25 Best Apps to Have While Teaching English in China

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There are many different types of apps that can be helpful for living and teaching English as a Second Language, or ESL, in China. Translation apps and learning tools are just a few examples of the types of apps that can be useful while living and teaching English in China.

Having these apps on your phone (or iPad) will help you make the most of your experience in China and will provide you with some of the best learning apps to use in the classroom with your English language learners.

asian woman using her phone with an asian styled temple in the background

Let’s jump into the best apps to have while teaching English in China!

Best apps for teaching English in China

classdojo classroom with little monsters and names

1. Classdojo

ClassDojo is a great tool for teaching English in China. It helps teachers manage their classes and track student progress. It also allows students to connect with each other and share ideas and projects.

You can also upload photos of what students are learning in your classroom, similar to a social platform made specifically for your classroom.

For parents, you can give them a login code so they can also see what’s happening in the classroom. This app is a great way to improve communication and collaboration among students, parents, and you, the teacher.

I love having Classdojo both on my phone and the classroom iPad. I can update and take pictures on my phone and upload it if we’re away from the classroom. With an iPad, I can project it on screen for students to see while they’re doing group work or independent learning.

2. Kahoot!

Kahoot! is a game-based learning platform that makes learning fun and engaging. It’s a great way to review vocabulary, grammar, and other English language concepts. Students can compete against each other in quizzes and games.

To use Kahoot! you can either create your own quiz or use one that’s already been created. There are many different types of Kahoots to choose from, so you’re sure to find one that’s perfect for your class. You can also search by topic, such as “animals” or “clothes.”

You will need to make sure that your students have access to technology, such as iPads or phones so they can play the games or quizzes you have created or planned.

3. Quizlet

Quizlet is a flashcard and study app that can be used for a variety of subjects, including English. You can create your own flashcards or use ones that others have made.

Quizlet also has games and other activities to help non-native English-speaking students learn and they can also compete against each other to see who knows the most.

You can personally create quizzes for your students on Quizlet and save them for future use. This app is great because you can make it as specific or general as you want.

young students using iPads in the classroom

4. Epic!

Epic! is a great app for kids who are learning to read English. It has a library of over 20,000 books, especially if you can’t find English books in your city in China.

Students can listen to the books being read aloud, or they can read them themselves. There are also games and other activities to help them learn.

Epic! is perfect for all age groups and includes fiction, non-fiction, audiobooks, and even poetry!

5. Teach Your Monster to Read

Teach Your Monster to Read is a great app for teaching non-native English-speaking kids how to read English. It’s mainly designed for kids from Kindergarten through 2nd grade. The app starts with the basics of learning to read and then progresses to more difficult concepts.

What makes this app unique is that learners are playing games to teach their little monster to read and in turn teaching themselves to read.

6. FluentU

FluentU is a great app for English learners who want to improve their English skills. It has videos of real-life situations, such as interviews and movie trailers, with subtitles in both English and Chinese.

FluentU is great because it allows you to hear how native speakers say certain words and phrases. You can also pause the video to look up words that you don’t know.

7. Hello English

Hello English is a great app for English learners of all levels. There are activities and games for beginners, intermediate, and advanced students. Non-native English-speaking students can also practice their listening, reading, writing, and speaking skills.

I love Hello English because it’s very comprehensive and has a lot of different features. There are also chat features where students can reach out to Hello English tutors for more help.

Homer

8. Homer

Homer is an app that’s specifically designed to help English learners from Kindergarten through 3rd grade. Homer has a personalized pathway for each student to continue growing. There are also resources for you as the teacher as well as parents at home to continue the learning process from school to home.

9. Little Bird Tales

Little Bird Tales is a storyboard app where students can add their own pictures to create a story. They can then record themselves narrating their story and it will add text for them. After, students can go back and listen to themselves read their story. You can also create stories for students to listen to as well. Students who aren’t strong with their writing yet can benefit from Little Bird Talks

10. Memrise

Memrise is a great app for vocabulary building. English learners will select their native language and then will get courses on helpful phrases, gamified learning programs, and finally an immersive language learning experience.

The creators believe that language can be learned much quicker through immersion, which is why they’ve created that language immersion aspect.

duolingo front page

11. Duolingo

On the other hand, Duolingo is also a great app for practicing grammar and vocabulary. It has a variety of activities and games to help students learn. With clear and easy instructions, students can easily pick up the English language with Duolingo.

One of the best parts of Duolingo is its proficiency test, Duolingo English Test (DET), which may be accepted for students applying to attend school in English-speaking countries. Of course, acceptance of this test varies from country to country, but students would need to receive 120 or better to demonstrate proficiency.

