The 11 Best Online Chinese Courses for 2022

We have tested the available online courses for learning Chinese – these are our recommendations.

E-student.org is supported by our community of learners. When you visit links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission.

#1 Online Chinese Course for 2022:
Rocket Chinese

Price

$99.95-259.90 (lifetime access)
Free trial available

With 100+ million users and real scientific research backing the platform, Busuu is our 2022 pick over the other online Japanese classes on this list.

Course Instructor(s)

Rocket Languages

Course Duration

156-451 hours (depending on package)

Platform Rating

4.6 / 5

Share
Key Points
  • There are 1.3+ billion Chinese native speakers worldwide, dwarfing the 460 million Spanish speakers or 379 million English speakers.
  • Mandarin Chinese is by far the most common variant – including non-native speakers, Mandarin is spoken by more than 1.1 billion people.
  • Audio courses are particularly important when getting started in Chinese.
  • Use Ankispaced repetition, and active recall to optimize your Chinese vocabulary building.

Why should anyone invest time and money to learn Chinese Chinese online? The answer to this is rather simple. This language has (reports vary) approximately 1.31 billion speakers. Chinese is, by some considerable distance, the most widely spoken language in the world. Even if you are not planning on visiting or doing business in Mainland China, the language is also commonly spoken in, for example, Singapore, Malaysia, and Thailand.

It is next to impossible to overstate the importance of Chinese culture and economy in modern times. Being able to communicate in Chinese can be immensely valuable from a business or career perspective – and even more so as it is considered a difficult language, discouraging many from even trying to learn it. It is no wonder, then, that Mark Zuckerberg held a 22-minute speech in Beijing in Mandarin (although it does not seem to have swayed the authorities to stop blocking Facebook in the country).

Apart from the practical benefits of learning Chinese, it is a very rewarding language from a cultural, as well as a neurological perspective. You see, Chinese written words are more like iconographic characters rather than letters. The implications? Learning and speaking Chinese will keep both sides of your brain engaged.

Whatever your reasons for studying Chinese, learning via an online course is the most cost-effective way of getting results. Luckily, there are a plethora of great online Chinese courses available for learners of all levels. Whether you want to become completely fluent, or just want to learn to converse at a basic level, there is a suitable course on this list.

Without further ado, these are the best online Chinese courses.

Best Chinese Courses

Best overall: Rocket Chinese (Rocket Languages)

The front page of Rocket Chinese (Rocket Languages)
Pros

  • Offers a 60-day full refund
  • Great customer support
  • Best-in-class balance of writing, listening, and speaking exercises

Cons

  • The lessons can get somewhat repetitive

With more than 1,200,000 registered users, Rocket Languages is one of the most successful online language learning platforms. Their language courses have become well-known for having a superb balance between speaking, grammar, listening, and writing exercises. Plus, their customer support is in a league of its own. It should be mentioned, however, that there are quite a few spammy affiliate promoters out there that have given the brand a bit of a bad name with their quite unserious ads – but the behavior of their affiliate partners should not detract from the quality of the courses. 

Let’s take a look at the program in greater detail. Rocket Chinese offers courses for learners of three different skill levels. The total duration of these three levels is 451 hours – so there is plenty of content to chew on. Chinese suffers from a lack of comprehensive courses online, despite the vast number of speakers of the language, but Rocket Chinese is one of the main exceptions. It is also, in our view, the best structured Chinese course available.

Each of the three levels comes with interactive audio lessons, Hanzi writing tutorials, a mobile app for on-the-go learning, and a voice recognition system for mastering your Chinese pronunciation. Plus, you will also have lessons on the finer points of Chinese culture. In a nutshell, Rocket Chinese comes with everything essential for learning Chinese effectively. Our main complaint is that while the included exercises are very helpful for reinforcing the points covered in the lessons, they can feel a bit repetitive after a while.

We couldn’t possibly finish writing about Rocket Languages without mentioning their superb customer service. We’ve found that if you should run into any issues with the service or the program, Rocket Languages will go out of their way to help you.

Thankfully, Rocket Languages has resisted the trend to move to a subscription model. Instead of adding yet another monthly charge to your credit card, you get lifetime access to the courses, including all improvements and updates to the courses. The course content has been almost completely revamped over the past few years, greatly improving on the earlier version of this course – so if you tried this previously, it might be worth it to give it another chance.

With that in mind, by far the best value is to buy all three levels from the outset, as you can come back to them for years to come – but you can also buy the courses one level at a time. And, as a cherry on top of the cake, the program comes with the possibility of requesting a no-questions-asked refund within 60 days after the purchase, so you have the opportunity to test it out fully in your own time before committing.

