As American-Born Chinese, we don’t speak Mandarin. However, my older son learned Mandarin in preschool and we feel passionately about giving him an opportunity to continue learning.
So I was excited to hear about LingoAce from other parents at his school. LingoAce is an online Chinese learning focused on little kids, and I met a couple parents who had successfully used it for a year or more. So it seemed like a great option to explore for us, too. Here’s what stood out:
The trial class experience went smoothly
Getting started was easy – LingoAce (like many others) offer free trial lessons. We signed up for a LingoAce lesson, I provided my phone number, and I was immediately contacted by a sales rep to schedule a trial lesson.
The text came via WeChat, which has a “Translate” functionality. So although the text was in Chinese, I was still able to get a rough idea of what we needed to do. I requested an English speaker, but I don’t think they have many of those. I was handed off to three different people, until they found someone who could coordinate. They had my son read a list of ~200 words to estimate his level.
For the actual trial class, we don’t speak Mandarin, so we asked Grandma to listen in. My son loved the 1 on 1 attention, and the “bonuses” they awarded. (I believe the “real” class has homework, so he may change his mind later.) Grandma, by the way, gave a thumbs up on the class.
1. Negotiate heavily! And work through a sales rep.
There are some posted class packages on the website – but it’s much, much cheaper if you sign up through a sales rep. For comparison
- Online and what I was offered:
- $750 for 30 lessons (55 minutes each) = $25/lesson
- What other parents said they got:
- $800 for 45 lessons (55 minutes each) = $17.80/lesson
- $900 for 121 lessons (25 minutes each) or 60+ lessons (55 minutes each) = $15/lesson
(Two 25-minute lessons are the same as one 55 minute lesson)
- Other parents also reported receiving a bonus of “5 more classes” for “declining the textbook” – which I was not offered.
2. parents receive free classes for posting Lingoace ads
If you see a lot of ads and posts about LingoAce and you’re wondering why, my guess is it’s partly because parents receive free classes for posting about LingoAce. For example, here’s an offer I eventually received:
- $900 for 30 classes with 7 bonus classes; 8 additional classes if you post about them online; $100 cash back
The package deals feel a bit like what a used car salesman would offer. When I asked more questions, I was told “the deal ends today” and I needed to sign up as soon as possible.
I was asked to pay via credit card, and the cash back would be via PayPal. Your WeChat text serves as your “contract” – which can be an issue, especially if you are like me and are relying on the WeChat translate functionality to understand what you are being offered. A couple parents generously offered to help me translate and work with the salesperson, but ultimately, the salesperson never sent me a sign-up link, even after I asked repeatedly. (I put this down to miscommunication and translation challenges.)
Separately, you can also do a “group buy” for a better deal.
3. The sales agent only spoke Chinese.
Our sales rep tried really hard, but her English was still really hard to understand – and I don’t know Mandarin. I really wanted to sign up for an online Chinese course. But while WeChat translate functionality is OK for basic texts, I wasn’t comfortable relying on it to buy a $750+ lesson package for LingoAce – especially given the convoluted packages, which I couldn’t totally understand.
Everything, absolutely everything is via WeChat. I was told that our WeChat texts “are the contract”.
I asked if we could use email instead of WeChat because it’s easier for me to forward an email to someone and ask for translation help. While she did try to use email, it’s really not something they seem to do. I didn’t really get responses and the emails were just as hard to understand (and quickly reverted to Chinese as well).
4. With such a poor sign-up experience, what would the customer service experience be like if I actually signed up?
Because my son loved the trial class – and we really want him to learn Chinese, I kept trying. So when I finally figured out that LingoAce has a North American office in Los Angeles, I emailed them. But even just asking a question “How can I sign up?” required us to create an account to get the answer.
For those in the US, the customer service and overall experience is very different from what you might be used to!
They are very focused on selling! They even tried to convince me to sign up our 1-year-old baby for classes!
I could have asked Grandma to help us figure out how to sign up. But there were two issues. First, Grandma is pretty busy herself. Second, if I couldn’t even get help from LingoAce customer service in order to sign up and pay — what would the customer service be like if I ever ran into any issues (scheduling, website, anything at all) AFTER I sign up?
A couple parents at school also generously offered to help translate and troubleshoot if I signed up and ran into issues. But I don’t know them that well, and it just seemed like too much of an imposition. I mean, who wants to be stuck on phone, email or WeChat trying to get a refund or whatever – never mind on someone else’s behalf!?
Ultimately, we didn’t want to risk $750, so we have put LingoAce on hold.
Update: LingoAce contacted me after I posted a review on TrustPilot and helped me through the sign-up experience. Will share more on the actual experience later.