Chinese Language Blog

Great Ways to Learn Chinese – FluentU Posted by on Sep 26, 2014 in Vocabulary

For the past few months, I’ve been introducing some great ways to learn Chinese online. There are tons of resources out there that can make your Chinese studies easier and more interesting. First of all, make sure you’re learning a new Chinese word every day with us. Then, check out any of the past posts that you’ve missed: BBC Real Chinese and nciku are both excellent resources for learning Chinese and the blog posts give you all the details you need to know.

Anyone who has studied Chinese has probably had experience with out of date textbooks teaching words that simply aren’t used much in modern day China. This is always frustrating, spending your precious time learning Chinese vocabulary or grammatical structures that are rarely used these days. Luckily, there’s a newcomer on the online Chinese language scene that can help you out.

Check out FluentU for a cool new way to learn Chinese.

Check out FluentU for a cool new way to learn Chinese.

On FluentU, you learn the language through real videos from China – movie trailers, advertisements, music videos, news clips, and more. With these materials, you don’t need to worry about whether or not the language skills you are learning are relevant, as these are videos that are made by Chinese people, for Chinese people, in China.

Searching for videos on FluentU.

Searching for videos on FluentU.

Videos are designated by level, from beginner to advanced. When watching the videos you can manage the subtitles on your own – traditional or simplified characters, pinyin, and English. You can also loop parts of the video to hear them again and again, and if you hover over a word the video will automatically pause and bring up a box to teach you the word. You can build your own vocabulary list with words from the videos you’ve watched and save them for later study. Here’s an example of a silly orange juice commercial they use to teach the words “hello” and “tasty:”

In addition to these real life videos from all around China, they have recently started producing their own videos focused specifically on learning Chinese. Some are short and simply teach a few new words, an idiom, or a particular grammatical structure. Here’s one that teaches you about countries and nationalities:

Other videos are full on conversations between native speakers. Here’s an example of a couple of bored dudes chatting and coming up with the great idea of shooting some hoops:

I also like this one where two people are talking about an upcoming holiday and the advantages of backpacking:

When it comes to vocabulary, you can build your own “decks” to learn, or you can study some that have already been made for you. This one is relevant for the Chinese blog this month as we’ve been talking a lot about Cantonese, Hong Kong, and Guangdong province. You can learn 18 words related to dim sum:

Learn some dim sum vocab.

Learn some dim sum vocab.

By now you should have a pretty good grasp of how to use FluentU and browse the videos. Based on my experience using it, here are what I view to be the pros and cons:


  • There are so many videos to choose from that you can find something for every level and any topic.
  • The site looks good and flows quite nicely. It’s easy to find videos, save them, and build vocab lists.
  • Their video player is great – you can loop parts of the video and pause it to learn new words.
  • The videos that they’ve started to make in house are quite good and will only get better.
  • The YouTube channel is obviously free, and you can access a lot of content on their site for free as well.
  • Their rates for premium content are very reasonable.
  • The vocabulary decks are great, easy to use, and very helpful.


  • All of their videos are hosted on YouTube, which is obviously a problem for people who actually live in China.
  • A majority of YouTube videos have no subtitles at all, making it hard to follow along.
  • To view subtitles in videos on the site, you must sign up for a premium account.
  • Some words will probably fall in between the two options “learn this word” and “already know.” There should probably be an in between option for words that you’re not quite 100% confident with yet, but don’t want to spend a ton of time reviewing.

As you can see, the pros definitely outweigh the cons. At the very least, this is a great online resource for learning Chinese simply for the massive amounts of videos at your fingertips. Especially for people who are learning Chinese out of the country, browsing the impressive video library of FluentU will help you not only by hearing Chinese from native speakers, but also seeing scenes of everyday life in the country and picking up on things like body language and mannerisms. I’m not sure if I would recommend studying Chinese solely from them, but it’s a great thing to use to complement other methods, especially since all you need is an internet connection to take advantage of it.

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About the Author: sasha

Sasha is an English teacher, writer, photographer, and videographer from the great state of Michigan. Upon graduating from Michigan State University, he moved to China and spent 5+ years living, working, studying, and traveling there. He also studied Indonesian Language & Culture in Bali for a year. He and his wife run the travel blog Grateful Gypsies, and they're currently trying the digital nomad lifestyle across Latin America.

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