“Once you stop learning, you start dying.” - Albert Einstein

According to NOTCFL (National Office of Teaching Chinese as Foreign Language), there are 2,500 universities in the world offering Chinese as a foreign language. These universities can be found in hundreds of different countries.

Why not learn how to speak Chinese with an online language course?

MOOCs are distance courses offered by universities and available to everyone.

Learning Pinyin, Chinese characters, and how to speak Chinese is becoming increasingly accessible. Here’s our guide to learning how to speak Chinese with MOOCs, what they are, why you should enrol in one, where you can find them, and the benefits of learning with MOOCs.

What is a Chinese MOOC?

MOOCs appeared in recent years in order to share knowledge and make education more accessible to everyone. Nowadays, anyone with an internet connection can learn almost anything from anywhere in the world.

Which are the best digital Chinese language resources?
Now you can learn to speak Chinese on the internet. (Source: Free-Photos)

MOOC stands for “Massive Open Online Course”. However, it’s easier just to say MOOC.

So how does it work?

Universities and schools around the world offer one or several subjects. With marine biology, the origin of man, new technologies, management, business, foreign languages, etc., anything goes.

The courses are open to enrolment for a few months before they start and then the students who’ve signed up can follow the courses on a weekly basis. The courses usually include texts and video materials.

Students will progress through the exercises and if they get the appropriate grades, they will get a certificate at the end. There are also forums available for the students and teachers to discuss the course and its content with one another.

The resources used are often freely available educational resources and can be viewed by anyone on the course.
Once the course if over, the resources will often remain archived. Some MOOCs allow users to continue accessing while others will close off access to the resources at the end of the course. In that case, you’ll have to wait until the next course.

Chinese MOOCs allow beginners to learn the basics of the language or more advanced users to deepen their understanding of it. The online courses are complemented by the presence of the virtual teachers.

How much does it cost?

A lot of MOOCs are totally free whereas some only ask for a contribution if you want a copy of the certificate. That said, since the main goal of MOOCs is to share knowledge freely, many of them remain free.

Why Choose a MOOC to Learn Chinese

Are MOOCs really effective and why should you use them to learn?

How do you read Chinese?
You can discover Chinese characters. (Source: quillau)

MOOCs could replace Chinese lessons or at least complement them. Each student chooses how they want to learn a foreign language, after all.

Doing Chinese language courses comes with a lot of advantages for your language learning. You could get high-quality language courses for free and learn more about language and culture. This is particularly good if you live somewhere like London, for example, where the cost of living is already very high and you aren’t left with a lot of money at the end of the month to spend on classes.

Of course, a MOOC won’t replace a university degree, but it will be sufficient to get you through the basic language skills like vocabulary, grammar, and gaining proficiency in some conversational aspects of the spoken language before you sign up for a language school so that you can start at a higher level.

Learning Chinese online with MOOCs also allows you to benefit from quality teachers and their advice, unlike other online courses which provide the learning materials but not an actual teacher or any outside help.

For those who need planning and deadlines in order to progress, MOOCs will do the trick because you have to submit your work for grading each week and you don’t have the option of falling behind. That said, you can also download previous lessons if you’re late.

MOOCs are a great way to learn a variety of new skills or study fascinating topics without spending any money so go for it! You’ve got nothing to lose!

Learn Mandarin London thanks to Superprof.

Platforms for Finding Chinese MOOCs

Have you decided that you want to enrol on a MOOC?

Which site should you opt for in order to start learning Mandarin Chinese?

There aren’t as many Chinese MOOCs as there are in other subjects but there are a number of good ones.

How can you learn Chinese for free?
MOOCs can help you read, write, and speak Chinese. (Source: Free-Photos)

The FUN MOOC Platform

This platform was set up by the French government who wanted to create an online platform accessible to everyone. Opened in 2013, the site provides students from all over the world the opportunity to study a number of subjects.

There’s an introducing China in English course which is a nice introduction to the culture and the language of China. The course is produced by the Hubei University with the forum being moderated by members of NEOMA Confucius Institute for Business (NCIB). The course lasts 5 weeks and while it started in October, we have no doubt that there’ll be more Chinese content to follow.

The lessons allow students to learn the basics of Chinese at their own pace. At the end of the course, you’ll know some Chinese characters, more about the country, its culture, and even its cuisine.

Looking for a certain Chinese word?

Here are some of the best Chinese dictionaries.

Coursera: Mandarin Chinese 1: Chinese for Beginners

This course, as you may have guessed, is perfect for beginners who want to learn Mandarin. By the end of the 5-week course, you should be familiar with 150 different words that you can use inside China. You'll cover 20 linguistic topics and learn how to communicate in 5 real-life conversation situations. The course is brought to you by Shanghai Jiao Tong University and could be useful before you start studying for an exam like the HSK 1 or the Chinese A Level.

EdX: MandarinX

This is another great course for absolute beginners that lasts five weeks. During this time, you'll learn to use tones and Chinese pronunciation, understand Pinyin, recognise Chinese characters and phrases, and familiarise yourself with basic Chinese grammatical structure.

While the course is free, you'll need to pay if you want your certificate at the end. That said, if you're going to keep studying Chinese to an intermediate level, it might be worth waiting before you open your wallet for proof that you did beginner language classes online.

Chinese MOOCs: Effective Learning

Learning online might be a scary thought for some students as you need to regularly study and follow the MOOC in order to advance. MOOCs aren’t just like normal online classes since you need to keep up with the classes and the course and teacher will ensure that.

What are the advantages of Chinese MOOCs?
Why not try out your Chinese by travelling there? (Source: Silentpilot)

While this may appeal to certain types of learners, it’s not for everyone and you need to adapt.

However, having a teaching team makes the courses more effective than just regular online tutorials. Don’t hesitate to ask others for help on the forums and participate in the course as much as you can.

The teaching approach favours working in groups. Students can support one another and help keep you motivated. This is why MOOCs are open to everyone. The teaching resources aren’t the only thing that’ll improve your learning.

Furthermore, you’ll belong to a rich and diverse community that helps its members to progress. This will stop you from giving up the second week in. Whether you’re planning a trip to China, considering moving there, or looking to study abroad, MOOCs could really help!

If you've decided that MOOCs aren't for you, why not consider private tutorials?

While these aren't free like MOOCs, they do offer a way to learn Chinese Mandarin that's well beyond anything else being offered. As the only student being taught in a class, you can focus on anything you want.

Those who are interested in learning their second language to travel can focus on Chinese culture and Chinese speaking classes to get them around mainland China. If you want to take your language study further, you could really dive into reading and writing in Chinese with an intensive focus on literature, for example.

The main benefit of learning the Mandarin language with private tutorials is that you're the boss. You can explain to your tutor the level of fluency you want to achieve and why you want to learn the language and they can put together a programme of language training that's completely tailored to you.

If there are no tutors living near you, don't forget that you can always opt for online private tutorials via video conferencing software such as Skype. These are often cheaper as the tutor doesn't have travel costs to cover.

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