Best apps for living in China

hands of 2 people sharing contact information through scanning qr codes on their phones

12. WeChat

WeChat is a social media platform that is very popular in China. It can be used for messaging, making calls, and even paying bills or groceries. It is a great way to stay connected with friends and family while in China.

To use WeChat, you’ll need to get a Chinese phone number. Once you have a Chinese phone number, you can add people by their phone number or WeChat ID.

You’ll want to make sure to be careful of what you are writing to your family and friends back home on the app though as the government will monitor your conversations.

13. Pleco

Pleco is a great translation app that can be used for both Mandarin and Cantonese. It is perfect for helping with translations of menus, signs, and other materials.

One great aspect of the Pleco app is that it can be used offline, so you don’t need to worry about using data when you are using the app.

14. Skritter

Skritter is a great tool for learning how to write Chinese characters. It is a subscription-based app, but it is well worth the price if you are serious about learning Mandarin or Cantonese.

Skritter is an app that will teach you how to write Chinese characters. It starts with the basic strokes and then moves on to more difficult characters. You can also set goals for yourself and track your progress.

hands using the DIDI app to order a taxi

15. Didi Chuxing

Didi Chuxing is the Chinese version of Uber. It is a great way to get around China, especially if you don’t know how to speak Mandarin.

Didi Chuxing is a ride-sharing app that can be used in China. You’ll need to create an account and then add your payment information. Once you’ve done that, you can request a ride and pay for it through the app.

It’s a very convenient way to get around, especially if you live far from your school or want to travel somewhere farther for adventures and exploration.

16. XE Currency

XE Currency is a great app to have if you are living in China. It will help you convert between the Chinese Yuan and your home currency.

The app is very straightforward to use. You can select your home currency and then the Chinese Yuan. The app will then show you the current exchange rate and will also allow you to convert between the two currencies.

making payments through alipay app on the phone

17. Alipay

Alipay is a payment app that is commonly used in China. It is similar to PayPal and allows you to pay for things without cash. You can also use it to send money to friends living in China as well.

With Alipay, you can walk out of your apartment without your wallet because many vendors will be able to take your payment through the app.

Be aware though that you’ll need a Chinese bank account in order to link your Alipay account.

18. Air Matters

Air Matters is an app that will tell you the air quality in your city. This is important because air pollution is a big problem in China.

The app will tell you the Air Quality Index (AQI) for your city and will also provide AQI in different colors, such as red being dangerous and green being good. Your school may also have rules for going outside when the AQI reaches a certain threshold.

taobao store front

19. Taobao

Taobao is an online marketplace that is similar to Amazon. It is a great place to find deals on clothes, electronics, and just about anything else you can imagine. True story: I had a teacher friend who bought a hedgehog!

If you are looking for classroom materials or items for your house, you’ll have no problem finding them on Taobao. You can also find great deals on clothes and other things. The processing time on Taobao will vary among sellers, but overall your items should come fairly quickly.

20. Dianping

Dianping is a restaurant review app that is popular in China. It is similar to Yelp, but it also includes ratings for the food, service, and ambiance. You can use the app to find restaurants near you and read reviews before you decide where to eat.

Dianping will also have photos of food on its homepage letting you know when there’s a good deal for the meal.

What’s even better with the Dianping app is you can purchase other things such as movie tickets, find services, and even more things! Read all about why the Dianping app is awesome.

china food deliveryman

21. E Le Me

E Le Me, literally meaning “are you hungry?” is a food delivery app that is popular in China. The app allows you to order food from different restaurants and have it delivered to your doorstep 24/7.

E Le Me is great if you’re looking for a quick and easy meal. The app will also provide discounts and coupons for certain restaurants.

22. Ctrip

Ctrip is a travel app that can be used to book flights, trains, and hotels. You can also use the app to find out about different attractions in China.

Ctrip is a great way to plan your trips around China and it’s also helpful if you’re looking for last-minute deals on hotels or flights. The app will also keep track of your itinerary and will provide customer service if you need it.

23. Baidu Fanyi

Baidu Fanyi is a translation app that can be used to translate between Chinese and English. The app can be used offline, which is great if you’re going to be traveling in areas with poor internet connections.

The app is very easy to use and can be a lifesaver when you’re trying to communicate with someone who doesn’t speak English. The app will also save your translations so that you can access them later.

person connecting to vpn on laptop

24. VPN

A VPN is a Virtual Private Network and it is essential for anyone living in China. A VPN allows you to access blocked websites, such as Google, Facebook, and YouTube. It is also necessary for anyone who wants to use Google Maps while in China.

There are many different VPN providers, but I recommend ExpressVPN. Once you’ve signed up for a plan, you’ll need to download the app and then connect to a server. Once you’re connected, you can start using blocked websites as if you were back home.

