YouTube has a wealth of resources for those who want to learn Chinese free. In this article, I want to share with you the best YouTube channels to follow or binge for those looking to learn Chinese online free.
You can practically learn anything by watching YouTube. So why not use YouTube as a tool for learning Chinese?
It’s not only a great idea, but it’s also a means to learn Mandarin for free. The only downside is that there are hundreds of professional YouTubers with channels teaching Chinese.
So I’ve done all the hard work for you in spending many hours watching multiple channels to come up with the 7 best YouTube channels for learning Chinese in 2020.
Use this table to contents to help you easily navigate to each linked YouTube Channel in this article.
- Mandarin MadeEZ
- eChinese Learning
- Everyday Chinese
- Lantern Institute
- Viki Rakuten
1. Mandarin MadeEZ by ChinesePod: Best Overall
Mandarin MadeEZ is a YouTube channel I’ve been following for years and it’s hands down the best channel out there for Chinese learners of all levels.
Here are the key things I love about Mandarin MadeEZ:
- There is a series available for each type of learner from those looking to simply learn traveler’s Chinese to students serious about becoming fluent speakers.
- Each series also has a specific them like how to say things right in Chinese and as well as how to use specific vocabulary.
- The folks behind this channel have also been producing content for many years. So there’s tons of free learning content for everyone to enjoy.
- Videos are interactive. They encourage you to speak the content making watching Mandarin MadeEZ an active learning experience.
- Being owned by ChinesePod, the producers have stepped-up the production value by investing lots of money into each video. So you never feel bored when watching Mandarin MadeEZ.
Practical is another way that I’d describe the channel. There’s nothing on Mandarin MadeEZ that is not worth learning. I think you will agree after watching the sample video I’ve shared below on their teaching format:
Oh and don’t forget that when watching this channel, there are often links below each video that allow you to download the vocabulary to help you follow along.
2. Skritter: Entertaining and Practical
If you’re already a Chinese learner, you’ve likely heard about Skritter, which is a great tool for learning to read and write Chinese characters. In the past year, the makers behind Skritter have also been hard at work in producing their new YouTube channel and it’s also among my favorite resources for learning Chinese online free.
Where Skritter’s YouTube channel stands out is on its production value. Their hosts are fun to watch and are great teachers. The editing is also top in class. There’s often a foreign co-host on the show that is there to help teach and also learn with you as you watch.
As a non-native Chinese speaker, the foreign co-host makes grammar or pronunciation mistakes here and there.
What I really like about this, and the producers are not at all shy in showing these mistakes in blooper format, is that it’s both funny and instructive. After being made aware of the co-host’s mistake, I’m now more careful not to make the same mistake myself.
You can see examples of that approach yourself by watching this video on Chinese taxi language below:
Other things I love about Skritter’s YouTube channel include:
- Much of the channel is cultural. In addition to Chinese language, you can learn lots of fun facts about China and its culture from the available videos.
- Videos are well thought out and creative. They aren’t like many YouTube channels just trying to post as much content as they can to maximize ad revenue.
- Idioms, Idioms, Idioms! Chinese learners looking to learn Chinese chengyu or colloquial sayings can learn a ton from this channel. If you are interested in learning more about Chinese Idioms, check this article out.
- Those who have Skritter accounts can benefit from the channel’s Skritter study sessions where you can learn how to better use the app or see other co-learners and their strategies for learning Chinese characters.
Lastly, the channel is still pretty new. I’m already impressed with how far they’ve come in just a year and I imagine in the coming few years the channel will have a content library that rivals Mandarin MadeEZ in usefulness and entertainment value for language learners.
3. PeggyTeachesChinese: For Chinese Immersion
One thing I value most in a Chinese teacher is the ability to reduce the amount of English in the classroom. When being taught new concepts with Chinese as a language of instruction, you can learn so much faster.
Peggy from PeggyTeachesChinese does a great job at this and she uses English only when it is absolutely necessary. Newbies will also really benefit from this teaching method and she has plenty of content at the most basic level to start from.
She also uses great body language in her content especially in calling out the tones as she speaks.
Another thing that is worth mentioning is for each word or sentence introduced, the simplified and traditional characters are shown on screen in addition to the pinyin to help you learn.
I’ve shared an example from her “Street Mandarin” series that I think best exhibits her teaching style. FYI if you’re a beginner, don’t get too intimidated by this video as I think this one is particularly geared toward intermediate speakers.
Peggy has been active in teaching Chinese on YouTube for over 10 years. So not only is she a seasoned teacher, but when watching her earliest content, you can tell that her videos have gotten so much better over the years in terms of production value.
If you really like her channel, you can also subscribe to her patreon service for exclusive content.
4. eChineseLearning: Silly but Really Effective
If you watch any content from eChineseLearning, you’ll likely be tempted to hit your back-button within seconds after each video starts. Each video looks like something straight out of the 1980s and the acting is pretty silly.
