33 Free Online Chinese Language Lessons and Resources
Interested in learning to speak Mandarin Chinese? There are plenty of Chinese language lessons, courses, and other resources available today, so you’re likely wondering where to start and how to select the right Chinese language tools for you.
The good news is that there are tons of cost-effective and even free ways to learn Chinese.
But… How do you know which Chinese courses are of decent quality, without spending hours upon hours trying them all out?
I put this article together to help you figure out where to start with learning Mandarin Chinese. I’ve tried out and tested many free Chinese learning resources to find the best ones out there so that you don’t have to.
Table of contents
- Free Online Audio & Podcasts to Help You Learn Chinese
- YouTube: Free Video Chinese Lessons
- Free Online Chinese Courses and Systems
- Free Chinese Language Apps
- Free Online Chinese Language Resources for Advanced Chinese Learners
- What Free Online Chinese Resources Will You Use?
Let’s take a look at these free online Chinese language resources and classes.
Free Online Audio & Podcasts to Help You Learn Chinese
Podcasts are a very useful way to learn Chinese. You can take them with you wherever you are, whatever you’re doing — on your walks, when you’re driving to pick your kids up from school, or to listen to during your lunch break.
Anytime you have a free moment, podcasts can help you squeeze in a bit of language learning.
There are a lot of Chinese language podcasts out there, but not many that provide a complete Mandarin Chinese course. I prefer podcasts that provide a step-by-step Chinese class, or that teach Chinese as it’s spoken in the real world.
Here’s where to start with Chinese language audio:
- ChineseClass101 is free to sign up for. It has an incredible amount of Chinese language content available at every level from complete beginner to advanced. They’re a favorite of the Fluent in 3 Months team. You get a one-week free trial to test out lessons at all skill levels. After that, you do have to pay for the more advanced lessons and premium material, although it’s very much worth it.
- Coffee Break Chinese has both free and paid options. It’s hands down one of my favorite Chinese podcasts. In the course, you learn alongside the host, Mark.
- TuneIn Chinese: You can listen to radio in Chinese on TuneIn. Try out a couple stations based on your interests and dive in! Download the app to enjoy radio on your mobile device.
- Forvo: If you come across a new word, especially with Chinese because it uses a unique writing system, Forvo is a great place to listen to words spoken by a native speaker. It has a large database and is a good reference for pronunciation.
- Melnyk’s Chinese Lessons is a free language with simple dialogues and useful vocabulary provided by fellow Chinese learner Serge Melnyk. This was my personal favorite podcast when I was learning Chinese.
- You Can Learn Chinese is a podcast from Mandarin Companion founder, Jared Turner. It is all about strategies for learning the language and is a useful tool.
YouTube: Free Video Chinese Lessons
YouTube is a fantastic place to find free Chinese classes and resources. The following channels give you hours upon hours of Chinese lessons in an engaging medium.
Plus, video has the added benefits of letting you see expressions, body language, and other non-verbal aspects of the Chinese language.
- ChineseClass101: In addition to their free podcast lessons, ChineseClass101 also has a helpful YouTube channel with hundreds of free videos.
- Easy Languages Chinese: I love the Easy Languages Youtube channel because it offers you a lot of local culture and context. In this series, the hosts go out into the streets of Taiwan and interview the people they meet there. It’s a great way to hear the way people really speak the language, pick up useful conversational language, and practice your listening comprehension.
- Mandarin HQ teaches Chinese with fun, short videos that cover everything from grammar points to themed vocabulary lists. Angel, the host, also features interviews in Chinese on her trips to China so you can hear the language how it’s actually spoken!
- Yoyo Chinese: Learn about the Chinese language and culture with Yoyo Chinese. [Yangyang], the instructor, is an upbeat and enthusiastic tutor who shares her experience as a Chinese native as well as tips for learning the Chinese language. Plus, she’s a friend of Fluent in 3 Months Founder, Benny Lewis.
- ChinesePod: Looking for content about the Chinese language and culture? ChinesePod offers learners just that in entertaining, bite-sized lessons.
Free Online Chinese Courses and Systems
If you’re interested in guided lessons, there is an exceptional selection of free online Mandarin Chinese courses and systems available.
Here are just a few websites that offer online Chinese lessons at no cost:
- Chinese Grammar Wiki: This tool was a lifesaver for me as I was learning Chinese. It is a detailed Chinese grammar available to you for free online.
- Coursera: The online learning portal Coursera has a free Chinese language course for beginners. It’s taught by Peking University and it has a 4.8/5 rating.
