“What did you say?”
“Can you repeat that?”
“I’m sorry, I don’t understand.”
How many times have you said these phrases when someone is speaking to you in Chinese?
Listening can be hard enough in English. When we try to listen in our second language, things get even more difficult.
Especially in Chinese.
Because Chinese is a tonal language, nailing pronunciation and listening skills can be tricky. But the more you listen, the easier it can get!
And the right audio can act a lot like a Chinese course, providing you with important vocabulary and grammar rules along with pronunciation training and listening practice.
Here’s all you need to know to learn Chinese with audio!
How to Select the Right Chinese Audio Resources for You
We’ve provided 14 stellar audio resources on this list. However, each one will benefit a different type of learner.
And you don’t have to use all 14 resources. (In fact, please don’t!) Here’s what you should look for when deciding on your top two or three.
Pay attention to level.
There are audio options available at all levels, from complete beginner through native-level proficiency.
Because there’s such variety, it’s important to pay careful attention to the level of any Chinese audio resource you consider. Using too advanced of an audio program can be overwhelming, while going with too easy of an option might not lead to as rapid of results.
Consider your goals.
Knowing what you want to get out of your Chinese audio resource can help you select the right one.
For instance, do you want to build your vocabulary?
Do you hope to improve your listening skills?
Do you need to work on grammar rules?
Knowing exactly what you hope to get out of listening to Chinese audio can enable you to find a resource to help you meet those goals.
Consider when, where and how you’ll listen.
If you know when, where and how you’ll listen, this could point you toward or away from certain options.
For instance, some resources are designed to be used with audio only. Other audio materials are designed to be used in conjunction with printed material. Knowing the details of your study routine can narrow down your options.
Consider how to access the audio.
Different audio programs offer different delivery methods. Some programs offer downloadable MP3s, others incorporate audio through an app, some rely on CDs and others offer audio accessible online.
Paying attention to how the audio is delivered can help you determine if that program will meet your needs.
How to Learn the Most from Chinese Audio
Before we jump into the list, here are a few tips for getting as much out of these resources as you can.
Using audio frequently can help you continue building on the skills you develop. Long gaps between listening sessions could lead to backsliding. You don’t want to risk losing the Chinese skills you’ve worked so hard to learn, so listen often to keep your skills up.
Don’t just listen—speak.
Chinese audio provides terrific listening practice. However, in a perfect world, you’ll have more than just listening skills.
Thankfully, Chinese audio also lends itself nicely to speaking practice. Just repeat words and phrases you hear or talk back to your audio program to work in speaking practice.
Pair audio resources with other resources.
Chinese audio resources can help with your speaking and listening skills, but you still need to work on your reading and writing skills!
That’s why you should try to pair audio resources with other materials. This can help you develop a more well-rounded, versatile skill set.
Learn Chinese with Audio: 14 Resources for Boosting Your Listening Skills
Available: iOS | Android
Nemo is a Chinese phrasebook that features audio by natives speakers.
Online, you can use Nemo to study 100 words and phrases. Each entry is accompanied by Chinese text, pinyin text, English translation and audio.
While the website is great, the app is where Nemo truly shines. The app features downloaded audio, so you can listen offline, whether you’re on a plane or just don’t have access to Wi-Fi. The app also has a speech study that invites you to record yourself speaking to compare your pronunciation to the teacher’s.
And if you’re using the iOS app, you’re in luck! It even offers a hands-free mode, enabling you to use the app when you’re cooking, exercising or driving.
Nemo focuses on common words, so it’s appropriate for complete beginners.
Available: iOS | Android
If you want to enjoy Chinese audio in a supportive, interactive context, FluentU is a great option.
But with FluentU, you won’t be thrown into authentic audio without support. Each video is captioned, and you can easily access any word’s definition, example sentences and an associated image.
If you want to see a word in a different context, FluentU will even show you other videos that use that word. And if you want to study a word more later, simply add it to your vocabulary list for easy access.
If you prefer audio without video, FluentU offers that, too! FluentU’s Chinese program offers a beginner course and audio files that focus squarely on audio learning. And best of all, you can still access all the great FluentU material you love, like captioning, easy word look-ups and translations.
