21 November, 2015

What Is The Best Way To Learn Mandarin?

It is commonly thought that it is impossible to learn Chinese without going to China or moving to China Town. This statement is partially true. To achieve stable, good results, it would be great to know Chinese history, its philosophy and traditions. Chinese people have their particular way of thinking. If you adopt it, the learning process will run more smoothly.

However, thanks to the technology progress, distance is no longer a factor in learning Mandarin Chinese. Over the last decade, the web has exploded with online schools, useful applications and software that make learning Mandarin Chinese fun and convenient.

Learning offline 

Learning in China (Immersion programs)


  • If you study Mandarin Chinese in China, you definitely learn much about its amazing culture. Most schools (like, for example, Hanbridge Mandarin School), providing on-site lessons, also host periodic social activities to offer additional opportunities for students to practice.
Hotpot Dinner Party in Hanbridge Mandarin School

  • Since you are surrounded by native speakers, you can speak and listen as much as you want. 

The advantages of immersion programs are summarized in the well-known proverb:
"Tell me, and I’ll forget. Show me, and I’ll remember. Involve me, and I’ll understand."


  • Going abroad specially for learning Mandarin is time-consuming.
  • Immersion programs may be expensive. 

Local tutors & Courses taught in your native language 

Although acquiring language skills from Chinese native speaker may be faster, some students still prefer to be taught in their mother tongue.


  • Though being controversial, this method has been the most popular way of learning foreign languages for years. 
  • Teachers, who speak the student’s native language, can tell if problems arise from understanding the course content. They can use this language to explain further.


  • Local Chinese language schools are concentrated in big cities. However, there is huge lack of them in smaller towns. Finding a good Chinese tutor may be a problem, too. 
  • Although you don’t get some advantages of immersion programs (like exploring China and its culture), local language courses are still rather expensive.
  • You may need to waste time on transportation!

Learning online

Online schools

There is a vast majority of online schools where you can be taught by native speakers from a comfort of your home.


  • Online schools normally provide a flexible schedule. You can book a class at any time slot.
  • Schools provide a substitute teacher if your primary teacher is on leave.
  • No costs on transportation!
  • Online schools are pioneers and innovators. While most online schools (like TouchChinese, Global Mandarin, etc.), still use Skype and similar instant messaging tools, there are some that go ahead and offer their own learning platforms. For example, Hanbridge Mandarin School lets you not only to communicate with your teacher but also to share video and audio content quickly. It is possible to practice writing skills on a built-in e-whiteboard. Moreover, you can save your lesson’s video, teacher’s materials and notes made in chat as a file on your computer.

  • Some schools, like ChineseTime School, provide extra online learning tools, including a very useful app for practicing writing skills.   
  • You can’t check your teacher’s qualification by yourself but be sure that all big online schools pay much attention to their teachers’ education. Saying, Hanbridge Mandarin School accepts only teachers who have rich teaching experience, at least Bachelor's degree and standard pronunciation. They also host TTT (Train the Trainer) program and ongoing training seminars on weekly basis, which guarantees teachers' professionalism. 


  • You should be able to maintain stable Internet connection. If there are technical issues, you may not enjoy your learning session. 
  • Several years ago, learning in an online school was definitely cheaper than attending your local language school. Nowadays, this is only true if you buy a 6-months or 1-year package of lessons. 
  • Sometimes, price policy is not transparent enough. 

Online Tutor


  • If you don’t want to buy a long-term package of lessons, finding an individual tutor may be less expensive.
  • If you are unhappy with your current teacher, it is easier to switch him. 
  • You can take either regular lessons or instant tutoring sessions from teachers who are currently online. 


  • You can’t check your teacher’s qualification. The web directories, where tutors promote their services, have certain requirements and tend to accept only qualified teachers. However, they are usually less experienced in teacher’s evaluation than online schools with a specialization in teaching a certain language.
  • Schedule is less flexible than in online schools. One teacher can’t provide classes for 24 hours / 7 days per week.
  • You need to find a substitute teacher by yourself. If your primary teacher is absent for some reasons (e. g., illness, travel) nobody provides you a substitute. 
  • Direct payments to your teacher may be less safe than dealing with a local tutor or an online school. No one can guarantee there is no fraud. If you pay to your teacher via a website like VerbalPlanet, commissions may be applied.

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