chinese listening practice

15 Practical Resources for Chinese Listening Practice at Any HSK Level

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 méi tīngdǒng, qǐng zài shuō yíbiàn.) — “I don’t understand, please say it again.”

Sound familiar?

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.

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!

Each resource has been tagged with a difficulty level and the corresponding HSK levels. 

Coffee Break Chinese Podcast

Difficulty Level: Beginner to Intermediate (HSK 1-4)

Available: Website, iOS, Android and Spotify

chinese listening practice

Designed for learners, this 40-episode podcast is ideal for beginner and intermediate Chinese speakers. 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.

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. These courses feature video and audio lessons, a lesson guide and transcript and a bonus audio episode.

FluentU

Difficulty Level: Beginner to Advanced (HSK 1-6)

Available: Website, iOS and Android

chinese listening practice 2

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:

learn-mandarin-chinese-with-videos

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.

learn-mandarin-chinese-with-interactive-subtitled-movie-clips

From the description page, you can access interactive transcripts under the Dialogue tab, or review words and phrases under Vocab.

learn-mandarin-chinese-with-popular-songs

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. practice-mandarin-chinese-with-adaptive-quizzes

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.

Try FluentU in your browser or, better yet, download the FluentU iOS or Android app today!

Learn Chinese—Easy Situational Mandarin Chinese Audio Lessons

chinese listening practice 2

Difficulty Level: Beginner to Intermediate (HSK 1-5)

Available: Website, iOS, Android and Spotify

Listening skills are so important if you want to be able to hold a conversation with a native speaker. This podcast from Melnyks Chinese is a perfect tool to reach this goal. Each podcast covers situational dialogues that you may have to use at some point if you travel abroad. The speaker pronounces each word slowly and clearly, and leaves time for listeners to repeat.

Members can access PDF transcripts of each episode, plus worksheets to help further improve comprehension skills. These podcasts are suitable for almost all levels of learners, though advanced learners may find some of the dialogues 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.”

The first 100 lessons are free, but you’ll have to sign up for an account to access the rest.

Slow Chinese Podcast

chinese listening practice

Difficulty Level: Beginner to Intermediate (HSK 1-4)

Available: Apple Podcasts, Podbean iOS and Android

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 so Chinese learners can keep up. An authentic podcast that’s not only designed for learners but also doesn’t contain any English? That’s something you don’t see every day!

The lessons are two to three minutes long on average, making this podcast perfect for shadowing or transcribing material. It was last updated in 2018, but with over 200 episodes, you won’t be getting bored anytime soon.

Learn Mandarin Now Podcast

chinese listening practice 2

Difficulty Level: Beginner (HSK 1-3)

Available: Podbean iOS and Android

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, including how-to guides, Chinese language lessons and even 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

chinese listening practice 2Difficulty Level: Beginner (HSK 1)

Available: Website, iOS and Android

This entry is 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’ve 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.

Learning Chinese Through Stories Podcast

chinese listening practice

Difficulty Level: Beginner to Advanced (HSK 1-6)

Available: Website, YouTube and Spotify

Learning Chinese Through Stories is another resource with exclusively Chinese audio to help you hone in on your listening skills.

Each episode is led by two narrators who read and discuss one short story or song. They speak at a natural pace, which may be slightly intimidating for complete beginners, but the content or discussion is never more challenging than the given level. Their discussions are also very conversational.

Speaking of levels, the episodes are also divided into nine levels, from Low Novice to High Advanced, to accommodate all learners across the proficiency spectrum.

While you’re following along with the story, I highly recommend that you add words to your personal flashcard set when you listen through the website. To access vocabulary annotations, full transcripts and other handy extras from each episode, feel free to support the podcast on Patreon.

Top Chinese Songs 2021 YouTube Playlist

Difficulty Level: Intermediate to Advanced (HSK 4-6)

Available: YouTube

If you need more help finding Mandarin music, here are nearly 60 music videos waiting for you to explore. These songs aren’t great learning tools, they’re also relevant and popular. The advantage of this is that you’ll be learning with and listening to music that’s up-to-date and that 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”

Difficulty Level: Intermediate (HSK 3-4)

Available: YouTube

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 work from 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 a 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 you hear them in real life.

“35 Minutes of Chinese Listening Comprehension for Beginners”

Difficulty Level: Intermediate (HSK 3-4)

Available: YouTube

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.

TiffwithMi

Difficulty Level: Intermediate to Advanced (HSK 4-6)

Available: YouTube

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!

It’s also worth noting that they haven’t uploaded any new vlogs in a while (though there’s still plenty of content to work with on their channel).

Easy Languages Mandarin Chinese

Difficulty Level: Intermediate to Advanced (HSK 4-6)

Available: YouTube

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 want to study Taiwanese Mandarin and the Taiwanese 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

Difficulty Level: Beginner to Intermediate (HSK 2-5)

Available: YouTube

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 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.

Although these stories are great for listening to at any time of the day, I recommend you listen to each story twice in one day: once in the morning, and then once more right around bedtime so you can learn Chinese in your sleep. This brings me to the next point!

