When you’re studying Chinese, learning to listen can be a bumpy road.
When I first started learning Mandarin in high school, it amazed me how many roadblocks I hit when it came to listening.
I was a master at 汉字 (hànzì) — Chinese characters and comprehension on paper.
But when it came to practicing dialogue with my fellow classmates, I found myself constantly saying 我没听懂，请再说一遍。 (Wǒ měi tīngdǒng, qǐng zài shuō yíbiàn.) — “I don’t understand, please say it again.”
If you struggle with listening in Mandarin, you’re certainly not alone. But you’re also not out of luck!
This handful of stellar Chinese listening practice resources can completely change your Mandarin listening abilities.
How Can I Use These Resources to Improve My Chinese Listening Skills?
- Use these resources daily. Remember, practice makes perfect! But it’s important to do more than just recite Chinese words daily. Utilizing these resources—even just one or two of them—on a daily basis with your study routine can help you attain your larger Chinese-learning goals.
- Incorporate them into your regular Chinese-learning plan or routine. The beauty of these resources is that they can accompany an already established learning schedule. Whether you’re taking a college course or trying to learn Mandarin online with a self-made plan, these resources can complement what you already have in place. If you’re still searching for a primary resource, many of these programs can work as your main learning materials to base your study routine on, too.
- Quality over quantity. Sixteen resources for Chinese listening practice is a lot—I get that. You don’t have to use all of them! First, I recommend trying all 16 to see which ones resonate with your learning style. Then narrow your personal list down to two or three resources and use them daily. Once you find the right resources for you, they can have lasting value throughout your language learning journey.
- Practice the shadowing technique. The shadowing technique involves listening to audio materials in Chinese and then repeating after the native speaker almost instantly. Not only does it improve your listening comprehension skills, but it also improves your accent, pronunciation and speaking skills.
While shadowing might be a bit overwhelming for beginner Chinese learners, it’s the perfect challenge for intermediate and advanced speakers. Plus, you get to use your favorite Chinese audio sources as practice materials! From movies and TV shows to entertaining vloggers, anything you can listen to, you can shadow.
- Use Chinese subtitles instead of English. Something else you should be doing if you’re an intermediate Chinese learner is becoming less and less reliable on English subtitles. There are several Chinese resources out there that not only allow you to completely remove the English subtitles but also allow you to replace them with Chinese subtitles.
The advantage of using Chinese subtitles is that it becomes easier to learn new vocabulary and recognize grammar patterns in your audio. Plus, if you still don’t feel 100% confident in your listening skills, following along with Chinese subtitles gives you the reassurance that you haven’t missed anything important.
- Transcribe everything you hear. Similar to shadowing, “transcribing” refers to writing what you hear almost instantly after hearing it. Instead of repeating after the native speaker, try writing on a sheet of paper what you think they said. The best resources to use for this exercise are songs and podcast episodes that include transcriptions of the show. The first step is to listen to the song or podcast and write down what you hear.
After you’ve finished, look up the actual lyrics online or refer to the podcast transcription to compare your transcribing to what was actually said. Correct yourself where you were wrong, then listen to the audio again while reading the right transcription to correct your hearing.
Have You Heard? These 16 Resources Are Perfect for Chinese Listening Practice
Do you prefer to learn through videos? Podcasts? Apps?
Whatever your learning style is, one of these resources for Chinese listening practice will speak to you. Learning Chinese with audio has never been easier!
Coffee Break Chinese Podcast
Designed for learners, this podcast is ideal for beginner and intermediate Chinese speakers. Each episode is free and makes for perfect on-the-go learning material, but Coffee Break goes even further and offers courses based on their episodes on Coffee Break Academy.
The Coffee Break Chinese team is also active on Instagram, allowing you to learn Chinese straight from your newsfeed.
Each episode is hosted by Mark, the founder of Coffee Break Languages, and Crystal, a native Chinese speaker. During the episodes, Crystal answers Mark’s questions about Chinese and corrects his pronunciation.
The episodes are 15-20 minutes long because they’re structured more like lessons than regular podcast talk shows. But if you want to improve your listening and learn how the language works at the same time, Coffee Break Chinese is a great place to hang out.
Available: iOS and Android
Looking for some fun Chinese listening practice?
FluentU takes real-world videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.
You'll find a wide range of contemporary videos that cover all different interests and levels, as you can see here:
FluentU brings these native Chinese videos within reach via interactive captions. You can tap on any word to instantly look it up.
All words have carefully written definitions and examples that will help you understand how a word is used. Tap to add words you'd like to review to a vocab list.
