Free entertainment doesn’t get much better than YouTube.
You can literally find just about anything that tickles your fancy on this massive streaming site, all while supporting independent artists as well.
You can also use YouTube for some entertaining language learning.
I know what you’re thinking. Learning? Entertaining? When is it ever?
With YouTube, it can be!
YouTube has a ton of content that can help you learn Mandarin Chinese. There are several ways you can use YouTube to learn Chinese and improve your fluency, all while enjoying yourself.
How cool is that?
We took the guesswork out of finding Chinese-learning content on YouTube. So sit back, relax and binge-watch some entirely free learning videos.
And if the particular channels we chose aren’t your favorite, we’ll help you figure out how to search for similar content that may be more up your alley.
Check it out!
Learn Mandarin Chinese with YouTube Using These 4 Tips (and 12 Channels)
Below, we discuss four main ways to find Chinese content on YouTube in order to improve your Mandarin fluency: You can watch Chinese shows, jam to Chinese music videos, follow famous Mandarin-speaking YouTubers or go the traditional route with free Mandarin lessons.
Why not try them all?
1. Watch Chinese YouTube Shows and Broadcast Channels
Are these channels not hitting the spot? Want more options? Try searching YouTube for “广播” (guǎng bò) — “broadcast” or “电视频道” (diàn shì pín dào) — “TV channel” to find similar broadcast channels.
Be sure to search in hanzi rather than pinyin or English to get the best results.
湖南卫视 (hú nán wèi shì) — Hunan Television or Hunan TV is a satellite TV station that’s also one of China’s most-watched channels. Hunan TV’s YouTube channel boasts video clips, breaking news and full episodes of various reality chat shows. It also occasionally has a few documentaries.
A majority of the content on this channel doesn’t have 汉字 (hàn zì) — Chinese characters, 拼音 (pīn yīn) — Chinese romanization or English subtitles. If you’re an advanced learner looking to up your listening game, this is the channel for you.
CCTV is another broadcast station that’s popular among Mandarin-speaking natives. In fact, it’s the number one station in mainland China.
This channel is very similar to Hunan TV in that it features full-length content and livestreams. However, this channel is more on the news and politics side of content.
There are no subtitles for these videos and much of the Mandarin spoken is fast-paced conversational Chinese, so advanced and intermediate learners could use this content to improve speaking and listening speed.
Lost in Translation
Lost in Translation (also known as LIT) is a fun entertainment channel that focuses on content for Chinese-American people and students studying in China. Their videos are quite diverse and include everything from mini-game shows and reaction videos to interviews.
The dialogue on this channel is a mix of English and Chinese, along with simultaneous English and Chinese subtitles. Beginners, check this one out!
2. Watch Chinese Music Videos
Who doesn’t love a good music video? To find more videos like these, try searching for “音乐视频” (yīn yuè shì pín) — “music video.”
NGIRLS – 女神啾啾啾 (NGIRLS – Nǚ Shén Jiū Jiū Jiū) — Ngirls – “Goddess Choo Choo Choo”
Listening to music and watching music videos is fun, no doubt about that. You can also benefit linguistically by listening to music. Plus, watching Chinese music videos can provide a little bit of insight into what’s popular in China and what modern Chinese culture is like.
This mesmerizing track from NGIRLS is a great example. The Chinese subtitles make it great content for intermediate learners or beginners who want to practice their listening skills in Mandarin.
畢書盡 – 回到我身边 (Bì Shū Jǐn – Huí Dào Wǒ Shēn Biān) — Bi Shujin – “Come Back To Me”
Are you an advanced learner who loves a challenge? This track from Taiwanese artist Bii is a mix of English, Chinese and Korean. Can you pick apart the Mandarin parts?
If you’re not an advanced learner, this music video is handy because it features hàn zì, pīn yīn, English and 표준어 (pyojun-eo) — Korean where applicable.
筷子兄弟 – 小苹果 (Kuài Zi Xiōng Dì – Xiǎo Píng Guǒ) — Chopstick Brothers – “Little Apple”
C’mon, Chinese humor! This music video is a great way to get acquainted with absurdist Mandarin-language comedy. There are Chinese and English subtitles available and the melody of the song is slow enough that beginners can keep up with it.
3. Follow Chinese YouTubers
There are definitely many more Chinese YouTubers out there than those we mention below. Search for “视频博客” (shì pín bó kè) — “vlog” to find more.
Fulinfang 拂菻坊 (fú lǐn fāng)
Fulinfang isn’t a native Mandarin speaker (it appears he’s from the United Kingdom) but his podcasts are quite entertaining and his Chinese skills are admirable.
Although there aren’t any subtitles for his podcast and interviews, his vlogs do have hanzi subtitles. Check this one out, upper beginner and intermediate learners!
Sometimes he speaks English, but a majority of his videos are in Mandarin. If you’re interested to see what it’s like being a foreigner in China, he’s definitely worth watching.
Shen Lim TV
Shen Lim may not have a million followers on YouTube, but he certainly deserves them. Lim is a Chinese native living abroad in Japan. His videos, which are mostly vlogs, follow him as he tries to navigate language in a different country.
While Japanese is obviously featured in his videos, most of the dialogue is between him and other Mandarin-speaking people.
Think of your favorite popular English-speaking YouTuber: Shen Lim has quite similar content.
Just about every video on this channel boasts English and Chinese subtitles simultaneously. This is definitely a YouTuber for all levels!
Krysti Naaa is a fairly popular Mandarin-speaking YouTuber. She lives primarily in Boston but also has travel vlogs of her home in Xi-An, China and around the United States.
Her videos cover a variety of topics, including travel vlogs, product reviews (mostly makeup and skincare) and fashion tours. She has a very endearing personality and her videos are definitely entertaining.
Krysti Naaa’s videos will benefit advanced learners the best, as she speaks in Mandarin very quickly and she doesn’t offer any sort of subtitles on her videos.
Beginners and intermediate learners can also benefit from listening to her speaking speed in order to get an idea of how conversational Chinese is spoken.
4. Subscribe to Chinese Language Channels
Finding Chinese language channels is super easy. Simply search for “Chinese language lessons” or “Chinese help” in English to find more than what we’ve listed below.
Watching YouTube vloggers and staying up-to-date on Chinese news is fun and all, but we could all benefit from a video lesson here and there to keep our Mandarin sharp.
The FluentU YouTube channel is an awesome place to start. The videos on this channel focus primarily on listening skills, but they provide a great way to warm up before trying out the videos on the FluentU website!
If you like learning with videos, you’ll love FluentU!
Take it a step further than YouTube with FluentU’s video flashcards, personalized quizzes, customizable vocabulary lists and other helpful learning features. Immerse yourself in Mandarin Chinese with FluentU!
The Yoyo Chinese YouTube channel is hosted by Yangyang, a native Chinese speaker and teacher.
Many of the videos on her channel feature a mix of ads for the actual Yoyo Chinese website, full free courses, tips, tricks and livestreams. Use this channel to review your knowledge of the language or learn a new skill.
This channel is a great channel for any level of learner!
Chinese for Us
Are you in serious need of help to pass your HSK (Chinese proficiency) exam? Do you just need to know what to say in a particular situation, such as hailing a cab or seeing a doctor?
Chinese for Us is a super-handy channel and the free video lessons are actually pretty in-depth. There’s a ton of content on this channel that can benefit the beginner, intermediate and advanced learner.
Now that you’re stocked up on a ton of content, are you ready to start using YouTube’s free tools to learn Mandarin?
While using videos exclusively may not be the best way to learn a language, these various channels and videos will definitely help you get ahead when it comes to learning Mandarin. Good luck!
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.