But there’s a reason why eChineseLearning has 110,000 subscribers and 674 videos, which is more than any other channel I’m writing about here. The format of each video is structured in a way where you are always bound to learn something.
Take this video for example. The instructor is not trying to bombard you with tons of content and focuses solely on a specific list of vocabulary words. He starts by introducing the word, then gives an example sentence with the word and repeats the sentence in English, just so you don’t get lost.
Then at the end, there is a quiz where the instructor acts out a situation and you’re supposed to use the appropriate vocabulary word to describe the dialogue.
In short, they rely on old school teaching mechanics where you rinse and repeat the material introduced in the lesson to help you remember each word and how to use it.
The good news is the silly acting actually grows on you as the video goes on making each lesson a fun experience.
Some more good news is eChinese learning also offers online tutoring with native speakers in China, which we’ve previously reviewed on our website. If you like their format on their YouTube channel, you can sign-up for a free class to determine if learning Chinese is something you’re willing to pay for.
5. Everyday Chinese: For those needing something slow
One of the most frustrating things with language learning is when you listen to content where the speakers talk way too fast and can’t understand anything.
For learners that often feel this way, I suggest watching Everyday Chinese. What I like about their channel is they realize that many learners need a resource where native speakers talk slowly instead of speaking at a million miles per hour.
Their “Slow Chinese Listening & Reading Practice” is my personal favorite series on their channel and is likely to be really helpful to intermediate and advanced learners alike.
This is especially the case if you want something to listen to that is only in Chinese, but spoken slow enough to where you can learn new concepts and use them in your own speaking.
There is also plenty of content available on Everyday Chinese for beginners as well. If you’re just starting to learn Chinese, I’d check out their introduction to pinyin series to learn Chinese pronunciation.
From there, you can watch their “Learn Mandarin Chinese for Beginners in 101 Days” series, which covers most of the basics needed in everyday conversation.
While the content is a bit dry and boring in comparison to other channels like Mandarin MadeEZ and Skritter, their teaching style is super easy to follow making getting started much easier.
6. Lantern Institute: Best for Beginners
As a fluent speaker in Mandarin, many people often ask me how I came so far in my Chinese. Well, so much of it was because I had incredible teachers to show me the basics.
That’s why I’m recommending the Lantern Institute for you to check out. The teachers on this channel were all my personal instructors at the University of Colorado, which has arguably one of the best Chinese programs in the country.
Additionally, this channel is perfect for those who are just starting out. One thing that scares most people away from learning Chinese is just learning how to pronounce its vocabulary.
What I remember best about my teachers when learning Chinese is that they were able to get me from a point from not knowing how to pronounce anything to saying things pretty confidently super quick.
Luckily for you, you also don’t need to enroll at the University of Colorado to learn like I did. You can simply watch the Lantern Institute videos like the one I shared below:
The major downside to the Lantern Institute channel is that the instructors behind it are no longer able to post new content. However, while content is a bit dated and limited, it’s still unmatched in overall quality.
7. VIKI Rakuten: For Advanced Learners
Once you become an advanced speaker, it becomes so much harder to find good content to help you improve your Chinese to a level of fluency and beyond. But luckily I have a few tips for you should you want to continue mastering Mandarin.
Overall I’d say each channel I’ve recommended above has plenty to offer for advanced speakers. Even when watching intermediate content, I’m able to learn something I didn’t know before or remember a concept I had long forgotten.
Plus intermediate videos are now so much easier to watch and understand than they were before making reviewing old concepts much more fun and valuable for improving your Chinese.
But if you’re still in need of a challenge, perhaps it’s time to start watching content made for native speakers.
Luckily there’s plenty of Chinese TV to watch on YouTube and it’s all in Chinese with Chinese subtitles. Sometimes, you’ll see some shows with English subtitles, but generally speaking, you won’t have any English crutches as you stream content.
The only downside to YouTube, is apart from CCTV, I have yet to find any channels that aggregate Chinese TV shows within a single channel. Usually you have to search by each show’s name, which requires knowing what you want to watch beforehand.
As an alternative to YouTube, I’d download VIKI Rakuten onto your phone, tablet, or TV. VIKI Rakuten functions similar to Netflix where you can browse for want you want to watch.
I’ve also only used the free version, which already has plenty of Chinese TV content to choose from. An additional bonus is you can also use VIKI Rakuten to also stream Taiwanese, Korean, Japanese and other Asian content with English subtitles.
So get ready for plenty of binge watching should you download VIKI Rakuten!
Final Thoughts: Learn Chinese Online Free
YouTube is such a great tool to learn Chinese free of charge. Whenever folks tell me that they are interested in learning Chinese, I always tell them that they are learning at such a great time.
When I first started learning Chinese 10 years ago, smartphones and online content were just starting to take off and no one knew about their potential. Nowadays there are so many great tools for learning Chinese that complement your traditional textbook and YouTube is among the top mediums out there.
I hope you enjoy watching some of these channels and let us know if any others that should have been mentioned in the comments below!