East Asia Student

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How to improve your Chinese listening in the early stages (reader question)

Chinese listening

I got this question about how to improve your Chinese listening skills from a visitor to the site:

I just came across your site while looking for the lyrics to Joanna Wang’s “3 for dinner”  (三个人的晚餐).  Anyway, I am glad to have found them and I wanted to thank you for taking the time to write it out.

I’m currently learning Mandarin, (for only about 3-4 months now).  I’m doing well at it, I know about 500 words, I can read and write about 300 characters in simp and trad.  But 我的听力不是好的!!

Do you have any advice you could offer to a native English speaker learning the language?    Any good tools, educational links, personal anecdote, anything?  (I am going to go through and read your site now..)


I’m posting the question up here to ask for more advice from other readers. Please don’t lurk in the comments - share your experience and tips on improving Chinese listening skills, especially in the early stages.

Personally I don’t think there’s any magic bullet for listening - in general it’s a brute-force effort. Above anything else, the main thing is to just listen as much as possible and keep listening.

I’d like to recommend Olle Linge’s excellent content on this topic (and on learning Chinese in general). In particular, I think anyone who wants to improve their Chinese listening should read Olle’s in-depth series on the topic:

Listening strategies - Olle Linge / Hacking Chinese

It’s definitely worth going through that whole series - many thanks to Olle for putting so much time into it and sharing it for free online.

Another post of Olle’s that I think is relevant here, especially to the point about cramming in as much listening as you can, is this one about making the most of the time available to you.

That leads me to the second site I’d like to recommend on the listening front, which is AJATT. If you’re learning languages, you really should take a look at AJATT. Start with this post and this one for improving your listening skills (the site is about learning Japanese but the advice applies just as well to other languages).

So in general my advice is just try to listen to as much Chinese as possible, in as many different ways as possible, at as many points of your day as possible. Remember that there are different ways of listening (e.g. passive background vs listening comprehension tests). Other than that I don’t think there’s a great deal you can do.

Resources for Chinese listening

Here are some of my recommendations for sources of Chinese listening material:

Please share your tips for improving your Chinese listening!

Contact me: mhg@eastasiastudent.net