For the past few months, I’ve been using a new, very good app: Du Chinese. The “Du” in the app name is 读 (i.e. “read”). Hence, it is an app that focuses on reading Chinese. Du Chinese has short article snippets in Mandarin accompanied by an audio file where a native speaker reads the snippet aloud, and the words are highlighted as she reads them.
You can choose whether or not to have pinyin displayed above the characters, by tapping the little “拼” symbol in the bottom right corner. It may be helpful to start with some pinyin, but be careful you don’t become too dependent on this. By the time you “graduate” to intermediate lessons, you really should turn off the pinyin. You can also adjust the speaking speed by tapping the “1.0x” in the bottom left corner.
Du Chinese’s article snippets are quite interesting, and often relate to Chinese pop culture – internet slang that is going around social media, songs that are popular, food trends, etc. The difficulty levels are: newbie, elementary intermediate, upper intermediate, advanced and master. I do all the lessons at “intermediate” and above, and sometimes I’ll throw in an elementary if I want to feel good about myself. Advanced and master really can be quite tricky, and I highly recommend Du Chinese for that level.
You can also highlight words to save them to your vocab list (see pic above), and then test yourself with Du Chinese’s in-built flashcard program.
Their flashcard program has spaced repetition, but is not nearly as customizable as Pleco’s flashcards. You can export words from Du Chinese to Pleco (and Anki) though.
Du Chinese is a “freemium” app – the app is free, and you get lessons for free when they’re first released for two weeks. However, if you want to access lessons older than 2 weeks, you’ll need a premium subscription. Prices range from $11.99/month to $89.99/year.
It’s a good app, so I’d encourage you to support them for maybe 1-3 months while you go through their archive of lessons. After that though, I don’t think the premium option is really worth it – I for one don’t really look back at lessons I’ve already done, and Du Chinese provides a consistent stream of lessons to keep me active on it.
I’d recommend Du Chinese more for intermediate to advanced learners, though beginners can definitely get some use out of it too. The free version is good enough, although I’d recommend going premium for a few months when you first join to access their lesson archives and support a great app.