Free & Paid Chinese Courses

This page has 3 sections, here are jump links and a tally of available resources:

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Free Full Courses

ALISON is a free online education platform that mostly focuses on workplace-based skills. It was founded in Galway, Ireland by Irish social entrepreneur Mike Feerick on 21 April 2007.

It has 14 million registered learners, 2 million graduates and 1,500 courses available for free access in March 2020.

At last count, Alison offered 11 Chinese related courses.



Coursera was founded by two Standford University Professors to bring education to the masses.

While predominately a paid subscription site, many courses are available completely free.

Don’t get confused:    There is a different between a free class and “enrolling free.”  

A free class will have a yellow free emblem next to it in the search results.

“Enrolling free” just means you have review the course materials for 7 days and then you have to pay up.

Yearly subscriptions were $399 last I checked, not bad if you plan to take many courses throughout the year.  

Personally, I am considering the freebies.

iTunes U

iTunes U also allows anyone with an iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch to learn from a large collection of free education content in public courses from leading schools, universities, museums, and cultural institutions.

Many Chinese Course offerings are available completely free

Mandarin X

Mandarin X offers several free online Chinese courses.

These courses can be audited free or students can choose to receive a verified certificate for a fee.

The courses were developed with the assistance of Dr. Haohsiang Liao, Director of the Chinese Language Program at MIT.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s OCW makes the materials used in the teaching of MIT’s subjects available on the Web, including College level Mandarin Chinese.

What is provided that is useful:    A list of the books you must purchase and assignments so that you can “take” the course on your own.

What not to expect:  No audio or video course materials are included.  

Check the descriptions when you purchase the books, however, as some may come with audio discs or downloads.

Udemy is an online learning platform aimed at professional adults and students, developed in May 2010. As of Jan 2020, the platform has more than 50 million students and 57,000 instructors teaching courses in over 65 languages.

To find Free Chinese courses, first search for Chinese and then use the “filter” to select “free” under the price category.

Free Mini-Courses

Yes, that’s right the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) offer free Chinese courses.

There are a variety of offerings, including a Guide to Chinese, Chinese for Children, Video lessons, Games, Tone Game and more.

Check it out!

中文 for Travelers

This site provides useful phrases for travelers.

The phrases can be seen and heard.


Loecsen provides “survival” conversational Chinese (and other languages) for travelers.

Sentences are accompanied by sketch pictures to illustrate the situation where conversation happens.

They also offer a highly rated free app for Android and iOS.


Learn Mandarin offers free lessons based on HSK 1 – HSK 4.

Many topics for conversation are covered and some grammar points are explained.

Overall this is a very good free resource.


Speechling calls this content an “Audio Dictionary,” however a dictionary it is not.  It is most similar to a phrasebook.

First, choose from Simplified or Traditional characters.  

Then, dive into their list of common phrases and vocabulary based on parts of speech.

Entries include Chinese, English, Pinyin and audio in both male and female voices.

Standard Mandarin

If you are a beginner, this phrase and word list is awesome.

It touches on many topics from Greeting and Travel to Money and Dating.

Each entry provides the English, Pinyin and Audio.  

If you click on “View more details” under each entry, you can hear each character individually, view the Chinese and get the literal meaning.

Paid Courses

Chinese Class 101


At its core ChineseClass101 is a large collection of Mandarin lessons in the form of podcasts.

The podcasts are broken into seasons (called units in other programs), which are categorized by level.

Each lesson (“episode”) is 10-15 minutes long.

The app offers spaced repetition flashcards, a dictionary, a pinyin chart, word lists, and episode transcriptions.

On the plus side, it has a lot of features and is a lot cheaper than ChinesePod.

ChineseClass101 is good for the beginner to intermediate student.  Its lack of rigorous structure prevents it from being an intensive Chinese Course.

Their YouTube channel is excellent.

Pricing: $8/ month Basic to $25/ month for Premium.  The cost goes down if you commit to a longer subscription up front.



No one comes close to ChinesePod when it comes to the abundance of material on offer. There are over 4,000 lessons available across six difficulty levels, starting from complete beginner all the way to material for advanced learners.

You can check out their YouTube channel to get a feel for their content, or sign up and access 100 free lessons.

In general, each lesson contains:

  • An introduction
  • A dialogue (audio and text)
  • Dialogue explanation
  • Vocabulary review (audio and text)
  • Vocabulary expansion
  • Grammar explanation
  • Exercises

You can access the material online or via their mobile app.

Pricing: $14/ month for Basic or $29/ month for Premium.


FluentU promises language learning with real world videos.  

Many reviews claim that this format helps learners to figure out the structure of the language and grammar as opposed to rote memorization.

They offer apps for Android and iOS for learning on the go.

Pricing: $30/ month or $20/ month if you pay for 1 year upfront.  Current offer gives you 4 additional months if you chose the yearly plan.

Tutor Ming

TutorMing is an online Chinese school that offers classes 24 hours a day, with qualified teachers.

They do not cater to the occasional learner, nor are they cheap.  They offer class packages because “they want you to see results.”

I recommend their excellent curriculum for serious learners, who have a larger budget.

Yoyo Chinese

Love it!

Yoyo Chinese was my first “program” when I began learning Chinese so it is and will always be near and dear to my heart.

Although she is Chinese, Yangyang, gets learning Chinese from an English perspective. 

What I loved besides the course itself:  She tells you what to study everyday to keep you on track.

Pricing: She quit monthly fees some time ago and instead allows you to purchase courses so that you can learn at your own pace.  

Course prices vary, but Beginner Conversational is $129, you can also choose to buy levels for $29 rather than the full course at once.


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