Teaching Yourself Chinese Through the Internet: Honourable Mentions

In this series, taken from the Computers in Classrooms newsletter, Adrienne Blaser has been evaluating websites designed to help people learn Mandarin. In this final article she lists other sites which are worth exploring.



http://www.mangolanguages.com/ -- check your local library to see if they are registered




http://www.nciku.com/ --- this site is a great dictionary Chinese to English and English to Chinese -- helpful for extra studying

Adrienne Blaser is 14 years old. She plays tennis, the violin and loves to read. She one day hopes to learn many languages, hopefully one being Chinese, which she is currently teaching herself.

If you have enjoyed reading this series, please leave a note for Adrienne to that effect. Thanks!

The other articles in the series 

Teaching Yourself Chinese Through the Internet - LiveMocha

Teaching Yourself Chinese Through the Internet: ChinesePod

Teaching Yourself Chinese Through the Internet: Zon


Teaching Yourself Chinese Through the Internet: Zon

In this series, Adrienne Blaser has been evaluating some websites for teaching yourself the language.


My final choice for one of my favourite Mandarin Chinese learning sites is extremely different from those previously looked at. Zon, is an educational learning site made for kids in school. As in a virtual community, you make your own avatar arriving as a tourist in “China”, with only the bare essentials.

When you are still a tourist you learn about Chinese myths and legends. From there you must navigate your way through the airport (that is just as painful as the one in reality) and to a hotel. Along the way you meet other people who may be just like you, having a hard time understanding how to get out, to experts working at their job. As you progress through the site you learn about Chinese language, customs, and even how to separate currency. Although it may take you days, eventually your avatar will be promoted to Resident or even Citizen where you can buy a car, rent an apartment, or own a business.

Basically, it’s like you are living on the other side of the world without your parents, while sitting in front of your computer at home. Zon isn’t only used at home, many schools use Zon for students to learn about Chinese language and culture in a fun and educational way. This site explains how to navigate through the game, and once you read how, the way is clear. There is a news blog that keeps you updated on changes and problems going on, and the community forum helps build friendships and answer questions. The animation showed real architecture from China and it truly felt like you were there.

I think that this site is really important for younger kids learning Chinese because when you’re young, sitting down and listening or having to concentrate really hard isn’t exciting or motivating. But working towards a goal like buying your first car is. Some improvement could be that the how-to is explained as you go along in case getting lost becomes a reality.

Web address: http://enterzon.com/

Rating: 4

Adrienne Blaser is 14 years old. She plays tennis, the violin and loves to read. She one day hopes to learn many languages, hopefully one being Chinese, which she is currently teaching herself.

This article first appeared in Computers in Classrooms.

Teaching Yourself Chinese Through the Internet: ChinesePod

Schoolgirl Adrienne Blaser continues her series on teaching yourself Chinese, in which she reviews relevant websites. Yesterday she reviewed LiveMocha.

Another distinct site for learning Mandarin Chinese is ChinesePod. This site is more based on individual study because of its many podcasts. Personally, I find podcasts to be an extreme help in learning. The great thing about podcasts is that they go where you want to go and you don’t need internet access to do it.

ChinesePod has a variety of levels, ranging from Newbie, to Advanced. You can sign up for the level you think suitable and download the lessons of your choice. Most of these podcasts include conversations, in which helpful teachers like Jenny and John explain what individual words mean and how they are put together. Since most people can’t just learn by ear, each podcast comes with the dialogue from the lesson and notes, which includes pinyin, character, English meaning, and extra vocabulary.

Back on the website ChinesePoders can join a study group, like Chinese short texts, or watch a video channel like Pinyin Program for more practice.

