An Official Review of Yoyo Chinese’s Newest Courses

Have you heard of Yoyo Chinese, a popular online platform for learning Mandarin? Established in 2012 by native Chinese speaker and expert teacher Yangyang Cheng, the Yoyo Chinese curriculum utilizes videos, flashcards and an extensive range of other educational materials to create a comprehensive study experience for virtual language learners.

A Quick Intro to the Yoyo Chinese Program


To date, the program has helped over 300,000 students move towards Mandarin fluency, including many CLI Immersion Program students who enjoy supplementing classroom time with online practice. No matter where you are in the world or what your proficiency level may be, Yoyo Chinese offers an excellent option for learning the world’s most spoken language — and it’s available right at your fingertips.

Beginner Chinese with Yoyo and CLI  

You can get started with the Beginner Conversational Course on the Yoyo Chinese website. The first 20 lessons are free to see if you want to take the course. If you’ve already studied Mandarin in the past, there are free lessons at the start of the more advanced courses as well to help you find your place. What’s more, we’re glad to offer you a special offer code to save you 15% when you sign up for Yoyo Chinese — use ‘cli15’ and save!


Once you’re in, arrive at the homepage and gain access to all your lessons and course materials on a customized homepage dashboard. From the dashboard, students can also review flashcards from completed lessons, which include such features as audio (always an extra bonus), the option to favorite certain flashcards, and a nifty “up for review” deck which handpicks priority cards based on your feedback.




As of spring 2018, Yoyo Chinese offers learners the following courses:


  • Beginner Conversational
  • Chinese Character
  • Intermediate Conversational
  • Upper Intermediate Conversational

CLI’s Review of The New Chinese Character Course

Our review focuses primarily on Yoyo Chinese’s two newest courses — the much anticipated Upper Intermediate Conversational course and their Chinese Character Course.


Geared towards students who are already somewhat comfortable with spoken Chinese, the Chinese Character course covers 300 of Mandarin’s most essential characters (汉字, hànzi).



Gradually introducing new characters according to their structural composition, the five levels of the course are divided into three to four units per level, which are further broken down into engaging mini-lessons that cover several characters per episode.

learning chinese online with yoyo and CLI

Mandarin language learners, get ready to read and write words and phrases that you can say out loud! Each mini-lesson begins with a video led by Yangyang 老师 (lǎoshī, teacher) that breaks down the pictographic, ideographic and/or logographic origin story of a given single character. The visual resources included during this portion are spot on, conveying the evolution and essence of a character in a way that really clicks in the learner’s mind.


Yangyang then takes students through a brief tutorial on strokes, at which point we suggest that you pause the video and practice writing the 汉字 a few times on your own. Each lesson has Lecture Notes you can download, with a section for handwriting practice.


Grounding your understanding in applicable practice, students are also given examples of different ways the individual character is used and which other characters it is often paired with to make a word phrase. For example, the character for ‘end’ (末, mò) is used with weekend (周末, zhōumò), end of the month (月末, yuèmò) and end of the year (年末, niánmò). This process is repeated to explain several related characters with shared components. Example: the measure words for book (本, běn) and body (体, tǐ).


Yoyo Chinese Review

After completing the video, you’ll have the chance to “start practice,” making your way through flashcards that cover all characters and character compounds taught so far. The flashcards are also available in list form so that you can work in an extra review before the end-of-lesson quiz. Quizzes in this course are composed of both pinyin and characters, offering a great deal of variety in their questions from multiple choice, to fill-in-the-blank, to tone work.


Is yoyo chinese helpful  

One advantage is the quizzes also utilize characters taken from real life imagery, such as from billboards, street signs or movie captions. Familiarizing students with the diverse aesthetic of how written language appears in the Chinese landscape is immensely helpful in preparing you to tackle 汉字 in real life.


Throughout the course, the logic of how Chinese characters are taught remains on point; characters are grouped by radicals/components and each new lesson builds off the last to create a solid foundation for reading and writing. We absolutely love this teaching method, so we were excited to hear that they are releasing their Character Course II with the next 300 characters this spring! One suggestion — a stronger emphasis on handwriting in this course could be beneficial for students looking to build a wholistic skill set.

The New Upper Intermediate Conversational Course

The next new release from Yoyo Chinese is the Upper Intermediate Conversational course, which is excellent for students at an approximate HSK 4-5 level. Divided into units that are grouped coherently by theme, with the difficulty increasing as you progress through the lessons, the organization of course material makes it simple to move through the system at one’s own pace. By far, the most innovative and striking aspect of this course is that each lesson revolves around a real-life video snippet of Yangyang 老师 communicating in a real Chinese environment. This exposure to raw conversation between families, friends and passerbyers allows online students to gain familiarity with Mandarin as it’s spoken in daily life.


