chinese

Lingualift


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    Lingualift is essentially the lovechild of the traditional textbook and the internet. It retains much of the structure and formatting you’ll find in a good textbook, while at the same time doing away with the pretentious wordiness and academic pretense that turns so many people off. You’ll find yourself drawn to using Lingualift because it feels like you have a cool teacher and textbook rolled all in one: although each language varies in the kind of tools it offers, all languages have very nice resources for building upon your vocabulary and grammar. It currently offers five languages (Japanese, Mandarin, Cantonese, French and Russian) under one subscription, which is a really nice deal considering what other web-based courses charge for only one language.

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ChineseSkill


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    This app is based on the already well known “skill tree” model that was popularized by Duolingo, and holds one more feature in common with it: it’s also absolutely free! Each module has between two and five short lessons, although rather than teaching the language through its theory, this app definitely aims to introduce the student in a more practical way, through spelling exercises with two different speeds, hanzi construction and English-Chinese translation work.

    One of the things I like the most about this app is that it is chock-full of extra features that can almost be seen as “easter eggs”. It backs up every sentence, word and Chinese character you’ve mistaken in such a way that you can simply go back to that section and review only what you’ve done poorly in, or even make them into flashcards; other features include an interactive pinyin board that one can tap to get all of the sound combinations of Mandarin Chinese, and a section to learn how to “hand write” hanzi. Pretty neat, if you ask me!

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Ninchanese


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  • Review


    Having started in 2015, Ninchanese is a recent entry to the language learning course world, but one that promises great things for Mandarin learners of all levels. Their gamified approach to learning Mandarin is quite different to the classical standards according to which Chinese is usually learnt: in Ninchanese, a whole level of Chinese aptitude is structured as in an RPG adventure. In order to advance, you clear mini-missions one by one, collecting vocabulary and testing your abilities in each of these sections, and, ultimately “becoming a dragon”. The story is amusing, and its characters and world simple but attractive and well designed. As if it wasn’t enough, Ninchanese also features a separate “Challenge” section through which you can challenge any other member (random, or from your friend list) of the Ninchanese community to a knowledge test; whomever knows more Chinese characters wins.

    I was lucky enough to interview Ninchanese’s co-founder, Sarah Aberman, on the ocassion of a crowdfunding event Ninchanese held in June 2015, and I got some very interesting replies as to why Ninchanese is a necessary new approach to learning Chinese.

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Pleco


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  • Review


    Talking about Pleco without gushing is quite difficult because there are very few dictionary apps that offer as much as Pleco does without charging an outrage. Although Pleco does offer paid updates, its base version (that one can download without paying) is still more useful than other paper AND online dictionaries that do carry a considerable price tag… which means that Pleco’s updates are VERY much worth their price.

    Pleco has so many features that it’s impossible to cover them all, but you can read more about it in my review of it.

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