Whether you use FluentU to watch videos or listen to audio, you can also enjoy quizzes with FluentU. Quizzes combine videos, images and example sentences into engaging, interactive activities that put your Chinese skills to the test.
Regardless of your current skill level, FluentU can work with you to meet your learning needs. You choose what you watch, how much you watch and how quickly you watch. Meanwhile, FluentU’s algorithm tracks your learning, using the data to present you with level-appropriate questions that build on what you’ve already learned. This means every user’s experience is 100% personalized!
Plus, you can use FluentU however it’s convenient for you, whether you use FluentU online, download the iOS app or try the Android app.
Available: iOS | Android
If you can never get enough Chinese learning material, ChineseClass101 might be a dream come true. This program offers thousands of of audio and video lessons!
The lessons cover beginning- through advanced-level material, including vocabulary, grammar and listening practice.
If you go through the website, you can even access accompanying learning materials, like lesson notes, quizzes, English translations and more. However, if you want to sample some of ChineseClass101’s content without the commitment, you can also check out the ChineseClass101 YouTube channel.
Want to take a beginning Chinese course without spending a dime? Head over to Chinese-Tools.com.
Chinese-Tools.com offers 40 online lessons. The lessons teach pronunciation, common characters, vocabulary, grammar and basic Chinese skills.
Each lesson offers audio examples to reinforce what you’ve learned. And because the audios are MP3s, you can choose to listen online or download them to enjoy the audio even when you don’t have internet access.
Chinese-Tools.com is designed to be used for just 10 minutes each day, making it a great choice for Chinese students with limited time available to devote to studying.
Available: iOS | Android
Melnyks Chinese is a downloadable audio course you can put on your computer or your favorite device.
The lessons are designed for absolute beginners, so you’ll receive plenty of useful information, like common vocabulary, basic grammar, dialogues, language structures and cultural information. Lessons focus on realistic situations to provide practical vocabulary and communication skills you can use in real life.
You can listen to the audio lessons wherever it’s convenient for you, whether that’s the car, the gym or on public transportation. However, if you have time to do a little reading, Melnyks Chinese also offers PDF transcripts and review worksheets that accompany audio lessons.
Available: iOS | Android
Want to build your Chinese vocabulary quickly? 50Languages is a great tool that can help beginning learners build a strong vocabulary foundation to build on down the road.
50Languages provides 100 lessons to teach basic vocabulary with the goal of giving students the ability to form basic sentences. You’ll learn words related to common themes, such as numbers, people, family members, school, feelings, animals and so much more.
One of the highlights of 50Languages is that it offers downloadable audio files that you can use on any device. This makes it easy to listen to audio every day and go back and re-listen to previous lessons for additional reinforcement.
While Popup Chinese offers a handful of videos, its main focus is squarely on audio.
Popup Chinese provides podcast-based lessons for complete beginners through advanced-level Chinese students.
Lessons traditionally focus on dialogues. Each dialogue revolves around a theme, such as gossip, thinking or the outdoors. Most of these lessons are around 10 minutes long, so they’re short enough to fit into busy schedules, but long enough to provide you with some good practice. There are four levels, and there are dozens of podcasts for each level, so you’ll have plenty of listening opportunities!
For lower-level lessons, the hosts will break down the dialogues line-by-line to help you understand the material. However, more advanced lessons usually lean heavily on your Chinese skills.
You can listen to content for free online. However, if you want to download files, you’ll need a premium subscription. A premium subscription also grants to access to additional learning materials, like lesson transcripts and worksheets.
Available: iOS | Android
HelloChinese is a super popular Chinese learning app for beginning students. And it’s popular for a reason! It offers tons of great features for students learning Chinese, including speech recognition to practice your pronunciation, handwriting to help you learn characters, videos to help you practice real-life conversations, games for a fun learning break and more.
But let’s get to the audio! The app weaves audio by native speakers throughout the activities. Plus, new podcast lessons are added weekly to provide you with additional audio learning content.
Once you have the full course downloaded, you can access materials without internet access, making it a perfect tool to use on a plane or wherever you can’t access Wi-Fi.
Also, the main course is free! But if you want access to games, you’ll need to purchase the premium subscription.
