You don’t have to travel to another country to create an immersive Chinese environment, nor do you have to stare at a screen for hours on end. With a digital device and a pair of headphones (or speakers), you can bring immersion to you—for free.
And we’d like to help you with that. With hours of research and testing, we came up with this list of what we believe to be 30 of the best podcasts to learn Mandarin Chinese. Pick an episode, choose a streaming platform, then have a listen while you commute to work, do chores, or relax on the couch. Keep in mind, there are many other ways that might suit your learning style better.
Table of Contents
Olly Richards, the creator of I Will Teach You A Language, has written a series of books for beginner and intermediate learners to improve their conversation skills in several languages. He also has a Short Stories series.
Most of the languages use the most common words in your target language, with natural phrases that you would overhear locals using while conversing amongst each other. In the short story lessons, the plot follows the same characters and adventures, with some adjustments for cultural differences. Here is our review!
ChineseClass101 is a paid resource, but you can try 7 days for free with only an email address. It’s a decent option if you enjoy learning Chinese through dialogues and want to have lesson notes and flashcards on hand.
Beginners will probably get the most out of it, while intermediate and advanced learners may get annoyed with the amount of English used in the episodes. You can check out our full review to see if it’s something you’d like to invest in.
Pimsleur is one of the most popular and longest-standing resources out there for learning a foreign language. Its courses place a strong emphasis on aural and verbal communication skills, paying less attention to grammar explanations and reading or writing skills. There are over 50 language courses available with Pimsleur, and the bulk of the material is taught with audio lessons. Check out our full review here!
Learning Chinese Through Stories is an excellent podcast for immersive Chinese study. In each of every one of their 9 levels, from Low Novice to High Advanced, the two narrators speak only in Chinese. You will learn to understand new concepts in stories, songs, or grammar explanations through context rather than translations.
Listening to the podcast is like being welcomed into a conversation between friends. The hosts speak at a relatively natural speed, but articulate clearly and provide numerous examples that will give you the confidence to apply each new concept to different situations.
Support them on Patreon to get transcripts with vocabulary notes, or listen to the podcast for free on any major streaming platform.
Whether you just started learning Chinese today, or you’ve been learning for years, ChinesePod has a podcast for you. This is typically a paid resource (check out our review here), but it actually has a ton of free episodes available on major streaming platforms.
The episodes talk about popular culture, grammar, history, and more. Until the upper-intermediate level, most of the episodes involve a dialogue that is broken down in English. From the upper-intermediate level onwards, though, you can enjoy episodes in immersive Chinese. At the advanced level you can also listen to interviews, poems, and discussions about current events.
In this series you will learn three new words that each have one character in common. Teacher Lin will give you example sentences to help you use these new words in less than three minutes each day. Though most of the podcast is in English, the words and examples can be useful for any beginner or intermediate Chinese learner.
Maayot’s podcast has bite-sized (1-5 minute) episodes for beginner to advanced learners. Each episode is a short story—usually about Chinese culture, but sometimes about personal development or coffee.
The difficulty of the vocabulary increases at each level, but the narrator consistently speaks at a slow pace. So, these episodes are best for beginners training their listening comprehension, or advanced learners working on vocabulary acquisition.
Subscribing to Maayot helps maintain your motivation by sending daily reading and listening comprehension exercises to your inbox. You can learn more about it here.
Though we didn’t really like the Chinese Learn Online course, the podcast is a comprehensive free resource. There are no bells and whistles, but it will systematically take you through the basics. Each of the over 400 lessons build on one another, using only the words that you have learned in previous lessons. By the end of the 7-level series, you’ll probably be able to have a basic conversation in Mandarin.
Amy from Chinese Mandarin Cafe has been teaching Chinese for almost a decade. Her adorable sense of humour and structured lessons provide a welcoming introduction to Chinese. In each 10-minute episode, you will learn a few new words and engage in short review activities. If you have been feeling intimidated by the thought of learning Mandarin, Amy will put you at ease.
Signing up for her free podcast course will give you access to season 1’s lesson notes. Or, you can subscribe to her mailing list to receive notes for individual episodes.
