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The 25 Best Podcasts To Learn Chinese In 2020

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Improving your listening comprehension is one of the most important things you can do while learning Mandarin.

The reason is pretty obvious.

If you don’t understand what people are saying, how are you going to communicate with anyone?

Luckily, improving your listening comprehension isn’t terribly difficult if you have the right tools, and there are some excellent podcasts that can help you out.

One of the biggest hurdles when working on your listening skills is finding materials that fit your level. If you only listen to materials that are too challenging, you’ll likely get frustrated and not pick up much. On the other hand, listening to materials that are too easy won’t push you to improve as quickly as you can.

In this article we’ll look at a variety of podcasts while taking into account the levels they’re best for, though there’s quite a bit of overlap for some of the podcasts.

I’ll also share some podcasts related to language learning and China that you may find interesting.

for beginners

ChineseClass101ChineseClass101 Online Chinese Lessons

ChineseClass101 is one of the more affordable options. It gave me a very spammy-feeling initial impression, but it ended up being pretty decent.

All of the lessons use quite a bit of English which is good when you start but can become a major problem as you move up difficulty levels. Because of this I wouldn’t recommend it for anyone past the elementary level.

The basic plan starts at $8/mo. Review.

Coffee Break Chinese

The coffee break series is popular for many languages but new to Chinese. So far, they’ve only released one season. These lessons last around 30 minutes each and are suitable for beginner students.

It’s hosted by a foreign guy and a Chinese girl. She explains a lot of things to him, and you get to listen to him try to put it all together. It’s kind of like sitting in on a private class and learning alongside the foreign host.

They do a good job of teaching in a way that’s not very intimidating, building up from single words to longer dialogues. Here’s our review of the resource, and here’s a link to the premium version of their content.

Chinese Learn OnlineChinese Learn Online

CLO is actually a paid resource that I’ve previously reviewed. When I wrote that review, I didn’t realize that basically all of their lessons are available for free as a podcast. Unfortunately, the content has a rather lifeless and robotic feel to it.

The lessons build on each other pretty well, however, and it’s really not bad – especially for free. There are over 400 lessons across seven difficulty levels.

Takeaway Chinese

This free podcast releases new 25-minute episodes each week and is best for beginners and lower-intermediate learners. The topics are mostly related to Chinese culture and cover everyday language. The hosts speak quite a bit of English and take the time to fully break down word meanings, expressions, and idioms, which makes it ideal for those with lower levels of Mandarin.

They do a good job of maintaining a casual, personable environment that’s easy to listen to and isn’t very formal.

I Love Learning Chinese

This is another free podcast that’s got some good listening material for beginners. Lessons start with the very basics (greetings and basic words) and progress in a natural way up to higher levels. There are also additional study materials available on the website that accompany each podcast episode. These include transcripts with translations, vocab words with audio, and a simple flashcard exercise.

Mandarin Monkey

This podcast is interesting because it’s in both English and Chinese in just about equal proportions. One of the hosts is from England and speaks mostly English, the other is from Taiwan and speaks mostly Mandarin. Lessons cover a variety of topics but always maintain a lighthearted and fun tone.

The episodes could make good practice for learners at the beginner and intermediate levels. There are also some episodes that are heavily focused on repetition, useful for beginners that want to practice mimicking native pronunciation of basic words and phrases.

Talk Chineasy

The Chineasy book series and TED talk have been extremely popular. Personally, I’m not a big fan of Chineasy. This podcast is almost entirely in English, and the episodes focus on a Chinese word or phrase, often discussing Chinese culture and history.

It’s more useful for learning about those things than for learning Chinese. Lessons are typically 6-8 minutes long.

Melnyks

This podcast has over 75 beginner level lessons available for free that typically last around 20 minutes. The host is a foreigner that has learned Mandarin.

First, he’ll introduce you to new vocabulary words by repeating the words very slowly several times. Later on, he’ll add in full sentences. I find the lessons to be pretty boring, but I won’t complain about something that’s free.

For Intermediate Learners

ChinesePod

ChinesePod is probably the best podcast on this list and is great for beginner to advanced students alike. They have around 4000 lessons with difficulty levels ranging from Newbie to Native Media, and the amount of English used varies by the level.

At the beginning of each lesson, you’ll hear a dialogue. Then the two hosts will discuss it together, emphasizing important vocabulary, grammar, and cultural nuances. In the end, you’ll hear the dialogue again. The lessons cover just about every topic you can imagine, and the hosts generally do a good job of making it more fun.

