese teacher.
The teacher will then customize your learning to make it suit your interests and learning style. Furthermore, on every Season course, there will be many more assignments on every Chinese skill, especially writing and speaking.
Your teacher will grade these assignments for you. This will help you improve your writing and speaking skills significantly. Furthermore, you could ask your personal teacher every Chinese-related question as well.
Pricing and Which Plan to Subscribe
Chineseclass101 offers three plans for all users: Basic, Premium, and Premium Plus.
If you open the pricing page on the Chineseclass101 website, you will see a lower pricing range by default. This is for a 2-year subscription. However, the price that I wrote down here is for a 1-year subscription, which is more expensive
The basic plan starts at $5 per month (pay annually). However, I don’t recommend subscribing to this plan, as you will only get lesson notes and full course access, but no other content.
I suggest most learners subscribe to the Premium plan ($15 per month, pay annually). This will give you full access to all content on the platform and create a complete online Chinese course.
Premium Plus plan ($26 per month, paid annually) will add the My Teacher feature to the Premium plan. This is beneficial for learning Chinese online, particularly for a beginner, but definitely not necessary.
This is because the course content is already good enough for learning Chinese successfully on your own.
TL;DR Chineseclass101 Pros and Cons
- Tons of quality course content, 300+ hours in total. This is probably one of the most comprehensive online Chinese courses.
- Develop all skills (reading, speaking, writing, listening)
- Audio classes are fun to learn. (I love to learn before sleep)
- Starting from very basics (writing Chinese characters and pinyin) and progressing to the advanced level, thus good for all levels of learners
- New content added daily.
- Consistent quality throughout the curriculum
- Excellent mobile app for learning by using smartphones
- Excellent course material
- Value for money
- The entire curriculum is unorganized. Course content navigation can be complicated. I completely got lost at the beginning because I didn’t know which course to take first.
- As of now, the highest level in Chineseclass101 is equivalent to HSK5. There is no advanced content for HSK 6.
Chineseclass101 offers a 7-day free trial for all new users to experience a premium plan. You can also get a lifetime free account as well.
5. Pimsleur (Exceptional for Speaking and Listening)
Pimsleur is an old-school language learning institution that could trace back to the 60s. However, the institution transforms itself into an innovative online language school that utilizes the newest education technology.
Thus, learners could learn languages with a Pimsleur method in an interactive, intuitive, and natural way.
Pimsleur’s Mandarin Chinese course has 5 levels, starting from a basic level to an upper-intermediate level, with 80 hours in content. Each lesson will be 30 minutes long.
As a complete audio course, you will learn Mandarin Chinese mostly by listening. Pimsleur even discourages students from looking at the text.
Each lesson will teach you the vocabulary, conversational dialogues, useful phrases, and survival skills. Reading is also included in the lesson, but it is much like a supplement.
Pimsleur will encourage you to speak out loud in Chinese. You should expect to do this in the lesson very frequently.
The key here is to force you to think and respond in Chinese, so you will eliminate your fear of speaking in another language and improve your accent.
Still, in each lesson, the Pimsleur app will give several quizzes, dialogue review (in texts), flashcards, and speaking practices so you would be familiar with the Chinese vocabulary.
The first lessons are slow both in pace and conversation. However, in the upper levels, everything will be faster, reaching native speed and comprehension.
Grammar is the part that Pimsleur does not focus on much. Pimsleur points out that you will learn grammar through conversation. If you can speak well, your brain will differentiate automatically, whether the grammar is correct.
In general, course materials all have the same purpose, helping you speak Chinese naturally and well. Thus, overall, this is a solid beginner and intermediate conversational course.
Pricing: Buy or Subscribe
There are two options to access the full content: Buy or Subscribe.
Buying the Pimsleur’s entire curriculum would cost $575. You will gain access to all courses for a lifetime.
Subscribing will cost you $19.95 monthly. You will be able to access the courses as long as you do not cancel.
The question is, which one is better for users?
I think this is subjective. It totally depends on your pace.
If you are a determined learner who has plenty of time to learn, a subscription option is much better, as you can complete the curriculum in several months or a year at most. This will cost you no more than $240.