Dimsum Mandarin released 30 free podcast episodes for beginners to learn Chinese. Though a bit challenging, these episodes will introduce you to important expressions, grammar, and vocabulary words, then walk you through a dialogue in Chinese.
By the end of the free series, you will be able to understand the gist of a relatively lengthy dialogue in Mandarin. If you want to develop a more thorough understanding of the dialogues, you can subscribe to the full Dimsum Mandarin courses on the website.
This is also a good series for learners looking to refresh their Mandarin abilities.
Coffee Break Chinese seems most appropriate for the casual Chinese learner who isn’t in a hurry to learn things quickly. It has one season for beginners, at the end of which you’ll be able to have a simple exchange in Mandarin.
In these 30-minute episodes, you’ll listen to the hosts (a Chinese learner and a native Chinese speaker) build up from single words to longer dialogues.
You can check out our full review of Coffee Break Chinese to see if you want to purchase the supplementary material.
If learning Mandarin has been stressing you out, don’t worry—Joyce provides a relaxing environment, making you feel like you have a Taiwanese friend accompanying you on your Chinese learning journey.
Though the podcast is approximately 95% in Mandarin, Joyce uses simple language and only introduces about 10 new vocabulary words per episode. You can find these new words in the description of the podcast episode. For anyone transitioning into Mandarin-only podcasts, this is a great place to start.
This is the podcast for you if you’re ready to listen to immersive Mandarin podcasts, but you still struggle to understand native speakers at a natural speed. From episode 4 onwards, Learn Taiwanese Mandarin supports lower intermediate learners to overcome the need for translations by teaching you new words in a Chinese immersion environment. Learn about Taiwanese culture, pick up some Hokkien words, and improve your listening comprehension in about 30 minutes every week.
Liyi and Xianxian facilitate a structured but dynamic conversation for their listeners. Not only do they discuss practical topics, like finding lost items or feeling FOMO, but they also introduce multiple ways to express important ideas. With Liyi and Xianxian’s guidance, you won’t have to worry about sounding repetitive in your Mandarin conversations.
The duo even provides a free pdf and text transcript on their blog and highlights keywords with pinyin and English definitions.
Abby is a Taiwanese Mandarin teacher and writer who brings Taiwan to you, wherever you are in the world. In these Chinese-only episodes you will listen to interviews with other Mandarin teachers, explore Taiwanese culture, and learn about a variety of topics that happen to be on Abby’s mind.
Full transcripts are available for free on her website.
MeloChinese is for those of you who have been reading through this podcast list feeling inspired but worried about the time commitment. In August 2020, the host (Yoyo Mo) changed the structure of the episodes to last only about a minute. It’s easy to fit in a minute of Chinese practice with Yoyo’s stories about daily life or the news. Also, she puts a full transcript and translation in the podcast description for free.
This podcast is for intermediate learners who want to make sure they understand sentences correctly. Ju will teach you useful words and engage you in topics you didn’t even know you cared about—like ear wax, red underwear, and stupidity tax. She speaks slightly slower than a natural pace and often translates each sentence between Mandarin and English.
Though Kaela occasionally teaches you about the Chinese language itself, you’re more likely to tune in for her kind and adventurous personality. Learn about her first time performing stand up comedy or listen to her discuss feminism in China. She will also introduce you to important events and cities—entirely in Chinese.
Kate from Chinese Explained will keep you up to date on the latest expressions and conversation trends in China. If you’ve ever wondered how to say no to an invitation without hurting someone’s feelings, or you don’t want to sound repetitive when saying thank you, Kate has an episode for you. You can also learn about Chinese culture and traditions in her occasional “Culture” episodes.
Kate often translates into English, but sometimes her episodes are entirely in Chinese. You can find full transcripts for several of the episodes on her website.
Intermediate learners who want to practice Chinese but are not feeling up to a fully immersive Chinese podcast can check out the Mandarin Monkey Podcast. It’s hosted by Tom and Ula, an English and Taiwanese couple who hold conversations in both Mandarin and English.
You can enjoy lighthearted conversation and banter in each hour-long episode. Though technically every episode has a designated topic, the couple may start out discussing public transit and end up talking about snake farts. In other words, you won’t get bored listening in on these bilingual conversations.
