Hacking Chinese

A better way of learning Mandarin

The 10 best free listening resource collections for learning Chinese

The 10 best free listening resource collections for learning ChineseI think listening ability is the most important skill. Good listening ability accelerates your learning and will have a positive effect on other areas in a way that isn’t true for any of any of the other skills. In this article, I present the 10 best free listening resource collections for learning Chinese.

Are you listening enough?

As I have argued elsewhere, improving listening ability is mostly a matter of practice; you need to listen a lot. In this article, I want to suggest some resources to make that easier.

What should you listen to? If you’re new to studying Chinese or don’t spend most of your time dealing with online learning resources, it might be hard to know where to look and you might just choose something at random.

What should you listen to?

I have now collected more than 260 resources for learning Chinese, all sorted and tagged for your convenience. In this article, I’m going to introduce the best free listening resource collections available. Here, “resource collection” means a site that offers a large number of episodes or shows, so each of these potentially offer hundreds or even thousands of hours of material!

This is what I did to generate this list (you can generate a similar list or get the full list by heading over to Hacking Chinese Resources yourself):

The 10 best free listening resource collections for learning Chinese

Below, I have listed the best ranked resource collections, along with a direct link to the collection, a short introduction written by the person who submitted it and a link to the resource so you can vote/comment on it if you want to. If you have other resource collections, please submit them! If you need an invite, let me know!

Please note that some of these resources may have paid subscriptions, but I have made sure that a substantial and useful part of them is free. For instance, many of the podcasts have paid content, but they have to have free audio to be listed here. Also note that the ranking here only partly reflects my own opinion, most of the votes come from other members.

1. 锵锵三人行 (advanced, submitted by Zoe, vote/comment)

锵锵三人行 is my favourite TV program. It’s also one of the best ones for language learners, mostly because of its focus on talking, availability of transcripts and variety of both guests and topics. This should be a key component of any immersion effort, but you probably need to be upper intermediate or above to benefit. This show has been aired every weekday for decades! 我爱窦文涛!

2. 慢速中文 Slow Chinese (intermediate/advanced, submitted by me, vote/comment)

A great resource collections with over 100 episodes, all with transcripts. The audio is, as the name implies, rather slow, which makes it more accessible than more rapid, native content. The episodes themselves are quite interesting since they deal with cultural topics and you will learn more than just language from listening to Slow Chinese. I haven’t used this podcast a lot myself, but what I have seen is pretty good.

3. Popup Chinese (beginner/intermediate/advanced, submitted by me, vote/comment)

Popup Chinese has a huge library of lessons for different levels and most of it is available for free (although you need to sign up). There are also vocabulary notes and so on, but I consider the actual audio the main point. Overall a very good podcast!

4. CSLPOD (beginner/intermediate/advanced), submitted by me, vote/comment)

CSLPOD offers a large library of audio for all levels and the audio is available for free (you can subscribe for some other services, such as vocabulary explanations, sentence drilling and some exercises, but I consider the free audio the most important resource. One important feature is that when the audio is played, the appropriate portion of the text is highlighted, making it a lot easier to follow. There’s also a translation freely available for each podcast. Overall a good listening resource!

5. 悦读FM – 倾听文字的声音 (advanced, submitted by me, vote/comment)

I just found this site and it looks great. It offers a large collection of articles read aloud, with subtitles. They are all pretty short, meaning that they are suitable for intensive study as well as extensive learning (just keep a bunch on your phone).

6. PPS TV player (intermediate/advanced, submitted by kdgbalmer, vote/comment)

PPS.tv is an online source of Chinese TV episodes and films. Great for finding input content to improve comprehension and listening ability.

Nearly all of the Chinese shows have Chinese subs as standard. There are also a large number of Western shows/films so if you want to watch something you already know the story of but with Chinese subs/dubs this might be helpful.

On the front page there’s a link to download the PPS Player. This desktop application makes it much easier to navigate their huge library of content. Apps are also available for Android and iOS.

If looking for more basic content check out the animations in the 我的小儿卡通 section。喜羊羊与灰太狼 is one of the more accessible shows – it’s also one of the relatively few homegrown Chinese shows (rather than Japanese).

Important: PPS is region locked to China so if you are outside China you’ll need to VPN into China! There are also unlocking apps available on Android.

7. Melnyks Podcast/Audio Course (beginner/intermediate, submitted by me, vote/comment)

This website offers theme-based, progressive and easy online lessons. Audio course with full PDF transcripts, worksheets, mobile apps, videos and more. From what I can see, the first 100 lessons are for free, but you need a subscription after that. I tried two episodes (1 and 100) and they are pretty good. The major benefit with this podcast compared with others is that it’s progressive, meaning that each lesson build on the other, it’s not just random lessons put on the same page.

8. Skeptoid: 民间神话背后的科学根據 (advanced, submitted by me, vote/comment)

This is the Chinese version of the popular Skeptoid.com podcast that deals with urban legends and myths from a scientific perspective. The Chinese version is well-produced and the content is translated and presented in a praiseworthy manner. The content is fairly difficult and will be too hard for anyone below an advanced level. Skeptoid Chinese combines interesting material with good language, a very rare combination indeed!

9. Chinese online short story collection (intermediate/advanced, submitted by me, comment/vote)

This is a great repository of short stories for beginner and intermediate learners. Some of them also have audio and all have translations to English and word lists! I would be a bit careful with trusting their difficulty ratings, though, I checked some stories that were meant to be beginner-intermediate that were definitely too hard form most students in this range. Still very good resource, though.

10. CCTV Learn Chinese (beginner&intermediate/advanced, submitted by me, comment/vote)

China Central Television has produced content for learning Chinese. It can be streamed from their website. There are shows at the beginner, intermediate, and advanced levels, but the content might be more difficult than what you might expect for those labels.

