When you're learning a foreign language few things are more powerful than learning words, phrases, and grammar in context.
Seeing words in context will allow you to reinforce the vocabulary you already know, while providing you with clues to the meaning of the words you don't. Your memory will benefit from trying to infer the meaning of a word versus simply just looking it up.
Context also helps you see grammar in action. It's one thing to read about a specific rule or usage in a textbook, it's a whole another thing to see it used with real language.
With all the advantages of contextual learning, you'd think that there would be a ton of apps or programs which allow you to read or listen to a text, supply you with correct translations, and let you dive into a foreign language independently.
Unfortunately though, that's simply not the case. There's countless apps with an array of horns and whistles, but if you're looking for a straightforward and practical way to engage with a foreign language your choices are limited.
However, students of Chinese are a bit more fortunate than other language learners.
There is at least one highly effective, highly practical, and easy to use Chinese learning app that lets you engage with Mandarin in a way that is natural and helpful to your studies: Du Chinese
Today we're reviewing Du Chinese, and taking a closer look at just what makes it so awesome.
A user's review of Du Chinese
What is Du Chinese?
Du Chinese is an app that allows you to study Chinese via written text and dialogues.
Each lesson is a written Chinese text. Du Chinese gives you the option of clicking on a word or phrase to see it's English translation, and also provides accompanying audio so that you can hear how everything is pronounced.
The lessons are sorted by six different difficulty levels, which include: newbie, elementary, intermediate, upper intermediate, advanced, and master.
A closer look at how Du Chinese works
Test and review features
Du Chinese also features a test feature. Anytime while you're reading a text you can click on a word to save it to your word list. Later on you can go to the "words" section of the app and take a test of the words from your list.
This test feature functions as a digital flashcard system. You are shown a character and required to remember it's meaning. There's audio so that you can hear the actual Chinese word. You also have the option of seeing the word used in a sentence.
There's also a spaced repetition element to the test, in that words you forgot will automatically show up more often.
While there's a decent amount of free content available on the app, to get the most out of Du Chinese you'll want to consider a premium subscription.
Month subscriptions are available in 3 different options.
What I love about Du Chinese
No nonsense design
There aren't really any bells and whistles, when it comes to Du Chinese...and I love it.
It's so refreshing to experience a language learning app that simply lets you engage with the language.
There's no superfluous design elements, no unnecessary mini games or tedious tasks, and none of the unhelpful bonus features found on so many other apps.
Where other apps try to dazzle users with smoke and mirrors, Du Chinese cuts to the chase and gives you what you need to improve your Chinese...no more and no less.
It's sparse and straightforward design allow Du Chinese to be an extremely practical way to improve your proficiency in Mandarin.
Great for vocabulary
Working with Chinese words in the context of longer sentences and texts, helps you retain and understand new vocabulary. One of the main reasons Du Chinese is a powerful tool is because it exposes you to a large collection of dialogues centered around different topics.
At the lower levels these topics are usually situational, which is great for new learners as it helps them leave practical phrases they can use in similar real life situations.
At the higher levels, the content on Du Chinese takes you well past predictable day to day interactions. As an advanced student you engage with a large collection of historical, cultural, and reflective topics that will stretch your skills of expression.
Great for sentence structure
Another huge strength of the app is that it helps you internalize Chinese sentence structure. With consistent practice you will be able to understand and use more complex sentence structures.
This is an all important skill when learning Chinese and is vital to fluency.
Solid content across all levels
We've already mentioned it before, but Du Chinese also has a large breadth of content spread across all levels, ranging from complete newbie up to the highest levels of Chinese proficiency.
This is a rarity among language learning apps and courses, as most simply cater to the larger beginner's market and neglect students who already have a foundational knowledge in a foreign language.
Not so with Du Chinese. This app has a wealth of useful content for the beginner and advanced student alike.
Easily switch between simplified and traditional characters
More often than not Chinese learning resources are offered only in simplified characters. It can be hard to find an app or course that lets you practice with traditional characters, let alone one which gives you the option to switch between the two.
Du Chinese gives you that option, and it's awesome!
What other peoples day about Du Chinese
We're not the only ones who love the simplicity and effectives of Du Chinese. Check out what others have to say about the app:
"Du Chinese is one of the best resources for learning Chinese. This app will help you to improve your Chinese reading skills, as well as listening comprehension. There are articles across six different levels – from beginner to master. The design of this app is absurdly good, making it exceptionally easy to use. The biggest weakness is that new content isn’t added frequently enough."
Nick Dahlhoff // AllLanguageResources.com
"Du Chinese is an excellent mobile app for learning Chinese. The app developers believe that, through this immersive method, the learner will absorb the vocabulary, sentence construction, and general way of speaking the language.
...make no mistake, the Du Chinese app is worth it. If one can master all the “Lessons”, one is guaranteed to have advanced one`s Chinese language ability by a huge leap."
Kenneth Yu // DigMandarin.com
Alternatives to Du Chinese
From $4+ per month
15+ minutes a day
Chineseclass101 features audio lessons in a podcast format. Lessons are great for grammar and vocabulary. Each lesson is designed around a Chinese conversation between native speakers, and the teachers do a great job of keeping things engaging.
Chineseclass101 a substantial learning tool (it's also much cheaper too). The site features transcripts, an in-site flashcard system, and many other useful features.
Starts at $15 per month
5+ minutes a day
Fluentu is a site that helps you learn a language through native videos. Use in site flashcards, captions, and games to learn new words in context while watching Chinese TV shows, movies, commercials, and more. It's a great way to push your listening skills and vocabulary.
If you're looking for a Chinese learning app that will help increase your vocabulary, master sentence structures, and improve your grammar, then you need not look further than Du Chinese.
There's plenty of free content on the app. If you're unsure about whether it's right for you, I recommend downloading the app and working with some of the free content.
Best of luck on your Chinese learning journey!