From the description page, you can access interactive transcripts under the Dialogue tab, or review words and phrases under Vocab.
FluentU's quizzes turn every video into a language learning lesson. You can always swipe left or right to see more examples for the word you're learning.
The best part is that FluentU always keeps track of your learning. It customizes quizzes to focus on areas that need attention and reminds you when it’s time to review what you’ve learned. In other words, you get a 100% personalized experience.
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Podcasts are some of the best resources to improve your listening game. In fact, many foreign-language speakers who move to other countries cite podcasts and radio stations as what helped them become fluent in their new language.
The CSLPOD podcast library features a ton of crystal clear dialogues with noted fluency levels. Thanks to these notes, you can easily find an episode that will challenge you without overwhelming you.
Looking for episode recommendations to get you started? Intermediate learners should check out 无理取闹 (Wúlǐqǔnào) — “Unreasonable,” a dialogue between a boy and a girl about joining an exclusive club. Another great episode is 问候病人 (Wènhòu bìngrén) — “Greeting a Patient,” where you’ll hear vocab about being sick.
This podcast hasn’t updated since 2014 but it’s still an excellent resource for learners with an incredible 1,775 episodes available to listen to.
Learn Chinese—Easy Situational Mandarin Chinese Audio Lessons Podcast
A huge reason why listening skills are so important is that learners want to be able to hold a conversation with a native speaker. This podcast from Melnyks Chinese is perfect for such a thing. Each podcast covers situational dialogues that you may have to use at some point if you travel abroad.
Members can access PDF transcripts of each episode, plus worksheets to help further improve your comprehension skills. These podcasts are suitable for almost all levels of learners, though advanced learners may find some of the dialogues a bit too easy to understand.
For a little culture mixed in with your Chinese listening practice, try out the episodes “Visiting Hot Springs” and “Expressing Condolences.”
Slow Chinese Podcast
If listening to native Chinese speakers talk at their natural speed stresses you out, you’ll love the Slow Chinese Podcast. While the podcast is made by native speakers, they intentionally talk at a slower rate as it’s designed for Chinese learners. An authentic podcast designed for learners that doesn’t contain any English? That’s something you don’t see every day!
Plus, the lessons are two to three minutes long on average, making this podcast perfect shadowing or transcribing material. The podcast was last updated in 2018, but with over 200 episodes, you won’t be getting bored anytime soon.
Learn Mandarin Now Podcast
Learn Mandarin Now is another great podcast for Chinese listening practice, which ran until 2017. This Podbean podcast features a ton of Chinese language content, from how-to guides to Chinese language lessons to success stories from other Mandarin learners.
This is a strong resource for beginners because it features a lot of inspiring listening content to get newbies motivated when the going gets rough.
I recommend listening to “How to talk about success in Mandarin Chinese,” a thought-provoking episode that explores what it means to be successful and how to talk about these concepts in Chinese. If you’re learning Chinese for business or just want to learn technology-related vocab, “Fixing technical problems in Mandarin Chinese” is a good listen.
Learn Chinese Insights Podcast
This entry in our list of Chinese listening practice resources is the Learn Chinese Insights Podcast, and it’s a little different from the previous podcasts I’ve mentioned.
There isn’t a ton of spoken Chinese in every episode. Instead, the purpose of Learn Chinese Insights is to interview people who have learned Mandarin as a second language and explore the approaches they took to improve their language skills throughout their own journey.
Much of what you’ll hear from interviewees involves perfecting listening skills. Sometimes, a little advice from the ones who have made it can go a long way!
This podcast resource last updated in 2016 but there are plenty of episodes available for Chinese audio practice. I suggest listening to the Alex Trup and Xiao Fei interview episodes.
Radio stations and music can be an excellent resource for listening practice. Plus, you can listen to music from anywhere—on the bus, in your car or while working out. Listening to Chinese-language music can help you memorize words and phrases, as well as become familiar with tones.
Xiami Music is a popular Chinese music application that boasts over 10 million songs in several different languages, but it mostly features Mandarin-language tunes from China and Taiwan.
Top Chinese Songs 2020 YouTube Playlist
If you need more help finding Mandarin music, here are 81 music videos waiting for you to explore. This playlist not only features nearly a hundred songs, but each song is also relevant and popular. The advantage of this is that you’ll be learning and listening to music that’s up-to-date and you can talk about with Chinese friends or language partners!
It’s also important to note that since this is a playlist of recent music videos, it’s subject to change and is regularly updated. But the good news about this is that you’re consistently being exposed to new Chinese jams!
