13 Awesome Chinese Podcasts For Learners of Any Level (Updated For 2024)
Mandarin Chinese language podcasts could be a great way to improve your Chinese listening skills, especially if you often have to ask native speakers to repeat what they said until you understand.
Instead of spending most of our time on the usual suspects (e.g., ChinesePod), I’m going to introduce some other options for Chinese podcasts that you might not have heard of.
These are native language podcasts, which could be perfect for you if you’ve reached a plateau in your learning and want to improve.
- Beginner Chinese Podcasts
- Intermediate Chinese Podcasts
- 3. Best for Life Stories: 發發大王 — King Fafa
- 4. Best for Short News Clips: BBC 中文 — BBC Chinese
- 5. Best for Listening Comprehension: 聽故事學中文 — Learning Chinese through Stories
- 6. Best for Analyzing Articles: 365讀書 — 365 Reading
- 7. Best for Technology: 狗熊有話說 — BearTalk
- 8. Best for US vs. Chinese Culture: 隨口說美國 — Talking About the United States
- Advanced Chinese Podcasts
- 9. Best for Mainland Chinese Politics: 新浪視頻 — Sina Videos
- 10. Best for Storytelling: 環球故事會 — Stories Across the Globe
- 11. Best for Entertainment: 電影不無聊 — No Boring Movies
- 12. Best for College Life in Mainland China: 慢速中文 — Slow Chinese
- 13. Best for Chinese Medicine: 黃帝內經與養生智慧 — Staying Healthy with the Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine
- Bonus Programs
- What Makes a Great Chinese Podcast?
Beginner Chinese Podcasts
1. Best for Taiwanese Culture: 青春愛消遣 — The Pastimes of Youth
Title in pinyin: qīng chūn ài xiāo qiǎn
One thing I love about Taiwanese talk shows is that they’re always very relaxing—it almost seems like dropping in on a conversation between friends, so it always gives you a homely feel… great for a weekend listening session to learn Chinese through podcasts… and to relax!!
Typical of Taiwanese talk show hosts, this podcast is brought to audiences in a very conversational tone. It’s also targeted at a younger audience, so the dialogue is a lot less formal, and a lot easier to listen to.
Started by two college students, this show is pretty popular in Taiwan, and it basically talks about life issues from the eyes of younger people, so you can really see how Taiwanese people live their daily lives, their cultural values, beliefs and such.
2. Best for Podcast-Style Lessons: MandarinBean
MandarinBean is designed as a program rather than a straight podcast. It teaches multiple levels of Chinese (HSK 1-6) all through podcasts. That means that you can use MandarinBean as a beginner Chinese learner and then continue to use the program as you move through the intermediate and advanced learner stages.
While there are a few free lessons, to get the best of MandarinBean, you have to sign up. There’s a monthly subscription fee, but each lesson comes with a transcript, notes and English translation.
Each podcast’s transcript can also be accessed in traditional or simplified characters as well as pinyin. Learners can also adjust the speed of the podcast to be faster or slower.
Intermediate Chinese Podcasts
3. Best for Life Stories: 發發大王 — King Fafa
Title in pinyin: fā fā dà wáng
To truly see how native speakers live their day-to-day, 發發大王 is for you. This channel has a whole collection of stories of people of all ages and all walks of life, living in and out of China.
Before diving into this one, note that these podcasts are quite lengthy, with some lasting just under two hours. For that reason, it’s better to save this channel when you have a stronger command of Mandarin.
The hosts are also from Beijing and tend to speak a little faster with regional slang, which will be difficult to understand if you’re not at least at the intermediate stage.
Unless you’re an advanced learner, I suggest that you break these episodes up into digestible chunks. There’s a lot to pick up from each episode in terms of both language and culture, so you really don’t want to miss anything.
4. Best for Short News Clips: BBC 中文 — BBC Chinese
Title in pinyin: zhōng wén
Prefer to listen to or watch the news? BBC 中文 is great for catching up with current affairs in Chinese.
The news can be a pretty heavy subject with way too much journalistic jargon that may be overwhelming for Chinese learners. Thankfully, most clips on this channel range between two to five minutes, which makes each clip easier to digest and much more approachable for intermediate listeners!
This channel might not be as engaging as the other Chinese learning podcasts on this list; however, it’s important to see Mandarin in different settings. This allows you to compare the formal language of reporters with the casual speech of talk show hosts. And the channel offers more than just political coverage, as you might have noticed in the example lessons mentioned above.
If the clips are a bit difficult to follow, try finding related articles in English. Having this background information will definitely help you understand what’s being said in the videos.
5. Best for Listening Comprehension: 聽故事學中文 — Learning Chinese through Stories
Title in pinyin: tīng gù shi xué zhōng wén
Stories are some of the best ways to be entertained and to learn at the same time, and this podcast delivers in both those respects.
As the name of this podcast describes, it uses short stories to teach Chinese. Each story and podcast ranges from a couple of minutes to around 20 minutes. These stories and their explanations are completely in Chinese, so I’d recommend a pretty solid level (think intermediate level) in order to get the most out of this podcast. In theory, you should be comfortable with little or no English support.
