CLI's Top Recommended Chinese Flashcards for Learning Chinese in 2024

Flashcards are one of the best study tools for language students and there are many different options available. Keep reading to discover the best Chinese flashcard options available for today’s Mandarin language learners.

a teacher teaching a student using Chinese flashcards

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Should I Use Flashcards to Learn Chinese?

As you spend more time learning Chinese, you may start asking yourself whether or not it would be a good idea to start using Chinese flashcards. The answer to this question is a resounding “yes!”

Becoming proficient in Chinese is a process which takes time and dedication. However, for many Chinese language learners, knowing how to make the best use of their time outside the classroom is a struggle.

Thankfully, flashcards are a time-tested and scientifically proven method to improve linguistic performance. In fact, flashcards are such a successful learning device that Chinese flashcard apps have flooded the online marketplace.

While the consensus is in regarding the fact that using flashcards is proven to improve your language skills, the style of flashcards that will work best for you depends on your learning style.

To succeed in mastering Chinese characters, there are 3 secrets: learners need to begin with the most useful characters, study them in the most effective order, and use repetition galore. Flash cards are ideal for this, and the Chinese Characters Flash Cards Kit offers the learner the right characters in the right learning order.

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Why Do Chinese Flashcards Work So Well?

Flashcards are a traditional method of language acquisition, and there are decades of research which supports their use. The reason for this success is that flashcards encourage the most important study technique in language learning: repetition.

Repetition and memorization of words and phrases is what causes development of new language pathways in the brain. By utilizing this feature of the human mind, flashcards can greatly accelerate a learner’s progress.

Flashcards are best used for vocabulary development, which is a fundamental component of language. Flashcards outperform other study methods in vocabulary acquisition due to several simple yet important features.

Flashcards are easy to make, and the process of making them itself can be a valuable form of study. They are also small and portable, unlike large textbooks, which makes them easily accessible wherever you go.

Finally, with the advent of smartphones, there are now many digital flashcard options. These take all the previously established advantages associated with flashcards and add on built-in dictionaries, pronunciation guides recorded by native speakers, touchscreen interfaces and more.

a group of Chinese elementary school students with a western child

Incorporating flashcards into your study routine will help you take your Chinese skills to new heights.

Recommended Mobile Flashcards Apps

As cellphone and touchscreen technologies have advanced, so have digital Chinese dictionary and flashcard apps. Due to their unparalleled mobility and convenience, flashcard apps with features like pronunciation guides and example sentences have been well received within the Chinese language learning community.

There are now dozens of free options available on both Apple’s App store and on Google Play with purchasable add-ons. Depending on your level of competency in Chinese, different apps and their functions may work better for your needs.

a student marking a textbook with a green highlighter

Chinese learners have many options when it comes to choosing which flashcards to use.

1. Pleco

Pleco is an excellent app for both beginning Chinese students and more advanced learners who need access to greater functionality. It is an integrated Chinese English dictionary / document reader / flashcard system with handwriting input and camera-based character lookups.

While this app is more complicated than other Chinese flashcard apps, it also offers its users many more functions.

Pleco’s flashcard system allows users to download premade bundles of flashcards from their databases, as well as to create their own flashcard sets within the app. These flashcards allow the user to practice character recognition, pinyin, and pronunciation.

Within each flashcard, users can select individual characters within a larger chunk of text and analyze them in depth.

Pleco also includes the ability to navigate between flashcards and dictionary entries for each word on an individual flashcard. This gives its users the ability to see a character’s stroke order, example sentences, alternate translations and words which share a common character, as well as a breakdown of the radicals which compose a character itself.

Pleco is one of the highest functioning systems available for Chinese language learning. While the app can be navigated by beginner learners, the upper end of its functionality is best utilized by students who already have some experience with the language.

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Modern technology has revolutionized the way people around the world learn Chinese.

2. Quizlet

While apps like Pleco offer an extensive range of features, students who are studying with a Chinese textbook may find a more streamlined app like Quizlet to be more appropriate for their goals.