Click here to sign up for your ExpressVPN subscription

25. Google Maps

Google Maps is a great app to have while living in China. The app will provide directions and maps for different cities in China, especially if you’re new to your city or visiting another one.

Google Maps is also helpful if you’re looking for a specific place. You can use the app to find out the address, hours, and even reviews of different places.

You will need a VPN in order to access Google Maps. If you choose to not use a VPN, you’ll want to use Baidu Maps, but it’s all in Chinese so you may be more confused if you can’t read Chinese characters.

FAQs about Apps and Technology in China

banned phone apps in china

What is the great Firewall of China?

The Great Firewall of China is a term used to describe the Chinese government’s censorship and surveillance of the internet. The firewall is used to block websites and apps that the government deems to be inappropriate or dangerous.

Some of the most popular websites that are blocked in China include Facebook, Twitter, Google, and Instagram. In addition, many news websites and Western media outlets are also blocked.

What is a VPN?

A VPN, or virtual private network, is a type of software that allows you to access the internet without being tracked by the government. VPNs are legal in China, but they are often used to bypass the Great Firewall.

There are many different VPNs available, but I recommend ExpressVPN. ExpressVPN is one of the most popular and reliable VPNs on the market, especially for use in China.

Can I use WhatsApp in China?

Yes, you can use WhatsApp in China if you have a VPN. WhatsApp is a messaging app that is owned by Facebook. The app is blocked in China, but you can use a VPN to unblock it.

asian woman using her phone in a shop

What apps are allowed in China?

The apps that are allowed in China vary depending on what type of phone you have. If you have an iPhone, then you will be able to access the App Store, which has a wide variety of apps available for download.

However, some popular apps such as Google, Youtube, and social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook are not allowed in China, which means you can have them downloaded on your phone, but you won’t be able to access anything.

If you have an Android phone, then you will not be able to access the Google Play Store. Instead, you’ll need to download apps from third-party app stores such as 360 or Baidu. You’ll also need to enable Unknown Sources on your phone in order to download apps from these app stores.

What app is mostly used in China?

The app that is mostly used in China is WeChat. WeChat is a messaging app that can be used to send text messages, voice messages, and even videos. You can also use the app to make calls and send money to your friends.

WeChat is very popular in China because it’s a one-stop-shop for many different things. Besides communication and sending money, you can use the app to pay your bills, book a doctor’s appointment, and even hail a taxi.

Final thoughts on Best Apps to Have on Your Phone While Teaching English in China

Living and teaching English in China can be an amazing experience, but it’s important to have the right tools for making the most of your time there. These are some of the best phone apps that I’ve found to be useful while living and teaching English in China. If you’re not already using them, I highly recommend downloading them and giving them a try.

What are some of your favorite apps to use while living in China? Comment below!


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My Favorite Travel Tips + Resources

Here is a quick glance at all my go-to travel tips and resources that I use to plan every trip! For more information, check out my travel resources page.

  • Booking flights: I use Google Flights to check all routes and find the best flights. Then I compare them with Expedia (for reward points) and Skyscanner (for the lowest prices) before I book.
  • Accommodations: I love budget-friendly rentals or booking at a hotel where I can earn points. For hotels, I go through Booking.com or book directly with Marriott (for points + rewards). When I travel internationally, I’ll book through Hostelworld for very budget-friendly stays. For vacation rentals, I usually look through Airbnb, but you could also use Vrbo. Expedia also has some great bundles for hotels, flights, and car rentals altogether.
  • Transportation: For travel in the United States, I love renting through Expedia with Enterprise or Thrifty. They have been consistent and provide the best customer service. For international travel, I’ll book through Rome2Rio or Eurail for trains or bus fares.
  • Travel Credit Card: I book all my travel (flights, hotels, car rentals) through my favorite travel credit card. I also use this card for everything on my trip including dining, excursions, and souvenirs. Apart from earning 5x more points towards free travel, there are amazing benefits: no foreign transaction fees, trip cancellation/interruption insurance, trip delay reimbursement (so I can book worry-free), fraud protection, emergency assistance – it’s really a great deal! Check it out here!
  • Vaccines and Medications: Check the CDC website for updates on necessary vaccines to enter a country, including updates on Covid-19 and recommended places to visit. I recommend getting all the vaccines you need before you go!
  • Tours + Experiences: I absolutely love my tours! Everything from eerie walking ghost tours to food tours, I’ll usually book something every trip either through Viator or GetYourGuide. I also love LastMinute.com for very affordable tickets to theaters and other experiences in Europe.
  • What to Pack: I almost always travel by backpack. For products I like, check out my packing guide page for all the things I take with me on different trips.