Hacking Chinese

A better way of learning Mandarin

Chinese listening challenge, May 2024

Hacking Chinese Challenges is about building language skills through daily practice and friendly competition. By focusing on one specific area of learning over a limited period, you will be able to learn more!

I regard listening as the most important skill when learning Chinese. It has more positive carry-over to the other skills than anything else, and improving listening ability also makes it much easier to socialise in Chinese. A poll I did earlier also strongly suggested that listening is the hardest part of learning Chinese.

This is your chance to ramp up your Chinese listening practice!

Chinese listening challenge, May 10-31, 2024

The previous record of most listening practice is more than six years old. In March 2015, 87 participants practised Chinese listening for a total of 1,255 hours. Can we beat it this time?

Tune in to the Hacking Chinese Podcast to learn more about Hacking Chinese Challenges:

Available on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Overcast, Spotify, YouTube and many other platforms!

Join by following these steps:

  1. Sign-up (free)
  2. View current and upcoming challenges on the front page
  3. Find the listening challenge and click “Enroll!”
  4. Set a reasonable goal (see below)
  5. Report your progress on your computer or mobile device
  6. Check the graph to see if you’re on track to reaching your goal
  7. Check the leaderboard to see how you compare to others
  8. Share progress, tips and resources with fellow students

Please note: The challenge starts on the 10th, so even if you can join before then, you won’t be able to report progress until the challenge starts!

Understand more and learn more with Learning Chinese through Stories

This challenge is sponsored by Learning Chinese through Stories, a podcast that teaches you Chinese in Chinese, no matter your level. I have recommended them for many years and am proud to announce them as sponsors of this challenge!

This month’s Chinese listening challenge: What should you listen to?

Start by looking here: The 10 best free Chinese listening resources for beginner, intermediate and advanced learners

The 10 best free Chinese listening resources for beginner, intermediate and advanced learners

Here’s the index from that article (links go to my introduction of each resource):

If this is not enough, there are currently 136 links tagged with “listening” over at Hacking Chinese Resources! You should also check out my up-to-date list of recommended podcasts for all levels: The best podcasts for learning Chinese in 2024

The best podcasts for learning Chinese in 2024

If you’re a beginner, you might want to check this out as well: Beginner Chinese listening practice: What to listen to and how

Beginner Chinese listening practice: What to listen to and how

How and why you should listen

I’ve written a lot about improving your listening ability in Chinese. I have also written a few articles about listening more, which is a challenge worth taking seriously. It’s perfectly possible to fit a lot of listening into an already fairly busy life, but you have to use the right method and spend some time finding solutions that work:

How to find more time to practise Chinese listening

If you want to dig deep into listening comprehension, check out my series Beyond tīng bu dǒng: A guide to Chinese listening comprehension, currently with four parts:

  1. Beyond tīng bu dǒng, part 1: A guide to Chinese listening comprehension
  2. Beyond tīng bu dǒng, part 2: From sound to meaning in Mandarin
  3. Beyond tīng bu dǒng, part 3: Using what you already know to aid listening comprehension in Chinese
  4. Beyond tīng bu dǒng, part 4: Learning to process spoken Mandarin quickly and effortlessly
  5. Beyond tīng bu dǒng, part 5: Becoming a better listener as a student of Chinese

Beyond tīng bu dǒng, part 1: A guide to Chinese listening comprehension

Your challenge: Set a high but reachable goal

It’s hard to know what a reasonable goal is for you, but I think anyone interested in joining should aim for at least 10 hours of listening. That’s about 20 minutes per day.

If this isn’t your first challenge or you spend a significant amount of your time learning Chinese, double or triple that, so twenty or thirty hours. That’s still “only” about an hour per day, which isn’t that much if you spread it out.

How high you want to go is up to you, but an hour per day on average is doable for most people. In previous listening challenges, some participants have clocked over 100 hours in one month! Can you beat that? Post your goal in the comments below and let us know how you plan to achieve it!

My challenge: An unreasonable goal

In the previous listening challenge, I reached 101 hours in three weeks. I have since beaten this with almost 150 hours in January 2024, but this is not reasonable unless you already have solid listening habits and know what you’re doing, or study Chinese full-time, which I’m not. My goal for this challenge is to reach at least 100 hours. Wish me luck!

100 hours of Chinese listening in 3 weeks: What I learnt and how to apply it

Preliminary challenge schedule for 2024

Here is a preliminary list of challenges for 2024, but I’m always open to ideas. Based on user participation, surveys, as well as my own opinion, reading and listening challenges, are particularly helpful for a large number of people, followed by those focusing on vocabulary. These will recur more often throughout the year, with other, more specific challenges in between.

Challenges last for roughly three weeks. They always start on the 10th of each month and last until the end of that month. Three weeks is enough to get a significant amount of studying, but not so long that people lose focus. This also leaves ten days of breathing space between challenges.

  1. January: Listening
  2. February: Writing
  3. March: Reading
  4. April: Speaking
  5. May: Listening
  6. June: Vocabulary
  7. July: Reading
  8. August: Translation
  9. September: Listening
  10. October: Pronunciation
  11. November: Reading
  12. December: Vocabulary

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  1. fay says:

    Apologies for the typos in my original request for clarification… 不好意思! Here it is again written correctly:
    So I am clear on future challenges…. does the challenge end the evening before the last day of the month? i.e. It is currently the last day of the month in China, May 31 and this morning I could not input any data into the Listening Challenge. Thanks!!

