Learning Mandarin for Free Online

China is on the upswing politically and economically. According to Goldman Sachs, China's economy may outsize every other economy (except that of the U.S.) by 2016, and it could even surpass the American economy by 2039. Given this, the hottest language being studied right now by business travelers is Mandarin (see this New York Times piece). And, in my work at Stanford, we're seeing a very sharp increase in young and old students enrolling in Mandarin courses (and other China-focused courses), for both personal and professional reasons.

Learning Mandarin can be costly -- some organizations charge $2500 for a week-long course -- but it doesn't have to be. More reasonably, you can purchase CD-Roms that will systematically teach you Mandarin at home, when your schedule permits, for a much more reasonable price (about $200). Rosetta Stone offers one good example. Or you can do it even more cheaply, if not for free, with the help of podcasts.

As you'll see, there's no shortage of Mandarin language lessons, and we invite you to peruse the list below. Of all of them, two tend to get particularly high marks from users. The first is called Chinese Lessons with Serge Melnyk (iTunes - Feed - Web Site). Put together by an English speaker who studied Mandarin Chinese for almost 20 years (and who has lived in Beijing and Shanghai for 12 years), the free podcast currently offers 90 lessons that last between 20 and 30 minutes. A second option, which users also give positive feedback, is Chinesepod.com (iTunes - Feed - Web Site). Produced by native speakers, these daily audio podcasts, each running 10-20 minutes in length, will immerse you in colloquial (read: useful) Mandarin. Impressively, you can now find 100 pieces of audio in Chinesepod's large archive. While both of these podcasts are free, each offers additional learning resources for a reasonable fee (though it appears that you can get by without them).

For more Chinese lessons, please visit our collection: Learn Languages for Free: Spanish, English, Chinese & Beyond

  • Chinese Learn Online iTunes Feed Web Site
    • A dialogue-based introduction to Mandarin Chinese. Load them on your iPod and get up the Chinese curve.
  • Chinese Lessons with Serge Melnyk iTunes Feed Web Site
    • Weekly lessons in Mandarin that get very strong reviews from iTunes users.
  • Chinesepod.com iTunes Feed Web Site
    • A series of well-reviewed lessons that will let you learn Mandarin on your own terms.
  • iMandarinPod.com iTunes Feed Web Site
    • A more advanced podcast, this series of lessons teaches Chinese by talking about Chinese culture or what is happening today in China.
  • LearnChinesePod.com iTunes Feed Web Site
    • A Mandarin language podcast taught by Yao in New York City.
  • Mandarin Chinese Conversation iTunes Web Site
    • A language series put together by TimesOnline.
  • Mandarin Chinese Feed Web Site
    • 10 Lessons by the US Peace Corps. Make sure you visit the site and download the pdf that accompanies the lessons.
  • Survival Chinese iTunes Feed Web Site
    • Learn the phrases you need to get by while traveling in China.
  • World Learner Chinese iTunes Feed Web Site
    • Another in the mix of possibilities.

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