6 Apps for Foreigners to Practice Chinese as a Native Speaker

Are you a foreigner in China for years?

Are you still struggling to understand your Chinese partners when they speak Chinese?

Are you confident in your language potential and willing to deny English as your only way to communicate with people around in China?

It will be most of foreigners’ aching need to master Chinese quickly and efficiently so as to save them from the embarrassment in communication when they have their business thriving in China. To communicate in Chinese fluently and naturally as the Chinese do, you need to get yourself exposed to Chinese materials, in oral or written forms, as frequently as possible. Here are the six APPS that may help you spending your highly efficient learning hours with adequate access to Chinese vocabulary, videos, articles, listening materials, etc.

1. Ximalaya


I bet you would like to have an app like the podcast which you could listen to on your way home, during your breakfast, and before bed, which may be deemed as the fragment of time when one could make the most of to learn a second language. And it would be better if bilingual materials are available, too. There you go, take Ximalaya with you and you will be shocked by the various choice provided, which makes it the popular FM platform among over 400 million Chinese.

Start from the bilingual ones. Search the learning materials and programs catering for Chinese who would like to learn English. They are with related interpretation in Chinese and English at the same time, so you can have a better understanding of the difference and similarity between them both while listening. Chose the short one with steady and slow pace to develop your confidence in Chinese listening, the one concerning daily and simple topics and topics you are fond of to develop your interest on it, and the one with script then it may be possible for you to check the Chinese meaning you have been missing after several rounds of repetition.

Don’t be too anxious to start. This is an APP for Chinese who would like to make their hours trapped in the traffic jam count, so it is a real challenge to non-Chinese native speakers. Just try to immerse yourself in the listening environment to be familiar with how Chinese is pronounced, how the tones sound, and how the meaning is conveyed. It will be a great thrill if you happen to find that certain wording from your clients is exactly applied in the program you are following. One of the tips to learn a language is to make it relevant to your life, and that’s what this APP could have for you.

Don’t be too shy to follow the repeat the voice. Ximalaya is not only about listening, it has something to do with your spoken Chinese if you want it. Listen to a certain program (the recording one available for replay instead of the live broadcast) as much as possible, then pause it and echo each sentence you have heard. This is how children learn to speak. They imitate the pronunciation before they know what it means.

Don’t get confused by various choices. Focusing on 10 or 20 channels is enough and you’d better choose those available for updates within weeks, so you will not find that you are jumping from channel to channel without even finishing the first 5 episodes from a single host.


2. Pleco



Wonder where you could get a Chinese- English dictionary friendly to foreigner like you? Think about what a foreigner need to know when he is going to understand a Chinese character well. It is a combination of pronunciation, written form and meaning that guarantee a whole picture of Chinese. Pleco marks the pronunciation of each characters, words and expressions and even the whole sentences with Pinyin, so you could practicing reading it aloud, and by reading it aloud, you are building connection between the Chinese pronunciation and the English meaning you are referring to. Written forms both traditional and simplified are well covered in Pleco, so you are not confused if someone tries to convey the same meaning but written in traditional Chinese to you who has access to simplified Chinese daily.

It makes 3 ways to look up Chinese in a dictionary possible beside copying and pasting of the targeted character. It will be easy to copy the Chinese word known to Google translator but what about you see it on a picture? Will you going to surrender if it is not available for copy at all? Pleco will save you a lot of trouble, and you could just refer to any Chinese character the way a Chinese does. The first way is to check it via pronunciation. Type the Pinyin and choose the right character. But most of the case we know neither the meaning nor the pronunciation, and it leads to the other two ways, by radical or by handwriting. Chinese students will find the radical of a character then locate the specific character when it comes to paperbound dictionary. And you could do the same in Pleco by choosing the right radical, and then find the related character by knowing the rest quantity of the strokes it takes to complete the whole character. What if you fail to figure out the radical? Simply draw the character on the screen with the origin given is OK.

With the assistance of Pleco, it is possible for a foreigner to refer to a dictionary like a native, and it strengthens your familiarity to the character during your process of search. The connection between you and the Chinese unknown is more than copying.


3. Wechat


Wechat is becoming popular nowadays, and you probably have one out there at the urgent request of your Chinese friend. But the last thing you may know about it is that you can improve your Chinese with it. The trick lies in the followings.