Plus, many Chinese pop songs are slow, making them perfect shadowing material.
“42 Essential Sentence Patterns—Intermediate Chinese Listening Practice”
It’s crucial to learn sentence patterns when studying Chinese, especially as a novice learner. Once you have sentence patterns down, you’ll have some grammatical context to go off of when learning vocabulary words throughout the rest of your language learning journey.
This video from Mandarin Corner is an excellent crash course in 42 essential sentence patterns in Chinese. The comments section is loaded with happy learners who found this video to be quite the lifesaver.
It would be wise to watch this video as a beginner or intermediate learner, especially if you’re learning these sentence patterns in an already established course but are struggling to keep up when hearing them in real life.
“35 Minutes of Chinese Listening Comprehension for Beginners”
Visual learners, you’re in luck. This half-hour video guide from ChineseClass101 is an incredible condensed lesson on listening comprehension in Chinese.
While the video is marketed toward Chinese beginners, many learners in the comments section have noted that the dialogues are notably more difficult than advertised. I recommend checking this video out if you’re an upper-novice to upper-intermediate learner.
These Singaporean YouTubers are extremely entertaining, addicting to watch and subtitle their videos in Chinese and English. Their channel is full of challenges, pranks, vlogs, travel videos and much more. Needless to say, it’ll take a while before you get bored with their content.
If you want to learn some useful Chinese vocabulary and phrases, their vlogs are packed with unintentional learning material. And the fact that there are Chinese and English subs make it even easier to recognize grammar patterns and learn new words through meaningful context.
Their videos are about 10-15 minutes long, so they aren’t ideal for shadowing, but if you want to chill in bed and binge-watch YouTube while feeling productive and improving your Chinese, this channel will suit your fancy!
Easy Languages Mandarin Chinese
The YouTube channel Easy Languages is known for turning unscripted interviews with native speakers into valuable language lessons. The channel has playlists for many languages, from Hungarian to Vietnamese, but their Chinese playlist is among the largest.
Each video features a new topic, such as “What do you like about Taiwan?”, “Politics and elections in Taiwan,” “What does freedom mean to you?” and much more. Plus, each video is subtitled in English, Chinese characters and pinyin, so you’re bound to pick up some new vocab.
The videos are recorded in Taiwan, so if you’re wanting to study Taiwanese Mandarin and the Taiwan accent in particular, these videos are the perfect study materials. However, the difference between Standard Mandarin and Taiwanese Mandarin isn’t huge, so Standard Mandarin learners will find them just as beneficial.
Slow Chinese Listening & Reading Practice
This playlist by Everyday Chinese is a compilation of stories told in Mandarin. Not only are they good for practicing your listening skills, but they’re also very entertaining and give deep insights into Chinese culture.
Many of the videos are labeled “Beginner” or “Intermediate/Advanced,” so you know exactly which videos to focus on. Some of the videos are even labeled with their corresponding HSK level!
Similar to Easy Languages Mandarin, each video in this playlist is accompanied by English, Chinese characters and Pinyin subtitles.
One of the most popular resources for streaming Asian movies, dramas and game shows, Viki is the perfect place to find entertaining Chinese media for improving your listening skills.
You can even choose from Mainland Chinese films and Taiwanese films. Plus, each movie and drama allows you to add or remove subtitles in multiple languages, so whether you want to follow along with the Chinese subs or none at all, you can do so.
Viki recently came out with their new “learn mode” feature, which allows you to follow along with English subtitles and subs in your target language. However, since it’s relatively new, it’s only available for certain films and dramas. You also need a Premium membership to use the feature, but it’s extremely affordable.
Available: iOS and Android
Who doesn’t love dramas and movies? Watching entertaining content is a fantastic way to work on your listening skills, especially if the content in question is heavy in dialogue.
AsianCrush is a free streaming website for movies and shows complete with Chinese, Japanese and Korean content. There are quite a few genres available on this site, so you’re sure to find something that suits your taste.
Luckily, AsianCrush usually provides subtitles in both the native language and English for their videos. For beginners, I suggest putting on English subtitles to help you with listening comprehension. For intermediate and advanced learners, 汉字 subtitles would be preferable to help you associate spoken words with their written counterparts.
Some videos don’t have subtitles, which would be useful for advanced learners who really need to hone in on their listening skills overall.
With so many resources online and in print, the road to Chinese fluency won’t seem so grueling anymore. Once you improve your skills through Chinese listening practice, you’ll be able to sit back and enjoy the ride!
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