Quizlet is the world’s largest online student and teacher learning community whose mission is to help students practice and master whatever they are learning.

Quizlet provides an online and mobile flashcard application which is often used by teachers and students alike to create sets of flashcards based on the vocabulary presented in individual lessons of Chinese textbooks.

These flashcard sets are free to use for anyone who signs up on the Quizlet website or downloads their app. Searching for a specific set of flashcards is as easy as typing in the name of the textbook and the title of the lesson.

In addition to being able to search flashcard sets made by others, Quizlet also allows users to create their own custom flashcard sets for personal use or to be shared with others.

Furthermore, Quizlet has various study modes, some of which take the form of competitive gameplay which display high scores. If you are a competitive learner, this feature alone can make the app an excellent tool for language learning.

Chinese textbooks sitting on a table

Quizlet is a helpful vocabulary learning tool for those studying Chinese with the help of a textbook.

“Traditional” Chinese Flashcards

Despite the suite of features that current Chinese flashcard apps can offer, some students find working on a smartphone less engaging than being able to handle a more tactile product.

Additionally, many people have difficulty staying focused on a task when they have access to the Internet at their fingertips. If this describes you and you do not want to spend hours making your own hand-made Chinese flashcards, there is another option.

Traditional Chinese flashcards like Tuttle cards do an excellent job of providing the Chinese language learner with access to instructive materials like those offered by more advanced apps like Pleco.

CLI's recommended flashcard set: Tuttle Chinese Flash Cards

One side of a Tuttle card has the Chinese character, stroke order, and additional character combinations. The other side has the character’s associated pinyin, English translation, character components, and radicals, as well as an example sentence.

Moreover, Tuttle cards come with a CD which contains pronunciation guides and spoken example sentences.

While “traditional” Chinese flashcards may not offer quite as much information or be quite as portable as mobile flashcard apps, they are highly recommended for anyone interested in improving their Chinese without the risk of being distracted by the call of social media, YouTube, and Netflix.

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Should I Make My Own Flashcards?

The decision of whether to make your own flashcards, use digital flashcards or use ready-made traditional flashcards depends completely on your personal learning style.

While both paper and digital flashcards have certain advantages, neither method is inherently better for language acquisition than the other.

Hand-made flashcards can be nice because they allow students to practice their character writing skills while making them. They also do not need a battery for use and will function reliably regardless of whether or not you have Internet access.

Creating a physical flashcard can also be a source of pride for Chinese learners, and can serve as a physical representation of their dedication to the pursuit of fluency. However, hand-made flashcards lack many of the features that the digital flashcard apps and the “traditional” pre-made flashcards discussed above are able to provide.

paper Chinese flashcards

Creating your own traditional, hand-made Chinese flashcards can have many advantages.

Find What Works For You!

Whether you are studying for the HSK or prepping for an upcoming vocabulary quiz, flashcards are a powerful tool that can help you meet your Chinese language learning goals. Paper cards and mobile apps both get great results, but they come with different strengths and weaknesses.

It’s up to you to choose the type that best complements your learning style. Challenge yourself to try one or more of these flashcard options and find out which ones you prefer. The sooner you start the better!

Share this article or discuss these flashcard options with a friend who is also studying Chinese and you may find that they are already using one or more of them. 

Looking for some content to use while testing out your new flashcards? Check out our articles on Chinese idioms and Chinese measure words to discover a wealth of new words just waiting to be memorized!

Have fun learning!

a round door in a wall in a traditional Chinese garden

Using more traditional paper-based flashcards like Tuttle cards can help you study in peace without all the distractions of an Internet connection.

Chinese Vocabulary Related to Flashcards

闪卡shǎn kǎflashcard
背诵bèisòngrecite from memory
记得住jì dé zhùremember
记不住jì bù zhùcannot remember
汉字HànzìChinese character
笔画bǐhuàbrush strokes / stroke order
翻译fānyìtranslate / translation
例句lìjùexample sentence
智能zhìnéngsmart (tech)
上网shàngwǎnggo online
手写认别shǒuxiě rènbiéhandwriting recognition

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