“Living Language Mandarin Chinese”
“Living Language Mandarin Chinese” isn’t just audio—it’s actually a multimedia package that includes coursebooks, a Chinese character guide, online learning and, of course, audio.
This package is the complete edition of “Living Language Mandarin Chinese,” so it offers three coursebooks for beginners through advanced students. In total, there are 46 lessons accompanied by cultural notes, exercises and more.
Online learning activities include flashcards, games and quizzes to reinforce your learning.
And if you’re looking for audio, this program offers plenty of it. In fact, you’ll receive nine CDs, which feature audio exercises, vocabulary, dialogue and more. You can listen to them while you’re using the printed material, or use them separately for hands-free learning.
If you don’t have a CD player anymore, don’t worry! Downloadable audio is also available with your purchase.
“Chinese for Kids”
Whether you’re a kid or a kid at heart, “Chinese for Kids” can be a great tool to study beginning Chinese.
“Chinese for Kids” is intended for early beginners between the ages of three and eight. However, the same learning principles that help kids can also help adult learners.
This set includes 10 reader books, and each book highlights 10 vocabulary words, teaching you common words on themes like colors, animals, clothing, family and more. Texts feature both pinyin and simplified Chinese. English translations are available at the back so you won’t be so tempted to lean on English too heavily.
Plus, all this comes with online audio by a native speaker! You can listen online or download the audio for easy listening on the go.
If you want to learn Chinese with an audio course, “Pimsleur Chinese” is a great choice.
This conversational course focuses exclusively on audio. The audio CD language course offers eight hours of audio-only instruction.
This course is designed for beginners and features 16 lessons that introduce basic vocabulary, structure and conversation. You’ll learn useful vocabulary related to greetings, numbers, shopping, asking for directions and more.
The course places particular emphasis on pronunciation and comprehension, which are great foundational skills you can build upon down the road.
“Learn Mandarin Chinese with Paul Noble”
Looking for a more relaxed approach to learning Chinese? “Learn Mandarin Chinese with Paul Noble” could be your perfect fit.
This course may have a laid-back vibe, but it doesn’t skimp on Chinese learning content. In fact, it offers over 12 hours of audio content intended to help complete beginners learn Chinese skills they can use in real life.
“Learn Mandarin Chinese with Paul Noble” is available via CD or you can search for it on Audible, making it a convenient choice if you have specific audio preferences.
If you like “Learn Mandarin Chinese with Paul Noble” and want to continue your study, or if you’re already at an intermediate level, you might try “Next Steps in Mandarin Chinese with Paul Noble,” which is a follow-up course.
“Chinese Flash Cards Kit Volume 1”
Why would anyone use a flashcard set if they’re looking to learn Chinese with audio? Well, this isn’t an ordinary flashcard set!
In addition to 349 flashcards and a 32-page study booklet, this set provides audio of over 2,000 words and phrases. The audio comes on a CD with native-speaker pronunciations, so you can listen from a CD player or rip it to have it handy on your favorite device.
This kit was developed specifically with an eye on HSK (Chinese Proficiency Test) and AP test prep, so it can be a particularly useful tool for students considering taking these tests. However, the kit is at an HSK 1 or HSK 2 level, meaning it’s best for beginning students.
“Learn in Your Car: Mandarin Chinese – Level 1”
Make the most of your commute! “Learn in Your Car: Mandarin Chinese” is designed for hands-free learning wherever you are.
This program offers 28 downloadable lessons that teach the basics related to popular themes, such as transportation, money, hotels, directions, numbers and so much more. Lessons range in length from about two minutes to nearly 20, so you’ll have plenty of material to help you learn Chinese while you’re on the go.
You can download each lesson individually, buy the whole album or search for it using an Amazon Music Unlimited subscription. Want to try it out a different way? You can also find “Learn in Your Car: Mandarin Chinese – Level 1” on Spotify.
If you like the series and want to continue, or if you’re already at a more advanced level, you can also check out additional works in the series, “Learn in Your Car: Mandarin Chinese – Level 2” and “Learn in Your Car: Mandarin Chinese – Level 3.”
These 14 resources to learn Chinese with audio are convenient tools to build your Chinese skills.
Imagine the day when you can make it through an entire Chinese conversation without asking, “What did you say?”
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn Chinese with real-world videos.