Best Audio-Based Course: Pimsleur Chinese (Mandarin)

Pimsleur logo
Pros

  • The course uses a unique, audio-based, scientifically proven method for teaching Chinese
  • 7-day free trial available
  • Great for improving both pronunciation and listening comprehension
  • Accessible on the go

Cons

  • Does not teach writing Chinese characters

The Pimsleur Method has been around for 50 years, but it is getting a bit of a renaissance as of late through the online Pimsleur courses. The Pimsleur Method was named after Dr. Paul Pimsleur, a legendary foreign language professor at UCLA and Ohio State.) It is a methodology of learning that balances modern neurobiology with more traditional language learning practices. The result is a fluid style of learning that is entirely intuitive and effortless. The Pimsleur Method effectively recruits your brain to “fill in the gaps” and make you grasp the language instead of forcing you to chew through dry grammar rules and vocabulary.

If you come from a different language background that is not tonal (which is the case for most Western languages), learning Mandarin using the Pimsleur Method can be a great choice. In this Chinese class, you will intuitively learn to communicate in Mandarin and read pinyin. Plus, you will get an understanding of Chinese characters. A complete package for someone serious about learning Mandarin.

All in all, the effectiveness of the Pimsleur Method makes this one of the best online Chinese courses for moving from zero to an intermediate-level speaker. 

The Pimsleur method is not for everyone – but chances are that you will see much more rapid progress in understanding and speaking Chinese than with other methods. We would recommend that you simply try it out – Pimsleur offers a free 7-day trial.

Best University-Led Course: Learn Mandarin Chinese Specialization (Coursera x Shanghai Jiao Tong University)

The front page of Learn Mandarin Chinese Specialization (Shanghai Jiao Tong University and Coursera)
Pros

  • The course ends with completing a capstone project
  • Tailored to assist in passing the HSK
  • Highly comprehensive 6-month syllabus
  • Beginner-friendly

Cons

  • Less relevant if not aiming to pass the HSK

The “Learn Mandarin” specialization from Coursera and Shanghai Jiao Tong University is a beginner-friendly Mandarin learning program that will take approximately six months to finish, provided that you put in a minimum of four hours of studying per week. This Mandarin class comes with four courses in total and will take total beginners from zero to a fundamental capability of oral Chinese.

The specialization is specifically designed to aid learners in passing the HSK (the official proficiency test of the Chinese language) level 1 or 2.

These courses will help you build your Mandarin skills with video lessons, interactive exercises, short plays, and even cultural tips. Having a fundamental understanding of Chinese culture, by the way, is integral for learning this language effectively.

By far the greatest strength of this Coursera class is the inclusion of a capstone project. The entire fourth course is dedicated to throwing the learners into simulated real-life scenarios in which they will have to communicate in Chinese. This last course also comes with practical tips on taking and passing the HSK.

All in all, “Learn Mandarin” is one of the best Chinese courses for students who prefer a detailed, highly structured, and practical method of learning. Plus, tips for studying for the HSK are invaluable for students looking to get a formal certificate of their Chinese skills.

Best for Bite-Sized Learning: Busuu Chinese

The front page of Busuu Chinese
Pros

  • Great price-quality ratio
  • Offers a personalized study plan
  • Possibility of getting feedback from native Chinese speakers

Cons

  • The lessons can feel a bit dry at times

If you are a frequent visitor to E-student, Busuu might ring a familiar bell to you. In our evaluation of the best online Japanese courses, the class from Busuu came out on top. In our review, we cited a 2016 study on the capabilities of the Busuu app. According to the study, 22,5 hours of work with Busuu equals an entire college semester of language studies. Astonishing, isn’t it?

There are several benefits to using Busuu for learning Chinese. For one, you can forget about the hassle of organizing your studies. The app uses a system that lets you set how long and when you want to study Chinese. Once you have set your schedule, Busuu organizes the content, timing, and depth of your studies.

Another highlight is the ability to communicate with native Chinese speakers via the Busuu community. Consistent communication with native speakers is one of the keys to becoming fluent in a new language. And, Busuu clearly knows this, which is why they emphasize the interactive aspect of all their courses.

To summarize, the benefits of using Busuu for learning Chinese are plentiful. It is among the best online Chinese courses for a learner who wants to get fluent yet doesn’t have the luxury of spending hours learning daily. Here, the language learning process is entirely automated. As long as you put in a little effort daily, you will be surprised at how far you can progress with Busuu. Plus, although it is only available on a subscription model, the program is much cheaper than many of its competitors.

Best for Beginners: Chinese for Beginners (Coursera x Peking University)

Front page of Chinese for Beginners (Peking University and Coursera)
Pros

  • Excellent option for complete beginners
  • Led by one of the top universities in the world
  • A highly engaging and well-articulated instructor
  • A balanced syllabus that covers speaking, grammar, and writing
  • Possible to enroll for free (to audit the course)

Cons

  • Limited in scope (but a great starting point)

Chinese for Beginners” from Coursera is offered by Peking University, a university consistently named as one of the leading academic institutions in China and the world.

