The Best Chinese Learning Software: What to Look For
Learning Chinese requires perseverance, hard work, motivation, and daily practice. The best way to get daily practice is language immersion and being forced to speak Chinese in everyday life situations.
But is that really the only way to reach your goals?
The answer is simple: definitely not! Luckily, technological advances have given us the possibility to learn through great software tools that offer the students time, flexibility and an endless amount of information.
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Language learning software is a great innovation, but as with any other product, we have to know what to look for before jumping into Chinese learning software. By considering everything that is needed to learn a language quickly and effectively, it's possible to develop a list of the top characteristics needed for the ideal language learning software program. This list can help to be your "checklist" when it comes to finding the perfect language learning software. Let's take a look at them.
1. It's a structured Chinese course
No great achievement ever happens overnight, and learning Chinese is no different. In order to learn Chinese fast, you first need to make smart, realistic goals to help yourself organize your time and plan your studies.
Your Chinese language learning software should help you do this by allowing you to set measurable daily goals and track your progress. It should provide an easy-to-use structure that helps you to achieve SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-Bound) goals.
2. It keeps you motivated to learn Chinese
The more motivated you are to learn Chinese, the easier, more fun and faster it will be to learn it. Your language learning software should help you to stay motivated.
The best language learning software should be interactive, fun, engaging, and maybe even a little competitive to help keep you motivated. Ideally, it should include a way to connect with other learners (like a forum) to share in your language learning adventure.
Connecting and communicating with others is a great way to keep you motivated and accountable for your language learning progress. It's also very important that your software tracks your progress so you can see how far you've come and feel good about yourself. This will help to keep you motivated, dedicated and on the right track.
Connecting and communicating with others is a great way to keep us motivated and accountable for our language learning progress. It's also very important that your software tracks your progress so you can see your progress and feel good about yourself, which will help to keep you motivated, dedicated and on the right track.
3. It's goal-oriented
Learning Chinese is a never-ending task, so it’s essential to set goals from the very beginning so you don’t get frustrated and you can better measure your achievements. The ideal software should break down the process of studying Chinese into different levels so you always know where you're at.
4. It's an interactive Chinese course
One of the greatest contributions of computer-based learning is that you no longer need be in a classroom to interact and listen to other people speaking Chinese. The ideal Chinese learning software should provide you with a variety of engaging, interactive activities that help you improve your listening and speaking skills. A language-oriented forum or chat is also a great idea when it comes to encouraging students to interact and put what they’ve learned into practice.
5. It's personalized and adaptable to your needs
Every student is different. Learning Chinese is not the same for a native Czech speaker with other experience learning foreign languages as it is for a native English speaker who's new to the language learning scene. Also, a student whose goal is to travel to China with her family won’t need to study in the same way as a student who needs to focus on business-oriented Chinese.
Language learning software should adapt to any situation and give learners the possibility to manage their own learning process according their needs and learning styles. It should provide a wide variety of activities and promote flexibility to suit student's goals, mood, and energy level as they study.
6. It's a well-balanced course
The best Chinese learning software should help you to learn characters, vocabulary, sentence structure, and culture while listening, speaking, reading and writing.
None of these elements should be neglected, and there should be a balanced amount of each in your study program. Ideally, there should be voice recognition technology to help you practice speaking and your program should include interactive listening, reading, and writing lessons. Vocabulary should be presented in context and you should be able to study it with tools that allow for its repetition, such as flash cards or your own personalized online notebook.
It's amazing how many language learning programs avoid explaining grammar topics and neglect teaching culture, and I can't emphasize the importance of these two topics enough. The majority of language learners don't just want to memorize words and sentences, but want (and need) to know the grammatical rules to be able to form their own sentences.
Similarly, culture and language go hand-in-hand, and understanding the culture of a people can help you to better understand and appreciate their language. Make sure that your language learning software explains grammar and teaches culture.
7. It's very comprehensive
Quality is not an option when it comes to learning Chinese. Studying a language is a time-consuming and tricky process, and you should be able to take advantage of the best possible tools. That's why language learning software isn’t something you want to buy at the dollar store during your lunch break.
Make sure the program you choose is filled with audiovisual and written content and gives you all the necessary tools to succeed. When it comes to learning languages, it's worth investing a little extra to have high-quality materials that you can use for every aspect of the learning process.
8. It teaches you practical Chinese
Who wants to learn how to say “my tailor is rich” in Chinese? If we hardly ever say that in our native language, why should those be my first words in Chinese? Unfortunately, a lot of language learning software don't take into account the practicality of the vocabulary you're learning.
The best language learning software should teach the most practical words and structures first. Many studies have proven that we only need about 5% of the words present in a language to be able to interact in 95% of all situations, and the ideal language learning software would take advantage of this by helping you to reach fluency the practical way by learning the most practical and frequently used words, phrases and grammar first.
9. It goes from beginner to advanced Chinese
You won't be a Chinese beginner forever, and the ideal language learning software should include all levels according to a measurable scale, from beginner to advanced. It should also keep in mind that we all learn differently, and should cater to as many different learning styles as possible in order to accommodate every learning style. That means that lessons in all topics should include a variety of visual, audio, verbal, logical and even physical activities to help everyone to learn.
10. It's easy for you to access and use
Since the biggest advantage of Chinese learning software is the flexibility that it offers to the students regarding time and place, why not making the most of this fantastic benefit?
The perfect language learning program is one that you can access online from any computer, without the inconvenience of having to carry books or CDs. Also, the possibility of accessing some features from anywhere through a smartphone app is a really interesting and useful characteristic to look for in a software. That way, you can study anywhere and anytime you have a free moment.
11. The cost structure suits you
There are 2 common pricing structures with software:
- A recurring monthly subscription whereby you get access until you stop paying, much like Netflix, etc. This is known as Saas (software as a service).
- And, though less common these days, a one-off lump sum. If you do purchase something at a one-off price, then make sure that future upgrades are included. If you get a new device then you want to make sure that your software will work on it!
Now that you have a checklist for what look for in Chinese learning software, you only need to go online and find what it best fits you. But before spending time browsing through Google, don’t forget to take a look at the Rocket Languages Courses!
Lin Ping: Rocket Chinese