Learn Mandarin with Defense Language Institute online resources

The Defense Language Institute (DLI) is probably one of the finest foreign language schools in the world. I checked out their online database for Chinese.

The American Army takes foreign language acquisition seriously. Some of you may have heard about the Defense Language Institute (DLI). This institution has been providing first-class language education to the US army since 1954. It operates the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center (DLIFLC), one of the hardest and most successful foreign language schools in the world.

DLIFLC mainly teaches languages that serve American interests in the world. In their online database you can find the following languages (including Chinese-Mandarin):

Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center (DLIFLC) - online database

The DLIFLC approach to foreign languages is unique in the world. Olly Richards made this highly interesting video explaining how they achieve outstanding results. He illustrates how the DLIFLC language programs train U.S. Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marine Corps, and Navy to native-like proficiency in a matter of months. Richards also covers special techniques like “iso-immersion” and “scream & scribble”.

How U.S. Military Linguists Learn Languages Fast

DLIFLC online database

In their database, the Global Language Online Support System, you can find more than 900 free Chinese lessons for listening and reading. These lessons primarily concern “serious” topics like Chinese politics, history, military, technology, cybersecurity, finance and economics. The website doesn’t look very up-to-date, but the database covers recent issues like corona vaccines and other pandemic related things.

There are eight levels: 1, 1+, 2, 2+, 3, 3+, 4, 4+. I couldn’t figure out how they correspond to HSK levels, but what I can tell is that these lessons are challenging. I’d say you need at least HSK 4 level to start with level 1 lessons.

What I like about it

What I like about the DLI online resources for Chinese is that the lessons are carefully put together by competent and experienced teachers. This means each lesson is a unit complete with transcript, answers and teacher’s notes to guide you through and highlight points of interest. You can browse the database looking for lessons that suit your level and interest you. Others might not, however I enjoy the seriousness of these materials. If you put effort into it, you really learn something.

Warning: This is not a laid-back kind of learning, you have to use your brains, read and listen carefully and answer questions. The topics can be complex, the vocabulary completely unfamiliar and the audio recordings puzzling at first.

Some stuff could be improved: The website’s interface is outdated. You can’t create your own account to save your learning history, notes and track your progress. But then again, this is a free resource provided by the DLI to the world, so we should count our blessings and not be too critical.

  • Defense Language Institute (DLI) - online resources for Mandarin Chinese
  • Defense Language Institute (DLI) - online resources for Mandarin Chinese
  • Defense Language Institute (DLI) - online resources for Mandarin Chinese

I hope you enjoyed this post! : ) If you have any learning resources for Mandarin you’d like to recommend, feel free to share them in the comments down below.

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Mandarin Chinese Picture Dictionary: Learn 1,500 Key Chinese Words and Phrases
Chinese short stories for beginners
Reading and Writing Chinese - A comprehensive guide to the Chinese writing system
Chinese For Dummies
Essential Mandarin Chinese Grammar: Write and Speak Chinese Like a Native
Graded Chinese Reader 1000 Words: Selected Abridged Chinese Contemporary Short Stories
Chinese Flash Cards Kit Volume 1: HSK Levels 1 & 2 Elementary Level: Characters 1-349

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