Do not let the prestige of Peking University scare you away. Coursera’s “Chinese for beginners” is one of the best online Chinese classes for complete beginners. The class comes without any prerequisites. So, feel free to enter without any prior understanding of Chinese characters and culture.

The syllabus itself takes 22 hours to finish in full. Admittedly, the duration is rather short. But, you will be surprised to see how much progress you can make with a well-qualified and engaging instructor like Xiaoyu Liu, an associate professor at Peking University. 

By the end of the class, you will be able to have basic conversations in Chinese. You will easily be able to introduce yourself and your background. Also, you will learn how to communicate with natives in client-customer scenarios such as in restaurants, shops, and public transportation. The class even comes with a few tips on negotiating in Chinese. If you have ever visited a Chinese street market, you know how essential skillful bargaining is in this culture.

Simply put, for a complete beginner of Chinese, this is the best online Chinese course available. It is engaging, concise, and very easy to follow. Plus, it will get you to a conversational level much faster than most online Chinese courses.

Best for Learning in English: Yoyo Chinese

Front page of Yoyo Chinese website
Pros

  • Chinese lessons tailored specifically for English speakers
  • Led by a very engaging tutor
  • Contains lessons for all skill levels

Cons

  • Instruction relies heavily on English
  • Not upfront about cost structure

Next up, we are looking at Yoyo Chinese, an online Chinese language education company. The program was founded by Yangyang Cheng. Cheng is a former adjunct professor, a TV host, and a private Mandarin tutor to many Hollywood A-listers and Fortune 500 CEOs. As of 2021, the official YouTube of Yoyo Chinese is the most viewed Chinese learning channel on the platform.

But, let’s take a more detailed look at what Yoyo Chinese offers. The company has various deals available for advanced, intermediate, and beginner-level learners of Mandarin. The pricing structure is not available until you sign up, but at the time of writing, subscription (to all courses) is $29/month, $149/6 months or $249/year. Lifetime access to everything is $399.

Assuming you are starting from zero and learning for 30 minutes each day, you can expect to finish a Yoyo Chinese course in 6 months.  Note that if you are dissatisfied with any aspect of your learning experience, contact Yoyo Chinese within 15 days of the purchase, you will be eligible for a refund.

The lessons are engaging and the videos have a high production value – the TV/YouTube background of the instructor clearly shows. However, the instructor does rely more heavily on English than most other courses – but this can be a positive or negative depending on your preferences.

Good Alternative: ChineseClass101​

ChineseClass101 front page
Pros

  • Personalized feedback at a cheap price
  • Great courses for beginners

Cons

  • Advanced Chinese learners might find most of the lessons redundant

Next up, we are looking at ChineseClass101, another Chinese class best suited for beginners. Admittedly, my first impression of this Chinese program was negative. But while the general feel and look of the website do not give the best impression, having actually tested their Chinese program, I was pleasantly surprised. In fact, at this price point, it is one of the best online Chinese courses out there.

So, what does the $10 (for Premium) or $23 (for Premium Plus) per month ChineseClass101 membership offer? You get 345+ hours of audio and video lessons, quizzes, a learning app, and spaced repetition flashcards. Everything you need to know Chinese at least at a conversational level. With the more expensive plan, you also get access to “1-on-1 Learning” with a Chinese teacher – while this is in no way a replacement for private classes, I found that the support I received when testing this feature out was very welcome, giving a personal touch to the program that is otherwise often lacking when studying languages from home.

There are a few downsides, though. In my opinion, the progression of the classes is not streamlined very well. Often, you have to figure out which lesson to take by yourself, which can be a tad overwhelming.

Also, this is a class clearly intended for beginners. Intermediate and advanced level learners will likely find ChineseClass101 redundant.

For a beginner though, this is a solid class to move to an intermediate level.

Best for Casual Learners: Rosetta Stone Chinese

Website of Rosetta Stone Chinese
Pros

  • A well-designed mobile app
  • Great for intuitive and visual learners
  • Great for moving to a conversational level

Cons

  • Very basic material
  • Little focus on reading and writing

If you have any experience with online language learning, you have probably heard of Rosetta Stone. Despite some criticism from academic linguists, the general public still seems to embrace the platform. And, as of 2022, they are still one of the leading online language learning platforms.

Rosetta Stone uses a method of teaching called Dynamic Immersion. That is, the lessons are not translation-based. Instead, learners will build their skills via methodical repetitions. Rosetta Stone will progressively expose you to different ways of how Mandarin words, characters, and pronunciations work in different contexts. This methodology is not as complex as it sounds. In fact, for an intuitive learner, this is among the best online Chinese courses out there.