Learn HSK Vocabulary While You Sleep

Difficulty Level: Beginner to Intermediate (HSK 1-4)

Available: YouTube

If you haven’t tried to learn while you sleep, it’s about time you did.

Despite sleep learning being a controversial subject with research indicating varying levels of effectivity, lots of educators seem to be on board with it. This clip is just one of the many videos on YouTube teaching common Chinese vocabulary words in your sleep.

On the other hand, one study demonstrates that language learning while sleeping only improved information recall, meaning that new information couldn’t be retained but previously learned vocab and structures were reinforced.

Only you can be the judge of whether it works on not, so it doesn’t hurt to give it a shot. As long as you treat sleep learning as a review session rather than a new listening lesson, you might even see some benefits!

Viki

chinese listening practiceDifficulty Level: Intermediate to Advanced (HSK 4-6)

Available: Website, TV and streaming apps, iOS and Android

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.

AsianCrush

Difficulty Level: Intermediate to Advanced (HSK 4-6)

Available: Website, iOS and Android

chinese listening practice 2

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, Chinese 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.

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, which you can base your study routine on, too.

  • Quality over quantity. Fifteen 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 15 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 reliant 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. (FluentU has that feature!)

    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.

How to Nail the HSK with Chinese Listening Practice

Imagine watching Chinese-language media without English or hanzi subtitles.

Now imagine communicating effectively with native speakers.

Those are just a couple of reasons why you have to practice Chinese listening, a vital language skill to master if you want to make your way up to fluency.

It’s also necessary if you plan on taking the HSK or the 汉语水平考试 (hàn yǔ shuǐ píng kǎo shì). The HSK has 6 levels that measure your reading, writing and listening skills.

In terms of listening skills, this is what you’ll need to pass each level:

HSK 1

  • Recognize familiar everyday expressions and basic phrases
  • Can answer personal questions about age, nationality, where you live, what you have, etc.

HSK 2

  • Understand expressions related to basic topics like family, shopping, jobs, etc.
  • Communicate in simple exchanges

HSK 3

  • Answer questions and draw comparisons
  • Understand expressions and ideas related to work, school, travel

HSK 4

  • Understand main ideas on concrete and abstract subjects
  • Understand native speech with little to no difficulty

HSK 5

  • Understand the news and other settings where formal language is used

HSK 6

  • Understand all spoken Chinese and effectively express yourself

However, these testing standards will be changing in the near future.

For starters, new levels (7-9) will be introduced to test advanced fluency. These levels will be going through their first trial in December 2021 and possibly be available to the public by March 2022.

Levels 1-6 are currently undergoing some changes as well to increase demands for proficiency and update language so that it’s applicable to the modern world. The new model will also measure all related language skills. On top of reading, writing, listening and speaking, it will also test handwriting and translation skills.

Even if you have no plans to take the HSK, it’s good to know what listening skills are expected now and what will be expected in the future to give you a sense of your own proficiency level. Many books, apps and websites use HSK levels to gauge difficulty, so knowing your levels will help you find your way among learning and listening resources.

Here’s what you need to know about the New HSK listening portion: 

New HSK 1

  • Slow speaking speed (around 100 characters/min)
  • Understand simple dialogues using basic words and simple sentences
  • Understand basic information with the help of pictures

New HSK 2

  • Relatively slow speaking speed (around 140 characters/min)
  • Understand simple sentences and some compound sentences
  • Recognize basic information with the help of gestures and facial expressions

New HSK 3

  • Relatively normal speaking speed (around 180 characters/min)
  • Understand long simple sentences and simple compound sentences
  • Observe details with the help of voices, intonation, changes in speaking speed, etc.

New HSK 4

  • Understand both informal and formal dialogues and speeches
  • Normal speaking speed with natural and authentic intonation (180-200 characters/min)
  • Understand inflections like humor and sarcasm, cultural knowledge, etc.
  • Recall accurate information in audios, regardless of unnecessary pauses and redundancies in speech

New HSK 5

  • Understand both informal and formal dialogues and speeches
  • Normal speaking speed with natural and authentic intonation (200-220 characters/min)
  • Understand cultural implications
  • Recall details, regardless of unnecessary pauses or redundancies in speech

New HSK 6

  • Understand both informal and formal dialogues and speeches
  • Normal speaking speed with natural accent and non-exaggerated intonation (220-240 characters/min)
  • Understand others despite speech impediments or differences in proficiency level
  • Recognize speakers’ intentions and related cultural factors

New HSK 7

  • Normal to slightly fast speaking speed
  • Understand facts and perspectives accurately and any related social and cultural implications, regardless of environmental disruptions

New HSK 8

  • Normal to slightly fast speaking speed
  • Summarize audios
  • Understand details and know their logical order, regardless of environmental disruptions

New HSK 9

  • Slightly fast speaking speed
  • Analyze and make observations and speculations
  • Understand social and cultural implications correctly

 

With so many resources online, 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!

Most recently updated by Sheena Dizon on 10/14/2021.

If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn Chinese with real-world videos.

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