Even though I love the thought of podcasts I wish that Chinese pod had a little more on their website, like follow up lessons or more grammar. They do have a glossary section and grammar guide with a pinyin chart, to help with pronunciation. On ChinesePod there is a conversation help thread where you can talk to your fellow learners and ask questions. Overall on this site there is minimal advertising and everything is basically clear and uncluttered. ChinesePod does cost money after your first seven day trial. The Basic plan with free podcasts costs $9 a month, but I remember when everything was free on ChinesePod. The highest plan, which includes ten minutes daily phone conversation with a teacher, customized study plan, and a personal needs analysis, cost a whopping $199. ChinesePod still has a way to go until I pay nine dollars a month, but I am still loving the podcasts from my seven day trial, which are very helpful. For the beginner, ChinesePod is more a site for picking up phrases in a conversation being able to understand it and respond correctly than starting from scratch and learning proper writing grammar.

Web address: http://chinesepod.com

Rating: 4

Adrienne Blaser is 14 years old. She plays tennis, the violin and loves to read. She one day hopes to learn many languages, hopefully one being Chinese, which she is currently teaching herself.

Teaching Yourself Chinese Through the Internet

We are all aware that the “sleeping dragon” has awoken, and that in the foreseeable future people and businesses will have much more interaction with their Chinese counterparts. It will then be sensible – perhaps even necessary – for Mandarin to be one of the Modern Languages studied in school. In the meantime, over the next few days Adrienne Blaser evaluates some websites for teaching yourself the language. These reviews were originally published in Computers in Classrooms.

With various parts of the world changing, language has become a vital exchange between cultures. Bilingualism, the ability to speak two languages, is becoming a common trend. Although many say that Mandarin Chinese is a difficult language, truly the biggest challenge is finding the right place to learn. Since there are so many great sites out there to learn Mandarin, picking the select few was definitely a challenge.


Livemocha has become one of my quick favourites as a free site unless you decide to buy one of their Travel Crash Courses.

When you first come onto the site, its warm coffee colours greet you. Livemocha is simple, clear, and without advertisement for other sites or products. What makes this site special is that it doesn’t just teach you one language; it’s a site for multiples such as Japanese, Korean, English, Spanish, and Portuguese and each having at least a 101 (beginner) and 102 (intermediate) program. Not only are they brain testers, but each course consists of 3 units with 5 or 6 lesson in each unit. That might sound easy, but in a single lesson you must learn phrases, including the pinyin (pinyin is the name for the system that makes it possible to read and write Mandarin Chinese without characters, by using the Roman alphabet), characters, proper pronunciation, and the English meanings, review them, write them, and then speak them.

Speak you say? Yes, this site expects you to practice speaking, by recording it on your computer microphone, then putting it out to the Livemocha public for reviewing. Sure, it might seem like no big deal but once you get a bad review about your tones, you go right back to the lesson to review each sentence, and then do it again.

What truly helps besides seeing the language in its different forms is the pictures. Each phrase has a picture, or in some cases pictures with bubbles to show who is speaking. I find that overall this site is for those starting from scratch who don’t want to be babied and plan to work diligently to learn their selected language. It takes lots of time and hard work because really this is like a college course, you don’t start out from numbers and colours, instead you start from nouns and go to negatives.  

Adrienne explained what this meant, in an email to me. Unfortunately I was unable to reproduce the Chinese characters in HTML, so I have taken a screenshot of her explanation instead:


For each lesson besides the required exercises, there are optional exercises for even more practice. In case you’re still looking for options to study, you can make your own flashcards or use ones made by others. Livemocha also offers chatting between language learners, with a handy dandy translator conveniently located on the side. Making friends comes with learning a new language, cultures are blended and bonds are made. I don’t know if I’ll ever meet any of my friends face to face but I can still say that I have friends that live across the world.

This site takes all the methods of learning and puts them together in a manageable way, and I know they are still expanding their site. The opportunity to teach is planned to be going to be available soon. Not only will future teachers be able to practice but they could earn credits or money. Although you must be invited to become a Livemocha teacher, consistently leaving instructive reviews or making helpful flashcard sets boost your teaching score and increase your chances.

Web address: http://www.livemocha.com/

Rating: 5

Adrienne Blaser is 14 years old. She plays tennis, the violin and loves to read. She one day hopes to learn many languages, hopefully one being Chinese, which she is currently teaching herself.