For each story, the host breaks down the stories for themes and comprehension and explains them in careful Chinese. There are some grammar lessons released in addition to stories, and new stories are uploaded regularly.
6. Best for Analyzing Articles: 365讀書 — 365 Reading
Title in pinyin: dú shū
If you’ve ever taken an advanced/university-level language course, you probably know that some people think language learners need to read tons of literature.
I happen to think this focus of many university programs is bogus. But it’s true that reading Chinese literature can enrich your experience of the language and open you up to new vocabulary, expressions and ideas, and it’s a worthy intellectual pursuit. If reading is your thing, then this is the podcast to listen to.
Each episode lasts around 10 to 30 minutes and the podcast is updated daily. Each episode focuses on an article or piece written by a famous writer (often, but not always, a Chinese writer).
Although the male presenter has a slight southern accent, he speaks slowly and clearly, making this a good podcast for intermediate learners who are just starting to listen to native audio.
7. Best for Technology: 狗熊有話說 — BearTalk
Title in pinyin: gǒu xióng yǒu huà shuō
狗熊有話說 or BearTalk is a pretty well-known and well-liked podcast on the Chinese podcast scene. It has been around for a long time, and in fact, it won the iTunes Editor’s Choice award in 2013 and has been featured in newspapers worldwide.
The podcast’s creator is a guy named “Bear,” and he’s a techie app designer and marketer who has lived in China and now New Zealand. His podcast touches on a variety of topics ranging from book reviews, technology, app design, self-improvement and productivity.
His speech style is accessible to intermediate learners because he speaks slowly and carefully, but he also uses an informal, conversational tone and some of his content uses technical language. For this reason, I’d recommend this podcast for high intermediate and advanced learners.
Further, this podcast is useful for learners to hear real Chinese as it is actually spoken. I would use this for everyday ways to talk about specific topics and see Chinese used in a natural, conversational setting.
8. Best for US vs. Chinese Culture: 隨口說美國 — Talking About the United States
Title in pinyin: suí kǒu shuō měi guó
Technically this is a podcast about the United States, but it’s from the perspective of a Chinese person and there are plenty of interesting lessons for Chinese learners.
The presenter draws detailed comparisons between life in China and life in the U.S., providing listeners with a very clear idea of what’s the same or similar and what’s different. It’s a good way to answer the questions, “what would a Chinese person think about X?” or “how do they do X in China?”
Each episode is between 40 minutes and an hour long and it’s updated once a week.
The host speaks Mandarin Chinese with an accent from Fuzhou, which is similar to the Taiwanese accent. Even though it’s not especially standard, it’s clear and at a normal speed, so it shouldn’t be impossible for a Chinese learner to understand.
Advanced Chinese Podcasts
9. Best for Mainland Chinese Politics: 新浪視頻 — Sina Videos
Title in pinyin: xīn làng shì pín
Sina is one of China’s largest websites, and it’s also within the top 25 most visited websites in the world. If you’re looking for more news and current affairs podcasts, this is definitely the way to go.
However, be forewarned—this isn’t the easiest Chinese podcast to listen to! Because it’s a native Chinese show, it’s not designed to be used as Chinese learning material, so what’s said on screen is what native Chinese people hear, which doesn’t sound tough, but add on the non-Beijing accents used by some TV anchors, it can be a real challenge!
So, yes… that means you’ll have to slowly attune yourself to listen to a wide variety of accents… even from reporters!
If I had to recommend how to use it, I’d say you can treat it as a daily practice session to improve your listening flexibility, but I wouldn’t advocate it as a way to learn vocabulary (the topics are way too varied, not to mention way too dry for my tastes!).
10. Best for Storytelling: 環球故事會 — Stories Across the Globe
Title in pinyin: huán qiú gù shì huì
If news-style podcasts in Chinese are your cup of tea, give this broadcasting program a shot.
環球故事會 delves into the backstory of renowned names and other subjects covered in mainstream media. Rather than just spitting out facts, the host acts sort of like a storyteller, making the content more approachable compared to standard news channels.
The host is quite the dynamic narrator, which can help you with perfecting your accent.
Each episode is about 45 minutes. But given the formal subject matter and that the podcast is entirely in Mandarin, this one is really only suited for advanced learners who are comfortable talking about history, politics and current affairs in Chinese.
I will say though that the host speaks at a slow enough pace for intermediates who are up for a challenge.
11. Best for Entertainment: 電影不無聊 — No Boring Movies
Title in Pinyin: diàn yǐng bù wú liáo
If you’re a movie buff and enjoy Chinese and Western movies alike, then 電影不無聊 or No Boring Movies pretty much guarantees that you’ll never be bored.
Like previous “talk show” style podcasts, this one is completely in Chinese. Furthermore, it’s hosted by a man and a woman who speak the standard Beijing dialect of Chinese, but their discussions can get quite complex and technical. Because of that, I recommend that learners have a pretty high level (advanced level) of Chinese before listening. It would also be helpful to have seen the movies that the hosts are talking about to help put things into context.
