I'm interested in learning Chinese, and I know right now next to nothing about it, besides some basic words and phrases. I know Duolingo is a very trusted language learning platform, but I'm not completely sure if it's the best to begin to learn Chinese, given how complicated it seems to be. If it isn't the most prominent, are there any other language learning platforms you can recommend? Thanks.

  • 1
    Check out the resources page: chinese.stackexchange.com/questions/1120/… This site may also help get you started: hackingchinese.com Apr 26, 2023 at 18:20
  • You can use it, but there's no good reason to. It's clearly built for Indo-European languages and suffer quite a bit. You should follow the advice offered by others already to use Chinese-specific tools and resources. DuoLingo is ten times better for French than for Chinese (and then I noly think it's okay for French).
    – Olle Linge
    Jun 2, 2023 at 12:42
  • Whatever sites you go with, I suggest installing the "Perapera Chinese popup dictionary" (available on Chrome, probably on other browsers) or some similar browser extension. When enabled, hovering the cursor over a character will display the corresponding pinyin, classical and simplified forms, and English meanings. Jun 29, 2023 at 3:27

3 Answers 3


I don't recommend you to use Duolingo. I've enumerated the reasons for it.

  1. Pinyins are not put to the materials.

  2. Information of Chinese which you can learn per unit lesson(/time) is too small.

About the 1st reason, check the below image from Duolingo. You might feel frustrated when you encounter seeing Hanzi'es which you don't know corresponding pronunciations.

enter image description here

And about the 2nd reason, Duolingo provides courses with very low information density per course. One can definitely master Chinese using Duolingo because one must repeat the same contents again and again and again. But for me, it is too time-wasting.

The Alternative

At least regarding grammars of Chinese, I can recommend you using ChineseGrammarWiki

The below image is quoted from the page of CGW(ChineseGrammarWiki)

enter image description here

By the way, I've written javascript codes which enable searching of terms(this dict is used),pronouncing a sentence. As you can see below, 3 buttons are available by my work. Moreover I've written a code which automatically generate sets of re-ordering-terms problems of sentences which are used in CGW.

enter image description here


I wonder which Duolingo version is TG24 using, because I can turn on/off pinyin anytime. I use ver. 5.70 when there were "old trees" ;) Lessons grouped in themes and you can unlock many in the same time. Now it has form if a single path and you can't choose if you want to do e.g. "health" or "transportation" right now. In the left upper corner I have an icon for settings and I can turn pinyin pronunciations for all words or only for new words or disable it altogether.

It's true however that Duo doesn't provide many information about lessons. But it's how it is for all languages there. It's a game to memorise through listening and repeating, getting used to word order and phrases. Quite often though you can find explanations and even natives views in the comment section (unfortunately closed for over a year now).

Since the tones are completely new concept for me so I don't really dare to say they sometimes might be wrong, but I've had that feeling, rarely though. Also, sadly, Duolingo absolutely doesn't recognize the tones you are saying in the speaking excercises. Another thing is Duo won't teach you stroke order. To learn to write you have to take a paper and write down hanzi Duo throws at you (if necessary check somewhere else how to do it properly). Normaly I guess one starts to learn from simple hanzi to more intricate ones. Here their usefulness will matter more (or even smth else which I don't know...)

To summarize Chinese on Duolingo is... fun for me. But I don't have the goal to, for example, be able to speak in a few months. Learning hanzi is interesting for me. It's interesting how words are made in Chinese. Like "open" + "heart" means "happy". Also hearing for the first time kinda tongue-twister 坐出租车去 (zuò chūzū chē qù) on Duolingo plus in the whole sentence and feeling a little mind-blowing by that, but not long after being able to distinguish it and remember, feels great. Hearing excercises were never that hard XD Luckily it was long since I saw them. I was surprised that completing 2 units on Duo I recognize some hanzi in the subtitles watching a drama. I've thought it would require much more time and much more work. Since every course course on Duo is free I suggest to check for yourself, however if you're more seriously to learn the language and use it sooner-the-better it might be too little. But never know you might like it as an additional tool just at your fingertips.

Edit: I've also tried HelloChinese and it's looks really nice. Similar to Duolingo but it contains also writing exercises and speaking ones when you have to read whole dialogue. However you can only have whole access to the first bubble (which is "Hello") for free. In each next one an additional content "one step further" (which contains "teacher talk" and "speaking") is paid.


I would reccomend Hello Chinese if you like Duolingo as an alternative. It has the same concept as Duolingo but is made specifically for Chinese Mandarin. It is more customizable, between simplified or traditional, or only pinyin or no pinyin.

The main issue with duolingo is they make courses for dozens of languages, and they don't really alter the course across them. This means it doesnmt really work with languages like Chinese that are very different from English. So there will he more errors or awkward moments than you would expect. Even a lot of what you do learn is written like English rather than Chinese, which isn't very conducive to learning Chinese.

Also, its totally optional but if you were interested in the basic paid version it has by far the best listening and speaking practice I have seen for beginners. Note clearly the base app is completely free and fully unlocked to cover basic Chinese.

The Chinese grammar wiki another poster mentioned is an amazong resource to take advantage of, but it really isn't organized into lessons that build on each other. It's more of a source to look up specific grammar points one at a time :)

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