Recently a language school called That’s Mandarin reached out to me. They have many free resources to help you learn Chinese, such as their 1-minute Chinese videos with useful tidbits. Their videos are already available on the Dong Chinese Media section:’s%20Mandarin

They also let me try out their learning platform called NihaoCafe. I really enjoyed my experience with their teachers using their platform, and I’d like to share some details about it with everyone.

What is NihaoCafe?

Nihao Cafe is a teaching platform created by That’s Mandarin. It allows students and teachers to communicate with each other over video, while interacting with the same learning materials. I was impressed with how smoothly it worked, compared to the typical approach of using software like Zoom or Skype.

Storytelling with images

Bald man cooking with boy standing beside him

One of my favorite activities was collaborative storytelling with the teacher. You are shown an image like the one above, and you make up your own story about what you think is happening. Then, the teacher will ask follow-up questions to help you develop the story further. It might go something like this:

“In the picture there is a boy and a bald man with a mustache. (What is their relationship?) The man with the mustache is the boy’s uncle. (What is he doing?) The uncle is cooking soup. (Why is the boy’s uncle cooking?) The boy’s mother and father are not at home, so the uncle is looking after him. It is lunch time, so the uncle needs to cook.”

Of course, there is no correct or incorrect explanation for the picture – you are free to use your imagination to create your own story, and your teacher will help you if you get stuck.

Dialogs with audio and video

Dialog in Chinese about being tired in the morning

That’s Mandarin has a large collection of dialogs with audio recordings and videos suitable for students at any level. During your lesson, you will practice the dialogs with your teacher and discuss what you think about the situation.

Interactive exercises

Fill-in-the-blank exercise

Unlike typical video lessons with screen sharing, NihaoCafe has interactive exercises that you can work on. You might be asked to choose an answer from multiple options, match pairs, or fill in the blanks of a sentence. Your teacher will be able to see your answers, give you feedback, and explain any concepts that you might be struggling with.

Between lessons

Before a lesson starts, you have access to the materials that will be used, so that you can look over it in advance and be prepared to make the most out of your lesson time. All of the materials from past lessons will stay available for you to review at any time.

How to start learning with NihaoCafe

If you’d like to try it out for yourself, you can schedule a free trial class on the NihaoCafe website.

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