More resources

I intend to keep posting summaries like this one to highlight the great resources we have collected on Hacking Chinese Resources. Don’t forget that you can make more specific searches on your own! If you don’t want advanced resources, try checking listening resource collections suitable for beginners!

Do you want more practical exercises, audio versions of articles and Chinese transaltions? Check out my Patreon page!

Sign up for my free crash course in how to learn Mandarin:

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19 comments

  1. david says:

    #2 Viooz How do i watch movies without it trying to install viruses on my computer?

    Also i really recommend downloading 爱奇艺 (iQiYi in the green box)

    as long as you watch things through this program you can download chinese tv shows, and some movies.
    I’m watching 熊出没 at the moment and its fun to watch .
    [intermediate-advanced level]

  2. Brent says:

    Thanks a lot, this gives me several new things to explore!
    For 锵锵三人行, what is the best way to find the transcripts?

    1. Olle Linge says:

      Just click the episode and scroll down (you have to select an individual episode in the list). Example: phtv.ifeng.com/a/20141028/40849185_0.shtml

  3. Corey says:

    Hi, this is a great list! Even though I have been keeping an eye on these kind of things, several I had not seen before.

    I have recently signed up for a paid popupchinese account, and I like their podcasts, though even the elementary ones are quite challenging for my listening ability. Except for the absolute beginner podcasts, they are all at natural speaking speed and sometimes with a bit slurred/sloppy speech, in other words natural speech, but with reduced vocabulary for the elementary and intermediate lessons.

    I will say also that the paid account is worth it because many times there are words in the podcast that are not explained in the podcast itself, and so having a transcript there is a huge help. popupchinese also has some quizzing, and SRS features, though it seems have a few bugs still.

    One downside is that they seem to be a very low-budget operation there in Beijing, so the frequency of new podcasts coming out is pretty low. On the other hand, they have a lot of archived podcasts you can listen to if you are new to the site, so you can spend many many months there before running out of material, especially if you are at at the beginner to intermediate level

  4. Kalin Jan says:

    If you are learning to read Chinese characters (e.g. the subtitles) a good place to start to build up your word recognition is with the HSK Locker android app. Its free, you learn and test yourself at your own pace. Also, its based on the basic 5000 characters as listed in the official HSK syllables. Its a long, tough climb in the beginning, but I’ve manage to comfortably reach level 5 (of 6) now and those words I’ve learn, its comforting to know that no one can take that away from me.

    And this added knowledge makes for easier understanding of subtitles too.. well, at least most of them.

  5. Ash says:

    I suggest CLO. The only problem with this podcast is that it’s Taiwanese Mandarin, but the majority of the vocab is pretty neutral. Took me from a struggling upper beginner and into the intermediate level (I went from part of level 3 to level 4 to level 6.) There’s 420 lessons total and it’ll take you further than Pimsleur, the only other progressive course I know of, and in less time (no ridiculous 30 min lessons).
    In later levels, they begin to use Chinese to teach the lesson and describe vocabulary using Chinese before giving the English definition. Another plus is they answer any questions you leave in the comments. I’ve never bought the packages, but what you get for free is already pretty nice.

    Most people don’t figure this out, but the audio is free. Just scroll to course outline at the bottom and choose a level. To choose a lesson, click one of the orange links.
    http://www.chineselearnonline.com

  6. Daweilaoshi says:

    Great videos here at all levels: http://english.cntv.cn/learnchinese/
    Many have English subtitles and Chinese transcripts.

    I started at this site about 4 years ago and still have not seen all of them. I spend about half an hour a day there.

  7. Hans says:

    锵锵三人行 is a really interesting program, thank you! But the transcripts are nonexisting right? Or am I overlooking something?

    1. Olle Linge says:

      Just click the link to an individual episode and scroll down, it’s right there! For instance: phtv.ifeng.com/a/20141028/40849185_0.shtml

      1. Hans says:

        Aah… the episodelist on the right, not on the episodes listed under the video. Thanks!

  8. Global says:

    There is nothing better than free learning resources. Listening is definitely going to help me learn the language as I have been struggling with it.

  9. Cooper says:

    Hi Olle,

    Thanks for this great resource list! Big fan of your blog and your writings here, and elsewhere.

    Just FYI the second resource, Viooz.co, appears to have been the subject of a seizure and take-down by Interpol and various international law enforcement agencies.

    1. Olle Linge says:

      Thanks for letting me know! I have deleted the resource from this article and added CCTV’s language learning section instead. I will wait a few weeks before deleting the other resource from the resource site simply because it might come up again or might have moved elsewhere.

  10. Lucy says:

    XimalayaFM came up recently in Chinese Forums.

    http://www.ximalaya.com/explore/

    It has many podcasts and ebooks. It’s free and the site is free of malware and not clogged with dubious animations and ads. I’ve been using it a lot lately, it’s a great source of material for this challenge. The programs I listened to are good for upper intermediate and advanced level, but there are also children’s programs that may be suitable for lower Intermediate.

    1. Olle Linge says:

      Thanks for the recommendation! If you want to, I can invite you to Hacking Chinese Resources so that you can add it there? If you prefer, I can of course add instead, but it’s nice with other people helping out. 🙂

      1. Lucy says:

        Yeah, you can add me up, but adding the link yourself is OK with me too. It’s a well worth sharing resource.

        1. Olle Linge says:

          Hm.. I failed to send an invite, it says your e-mail address is invalid?

          1. Lucy says:

            did you use gorinto@gmail.com? I just tested it and it’s working. Strange! Try again and let me know if you have any problems.

            1. Olle Linge says:

              There must be something wrong on my end, it doesn’t accept any e-mail addresses. I’ll send you an invite as soon as I have sorted this out. 🙂

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