English is often seen as a lingua franca, but if you want to stand out from a competitive job market, learning Mandarin and being able to speak it fluently can make you attractive to prospective employers. According to a study by language learning app Babbel, Chinese is among the most spoken languages in the world, with 1.3 billion native speakers. In comparison, in second place, is Spanish with 460 million speakers.
The opportunity to use your skills in China, the world’s second-largest economy that is drawing foreign investment and interest in doing business in the country, makes it a promising reason to learn the language. Mandarin is not only spoken in China but also in Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan and Hong Kong, among other countries.
China, home to some of the world’s top universities, which include Tsinghua University, Peking University and Fudan University — all ranked in the top 100 of the recent Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2021 — adds another reason to learn Mandarin. Tough as it is, it’s a mandatory requirement if you’re planning to enrol in a Mandarin-medium course in the country. Even if you’re planning to join an English-medium course, it would still be wholly valuable to know how to converse with the locals.
Now that you know all the reasons that make Mandarin a promising language to study, are there ways to learn it on your own? The answer is yes — here are some apps worth exploring:
HelloChinese is an app that helps you pick up all aspects of Mandarin, from reading and writing, from speaking to vocabulary and grammar, to help you gain a conversational level of expertise. One review notes that it claims to teach learners over 1,000 words, 320 characters and 235 grammar points.
Duolingo can help you learn Mandarin via its bite-sized lessons. The app has flashcards and multiple-choice questions that make learning enjoyable. You’ll immediately see which answers you get right or wrong, while the app also lets you keep score with your friends, which can motivate you to continue learning and beat their score.
What’s it like to speak Mandarin the way it’s spoken in Beijing? Memrise’s Simplified Chinese courses will help you achieve that. The app aims to help you learn real-life words and phrases, adapting lessons to individual needs to help you learn faster. They also offer thousands of naturally-voiced audio and video clips for you to watch, listen, and learn from real locals, according its website.
Do you plan to study at a top Chinese university? Or are you merely looking for a tool that will help you measure your proficiency level, help you with your travels, or with your work with a Chinese enterprise? HSK Online will help you attain it. The app uses artificial intelligence to recommend exercises based on each user’s personal strengths and weaknesses.
Skritter lets you write characters in your browser and get real-time grading. Its website notes that students can learn from hundreds of textbooks and user lists, or even make their own. The app also gives learners immediate stroke-level feedback which helps you review hard characters more often.