Chinese|June 15, 2011 7:37 am

3 Questions to Ask Before Buying a Chinese Language Learning Program

So, you want to learn Chinese online. Great! There are lots of cool programs to choose from. Unfortunately, there’s also a lot of junk thrown into the mix. There are also programs that may good for some but not so good for others, including you. So, how do you weave your way through the mess and find the program that’s right for you? This post is going to tell you exactly what to look for in an online Chinese language learning program.

Question 1: Does it offer a Free Trial?

This is pretty straightforward, but it’s important. Never purchase a program that doesn’t offer a free trial. All reputable programs have them. Cut out the junk by disregarding any who don’t! Plus, to get the information I am going to talk about below, you need to get inside the actual program.

Question 2: Does it Cover the 4 Core Language Learning Components?

A good Chinese language learning program will cover each of the four core language learning components, which are reading, writing, listening, and speaking.  Even if your main goal is to speak the language, you can’t neglect the other three components. Why? Because together they greatly improve the quality of your learning. For example, it would very difficult to learn how to pronounce Chinese tones if you didn’t first learn to read pinyin.

Learning to write? That’s a great way to master Chinese grammar, which is something you’ll need to know if you want to speak in a fluent and natural way. Perhaps most importantly, your brain learns in different ways, and if you stick to just one learning style, you will become fatigued—and bored. If you mix things up, on the other hand, you’ll stay fresh, and you’ll retain the information you’ve learned much better.

Why have I made this point? Because I have seen, lately, a flood of new web-based programs that focus, almost exclusively, on audio programs. It’s Podcast this and Podcast that all over the freaking place! Don’t get me wrong. The audio component of any online Chinese language learning system is the bread and butter of the program, so it’s fine that companies focus on it. Before putting your hard-earned money on the table, though, make sure you’re getting a complete program, one that offers reading, writing, listening, and speaking instruction, not just a bunch of MP3 audio files.

Question 3: What’s the Price Structure?

There is something that drives me absolutely crazy, and it will drive you crazy too—tiered pricing. I found a program like this just the other day. It was a subscription-based program that was just a few dollars per month. Pretty reasonable, it seemed. But then I logged into the classroom and found that I could access only the audio programs. I was blocked when I tried to download the dialogues. I was denied when I tried to access the learning games. The door was slammed in my face when I tried to enter the forum.

Those things were only for “Premium Members.” Well, some of those things, anyway. Other things were open only to “Gold Members.”  To access the full course, I learned, you had to pay $25 per month, or $400 a year (if you didn’t pay annually the price was higher). That’s absurd! The best language learning software programs on the market can be purchased outright for about a hundred bucks. Am I saying to avoid all subscription-based services that have tiered pricing? No, but here is what I am saying.  When looking at these programs, look only at the most expensive option. That is the only one you can use. All other options are just teasers.

Choosing the right Chinese language learning program is important. Choose a good one and you’ll have a successful learning experience. Choose a bad one, and you’ll wind up cursing the day you decided to learn this language! To ensure that you don’t wind up “cursing the day,” take advantage of free trials,get a program that covers the four core language components, and be suspicious of tiered pricing schemes.

Want a product recommendation? You got it. Just check out my Rocket Chinese Review.



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