The Basic Plan costs $14/month and includes access to all lessons and PDF transcripts. The Premium Plan costs $29/month and includes a bunch of extras like grammar explanations and exercises. It also includes access to “The Say it Right Series” which is a very good resource for learning Chinese pronunciation. Here’s the review.

Dimsum Mandarin

In the free version, these podcast episodes present a dialogue in Mandarin followed by a summary in English. There’s also an extended introduction to the language point being covered in each episode that precedes the dialogue.

In the premium versions, the host goes over the dialogue line-by-line to explain the language in detail. It’s worth noting that there is quite a bit of English in these lessons, and the most recent episode is from 2015.

Popup Chinese

Popup Chinese has quite enjoyable and high-quality lessons. Unfortunately, it seems like they haven’t released new lessons since 2015. There are lessons at four levels – Absolute Beginners, Elementary, Intermediate, and Advanced. A subscription costs $99/year.

CSL Pod

CSL Pod is another podcast that no longer produces new content, seeming to have stopped around the beginning of 2015. There are exercises that go along with each lesson, though I can’t comment on their quality. The cost is $19.99/month.

You can find some free lessons for all of these as well. Just search for them wherever you listen to podcasts.

Conversations

Although it’s not a podcast, intermediate level learners may be interested in Conversations. It was created by Olly Richards of the I Will Teach You a Language blog. He often stresses the value of using stories to learn a language, and Conversations fits into this learning style.

It’s a dialogue-based story that’s told over 20 chapters, entirely in Chinese. The dialogue is spoken at a natural pace, using colloquial language and suitable vocabulary. There are also transcripts and translations to go along with the audio tracks.

Learn Mandarin Now

This podcast has over 200 free lessons, all of which are seven to eight minutes long on average.

First, they’ll introduce the key vocabulary in English. Then, there’s a short dialogue that is played twice. Afterward, the hosts go through the dialogue line-by-line and explain the words and sentences.

The lessons are around an elementary to intermediate difficulty level. Unfortunately, there isn’t a lot of new content.

Slow ChineseSlow-Chinese is a free podcast for Chinese language learners

Slow Chinese is a pretty cool podcast and is completely free. There are around 200 lessons, lasting from 3-5 minutes on average. As the title suggests, the host speaks at a slower pace which makes it a bit easier to follow along. You can also find the transcript and translations online in multiple languages. It’s most suitable for intermediate level students.

Yep! Chinese

This podcast has a fairly large backlog of lessons with many of them labeled by difficulty level. Most last around ten minutes long but that can vary somewhat. There doesn’t seem to be new content being released. I recognized DiLu from ChinesePod in one of the lessons I listened to. The structure of lessons is quite similar to ChinesePod as well.

Advanced Podcasts

Learning Chinese through Stories

This podcast is aptly named.

You’ll listen to stories told in Chinese, and the hosts will explain different parts of the story as they go through it. It has a fairly large library of content and is still actively releasing new material. Some lessons are very short and only last a couple of minutes, while others are over 20 minutes long.

The podcast is entirely in Chinese, so only suitable for intermediate or higher-level students.

iMandarinPod

This podcast is releasing content quite frequently – around 4 new lessons per week. The lessons focus on Chinese culture and news, most of which are around ten minutes long. They’re entirely in Chinese and are suitable for intermediate or higher-level students. The quality here is quite high considering it’s free.

Podcasts About Learning Chinese

The podcasts in this category won’t explicitly teach you Chinese, but they can be helpful nonetheless. Use them to get insights into other people’s learning methods, to get inspired, or simply for entertainment.

Learn Chinese Insights Podcast

People who have learned Mandarin discuss how they learned the language and how they’re using it now. There are 39 lessons, and they seem to have stopped adding new ones. Most are around 20-30 minutes.

Chinese Talkeze

This is another podcast that features conversations with people who have reached a high level of Chinese. They talk about how they got there, what motivated them, embarrassing moments, challenges they faced, and more.

You Can Learn Chinese

In this one, you’ll get to listen to professionals in the language-learning community. They discuss their approaches to learning as well as useful some tips and tricks.

China-Related Podcasts in English

Staying motivated in your pursuit of Mandarin is essential, and exposure to anything China-related can potentially help. These podcasts will fuel your interest in Chinese news and culture.

Sinica is a great podcast to learn about what's happening in China.

Sinica

This is my favorite podcast that doesn’t focus on learning Chinese. It’s a weekly podcast that discusses current events, along with a variety of interesting side-topics. A recent episode discussed jazz music in China. The episodes are lengthy and quite in-depth.

