What is the best app for learning Chinese? For Chinese learners looking for tools to learn Mandarin, you might have run into an app called NinChanese.
Weird name, I know…but what in the world is NinChanese? Below I review NinChanese and how it compares to the top tools for learning Chinese like Skritter, ChinesePod, and the Chairman’s Bao.
Luckily for Chinese learners like you and me, there are plenty of apps to help us improve our Mandarin. But most apps out there are either solely focused on a single topic like reading, character memorization, etc. or are just downright not useful.
It’s a big task for one app or language learning program to take on all the different facets of language learning at once (vocabulary, grammar, listening, speaking, reading, etc.). There are many that have tried and I would say only a small handful that have succeeded.
NinChanese claims to be able to help you do all of that and I recently put these claims to the test. Is Ninchanese one of the top tools for learning Chinese in 2020 and how does it compare with other great learning tools?
Features of NinChanese | Learning Chinese in 2020
Let’s start with what you can expect when using NinChanese. Overall, the developers behind NinChanese argue that traditional methods of learning Chinese kill your motivation and make you think that learning Mandarin is too hard.
For anybody who has seriously studied Chinese before, you might be nodding your head in agreement.
To fix this, they’ve decided to use a “gamified learning platform” to make learning Chinese addictive and fun. Each “world” in the game is based on the HSK curriculum 1-5 and you follow a character narrative of a dragon named “Nincha” growing up learning Chinese.
Additionally, the software is structured to where you can do all the following:
- Vocabulary: Learn new vocabulary based on the HSK level.
- Grammar: Get introduced to Chinese grammar points required to pass the HSK through instruction and sentence building.
- Pronunciation: Practice pronunciation by reading passages out loud with a voice-recognition system to judge you.
- Listening: Improve your listening by typing the sentences you hear in Chinese characters
Honestly, I have been pleasantly surprised by NinChanese. It’s a bold claim to say you can hit on all of these key elements of language learning – not to mention trying to make it “fun”. And yet…it is!
You can do all this within a single app/website, which leads me to no other conclusion than to rank NinChanese as one of my favorite new tools for learning Chinese in 2020. Rather than having to bounce from app to app should you want to practice different skills, with NinChanese you almost have an “all in one shop” type tool for learning Chinese.
Their explanations and exercises on grammar are also well presented and a primary highlight when trying NinChanese.
Bonus NinChanese Discount Code
NinChanese vs Other Chinese Learning Tools
So how does NinChanese compare to the other apps I recommend for learning Chinese?
In short, it’s hard to make comparisons as NinChanese allows you to practice many skills whereas other apps tend to focus on a single skill area. However, as these tools aren’t free, I’m going to do my best in making comparisons to help you decide if you should subscribe to NinChanese or choose something else.
NinChanese vs. Skritter
Let’s start with Skritter, a smart flashcard app geared to help you recognize and write new Chinese characters. When doing the vocabulary exercises on NinChanese, it felt so much like Skritter as NinChanese also uses a learning algorithm to help you memorize through spaced repetition.
The key difference is that on NinChanese you are only required to type in the meaning or pinyin of each word, whereas on Skritter you select the meaning, pinyin, tone, and practice the stroke order of the character as part of your practice
Although I do like how you are not given any hints when entering the definition and pinyin in NinChanese, Skritter clearly wins here as it has so much more functionality for learning characters and vocabulary.
Skritter Discount Code
NinChanese vs. ChinesePod
ChinesePod is probably the most used and popular tool for learning Chinese out there. So how does NinChanese compare as an underdog against ChinesePod, which currently dominates the market and has one of the most popular Chinese podcasts available?
Here I think NinChanese made a smart decision to not go head to head in competing against ChinesePod and goes about improving listening in a more traditional way.
Whereas ChinesePod follows a podcast format that you can listen to on the go, with NinChanese you type each character you hear within a sentence.
It’s a form of “active listening” that you don’t get with a podcast, which is easy to just listen to on a jog and completely forget what you’ve just heard. When you’re forced to act upon what you’ve heard in the moment, you’re more likely to remember it.
While I’m a huge fan of ChinesePod and think it’s incredibly useful for improving your overall listening ability, the NinChanese method also has merit. It is more focused on active participation through typing what you hear, forcing a better memory of the word or phrase.
NinChanese vs. the Chairman’s Bao
The Chairman’s Bao is another popular favorite among Chinese learners where you can improve your reading through a news-based graded reader. I’ll keep things short by saying that the Chairman’s Bao is far better than NinChanese for reading Chinese.
While NinChanese does have dialogues within its curriculum, they are verbal passages and not geared toward reading comprehension. The Chairman’s Bao is the direct opposite and publishes 1,600+ HSK graded reading passages each year.
Winner: No Comparison
So hold on to your Chairman’s Bao subscription (or whatever reading app or graded reader you use) if you are a current subscriber or check them out if you are looking to improve your reading in Chinese.
Is NinChanese a Good Fit for You?
Now having shared with you how NinChanese compares to other best apps for learning Chinese, let’s determine how NinChanese might fit into our language learning process. Having thoroughly tried the app, I can confidently recommend NinChanese assuming that you:
- Have taken at least taken beginning Chinese. NinChanese is not a substitute for classroom instruction and I think everyone should at least take an introduction to Chinese course or learn basic Mandarin from an online Chinese tutor.
- Want to take any level of the HSK Chinese Proficiency Test.
- Looking to study everything from vocabulary, grammar, listening, and speaking all within one app.
- Comfortable using the app on a desktop or laptop device. NinChanese doesn’t have a dedicated mobile app. It only has a downloadable app for Android devices and the iOS app is available through Safari. I didn’t find the iOS online app optimized for mobile and preferred running the app on my laptop. This was a big negative for me and a place where NinChanese could improve drastically.
You can also make use of the free trial they have available to see for yourself whether their method of learning is good for you or anybody else you know who might want to learn Chinese.
Pricing is also pretty in-line with what you would expect and you can pay a monthly subscription for as low as $10, a half-year subscription for $54, or purchase annually for $96. This is certainly cheaper than ChinesePod or Skritter and pretty much the same price as The Chairman’s Bao.
NinChanese Discount Code
Final Verdict: NinChanese Top Tool for Learning Chinese?
I do think it has earned its place as a top tool for learning Chinese. The developers behind the software have created a comprehensive way for you to improve your vocabulary, grammar, reading, and speaking within a single tool.
Each lesson also successfully ties together the vocabulary introduced in each following learning activity (e.g. listening portion, reading portion, etc.) so you can easily master the material and are less likely to forget it later on.
While I personally found the narrative introduction before each exercise somewhat annoying and wanted to dive right into the instructional content (I am 30 years old after all and not all too into games anymore), I can certainly see younger learners getting into the story and taking the narrative aspect as a means of motivating them to go through the curriculum.
However, before you subscribe, know that NinChanese has much room for improvement such as launching an app on Apple mobile devices. The dialogue in the speaking exercises also doesn’t provide the atmosphere of real conversation and I feel like I am mimicking a robot instead of a native speaker.
However as it stands, NinChanese is a great complement to other top tools for learning Chinese.
What are your thoughts? Have you used NinChanese before? Leave a comment below to let us know.