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.
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 compliment 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. Nine 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 nine 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.
Have You Heard? These 9 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.
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.
Looking for a 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.
These bite-sized videos make improving your listening skills quick and simple. Each video comes with subtitles in Chinese characters, pinyin and English. The subtitles are annotated, so just hover over a word you don’t know to see its definition, part of speech, example sentences and an associated image. This helps you connect the sound of a word to its meaning.
The best part? Every FluentU video is authentic, taken straight from the culture you’re learning about. This means you’ll be able to pick up native Chinese accents and hear people talk at natural speeds, which is the best way to learn Mandarin for everyday use.
Hop on over to Quiz Mode for interactive flashcards and exercises that will help you memorize vocab from the videos. While FluentU can be a supplemental resource, its huge video library and structured quizzes make it a great program to build your learning routine around.
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.
As I mentioned above, 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.
Learn Mandarin Now is another great podcast for Chinese listening practice. 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.
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.
A huge reason 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.
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.
The last podcast in this 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!
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!
Em Casalena is a published author, freelance writer and music columnist. They write about a lot of stuff, from music to films to language.
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn Chinese with real-world videos.