Vocabulary trainer app: Daily Chinese

Pleco and Anki are probably the most popular apps for learning Chinese with flashcards. But what about an “all-inclusive flashcard app” that covers almost all vocabulary you need to survive in China?

Too many apps for learning Mandarin

Have you ever felt lost in the monkey jungle of apps for Chinese out there? It’s hard to tell from the outside if an app is a valuable asset for your learning tool kit or just another anticlimactic nuisance.

Too many apps for learning Chinese

What’s more, some of the apps with a track record of quality content and high didactic standards demand monthly subscriptions which in time add up to quite substantial sums. Most of the time, I’m just not sure if I should invest that money in an app or rather use it to purchase books or even regular Chinese lessons.

But occasionally a new app pops up that’s worth our attention.

New app: Daily Chinese

That’s why – when I stumbled across this LinkedIn-message about a new vocabulary trainer app for business Chinese – , I wasn’t jumping in the air with excitement, but I clicked the link anyway. To my surprise, Daily Chinese looked promising and even has a very polished website.

LinkedIn message from design leader of Daily Chinese app
The LinkedIn-message

What’s the added value?

How revolutionary is it? Well, everybody is familiar with flashcard apps like Anki and Memrise where you can build your own sets of flashcards, structure your learning and track your progress.

Daily Chinese is similar:

  • You learn with spaced-repetition
  • You can track your progress
  • The app is well-designed and easy to use.
Several “packs”, progress tracker and performance stats. Screenshot from the app store (13.12.2019)

Yet different:

  • The Daily Chinese app provides key vocabulary packs for beginners, intermediate and advanced learners including HSK, grammar and idioms. You don’t need to look for sets of flashcards made by others or create your own decks which can be very time-consuming.
  • But there’s more: the app also contains survival decks for students and expats.
  • Or you’re dealing with China professionally? The special packs for work-related learning can prove useful. This includes such fields as office & email, language teaching, going online, finance and software. Other topics include the news, global politics, economics, science & tech and sports.
  • One of my favorites is the pack about the time of Mao Zedong. All the online-related vocabulary packs I find very useful as well.

Ready-made vocabulary lists

Until now, I had a hard time finding high-quality, ready-made key vocabulary lists. The app allows you to boost or refresh your vocabulary in a goal-oriented manner. Preview the list to see if the words are relevant to you.

Be aware though that there aren’t any example sentences. It’s vocabulary only. In my opinion, the app is most effective when you’re already familiar with the words and their context. It’s never a good idea to learn words that are completely new for you in isolation. That’s why I’m not convinced this is a useful app for beginners.

Daily Chinese vs Skritter

Compared to Skritter, probably one of the most popular apps for seriously studying Mandarin, I see two advantages:

  1. Daily Chinese is free (and Skritter costs serious money) (Update 20.09.2023: Sorry, it’s no longer free)
  2. Daily Chinese is relatively straightforward and simple to use (and Skritter takes time to get used to and fully appreciate all the features and different settings)

Daily Chinese is the better option for instant vocabulary training, but – like I mentioned above – since the app doesn’t introduce new words with context and examples, a certain level of experience is required. When it comes to introducing and practicing new vocabulary, Skritter is the superior app.

Update (07.01.2022)

Good news from the developer who sent me an email regarding recent updates: “I wanted to let you know that we recently released a new update of the app to take it out of beta. We made a bunch of bug fixes and performance improvements, and added new features like dark mode and daily reminders. We’re going to continue adding new features, plus more words and word packs, going forward – while still keeping the app as simple and straightforward as possible.” You can download the app for Android or iOS.

Update (20.09.2023)

Bad news: Daily Chinese is no longer free for new users. A yearly subscription costs € 79,99. You can also choose a monthly subscription for € 8,99. Let me cite their newsletter from September 1st, 2023: “We wanted to share some updates that are rolling out to Daily Chinese. First, we’ve added word packs for levels 1 – 9 of the new HSK, and updated existing word packs with even more words. We’re also announcing “Unlimited”, a new service that offers access to unlimited daily reviews at the same time, for the most efficient and effective learning experience. But don’t worry! If you’ve already created multiple daily reviews, you will still be able to access all of your previously created daily reviews. Going forward, anyone that chooses not to sign up for Unlimited, and hasn’t created any reviews before, can still access 1 daily review at a time. Look out for many more features and word pack updates in the future. As we continue, we’ll always stay focused on our commitment to being the simplest way to grow your Chinese vocabulary.”

Would you pay for this app?

I would! Learning with this app for 30 minutes everyday really can make a difference, I found. This kind of daily, targeted learning has a positive effect on other areas like reading and listening comprehension as well. It really does. In my view, Daily Chinese is especially useful for people studying or working in China or those planning to do so.

I do think the pricing is a touch too high for the vocabulary lists currently available (and I’m not particularly interested in HSK 7 – 9). In the future, I’d love to see more vocab on specific subjects like Chinese real estate, for example, or Chinese cinema, cuisine, architecture, tea ceremony and so on.

Have you ever used Daily Chinese or do you prefer a different app to remember all those characters? Please feel free to leave a comment below.

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