Understanding Chinese media and finding suitable programs for learning can be frustrating, even for advanced learners. Not only do you have to navigate websites with massive amounts of text, you also need to find your way through different channels, programs and hosts.
I wanted to find a program which allowed me to listen to tons of Chinese, preferably about interesting topics and in an easily accessible format. I found 锵锵三人行, which provides me with everything I want and more.
锵锵三人行 is a talk show hosted by 竇文濤 and, as the name implies, he and two guests talk about different current events. The topics vary hugely between programs, depending on the guests and what’s going on in the world, both inside and outside China.
The program has none of the annoying sound effects and maintains a fairly serious atmosphere even though laughter is also common. It’s an excellent program both to learn Chinese and understand China. It’s also available free online, with transcripts (link to the official website).
To get the transcript, visit the full version of the site (not mobile) and open any episode (you have to click and open the episode in the list, not just play it). The transcripts are at the bottom.
The show is broadcast five times a week and has been running for a very long time.
Here’s a list of reasons why you should watch more 锵锵三人行:
- The discussions are interesting – This is important. I have watched many programs in Chinese, but they have mostly failed to catch my attention. 锵锵三人行 is different. The guests aren’t always interesting, but the host (竇文濤) is a master at creating interesting discussions even from seemingly boring topics. He also has a strong personality himself and is far from being just a passive mediator.
- Only talk, no nonsense – I don’t want another program with lots of video, music, pictures or people doing things on stage, I just want something interesting to listen to in Chinese. 锵锵三人行 provides this. The program features only spoken language and is therefore perfect to rip and listen to on your phone. There is also an app where you can listen to audio-only versions of the program. Pictures and video are sometimes used, but very rarely and almost never crucial for understanding.
- An unlimited number of episodes – 锵锵三人行 has been going daily for over fifteen years and there’s still a daily episode, Monday to Friday. This means that, for all practical purposes, you will never run out of listening material. Of course, it will be harder to find old episodes, but the most recent ones plus five new ones every week should keep even the most maniacal learner satisfied.
- Lots of different guests – One reason I like this show is that the guests come from all over China and beyond. This means that you get to hear native speakers from different provinces, of different ages and with different socio-economic background. This is essential if you want to really improve your listening ability! Read more about why here. Occasionally, there are also foreigners on the show.
- Lots of different topics – Because of the diversity of guests, there’s also a diversity of topics and/or different ways of looking at these topics. The host and his guests are usually interesting enough to be able to talk about anything and still make it interesting. The topics cover almost everything imaginable, but are usually at least indirectly related to current events.
- All episodes have official transcripts – This is a paradise for language learners. Obviously, you can’t dive into a program like 锵锵三人行 as a beginner and hope to gain much, but the threshold is still lowered by the fact that you can read what people say either before, during or after the show. You find the transcripts by clicking the list of episodes on the right.
- Teaches you what you need to know about modern China – Many of the guests are famous people that you should probably know a little bit about. They seldom focus directly on the guests, but rather discuss that episode’s topic in a relaxed manner. Still, watching/listening to 锵锵三人行 will give you a good grasp of what’s going on in China.
- The episodes are just about the right length (20 minutes) – This is short enough to be able to watch an episode without actively scheduling it, such as when you eat breakfast, do the laundry or whatever. However, it’s not short enough to make it feel superficial. Just right, in other words.
- The host is awesome – This deserves a separate bullet point. I think 竇文濤 does an excellent job. Not only does he moderate the discussion and keep it (more or less) on track, he also adds a lot himself. He’s not the kind of host who is afraid to express his own opinions or gainsay his guests. Also, his pronunciation is excellent and his voice is very pleasant to listen to. A good role model in more ways than one!
Give it a try!
- Use the official website
- Download the 凤凰FM app (various platforms)
Obviously, you need decent listening ability before you approach 锵锵三人行. It’s much harder than listening to your teacher or textbook recordings, this is real Chinese, made by native speakers for native speakers. However, if you’ve reached a level where you want to listen to a lot of interesting Chinese, look no more, because 锵锵三人行 has everything you want!