TrainChinese Review (2023): A Dictionary, Training Tool, and Game Center All In One

July 14, 2023

One of the first things any beginning language learner will do is download a dictionary for the language they want to learn. (Who knows what you might need to look up on the go?) For the aspiring Mandarin Chinese student, a top choice is the TrainChinese app.

Let’s dive into this trainchinese app review and see how powerful this tool can be for any Mandarin Chinese learner.

What is trainchinese?

First and foremost, the trainchinese app is a free Chinese language dictionary. You will find nearly any word or phrase you might need within its database. For each word, you will find pinyin, audio recordings for both simplified and traditional Chinese, sample sentences for that word, measure words, character animations, and OCR (optical character recognition).

However, trainchinese takes your learning even further with its vocabulary lists. Users can customize their own based on their learning journey. There’s no need to build your own, though: There are thousands of lists tailored to different themes or requirements. You can select those aimed at daily life, or select an HSK or TOCFL-specific list set.

Trainchinese app vocabulary lists

Once you have your lists, you can start training! First, choose between honesty training and multiple-choice training. (You even get to choose whether you work in pinyin, characters or both. For characters, you can choose printed or painted, too!) Each flash card targets different aspects of the word, including audio files and reading options. What’s more, trainchinese will track your progress with each word. Once you’ve mastered a word, it will retire that card for a few days; then it will bring it back to see if you’ve still got it. Spaced repetition can be a powerful tool, language learners!

Who is trainchinese for?

The trainchinese app is for anyone. Seriously. Any learner at any level can get a lot out of this Chinese learning app. Its preset lists are designed to follow a learner’s progress from their first steps to fluency. Because you can design your own lists, even learners with very specific focuses can find value.

What level can you reach using trainchinese?

Mandarin Chinese learners can reach high language levels using the trainchinese app. The app is especially great for beginner learners, as its lists identify vocabulary and phrases early learners will need day to day. That said, advanced learners can create vocabulary lists that target those trickier words. As of their latest updates, the HSK and TOCFL lists match 2021 test requirements. As the trainchinese app also offers traditional characters and audio files, learners can also expand their Chinese language knowledge that way as well.

Can you become fluent using trainchinese?

As with any language, becoming fluent in Mandarin Chinese takes a lot of time, dedication, and practice. The trainchinese app can certainly train a lot of aspects of the language, especially listening and reading. By repeating after the recordings, you will get the hang of proper pronunciation, too. However, it will likely take a lot of speaking outside of your flashcard practice to reach fluency.

The Pros: What makes trainchinese awesome?

  • The trainchinese app is incredibly comprehensive. For each word you search for, you get a lot of information: the character, the pinyin, the part of speech, the definition(s), an audio file, character animation, sample sentences, related words and phrases, other meanings, and the ability to add it to a custom list.

trainchinese dictionary entry

  • From there, the training is as comprehensive as the dictionary. Each word you’re quizzed on will be tested with the following types of questions: translation, definition, audio recognition, simplified dictation, character recognition, etc.
  • The customizability is a standout feature of the trainchinese app. Create your own lists, select how you want to train, receive notifications to keep you on track, and adjust your lists as you learn!

trainchinese vocabulary lists for specific situations

  • The trainchinese app syncs across devices, from mobile to desktop apps.

The Cons: What could trainchinese do better?

There is always room for improvement, for us and for the apps we use. Within the trainchinese app, these are a few areas worth pointing out:

  • While it’s great that each dictionary entry in the trainchinese app is comprehensive, it can make the flashcards a bit clunky. As we know, one character may have a few different meanings, yet you can’t always select which one you want to train for. This limits the effectiveness of the flashcard during training sessions.
  • The app design could be a bit more user friendly. It’s not that any user can’t figure it out, but it might take some clicking around to get where you want to go. Once you get the hang of it, though, there’s no stopping you.

trainchinese vs. Pleco

There are very few Mandarin Chinese learners who haven’t heard of (and likely downloaded) the Pleco app. This is for good reason: The Pleco app is an incredibly comprehensive Chinese language dictionary. It comes with a lot of the same features as trainchinese, too: traditional and simplified characters, audio files, sample sentences, OCR, stroke order diagrams, etc.

