Had enough of the radio?
Done with being stuck in rush hour traffic with the same top 40 hits?
Do you take daily walks or work out regularly, finding yourself growing bored with the high-energy electronic music?
Or maybe you just want to relax and do absolutely nothing, but you’re not in the mood to waste hours scrolling through Twitter or other social media.
There’s a way to take advantage of this time, especially if you’re trying to learn Mandarin Chinese! Listening to Chinese audiobooks is a great way to naturally integrate learning and make the most use of your time.
And not just audiobooks of novels that have been collecting dust on your bookcase. There are a ton of great audiobooks out there in Mandarin Chinese that can help you become fluent while you’re living your very busy life.
Are audiobooks really worth looking into? Shouldn’t we save “learning time” for when we actually have the time?
Why Should I Use Chinese Audiobooks to Learn Mandarin?
Audiobooks aren’t just great for catching up on books on the go. They’re also great for improving language fluency.
If you’re a beginner, keep an eye out for audiobooks that also feature side-by-side English translations. If you’re an intermediate or advanced learner, don’t be afraid to challenge yourself with a more difficult Chinese audiobook.
- Some are free. While many cost money, you may be surprised by the availability of free Chinese audiobooks. What’s better than free stuff, especially when it comes to resources that help people learn a language? Not much!
- Reading for leisure is a great way to fit in Mandarin practice. At the gym, in the car, while lounging about—you can enjoy the fact that you are actively improving your Chinese without doing much more than pressing “play.”
- Fluency in reading, listening and sentence structure can be gained through casual listening. There are a plethora of ways you can improve your fluency in a new language. Talking to Chinese friends. Watching Mandarin-language films. Jamming out to music. Why not expand your repertoire and include Chinese audiobooks in the mix?
Chinese Audiobook Resources and Recommendations to Improve Your Mandarin
Whatever level you’re at, Chinese audiobooks will help you reach the next one. However, using a program like FluentU will get you there faster. FluentU is an online immersion platform that takes real-world videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.
But that’s not all. FluentU also has a unique “learn mode,” where it takes videos and turns them into language learning lessons. “Learn mode” asks questions based on what you know, which sets you up for success.
FluentU is an amazing way to see all that new Chinese vocabulary you’re learning in context. With entertaining, real-life videos, this resource is a great complement to your use of audiobooks.
Now let’s get to those resources!
Unless you live under a rock, you’ve probably heard of this massive online audiobook resource site. They collaborate with just about everybody on YouTube, and advertisements for this resource can be found everywhere.
However, the hype is definitely not without merit. Audible has a massive amount of audiobooks and a pretty sizable section of Mandarin Chinese instruction audiobooks, as well as a few Mandarin-language leisure books. The user interface is very simple to use, too. All you need to do is download the app, browse for a book and either buy or rent it. Your audiobook will be ready to listen to immediately.
The app itself costs $14.95, but you can get a free month trial by signing up through Amazon.
Audiobook recommendations from Audible:
- “Learn in Your Car: Mandarin Chinese” by Henry N. Raymond — Don’t want to sit in traffic listening to garbage on the radio? Spend some intentional time learning Mandarin instead!
- “十宗罪” (shí zōng zuì) — “The Ten Deadly Sins” by 蜘蛛 (zhī zhū) — Zhizhu — If you’re a sucker for serial killer crime thrillers, this gritty horror-thriller will definitely entice you.
Perapera is a language tool resource for Chinese, Korean and Japanese. In addition to this they have quite an expansive list available of audiobooks. And a majority of them are free. (Score!)
Most of these audiobooks come with a transcript in 拼音 (pīn yīn) — Chinese romanization, 汉字 (hàn zì) — Chinese characters and English. A transcript can make learning Chinese with audiobooks much easier for a beginner. Most of the books they have available are Mandarin version of famous novels from around the world.
Simply click the link to any book that catches your eye. You’ll then be taken to a download page where you can directly save audio files to your smartphone or tablet.
Audiobook recommendations from Perapera:
- “Anna Karenina” by Leo Tolstoy — This Tolstoy classic is the tragic yet somewhat satirical story of Countess Karenina and a wealthy landowner named Konstantin in two parallel stories that tackle gender, religion, social norms and politics.
- “阿正傳的真實故事” (ā zhèng zhuàn de zhēn shí gù shì) — “The True Story of Ah Q” by 魯迅 (lǔ xùn) — Lu Xun — This literary Chinese classic follows a peasant named Ah Q who serves as both the bully and the victim in this story.
Ysts8.com, which is short for 有声听书吧 (yŏu shēng tīng shū ba) — audiobooks is a Chinese-language audiobook resource site popular in China.
This website is ideal for intermediate to advanced Mandarin learners as their entire website is in hanzi. There are literally thousands of audiobooks on this site, and it appears that a majority of them are free to download. Everything from romance novels to thrillers to comedies can be found here.
