Chinese listening skills are one of the most crucial components of Mandarin language learning. Once you’ve acquired strong listening skills, you can interact naturally and meaningfully with Chinese speakers.
To help you enhance your listening skills and your ability to communicate smoothly, this article gives tips on how to improve Chinese listening skills and lists some helpful listening resources for beginner, intermediate, and advanced learners of Chinese.
Below are listening resources appropriate for beginners, meaning Chinese learners around HSK levels one and two. It’s good to start practicing your listening skills early, so make sure you get in some productive Chinese listening practice with these resources.
Many beginner learners probably have Chinese textbooks handy. To practice your listening skills using a textbook, be sure to make full use of the book’s provided audio and Chinese listening exercises. Here’s one surefire way to do that.
When encountering new material as you’re making your way through the textbook, first listen to the new texts once. Then read through them to learn the new words they introduce. Afterwards, listen to the text’s audio once more, this time without reading the text.
Repeat this method whenever new text comes by. Over time, your Chinese listening skills will improve alongside the other Mandarin skills you’re acquiring.
If you’re not sure what textbook to start Mandarin listening practice with, the series Integrated Chinese is ideal for learners with no prior knowledge of Chinese.
The podcast Learning Chinese through Stories produces episodes entirely in Chinese that beginners can listen to. The provided stories are short, and you can find the Chinese text accompanied by pinyin transcriptions on their site.
We highly recommend that you add words to your personal flashcard set as you follow along with the stories. Hack Chinese makes this really easy to do with its custom lists.
ChineseBuddy is a great source for finding easy, catchy tunes for learning Mandarin. The figure behind ChineseBuddy, Tim, is a professional composer who has written not only 120+ Mandarin education learning songs, but also operatic, orchestral, and choral music.
To get an idea of what his work is like, check out this charming song:
Slow Chinese from Everyday Chinese is a YouTube playlist that features short news briefs and stories in Chinese. The content is read in slow and clear Mandarin Chinese and includes pinyin transcriptions and English translations.
Here’s a great video on the story of Mulan by Slow Chinese:
The resources listed in this section are appropriate for intermediate learners, or those who have reached HSK levels three and four. At this stage you should still be trying to expose yourself to spoken Mandarin in a variety of different contexts, so get to listening!
Coffee Break Chinese is a podcast that’s perfect for beginner and intermediate Chinese language learners. Mark, the founder of Coffee Break Languages, and Crystal, a native Chinese speaker, host each episode. During the episodes, Crystal answers Mark's questions about the Chinese language and helps him with his pronunciation.
AsianCrush is a streaming platform for movies and shows. It offers Chinese, Japanese, and Korean content. It typically provides subtitles in both the native language and in English.
If you enjoy watching shorter videos with subtitles, there is also an AsianCrush YouTube channel. There you can find entertaining content in Chinese, like this short film:
Mandarin Corner is a YouTube channel for intermediate and serious elementary Chinese students who want to get their Mandarin skills to a much higher level. Videos from Mandarin Corner help students learn casual Chinese conversation and HSK Vocabulary. They provide a truly immersive Chinese learning environment with little spoken English.
In this video, you can follow along a tour of a neighborhood with subtitles:
Advanced Chinese learners (those around HSK levels five, six, or above) should be working on solidifying their conversational skills while learning how to understand spoken Chinese in specific contexts that may require knowledge of specialized or technical vocabulary. A Chinese audiobook might be in reach for the most advanced learners, but for others, Chinese YouTubers or a Chinese podcast are always great options.
Here are some resources that can help these learners out.
The Singaporean YouTubers creating content at TiffwithMi are extremely entertaining and produce addictive videos. Their channel is full of challenges, pranks, vlogs, travel videos, and much more. They subtitle their videos in Chinese and English.
You can check out their goofy take on Squid Game here:
The random, funny, and downright absurd podcast 青春愛消遣 will be challenging for most Chinese learners. Even so, its dynamic content will keep your ears engaged even if your brain starts to blur the words together.
The hosts, Xiao Hua Bing and Xiao Bu, will bring your day to life with sketches, music, interviews, and aimless banter. When they’re not getting sidetracked by their laughter, they still manage to touch on important topics like current events, language, and relationships.
Shows on Netflix are a great resource for learning Mandarin. Netflix’s movies and TV shows in Mandarin offer something for fans of all genres. Offerings on Chinese Netflix encompass romantic dramas, thigh-slapping comedies, creepy horror flicks, and action-packed thrillers.
Here are some of our recommendations to get you started:
The Legend Of White Snake
“In this new take on a classic tale, an ancient snake spirit transforms into a beautiful woman and falls in love with a doctor unaware of her true form.”
“When a mysterious box arrives at his door, a doctor and father is forced to participate in a twisted killing game, or risk losing everything.”
A Love So Beautiful
“The ups and downs of school, family and growing up test the affection between a budding artist and her handsome but indifferent classmate and neighbor.”
“Dong Shancai is determined to excel at her dream university, where she encounters an elite clique of dashing, popular high-achievers -- and finds love.”
Once Upon A Time In Lingjian Mountain
“As the nine continents face a crisis, a young disciple joins the Spirit Blade sect and comes under the tutelage of a temperamental sage.”
Finally, Beijing News Radio is another excellent resource for any intermediate or advanced learner. It exposes you to more complex and sophisticated manners of speaking while keeping you up to date with timely news.
With so many resources now available on the Internet, the road to Chinese fluency has become considerably easier. For great Chinese listening practice, you can use internet resources to hear native speakers converse in Chinese in a variety of different contexts.
As a learner at any ability level, one further way to practice your Chinese listening skills is by studying with Hack Chinese. While you learn Chinese vocabulary, Hack Chinese lets you hear what words and phrases sound like. This helps you learn your vocabulary while simultaneously training your listening skills.
Once you find listening resources that work for you, you can effectively improve your skills through Chinese listening practice. When you get proficient enough, you can engage with Chinese-language content while sitting back and just enjoying the ride!