Caixin-Sinica Business Brief

This is a weekly wrap-up of business and financial news from China’s leading financial magazine. They’ve been regularly releasing new episodes every week. I’ve just discovered it, but I’m really enjoying this podcast so far.

Expat Life in China

Already living in China or planning to in the future? These podcasts offer unique perspectives into life in China as a foreigner.

Two White Chicks in China

There are over 125 episodes of this podcast and new ones are still being released. They discuss a wide range of topics that would be interesting for expats living in China. Topics include Chinese beach culture, dating, and retiring in China, among many others. Some will find it more interesting than others.

Limitless Laowai

This podcast has a huge backlog of around 400 episodes, but there haven’t been any new ones for about a year. It focuses on expat life in China – things like business, cultural adjustments, personal development, and more. Most episodes are 10-30 minutes but the length can vary. Some of the guests can be quite interesting.

In Closing

Podcasts are absolutely a viable way to go about learning Mandarin. There are plenty of options at all levels that cover an incredible range of topics. Of course, they likely won’t fulfill all of your learning needs, but they can make solid tools for improving your listening skills.

If you’re looking for other ways to fill out your study method, check out our favorite Mandarin Youtube channels, the best online courses, the best apps, or even the top grammar books for studying Mandarin.

With all of the options out there, this list is far from exhaustive. Let me know if I forgot any excellent podcasts!

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Comments (12)

ChinesePod was my go-to resource for several years. Absolutely the best! But I grew kind of tired of it when I got to Upper Intermediate range.

My favorite resource now is 酷听 (http://www.kting.cn/), which has a great mobile phone app. Finding a book you can understand is challenging though. The one I settled on was 《我当阴阳先生的那几年》, which was unbelievably challenging for the first few chapters. I must have listened to that first chapter at least 10 times.

With help from a downloaded text version in Pleco, I was able to start making sense of it. The difficult vocabulary and concepts are repeated enough that, from chapter 5 or so, the rest of the book was usually not that difficult. Since the book is over 200 chapters long, that astronomical initial “start-up cost” was well worth it.

For Upper Intermediate and above, that’s what I now recommend to people: Find something meant for native speakers that is popular and you might like. Really focus on understanding that first chapter/episode, no matter what it takes. Grab onto it and don’t let go. Once you get the first few units down, you can then sail through the rest of it. I first did this with the TV show 《潜伏》, and I just can’t easily go back to something like ChinesePod.

That’s awesome advice. Thanks for sharing!

I Love Learning Chinese podcast on itunes has worked great for me. Great for beginners and intermediate learners. You can get PDF and line-by-line on their website ilovelearningchinese.com

Cool! I hadn’t heard of that one yet.

The guys at Mandarin Companion just launched a new podcast called You Can Learn Chinese (http://youcanlearnchinese.mandarincompanion.com/). John Pasden, who was with Chinesepod, is one of the hosts. The podcast is about learning Chinese, not about teaching it and so far it’s pretty good. I hope they keep it up!

Mandarin Monkey. I listen to this one. Love it! One Taiwanese (Ula) and one British (Tom), speak about a bunch of different things and naturally introduce new words during an everyday conversation. Ula speaks mostly in Mandarin and Tom Speaks English. The first ever Chinglish podcast I have heard. Makes it easier to keep up with the conversation when I don’t understand whats going on.

https://soundcloud.com/mandarin-monkey

They are on Itunes as well.
https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/mandarin-monkey-podcast/id1430708691?mt=2

Sounds awesome! Thanks for sharing.

Hi Nick,

I found your blog when searching for the Learn Mandarin Now podcast. It seems like the Learn Mandarin Now website and attached RSS feed are now defunct. Would you happen to have any copies of the podcast episodes or know how to access them? If you have any contacts from the Learn Mandarin Now organization, I would love to also reach out to them to help my investigation. I really enjoyed listening to this podcast, and am really disappointed to find that it is no longer accessible.

Thank you!

I use Stitcher for podcasts and just checked to see if Learn Mandarin Now was still listed there with their episodes and everything seems normal. https://www.stitcher.com/podcast/yang/learn-mandarin-now-podcast

Hi Nick,

Great selection of podcasts! I recently started a podcast series where I talk about Chinese culture in Chinese. It’s aimed at intermediate to advanced learners.

The podcast is called Chinese Colloquialised. You can find the episodes and the relevant transcripts on my website: https://chinesecolloquialised.com. Any feedback or comments are very welcome!

Kaycee

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