Also like trainchinese, Pleco requires in-app purchases to access the good stuff. You don’t need to spend a dime to access either apps’ dictionary to get full access to flashcards, lists, and more, both apps offer bundles that suit the learner’s needs.

Honestly, side-by-side, they’re incredibly comparable. Pleco definitely wins out as the most well-known Chinese language dictionary. However, the trainchinese app gives its users a pretty strong incentive to sign up for a bigger bundle, and that’s its developers’ full app collection.

Additional apps in the trainchinese universe

The trainchinese app developers really went above and beyond to help Chinese language learners improve their skills. The best part is that all the apps work together, making vocabulary lists available across each app. Each is designed to target specific weaknesses any learner may want to focus on.

  • Chinese Audio Trainer: Any language learner knows that listening, while essential to language success, is a hard skill to develop. Textbooks don’t always come with great audio components. That’s where this app comes in. It has native Chinese audio recordings that incorporate vocabulary from any of thousands of themed lists. So whether you’re focusing on a specific HSK exam or honing your daily Chinese skills, there’s an audio set tailor-made for you.
  • Pinyin Trainer by trainchinese: While we all strive to learn our Chinese characters, pinyin is just as essential a step in any Mandarin Chinese learner’s journey. With this app, you can practice solely in pinyin. There is even a section that plays an audio file and requires the listener to draw the tone! Talk about a great way to practice those tones.
  • Chinese Writer by trainchinese: For Mandarin Chinese learners who are looking to up their Chinese character game, look no further. The Chinese Writer app makes handwriting a game. A character falls from the top of the screen and you need to write it (with the correct stroke order) before it reaches the bottom. Not only will you master stroke order, you’ll also see the definitions of the character, as well as hear the audio for the character on its way down.
  • Chinese Number Trainer: Just think about how often you use numbers in everyday life. Mastering those early on in your language journey will make things that much easier! This app pairs audio recordings with Chinese characters to test your Mandarin Chinese number recognition. There are also quizzes that users race through to see how much progress they’re making.
  • Chinese Challenges: It can get tedious doing endless book activities or flashcard reviews. So this app gamifies Chinese language learning with 15-minute challenges. You can get picture, audio, or multiple choice questions, and select whether you want to read characters or pinyin. They even have HSK-specific challenges available.

Note that all of these apps sync with TrainChinese, so you are also able to access your own vocabulary lists via these partner apps.

How much will trainchinese cost me?

Well, trainchinese costs nothing if you stick to the dictionary. That’s free for anyone to use. However, to get the most out of the lists and flashcard capabilities, users will need to choose from one of their price packages. Select the number of months you want full access, as well as the number of lists you want available to you. Prices range from $8.99 to $54.99. (This particular user selected the one-time, lifetime access option, though it is unclear whether that is still available for purchase.)

Is the trainchinese subscription worth it?

For this user, it was definitely worth taking the financial plunge. The customized lists came in handy when learning from different textbooks and tutors. Taking training along on daily commutes made it easier to fit in language learning every day. However, it all depends on what you’ll use the app for. The free version will serve as a fine dictionary. That said, if you opt into the full trainchinese universe, that subscription will do wonders for your Chinese learning progress.


In this reviewer’s opinion, trainchinese is a pretty underrated app in the Chinese language learning world. While its dictionary is certainly comprehensive, it’s the training aspect that really stands out. By combining trainchinese with its fellow training apps, any learner will get a truly interactive Mandarin Chinese learning experience. This app is especially good for beginner learners: The pre-set lists target any day-to-day activity you might encounter, and the gamification keeps learning fun, even when the language itself starts getting tricky.

If you’re OK with investing a bit in your language app, trainchinese is one you should definitely check out.