As expected, each podcast features a movie review or discussion about a movie or movie genre. Occasionally, there are interviews or they feature a certain director or actor. The podcasts are quite lengthy, so be prepared to get an in-depth look at the topic.
This podcast is also a great way to learn about Chinese cinema and see what’s popular in Chinese entertainment at any given time.
12. Best for College Life in Mainland China: 慢速中文 — Slow Chinese
Title in pinyin: màn sù zhōng wén
Slow Chinese is pretty unique. It’s created by Chinese college students, and basically, these students talk about a snippet of what it’s like to live in China, often in short sessions under 10 minutes.
The most unique aspect of Slow Chinese is that it’s designed to be spoken out loud slowly, so even if the content is a bit more advanced than you’re used to, it’s much easier to make out the individual words because of the slower speed!
I think that in terms of learning materials, it’s not the most well-equipped on the list, but in terms of podcast material, it can be interesting—these are genuine snippets of what life is like through the eyes of college students, so you can count on it that you’re not just going to learn new words, you’re also going to hear some unique stuff about Chinese culture from a native’s perspective!
The content isn’t exhaustive, but you can get a glimpse into China through Slow Chinese, and I highly recommend it for people who are at an intermediate level to really polish their listening skills here.
13. Best for Chinese Medicine: 黃帝內經與養生智慧 — Staying Healthy with the Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine
Title in pinyin: huáng dì nèi jīng yǔ yǎng shēng zhì huì
Even for those who aren’t studying the language, Chinese medicine is one of the most fascinating aspects of Chinese culture. Chinese medicine is based on research and ancient practices recorded in classic works, but it also influences the daily life and habits of people throughout China.
Ever see elderly people hitting themselves as they walk? They’re actually hitting specific spots on the body in a way that’s believed to be beneficial according to traditional Chinese therapies.
Back to this podcast, though. Each episode is between 15 minutes and half an hour long. “The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine” is one of the most important works in the history of Chinese medicine.
The podcast focuses on ways to stay healthy according to “The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine.”
The announcer has a slight southern accent but speaks relatively slowly. The most difficult aspect of listening to this podcast is that every episode has some medical terminology that you won’t find in your HSK lists.
For Fun Watching: 康熙來了 — Kangsi Coming
On a different but not unrelated note, I also want to mention a hugely popular and award-winning talk show that I think deserves to be on the list: 康熙來了 (kāng xī lái le) or “Kangsi Coming” in English. It doesn’t have subtitles, episodes are 45 minutes long (very long!) and can be a little localized at times, but I personally love the show a lot, so I can’t resist bringing it up at the end.
The show’s name, Kangsi Coming, is a play on the Chinese emperor 康熙 but is actually a portmanteau of the two hosts’ names. It was one of the longest-running variety shows in Taiwan that aired from January 2004 to January 2016, where the two hosts invited many different guests, celebrities and normal people to the show to talk about a variety of topics that people often find interesting and controversial.
I highly recommend this for some light-hearted entertainment, humor, insight into Taiwanese culture and also for learning a couple of phrases in the local Taiwanese dialect!
For Guided Learning: FluentU
Another resource would be the FluentU program for a podcast-like experience with a visual and interactive twist.
FluentU takes authentic videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.
Start using the FluentU website on your computer or tablet or, better yet, download the FluentU app from the iTunes or Google Play store. Click here to take advantage of our current sale! (Expires at the end of this month.)
What Makes a Great Chinese Podcast?
Here’s how I gauged these Chinese podcasts—and you can also use the same criteria when you’re looking for more Chinese language podcasts to follow:
- It has to be suitable for your level. If the podcast is overly technical and riddled with obscure words, it might not be immediately attractive to you. Instead, you might want to find Chinese podcasts that are suitable for your current Chinese level.
- It shouldn’t have too much local slang or dialect in it. I personally find slang to be very difficult, and mostly irrelevant when learning another language. I’m not against slang per se, but I certainly don’t advocate it either, especially for learning in the beginning.
- Avoid native Chinese podcasts that are heavily accented. Unfortunately, the Chinese language tends to have a lot more variation in accent which makes it difficult to listen to. I would recommend against these ones unless you’re trying to master a specific accent.
- Choose Chinese podcasts with a transcript or subtitles if you’re not yet advanced. If you’re a beginner in Chinese, subtitles, transcripts and learning materials are always welcome. I tend to be a bit biased, but between two podcasts that have good content and mediocre content, I would choose the one with mediocre content but with great learning materials.
- Awesome Chinese podcasts should discuss interesting topics. It depends on the person, but I lean towards podcasts that talk about really nichey stuff, or podcasts that are more casual. The main thing is that they should be interesting, or else I find my vocabulary retention rates drop after a while.
In my opinion, Chinese language podcasts are a great way to learn Chinese, especially to help strengthen your listening skills. I hope you’ve found this post helpful and that it made you consider adding podcasts to your Chinese learning approach in the future!
With all these learner podcasts and native Chinese podcasts, you’re set to boost your skills no matter what your level is!