So you've decided to take a huge step and learn Chinese Mandarin. You can't wait to get your feet wet in the language, but you also might be unsure where to start (I certainly was when I started learning a foreign language).
Some where along the line you heard about Babbel. The online course/app has more than one million users across the world, and is an effective way to learn the basic but most vital parts of a foreign language.
There's just one problem...
Babbel doesn't offer a course for Chinese.
Why Doesn't Babbel offer a course for Chinese?
Chinese Mandarin is difficult to learn and to teach
To make a long story short Mandarin differs greatly from the English language. Mandarin is a tonal language. This means that the inflection you give a word (literally the tone of your voice) changes the meaning of that word.
Also, Chinese grammar differs widely from English (though not as bad as some other Asian languages like Japanese). Not mention the Chinese writing system uses characters instead of an alphabet.
Some language learning companies cut corners when making a course for Chinese
Many a language learning company has taken a successful Spanish or French course, and stuck a "learn Chinese" sticker on top. Unfortunately though, a course that teaches Spanish well doesn't necessarily teach Chinese well.
Chinese is a unique language far removed from English and the Romance languages. It deserves a language course all its own.
3 Alternatives to Babbel for Chinese
Perhaps the day will come when the folks behind the Babbel courses craft an effective and affordable course to help us learn Chinese. Until then here are few comparable courses to help you learn Chinese:
Rocket Chinese is built around recorded audio in the form of dialogues. The dialogues have English explanations and usually teach the language in "chunks" or phrases versus individual words (this is great for conversational Chinese).
The course also features a separate category of lessons (called language and culture lessons), which focus on teaching grammar via example phrases.
When used together these two lesson types do a great job of helping you learn practical vocabulary and essential grammar at the same time.
Chineseclass101 is one of the more popular Mandarin courses on the web. It's lessons are audio based and come in the form of podcasts.
While not quite as structured as other courses, the lessons are effective and engaging. It's also cheaper than Babbel with a basic monthly subscription for $8.
Italki is an online market place that connects language learners and language teachers.
The site allows you to book individual language lessons with a teacher over Skype. There are over 300 professional teachers and informal tutors for Chinese on Italki
*Use this link to purchase a minimum of $20 (US) of Italki credits and receive an extra $10 free! (Bonus added after completion of 1st lesson)