Rosetta Stone also deserves a special mention for a very well-designed mobile app. The extremely user-friendly interface of the app makes it the preferred Chinese course for on-the-go learning.

There is a downside, though.

As with most Rosetta Stone programs, the platform is not ideal for people looking to master a language from top to bottom. This is the case with their Chinese program as well. While it is great for moving to a conversational level, the program lacks in teaching reading and writing in-depth.

Best Video Content: FluentU Chinese

Front page of FluentU Chinese website
Pros

  • Comes with a massive amount of content
  • Great for independent learners
  • Experience culture and stay motivated through real videos

Cons

  • Lack of coherent structure

The FluentU Chinese course is a bit different from your average online Chinese course.

For one, the lessons are entirely video-based. You have a massive catalog of high-quality Mandarin Chinese video content. All of the content is carefully categorized by difficulty level, topics, and format. They come from a variety of sources, including many produced by FluentU (of varying quality), but overall provide the learner with a substantial degree of immersion into real Chinese culture.

How does the learning process work? Well, each video comes with the possibility of closely replaying every word used, bilingual subtitles, and an in-video dictionary. You also have a built-in loop button to replay certain segments of a video for repeating certain phrases and words.

But, as you know, repeated viewing itself will only get you so far. To make sure you constantly progress, all the videos come with quizzes. Plus, the platform has a fully automated spaced repetition flashcard system.

FluentU keeps track of your viewing and learning history. And, when it’s time to review your progress, FluentU will notify you.

For intermediate and advanced level speakers of Mandarin Chinese, it is a great option. The sheer amount of high-quality content offers a great opportunity to immerse with the real-world version of the Mandarin Chinese language in different contexts. However, for people taking their first-ever Mandarin Chinese course, the loose structure of the FluentU lessons might be a bit overwhelming.

Most Comprehensive Course: Mandarin Blueprint

Mandarin Blueprint front page on website
Pros

  • Constantly updated course
  • Led by very engaging and knowledgeable instructors
  • Very comprehensive syllabus
  • Their own mnemonic system for learning Chinese characters
  • Free 14-day trial available

Cons

  • Somewhat expensive
  • No native speaker teachers

Next up, we have Mandarin Blueprint, a comprehensive Chinese course for beginners and intermediate level learners alike. Mandarin Blueprint is a massive course made up of 4,200 lessons that cover around 94% written and spoken Mandarin. Despite the comprehensiveness, this Chinese class would suit beginners very well, as the curriculum follows a step-by-step structure. Plus, it is easily one of the most engaging Chinese online classes available.

This is due to the great instructors of Mandarin Blueprint, Luke Neale and Phil Crimmins. Although not native speakers, both men have dedicated their professional careers to teaching Mandarin as efficiently as possible. With years of trial-and-error, the men have put together a Chinese class that will suit all people of all backgrounds and skill levels. This includes their own unique mnemonic system for learning Chinese characters, based on building associations with specific props and other parts of movies. So, for people who say they are bad at languages, the gauntlet has been thrown. Mandarin Blueprint promises to get people speaking and writing Mandarin in only a few weeks.

Mandarin Blueprint would also be the a good choice for an online Chinese course for people who value personal tutorship. The teachers go out of their way to make sure that every client gets direct and constant feedback on their efforts.

Unfortunately, the all-around effectiveness and the personalized aspect of the course also reflects in the price, as Mandarin Blueprint does belong to a higher price category compared to most Chinese courses on this list.

Luckily, they have a large number of free resources and they have a free 14-day trial available on their site. So, feel free to test the teaching style of Mandarin Blueprint out and see whether you like the content and the teaching style of the tutors.

Best for Learning from Repetition: Glossika Chinese

Pros

  • Offers two distinct paths for learning depending on your priorities
  • Cheap monthly/annual subscription for learning other languages besides Chinese
  • Great for people used to traditional methods of language learning

Cons

  • Difficult to keep up motivation with the repetitive format

The idea behind this online Chinese course from Glossika is simple. Repetition, repetition, repetition. Glossika has likened learning a new language to a workout. You can think of one sentence as a one bench press. You keep up the work over a period of time and you will be reaping the benefits soon enough.

But, let’s take a look at this Mandarin course in greater detail. Glossika is a bit different than most online Chinese courses, as it uses two different freely choosable modes for teaching Chinese. These are the full practice mode (which consists of features like typing, listening, and dictation) and the listening-only mode. The full practice mode would suit learners who want to master both written and spoken forms of Mandarin. For casual conversational level, the listening-only mode would suffice.

All in all, Glossika would be a great online Chinese course for people who value a traditional way of learning languages. There is no gamification, no video lessons, and the learning process is mostly about raw sentence learning. Still, the class is well put together and effective, thus deserving a spot on our list of best online Chinese courses.