Review of Yoyo Chinese new Upper Intermediate Conversational course  

Usually, the video is repeated and particular segments are broken down for further elucidation, followed by a review of previous lessons and comprehensive explanation of all new words and phrases. We love how each lesson introduces a refreshing combination of vocabulary, grammar and slang, teaching us new meanings for the common words and phrases we might already know. The English translations are also colloquial, making it super simple to wrap our minds around the Chinese meaning.


CLI's review of Yoyo Chinese new Upper Intermediate Conversational course  

Differing from the practice component of the Chinese Character course, the Upper Intermediate Conversational course also offers audio reviews of information covered, offering a great way to sharpen your listening comprehension (听力, tīnglì). The downloadable flashcards and lecture notes consolidate all new points in English, pinyin and characters, and students can choose to take the final quizzes in either pinyin or characters. Currently, only the first four levels are available in the Upper Intermediate Conversational course, with levels 5 and 6 are coming out in April and May. Therefore, despite the addition of this course, Yoyo still does not offer an option for advanced learners to improve their Chinese skills, which could be disappointing for students hoping to move all the way to fluency under the guidance of Yangyang 老师. In the future, we hope that even more course options are added, because Yoyo’s signature detail-oriented logical curriculum is simply 厉害.


CLI is delighted to recommend Yoyo Chinese to beginner and intermediate students who are looking to boost their language skills with online lessons. A big thank you (谢谢/xièxie) to Yangyang 老师 and the whole Yoyo Chinese team for helping bring Mandarin education to learners around the globe!

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The Anatomy of Chinese Characters

Reading and writing Chinese characters is often considered the most ambitious challenge that language students face in order to achieve fluency. Indeed, the intricacies which have shaped this character system over thousands of years are both complex and vast. However, while they may appear bewildering at first, Chinese characters are actually composed of distinct building blocks that form a straightforward and logical structure. Once you grasp a basic understanding of Chinese character anatomy, you will be reading and writing your way across the Middle Kingdom in no time.

the chinese character for husband has evolved over many centuries     Chinese characters are used to illustrate meaning rather than sound original images from


Unlike the Roman alphabet, Chinese characters are used to illustrate meaning rather than sound. In fact, most characters were originally intended as visual representations of physical elements like trees, houses or humans. Evolving since their earliest forms, simplified versions of these symbols, known as character radicals, serve as the foundation for contemporary written Mandarin. Making up approximately 80% of the language, radicals are an essential starting point for anyone who wants to read or write fluently in Mandarin. Jump to the list of the 40 most used Chinese radicals.

chinese characters are used to illustrate meaning rather than sound     chinese characters evolved from visual representations of physical elements

chinese characters used to be visual representations of physical elements
The evolution of the characters 人, 从, and 众. 人=rén=person 从=cóng=from/follow 众=zhòng=crowd.

When two or more radicals are combined, they work together to create a single character; the radical on the left indicates the character’s category or meaning, while the radical on the right might indicate its pronunciation. The majority of the written Chinese language is comprised of character compounds, in which several characters are combined to make one word. Most Chinese dictionaries include about 20,000 characters, though linguists estimate literate speakers know between 5,000 and 8,000. For language learners, being familiar with just 2,000 to 3,000 characters will give you the tools to read most newspapers and magazines.

An important rule to note is that characters are written according to a standardized stroke order, which typically moves from left to right, top to bottom and outside to inside. Skritter is an excellent APP to help you learn stroke order. Although Chinese characters may seem daunting at first, patterns will quickly emerge once you develop a basic foundation. So, review your radicals, familiarize yourself with the most commonly used Chinese characters, and watch as your Mandarin skills grow exponentially!

An Introduction to Chinese Characters

Having a deeper understanding of Chinese characters will help reveal the language’s logic structure as well as China’s history and culture. Watch the following video to delve deeper into the pictographic and ideographic nature of Chinese characters. You’ll learn the difference between the phonetic alphabet and the Chinese character system.


The 40 Most Common Radicals:

There are over 200 radicals that make up Chinese characters, though only a portion of them are regularly used in simplified Mandarin today. Check out the list below to find out the 40 most common character radicals – you might find that you’ve encountered most of them before! Remember, because they serve as the building blocks of the written character system, radicals are absolutely crucial in helping language learners become literate in Mandarin.


No. Radi­cal pīnyīn Eng­lish
1 rén person
2 dāo knife
3 power
4 yòu right hand; again
5 kǒu mouth
6 wéi enclose
7 earth
8 sunset
9 big
10 woman
11 child
12 cùn inch
13 xiǎo small
14 gōng labor;work
15 yāo tiny; small

No. Radi­cal pīnyīn Eng­lish
16 gōng bow
17 xīn heart box
18 dagger;axe
19 shǒu hand
20 sun
21 yuè moon
22 wood
23 shuǐ water
24 huǒ fire
25 tián field
26 eye
27 shì show
28 fine silk
29 ěr ear
30 clothing

No. Radi­cal pīnyīn Eng­lish
31 yán speech
32 bèi cowrie; shell
33 zǒu walk
34 foot
35 jīn gold
36 mén door
37 zhuī short-tailed bird
38 rain
39 shí eat
40 horse

Additional Chinese Learning Resources:

Review the 100 Most Common Chinese Characters.