- Learn with Oliver: Learn with Oliver is an online flashcard tool that lets you learn and test yourself on Chinese words and phrases. I personally love their email newsletters and look forward to seeing them in my inbox every day.
Free Chinese Language Apps
Apps are a handy way to learn a new language, especially for those who like to study on the go.
- Memrise or Anki (for iOS, for Android, and for everyone else): These are flashcard systems that you can use to create your own Chinese vocabulary decks or download those already created by other users. The desktop version of Anki is free, as is the basic version of Memrise. I personally use Memrise.
- MosaLingua (for iOS and Android is another flashcard app, but this one comes with premade Chinese flashcards so you don’t have to make your own (though you can if you want). There is both a free and paid version of this app.
- Duolingo: Duolingo is the best-known language learning app that introduces you to both Chinese vocabulary and grammar. It’s a gamified platform, so it’s fun to learn and easy to maintain your daily streaks.
- Drops: Don’t have a lot of time? Drops is the ideal solution. With the free version of the app, you just get five minutes of study time per day. But you can get a lot done in those five minutes. The system is built to keep you engaged and moving so that you get a significant chunk of vocabulary exposure in a short time via beautiful graphics and intuitive swiping.
- Clozemaster is a language learning app the uses cloze (fill in the blank) to help you master new vocabulary in Chinese.
- HelloChinese is a Chinese language app with a progressive system for learning the Chinese language. It’s very well put together and a very useful tool for Chinese learners.
Free Online Chinese Language Resources for Advanced Chinese Learners
Take a Free Online Course in Chinese
MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) not only offer Mandarin Chinese language courses, but they also offer courses on other subjects taught in Chinese.
If you’d like to use Chinese to learn more about something you’re passionate about, taking an online course in Chinese can be a useful way to do two things at once.
- Coursera: There are more than 700 courses that support Chinese on Coursera. Interested in learning more about deep learning or finance? Or maybe digital marketing is more your style? Whatever your interest is, there’s a good chance you can find a course taught in Chinese on Coursera!
- EdX: Much like Coursera, EdX also has a wide selection of courses where Chinese is the language of instruction. With 80+ options, you can learn about Japanese, Cancer Biology, Geology or Flower Arrangement.
- BBC Languages: Looking for an interesting introduction to the Chinese language with video and tons of accompanying material? The BBC’s Chinese course is a good place to start.
- Class Central: Class Central is an online portal that indexes free online courses from a variety of sites (including Coursera and EdX). Currently, they have more than 350 courses taught in Chinese listed on their site.
Watch Chinese Vloggers on YouTube
If you’re looking for native and relevant material for your Chinese language learning, YouTubers are a great source.
Chinese vloggers cover everything from comedy to beauty to food, so you’re sure to find a YouTube personality who covers a topic that you’re interested in.
Here are a few of my favorites:
- Fulinfang: This Youtuber creates friendly, relatable videos about his life in China. He speaks Chinese at a high level, but is also very understandable.
- Mamahuhu: is one of the funniest Chinese language channels you can find on Youtube. They create a lot of parody and skit comedy videos, giving you insight to the Chinese sense of humor.
- Rainie Tian: Prefer beauty vloggers? Rainie Tian is one of the most popular on Youtube. She offers beauty product reviews, tutorials, and more. Plus, the text on her videos is bilingual to help you follow along.
- Oh Emma: Oh Emma is another Chinese language beauty vlogger. She reviews beauty products and shares her skin care routines.
- Liziqi: Liziqi creates beautiful documentary-style videos demonstrating both traditional and rural life in China. Plus, she showcases lots of cooking videos — something I appreciate as a total foodie! There’s not a lot of spoken Chinese in this video (there is some), but there is text and a lot of cultural insight you’ll get with these videos.
Free Chinese Language Reading Materials
Finding reading material appropriate for your level in the language can be a challenge. Thankfully, there’s a decent selection of Chinese reading resources available to you as a learner online for free.
- Wikipedia: Use Wikipedia to read short articles in Chinese. You can switch back to your native language to check your comprehension.
- LingQ: LingQ is a popular online learning system that helps you acquire new vocabulary through its reading interface. It’s free to sign up, though if you want to use it long-term you’ll need to opt for a paid plan.
- The Chairman’s Bao is an online reading resource with recent news articles organized by level. Read about current events and improve your Chinese!
- Skritter is a tool you can use to master Chinese characters and boost your reading skills in the language. Only the first week of using this app is free.
What Free Online Chinese Resources Will You Use?
It’s incredible how many excellent resources are available to learn Chinese at no cost online. And although I’ve featured 33 places you can learn Mandarin for free, I’m sure there are many more.
Want More? Check out Benny's favorite Chinese resources.