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That’s Mandarin: Review of their NihaoCafe Live Online Classes

What are That’s Mandarin live online classes like? Should you give their NihaoCafe online platform a try? We checked them out so you could get an idea of what to expect!

That's Mandarin NIhaocafe review
What is That’s Mandarin?

That’s Mandarin is a Chinese school based in Shanghai, Beijing, and Suzhou.

Since 2005, they have been doing in-person courses in several locations in China and now also offer live online classes through a platform they call NihaoCafé.

When you start interacting with That’s Mandarin, you can tell it’s a well-oiled machine.

Their sales department is very proactive and immediately wants to introduce everything to you on their platform. But, on the plus side, they are quick to arrange the next steps with you: a live test, to begin with, and then the live online class itself.

Start with a live assessment

When you start, you first do a live test on their platform.

You schedule the test ahead of time, of course. This exchange is done by email, which is simple enough.

In my case, login didn’t quite work as planned for the test, so we had to reschedule. The assessment test was postponed to the following day, so no biggie.

20 minutes of questions to prepare your live online classes

The assessment test lasted 20 minutes, as they had announced.

We started with a few simple questions such as introducing yourself, what your hobbies are in Chinese, etc. The goal here was for my “assessor” to assess my ability to speak Mandarin Chinese and see how well I understood her questions.

We then moved on to slightly more complex questions, such as (in my case) introducing my app (Ninchanese ♥) and its benefits. The idea behind this section of the test is to determine if I was able to talk about things in a constructed and detailed manner.

Afterward, she had me read a text aloud to see how well I knew my vocabulary.

A text to read out loud during the level assessment In the text, words in green are at an HSK 3 level, and words in orange are HSK 4.

She then asked me comprehension questions about the text I had just read aloud and had me explain to her the meaning of some words in Chinese.

How the test went

During the test, I found myself wishing I hadn’t booked a morning session. First of all, I’m not a morning person, and second, I was probably feeling a little stressed because it was a test.

Comprehension-wise, I was fine, but ah, reading aloud and speaking? I could have done better.

However, an afternoon session wouldn’t have been possible, most likely. That’s because the school is in China. As I’m in France, morning classes my time work best for both sides.

Besides, a teacher uses the assessment results to put together a lesson at your level. That is the whole point of the test, after all. To get you classes at your level.

So don’t be like me and worry about your performance! Just relax and chat.

nihaocafe interface for their live online classes Nihaocafe platform, once you log in.

You take the initial test and the classes on their platform, NihaoCafe. The platform itself is neat and clean-looking, with a modern design. It looks easy to navigate.

A 50-minute trial live online class

On the following day, I had my trial class. You connect to the class on their platform as well.

Following this lesson, I’m told I’ll get a full report of my strengths/ weaknesses in speaking, reading, and understanding. So I’m looking forward to that.

The class started with a few initial connection hiccups, with our mics successively not working in sync. But, of course, that’s always a risk with live online classes.

However, that relaxed me, in a way, and possibly the teacher too, as we both got a good laugh out of it.

A class session lasts 50 minutes. She made sure we did a full 50 minutes, not counting the connection hiccups and so on in the beginning. Always a nice touch.

What an online live class at Nihaocafe looks like The class interface

Overall, the whole lesson went by quickly. We started with an introductory chat, moved on to new words, talked about a diagram, and finally answered questions.

What I liked about the online class

It felt professional. The teacher took me through the content planned for the lesson. But it took me a while to catch on to the fact she was following the content plan. It felt almost like a free-flow conversation, with her introducing new expressions from time to time.

In other words, she very carefully and professionally guided me to where she wanted me to go, and I saw nothing coming. 

I liked how she introduced new words. We’d talk about a subject, she’d start explaining something in Chinese, and when she was sure I had followed, she’d introduce a new word. So, each new word in Mandarin discovered was in context.

For example, she explained the term 跳槽 (tiào cáo)  to me. We first went over each character in the expression. Then, she had me think about why each of these characters was used to form the phrase “job-hopping”.
跳槽 (tiào cáo), job-hopping, turned out to be the main topic of the lesson, so we used that word a lot in the live online class.

You can also follow along and see the list of words you’ll be learning on the platform.

I discovered after a while that you could easily click on them to view the meaning and pinyin, but I didn’t feel the need to since my teacher’s explanations were plenty.

Adjusting to my level

For some words, the teacher checked if I was familiar with them and quickly moved on if I was, which was something I appreciated. Doing this allowed us to spend more time exploring unknown words.

Focus on pronunciation

She also carefully corrected my pronunciation, making me repeat words I wasn’t saying right and insisting on tones I wasn’t using correctly. She managed to do that in a way that wasn’t annoying or shaming, which was nice. Having her correct your pronunciation is a big plus, and I enjoyed the fact she took the time to do that. That was a first in my lessons online so far.