To download audiobooks from this website, simply search for the book’s title in hanzi. After that, all you have to do is download the file to your smartphone or tablet and you’re good to go. Keep in mind that you may not find exactly what you’re looking for, but there are definitely many books to browse through before downloading.
Audiobook recommendations from Audiobooks:
- “废土崛起” (fèi tǔ jué oǐ) — “Rise of the Wasteland” by 通吃道 (tōng chī dào) — Tong Chi Dao — Who doesn’t love a good post-apocalyptic disaster comedy?
- “永夜君王” (yǒng yè jūn wáng) — “King of the Night” by 烟雨江南 (yān yǔ jiāng nán) — Intrigue — This poetic thriller follows a legendary gunslinger who seeks to dethrone a king. If you love a good anti-hero, this audiobook is for you.
Ximalaya is similar to ysts8.com in that it’s entirely in hanzi and probably not the best audiobook resource for Mandarin newbies.
For intermediate and advanced readers, you can enjoy an equally ample supply of audiobooks that are mostly free of charge. Ximalaya also boasts streaming features for some of its audiobooks, so you don’t even have to download anything! Enjoy audiobook novels, biographies, podcasts, news and much more.
Audiobook recommendations from Ximalaya:
- “昏婚欲睡” (hūn hūn yù shuì) — “Dying to Sleep” by 君颜 (jūn yán) — Jun Yan —A young woman makes a deal with a mysterious stranger, only for him to return six years later for what is his. Definitely an audiobook for soap opera drama lovers.
- “谁绑架了我们的生活?” (shéi bǎng jià le wǒ men de shēng huó?) — “Who Stole Our Lives?” by 黑夜叔叔 (hēi yè shū shu) — Uncle Night — This self-help series of audiobooks is great for Mandarin learners who want to change the way they perceive success while also learning a bit about social norms in China.
Innovative Language also has a handful of useful audio textbooks. If you’re looking for more of a textbook for leisurely learning rather than a novel in the Mandarin language, this resource could prove to be pretty useful.
Downloading these audiobooks is also a simple process. Simply click “More Info” for the textbook of your choice, then “Try It,” then “Buy for 0.00” to download the textbook. They have textbooks for all levels of learning as well.
Audiobook recommendations from Innovative Language:
- “Learn Chinese – Word Power 101” by Innovative Language — If you’re an absolute beginner to Mandarin, this audiobook can help you power through over a hundred vocabulary words and sentence context with ease.
- “Free! Learn Chinese: Advanced Level 5” by Innovative Language — If you’re a much more advanced learner, this audiobook can help you improve your fluency with context clues and real-life conversations.
This Chinese-language audiobook resource offers everything from free audiobooks in Mandarin to podcasts. As with some of the sites we’ve mentioned thus far, this website is entirely in Chinese, so it would be much easier to navigate for the intermediate or advanced student.
To download a book from tingbook.com, select the title of your interest. Select 全本下载 (quán běn xià zài) — download, then select the orange 本地下载 (běn dì xià zài) — local download button to download the audiobook.
Audiobook recommendations from TingBook:
- “把栏杆拍遍” (bǎ láng ān pāi biàn) — “Beating the Railing” by 鸿达 (hóng dá) — Hong Da —If you’re a fan of journalist essays, this audiobook highlights the background of disputes between literature and politics in modern-day China.
- “西游记” (xī yóu jì) — “Journey to the West” by 鸿达 (hóng dá) — Hong Da — Another great Chinese classic, this audiobook follows the journey of a Buddhist monk to find hidden sacred texts across Central Asia and India.
If you’re looking for a website that offers audiobooks for free in addition to dramas, films and 动漫 (dòng màn) — anime, then VeryCD is an excellent selection. Keep in mind that the website is only in Chinese.
The one downside to VeryCD is that you must create an account in order to download anything. Once you get past that, downloading audiobooks from here is a breeze. Since VeryCD is such an active site, there are a lot of user comments on just about every audiobook VeryCD provides, so you can check out what others thought of a particular book before downloading.
Audiobook recommendations from VeryCD:
- “听世界” (tīng shì jiè) — “Listen to the World,” author unknown — This audiobook has one foot in historical accuracy and another foot in fantasy, making it a great selection for historical fantasy lovers.
- “红嫁衣” (hóng jià yī) — “Red Wedding Dress” by 宛如 (wǎn rú) — Wan Ru — Chinese ghost stories are often on another level of creepy, and this audiobook should definitely not be listened to when you’re alone at night.
Feeling a bit overwhelmed by all of these great audiobook resources? Bookmark your favorites, download a few audiobooks to start, press play, lay back and relax.
While learning at the same time, of course.
Emily Casalena is a published author, freelance writer and music columnist. She writes about a lot of stuff, from music to films to language.
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