YouTube’s Best Channels for Learning Chinese

When learning Chinese, it’s important to mix-up your daily study routine. YouTube is a great way to stay sharp when you’re not studying in China, and we want to help you stay sharp. We’ve selected and organized a list of our top 8 YouTube channels for learning Chinese. You’ll be able to find a healthy ecosystem of Chinese learning resources within this list. From beginner to expert, this list has you covered. Happy studying!

Learn Chinese Now

Learn Chinese Now is a fabulous YouTube channel hosted by Ben Hedges, an ex-pat from England who speaks stellar Mandarin. After studying the language in college, Ben moved to Taiwan where he started his own show about news, art and society in China. These videos were so well received by local netizens that Ben decided to develop his own YouTube channel in order to spread the word about learning Mandarin. From grammar guides to cooking videos, Learn Chinese Now is an excellent source for all things related to Chinese language and culture. Also check out our list of 10 Useful Video from Learn Chinese Now.


CLI team member Dayong was fortunate to meet and interview Ben about his experiences learning Chinese.



For advanced Mandarin speakers or those interested in learning more about Chinese history and current events, check out the official YouTube channel for Ben Hedges’ original show, “A Foreigners View of China and Taiwan.” Unlike videos from Learn Chinese Now, you won’t find grammar or vocabulary lessons when watching “A Foreigners View.” What you will find, however, is a plethora of information regarding Chinese politics and society as told through the insightful lens of experienced foreigner-in-China, Mr. Ben Hedges.


YoYo Chinese

If you are looking to ease into Mandarin by starting with the basics, Yoyo Chinese is the perfect jumping-off point. In each video, teacher Yangyang Cheng delivers concise lessons that emphasize essential aspects of the Mandarin language-learning process, such as pinyin pronunciation, tone-pairs, and everyday phrases. Students who don’t have many opportunities chat in Chinese with native speakers should make sure to follow Yoyo Chinese’s series, “Real Chinese,” for candid interviews with locals as they go about their daily lives. You can also watch CLI’s Top 10 Videos from Yoyo Chinese.


Learn Chinese with Litao

Are you a novice student interested in building a strong and capable foundation in Mandarin? Head over to Learn Chinese with Litao where you can start from scratch under the thorough guidance of instructor Zheng Tao. Begin with the Chinese pronunciation series to get experience with Chinese pinyin, including initials, finals, and tones. Next, move on to the elementary Chinese HSK 1 and elementary Chinese HSK 2 series for practical grammar and vocabulary.


Fiona Tian – MandarinMadeEZ

Fiona Tian is a charming half-British, half-Taiwanese Chinese speaker who has a knack for creating fun, engaging lessons regarding Mandarin and Chinese culture. Her YouTube channel, Mandarin Made EZ, presents a diverse array of easy-to-follow tutorials on vocabulary, study techniques, and cultural customs. Make sure to check out Fiona’s survival Chinese guide and learn everything you need to know before your first trip to China.


Crazy Fresh Chinese

Upgrading your Chinese from 还可以(hái kěyǐ/ so-so) to 厉害 ( lìhài/awesome) has never been easier, thanks to Baijie, an American ex-pat with flawless Mandarin skills who established the YouTube channel Crazy Fresh Chinese. Offering hundreds of original mini-lessons, this channel is perfect for when you need a quick study fix or are reviewing on-the-go. Follow the quirky, fun-loving Baijie to stay up to date on the hottest slang and authentic phrases that you won’t find in your textbook. Dig in to our Top 10 Slang Mandarin Phrase from Crazy Fresh Chinese.



Fiona Tian and her Chinese-speaking team are back with ChinesePodTV, the YouTube channel component of the ground-breaking Mandarin language podcast, ChinesePod. This prominent channel features thousands of self-contained, situational lessons so that viewers can pick and choose the subjects relevant to them. Learn everything from simplified grammar points to survival tips for riding the Chinese subway when you study Mandarin with Fiona and her international crew. Watch CLI’s Top 5 Videos from ChinesePod.


Lost In Translation

Differing slightly from the other channels on our list is Lost in Translation, a fascinating YouTube platform that explores the role of Chinese culture in the western world. Most videos from this channel take a humorous approach in narrating the experiences of Chinese exchange students who attend college abroad. LIT also includes sketches that focus on ABC (American-born-Chinese) individuals as they navigate the (hilariously tricky) intersection of Chinese heritage and western upbringing.


Study Mandarin in China with CLI. Follow us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook for more learning resources and the occasional discount on Immersion Program tuition.

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