Know who to follow

Even if Wechat is originally developed for instant communication, it makes articles posting possible. There are various official accounts for people with different preferences. Ask what you like most about Chinese culture and search the Chinese key word to locate the account suitable. There will be related accounts recommended in the article posted in a certain account, and you may stretch your attention to anything potentially worth your efforts. Ask yourself are you a dog person, automotive insider, or a fans for photography. Then you may have more key words to get to accounts with contents covering the things attractive to you. The Chinese official account for the brand you like, the news from CNN, BCC, etc with Chinese translation, some bilingual materials Chinese students follow to learn English may be ideal options for you. There are some mini programs designed concerning Chinese learning, not only the ones for foreigners but also those for Chinese children. Try them to see if they fit for your demand, and you are putting yourself among abundant Chinese or bilingual materials during your search.

Know what to post

You may find that most of your contacts have their moments updated and you can may comments friendly to invite more communication. Moreover, you could post your own. Try to write your own Chinese sentence and check it with online translator. Then put the corresponding English below to make it possible to spot your mistake when they come to your English version. Online translator is not 100% accurate so your expression in Chinese will potentially be with mistakes even if you reconcile it with what you get from Google. However, you need to be rationally comfortable with the existence of it, since you could have full energy focusing on making things right once you accept that it is imperfect and needs to be fixed. So do be shy to post something wrong in Chinese with a modest and open minded request to your friends expert in Chinese to point out the mistakes or polish it for you, especially when they have a more native way to put it in Chinese. Make sure what you post is brief and positive to encourage more interaction.

Know how to practice

If Ximalaya is about improvement in listening and spoken Chinese, Wechat will be a boost for your Chinese reading and writing skills. Download a translator with the function where you could select a sentence or phrase to get the translation of it, with Youdao dictionary recommended here. So you could check if you have understood it in the right way. Read the bilingual articles and compare what you comprehend based on your judgment and the original text, and the mistake you make and differences concerned will be the points you need to focus on later. Wechat has build-in translator applicable to texting, so you can ask your friends to text you in Chinese, then you get to know the meaning with the help of translator then reply.


4. Kindle


If you like reading and have Kindle as your reader, you are connecting yourself with another amazing APP to practice Chinese. Get your shelf equipped with books in English version or Chinese version, and download the build-in translators, one for Chinese-English, and one for English-Chinese, so you could click to know the Chinese meaning of an English word and check the meaning of a Chinese character strange to you during reading.


5. Linkedin


For business people with limited time for Wechat instant communication, Linkedin may suit you better especially when you want something professional and occupation oriented to read. Search the key world concerning certain industry in Chinese, and you may get articles related, and follow the persons or organizations that keep posting things alike. You could have a glance of the comment below to find the one with good insight and what they may focus on to broaden your horizon. Set the location as China and focus on the foreigners like you with English name and a Chinese name in bracket, which reflects their being closely connected with business in Chinese and their deep sense of acceptance in China. And you may find that these people connect tightly with each other, and they have most of their posts edited in Chinese. Therefore, you may find it helpful to Chinese learning by making yourself part of that circle.


6. TikTok


Similar to Youtube, but with mini duration limited into one or two minutes, TikTok provides a great deal of videos published by ordinary people like you and me. It is difficult to pick up those available and appropriate for foreigners since some of them are speedy in pace of speaking, and with wording unfamiliar for non-native speakers to understand, but still possible. Mind the following details and you make get it right.

Choose those videos with Chinese titles and slow in pace. Make sure that Mandarin, the official standard accent in Chinese pronunciation, is spoken in the videos. Start with videos teaching English so you could have both English and Chinese for reference. Videos showing how to do certain things in daily life step by step are preferred, since it is personal related and could easily be understood by just watching the image, making it possible to focus on the pronunciation without struggling about the meaning.

Have these six APPS in your cellphone to have a better understanding about Chinese language via knowing what’s hot in China. It will be an efficient and effective practice in Chinese by covering it in your daily routines like watching videos, listening to podcast and searching info.

2 Responses

  1. Nanning's Old Zhang says:

    don’t worry about language problem in China, if you have a European face, there will be a lot of people eager to say hi to you and help you selflessly.

  2. macky lasmu says:

    I am an English teacher soon to come and teach in China and i have heard of Ximalaya to practise my Chinese. I will check out the rest, thanks.

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