    1. Olle Linge says:

      You should be able to report progress today. I just tried and it worked fine! I can also see many other people reporting progress today (May 31st). When exactly did you try to report your progress? Could it be some time zone issue? Sounds weird. It’s 21:24 server time on May 31st when I posted this, and just a minute ago, I was still able to report progress, so it seems to work, at least for me!

  2. 文佰川 says:

    I can’t wait for this challenge. Listening is one of the aspects of the language that I am actually able to spend the most time on due to the nature of my work. I can just listen to content all day, but I am ready to challenge myself and double the input I’m getting. I’m currently a Chinese pod intermediate listener so my goal is to get to Upper Intermediate at the end of this challenge.

    1. Olle Linge says:

      One thing you should try is to listen to upper intermediate or even advanced, but avoid the dialogue themselves. They are often filled with vocabulary you don’t really need and sometimes feel added just so that there are some new words to learn (this is at least true for old ChinesePod, not sure about recent content). The point is that the chat between the hosts, which is entirely in Chinese on the more advanced levels, is more valuable than the content they have prepared! You should also try out Learning Chinese through Stories; they are pretty good at speaking in only Chinese.

  3. Rebecca says:

    I joined a reading challenge awhile back and I want to join this listening challenge, but I didn’t know how to log my hours in. Where can I find this information? I’m sorry if this is a dumb question.

    1. Olle Linge says:

      You can’t log hours before the challenge starts, so that might be it! I think the instructions are fairly clear in the article, so if you follow those once the challenge starts (tomorrow), it should work! If not, let me know and I’ll try to help you out.

  4. Carl-Adam Hellqvist says:

    Love the initiative, can’t wait to get started (well, to start logging here at least…)

    Just a double check: Do 1-on-1 class hours count? It’s not 100% listening, and would ofc be better labeled as speaking practice, but there’s still a bunch of listening to my teacher in there. Don’t really care which, just don’t want to be “cheating” 😇

    1. Olle Linge says:

      Hej! It’s up to you how you want to count, but I wouldn’t hesitate counting conversations. If you really care about being fair, then maybe you could could it at 2/3 the time or something like that, but personally, I wouldn’t bother and just count all of it. Conversations are great for listening practice!

      1. Carl-Adam Hellqvist says:

        Good idea, let’s do 2/3 😊 Won’t be the bulk of listening anyway, so not much impact. Thanks for a quick reply!

  5. Michal says:

    Even thou I read and listen to your content for more than a year, almost since the day I started to learn Chinese, this is the first time I took the challenge.
    I set aggressive target (like for me, working, having family etc.) of 20 hours and I made it.
    It motivated me despite the punishment for not making it was literally zero. Maybe such an intrinsic motivation amplifier is just something that I need. Otherwise I would not make these 20 hours in that time, no way.
    My teacher noticed unexpected progress already after 5 days or so. So thank for motivation and keep doing great work.

    I recommend these challenges to everybody.

    1. Olle Linge says:

      That’s awesome! I would say it usually takes considerably longer than that for extensive listening (or reading) to have any noticeable effect, but maybe you had built up a listening deficit and spending 20 hours on it bumped you up a whole level. Anyway, great, and glad to hear the challenges are helping you improve!

      1. Michal says:

        Most likely it was like you say. By listening I also improved vocabulary, got more comfort with certain grammar structures / phrases etc. And this was exactly what my teacher noted, not really the listening skills.

  6. Red Panda says:

    This should be really fun! I am a beginner but I plan on doing the 10 hours(maybe more)! I intend on listening to content for beginners/learners but also content for native speakers. I found cooking content I like on YouTube in Chinese that also has subtitles. I am doing that now and it’s interesting. I don’t understand a lot of the words but I feel like it’s helping a lot with tones. They get easier to hear when going back to learner content.

  7. Alecsandra says:

    Hello can you please help me to sign up in the September thanks

    1. Olle Linge says:

      Have you tried following the instructions? If so, what didn’t work?

  8. Dae says:

    Just wondering if our goal should include passive background listening, where I’m doing other work or study and not explicitly paying attention, or only more active listening where I’m actually trying to hear and understand what’s being said?

    I’ve followed your blog posts where you suggest listening to podcasts etc.. in the background while doing other work and this is now something I do quite regularly, but I wouldn’t normally count it as “listening time” seeing as I’m not actually understanding most of it.

    1. Olle Linge says:

      That’s a great question! In general, the more you pay attention, the better, but as long as you are paying some attention at least some of the time, it’s worth more than nothing, even if it’s clearly worth less than when you focus fully on what you’re listening to. The challenge doesn’t capture this very well, as there would need to be an intensity/focus parameter as well, which would make things too complicated for most people. I would say that the best approach is to think about what you want to improve. Do you find it hard to remember to put something on in the background? Then include that. Is the problem that you’re not listening enough while doing things when you can concentrate on the audio somewhat at least? Then count that. The challenge is for your own sake, and you aren’t competing with anyone, so try to figure out which aspect you want to improve and make sure you count time in a way that encourages you to do that!

  9. Rui says:

    Hi there,

    I sign up for your 2024 january challenge … but i dont think i understand how it works!!!
    What am i suppose to listen? where are the audios? how do i choose my level (very very veeerrryyyy beginner) ?

    1. Olle Linge says:

      Hi Rui,

      Welcome to the challenge! These challenges are fairly simple: you just set a goal for how much you want to listen to and then record your progress. You can also comment on other people’s activities and get inspiration from them. You choose what to listen to yourself, but there are plenty of recommendations in the article itself. If you’re a beginner, check the beginner options, but also read (or listen to) this article: Beginner Chinese listening practice: What to listen to and how. Good luck and 加油!

      Best wishes,


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