In contrast, if you are a normal learner who has a busy schedule, a buying option is definitely a better choice. You can take your time to review course material without rushing, so the learning yields better results.
TL;DR Pimsleur Pros and Cons
- An excellent approach to help you speak fluently in Chinese without fear. Great for those who want to emphasize communication and speaking skills
- Exceptional in teaching Chinese vocabulary
- Easy to use platforms and apps
- Good interactive quizzes and exercises
- Best for travelers
- Writing and grammar have no place in Pimsleur’s curriculum, and even Chinese characters are introduced in the latter part. The system also does not help you much in memorizing Chinese characters. If you want to master those, you need another online Chinese course.
- No advanced Chinese courses.
- More Expensive than other alternatives
Pimsleur grants free access to the first lesson of its Chinese courses. I highly suggest you try the course before making any decision.
Pimsleur’s approach is unique, so it might not fit everyone. Thus, make sure you know whether it fits your learning style beforehand.
6. Coursera (Best for Beginners)
Coursera is a platform that features online courses from top universities worldwide. If you want to learn Mandarin Chinese online with leading instructors in a university-like environment, Coursera is unarguably one of your best options.
Below are the online Chinese courses on Coursera that you should consider.
6.1 Chinese for Beginners
This single course on Coursera is created by faculty members of Peking University, one of the best universities in all of China (comparable to Harvard)
In this course, the instructor will teach you from the very beginning. You will learn Chinese phonetics and daily expressions.
Next, you will understand how to make basic conversations such as introducing yourself, asking about price, telling about your hobbies, and many more.
The best thing is this Chinese course is free to audit. However, if you want your assignments to be graded and receive a certificate, you will need to buy a course for $49.
6.2 Learn Mandarin Chinese Specialization
This Coursera course is a specialization from faculty members of Shanghai Jiaotong University.
As a specialization, it comprises several minor courses. Thus, this course is longer and more comprehensive than Course 6.1.
This specialization is basically a Chinese 101 course taught in every college. Each minor course will have video lectures, short dialogues, and interactive exercises for you to start learning Mandarin Chinese from the very beginning.
When you complete all minor courses, you will understand 500 Chinese words by heart and can handle various situations with ease.
Besides, there is a capstone project for you to do as well. You will use the Chinese knowledge you learned in the past three courses to perform several real-life tasks.
After completing the project, you will be ready for intermediate Chinese courses.
This specialization will cost you $49 per month. The university recommends spending 4 hours a week on the course to finish the specialization in 6 months.
TL;DR Pros and Cons of Coursera Chinese Courses
- Learn Chinese from top instructors from top universities in China
- Well-structured as typical college courses
- Audit courses for free
- Instructors teach every language skill equally.
- No upper-level courses for students to continue learning Chinese, except those who want to take the HSK.
- The monthly payment for specialization is much more costly than other online Mandarin Chinese courses.
Other Useful Online Chinese Courses
Below are useful online Chinese courses. However, I like them less than the six online courses that I previously recommended above. You can try these courses as well to give yourself more options.
YoYo Chinese – Good video lessons with interactive quizzes. Courses focus on conversations, which is suitable for a beginner, but they are quite pricey ($499 for the entire curriculum).
Mandarin Blueprint – If you want to try new Chinese learning methods, Mandarin Blueprint is an interesting option. You will learn with 2 non-native speakers who found a new method of teaching this 5,000-year-old language. Fascinating, isn’t it?
Rocket Chinese – Another solid alternative to Pimsleur. If you are considering an audio Chinese course, Rocket Chinese is worth a try.
Outlier Linguistics – If you find Chinese characters difficult to learn, you might want to take this course. You will learn the Chinese writing system’s logic, which could help you write and even improve your memory of Chinese characters like you never imagined.
Super Chinese – Bored of online language courses? I suggest you try the Super Chinese app.
This app will teach you vocabulary, grammar, reading, listening, writing, and even speaking skills like a comprehensive online Chinese course. AI will evaluate your accent and pronunciation and give you a score!
I am a long-time user of Super Chinese and really love the app. However, developers have not yet created the advanced content for HSK 5 and above, so I have to stop learning for a while. If you are an absolute beginner, you can have a lot of fun learning Chinese from this app.