Homework and after-class practice


Your work isn’t over when the class is

After the lesson, you’re given homework. Homework! —another first in the live online classes I’ve reviewed so far.

In this case, I had to write a 100-character text in Chinese characters. My mission was to answer a few questions related to job-hopping, which was the topic of my class.

Once you upload that text back, it gets corrected and returned to you. And really corrected, the way your homework would get checked in class. She caught my typos, explained how I could make my text flow better with discourse connectors, and suggested better wording for awkward sentences.

Review what you saw in the class

Finally, you’re also given exercises to practice using the Mandarin content you saw in class.  You review what you saw in the live session on the platform and even see a bit more. That’s, I’m told, content initially planned for the lesson that we didn’t get to cover. According to That’s Mandarin, we would have covered the rest of the content if I’d booked a second class.

The exercises are mainly multiple-choice questions, with a few fill-in-the-blanks, but it’s a nice touch.

No clue what to answer some of the questions (I didn’t see that in class)

What happens if you don’t do the homework or practice exercises?
Not sure, as I didn’t do any follow-up lessons. You’ll have to learn that by yourself if you decide to book one of their live online classes and not do your homework!

Receive a complete overview after the class

After the class, as promised, I received a detailed overview of the areas I was doing good in and the areas I needed to strengthen. My 4th tone was singled out, for instance, as needing more work.

Definitely a good assessment of your weaknesses and strengths. You get a good picture of skills to work on. That’s something you want from your teacher and a class you took. Quite logically, you also receive a suggestion of what package to book and what level.

Pricing of their online live classes

At my level, That’s Mandarin suggested I book a 128-class package at a total cost of 24320 RMB (~ 3468 euros).

For that price, you get full 1-to-1 classes. In addition, you get access to experienced teachers, a learning platform, and a method.

Group classes are also available, it seems, at a different price. They weren’t offered to me, so I can’t comment on their price.

Moreover, you are also offered different content at different levels.

The class I took was an HSK 4 class. According to them, different approaches are used, ranging from videos they made themselves to “real” TV shows to more static content as I got. Sometimes, they’ll focus more on characters and introduce new Chinese characters or explore Chinese components, according to the intro I was given as a reviewer.

Is NihaoCafe worth it?

Among the different live online classes I reviewed, That’s Mandarin is definitely on the higher end of the spectrum.

Courses do seem complete and go from beginner to higher levels of Chinese.

There’s a slight surcharge for higher levels included in that cost, just so you know. This is, unfortunately, quite common.

[That’s why, at Ninchanese, we worked hard to give you access to intermediate and advanced Chinese content at the same cost as all our other courses!].

In case you were wondering, as I was, if their in-school classes are the same price as online classes, the answer to that is no. Offline classes are more expensive than these online classes.

That set aside, for the price, you get real feedback from a teacher, material to work on, homework (that’s corrected and returned to you), and after-class practice, too. You’ve also given an assessment of your skills and what you need to work on next.  Presumably, you can also see your progress and have a sense of continuity from one class to the next. All that has a cost.

So, ultimately, that’s something for you to decide! I suggest you give their classes a go and see what you think of them.

How I’d use NihaoCafe and Ninchanese together

All the practice you want

Ninchanese is a great complement to any live online class That’s Mandarin offers. On Ninchanese, you’re self-learning, so you can spend as much time as you want on a topic and practice.

For starters, it’s a lot cheaper. Ten dollars a month is not much. So get both and get the best of both worlds.

Nincha Decks

Enter the vocabulary you’ve learned or discovered in class.

You can see a list of the words you’ve seen in class on their platform. That makes it easy to look them up on Ninchanese and add them to a custom Nincha deck to memorize them lastingly!

Strengthen the grammar you see with sentence-building stages

While you do see grammar and get a chance to practice grammar on their platform, NihaoCafe, this doesn’t go in-depth. They use the same sentences in the examples and the lessons, and you quickly go through them.

So, use Ninchanese to go further in the grammar lessons and to really practice your Chinese grammar patterns!


All in all, I was pleased with what I saw of That’s Mandarin online classes. They are professional, and if you’re willing to shell out that much, they’re a decent school you should check out.

NihaoCafe x Ninchanese Coupon

Because we love you, here’s a meowsome coupon to give That’s Mandarin classes a try yourself!

You get 5% off their live online classes (NihaoCafe). Just mention the code “NichaneseNC5” when you book an online course by email!

And one more thing

If you want to continue learning Chinese with authentic and entertaining content, then you’ll love Ninchanese.

With Ninchanese, you get a complete method to learn Chinese, which has you speaking, reading, writing, and more in Chinese. So whether you’re a beginner or an advanced learner, there’s content your level on Ninchanese and plenty more!

Start using Ninchanese on the web, with your computer or tablet, or on your phone with the Android app.

The Nincha Team

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NinchaneseThat’s Mandarin: Review of their NihaoCafe Live Online Classes