Candice and her friend, Yifei, introduce cultural differences between Western countries and China. They also explore common human experiences, such as anxiety and motivation.
This is the series for you if you feel confident with essential Chinese vocabulary but want to improve your ability to hear the words at a faster pace.
Chinese Colloquialised bridges the gap between the intermediate and advanced levels. Your host, Summer, talks to you using colloquial expressions that you can put in your back pocket for your next Mandarin conversation. You’ll learn about Chinese history, culture, and slang in these Chinese-only episodes. One thing to keep in mind is that there are advertisements embedded in the audio, which may deter some listeners.
Some episodes have an English intro or are accompanied by a fully translated episode. Full Chinese transcripts are available for free on the Chinese Colloquialised website.
Chinese learners teetering between the intermediate and advanced levels often have trouble finding level-appropriate content. Well, look no further than Speak Chinese Naturally. In this podcast, Jiajia uses her experience as a Chinese teacher to help you transition out of the intermediate plateau and into native speaker content. She gives you language learning tips, teaches you colloquial Chinese, and introduces you to Chinese culture and customs.
The podcast is free, but you can subscribe to the Speak Chinese Naturally website to get full transcripts and notes for each episode.
Though it may be a bit challenging for intermediate learners, this unique podcast will introduce you to a variety of creative and unique content to improve your Mandarin.
In each episode of their series, 吃藕小会, the hosts invite friends to discuss entrepreneurship, environmentalism, and their personal thoughts. You can also test out a variety of music genres in the Air Tonality series and listen to the hosts challenge their own tastes in music. Or, enjoy a surreal story that continues in their other series, XX(x)的世界, with full transcripts in the episode descriptions.
Da Peng is an enthusiastic host who will help you advance your listening comprehension through interesting topics and dialogues. In his “Daily Chinese Expression” series, he will often provide multiple examples of how to use key expressions in context. He also performs dialogues by himself, acting as multiple characters. You can read along with the audio on his YouTube channel.
Hosted by Canadian Brad Johnson, BreadToast Chinese explores “the linguistic and cultural landscape of China”.
Each episode often has an English intro and a song. Then, the show dives into Chinese immersion as Brad interviews native Chinese speakers: friends, viral social media personalities, musicians and more. You won’t get bored with these fun and informative conversations. Plus, if you have any doubts about the language, you can check out the learning notes in the description of each episode.
Wendy and Iphie have been best friends for over a decade. Through their lively interactions, you can gain insight into their thoughts on relationships, personal development, self-concept and current events. Chinese learners will feel like they’re hanging out with close friends while learning vocabulary they can directly apply to their everyday life.
Explore American pop culture in immersive Mandarin with Loud Murmurs. Your hosts have backgrounds in journalism, history, photography and data science; these four women and their guests reflect on the social and political issues involved in American film, TV, and documentaries. With this series you’ll expand your vocabulary to reach the most popular topics in the US while also acquiring words for critical dialogue. Though it’s in Mandarin, the show is hosted in the US.
This random, funny, and downright absurd podcast will be challenging for most Chinese learners. But, it’s so dynamic that your ears will stay engaged even if your brain has blurred out the words.
The hosts, Xiao Hua Bing and Xiao Bu, will bring your day to life with sketches, music, interviews, and aimless banter. They still manage to touch on important topics (current events, language, relationships) when they’re not getting sidetracked by laughter.
Culture Potato invites its guests to discuss art in all its forms — whether on the screen or stage, in a book or museum, or through discussions about history. Each episode’s roundtable discussion confronts you with differing perspectives and highlights the difference between Western and Chinese culture.
In this series you will listen to interviews with high-ranking executives and professionals in various fields. Though much of the focus is on business, many of the conversations reveal stories about the host and guests’ lives.
迟早更新’s episodes can range between 20 and 90 minutes long and may be a challenge for advanced learners. But, with perseverance you can join the hosts in exploring philosophical questions about technology, business, design, and everyday life.
The podcast description has a list of show notes with references for topics mentioned within the episode.
We hope you found something (or many things) to enjoy on this list. If you’re looking for more structure in your Chinese studies, you can explore our favorite online Chinese courses. Or, you can check out our list of Chinese YouTube channels.