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How can I improve my listening skill?



I am an elementary learner - I have completed over 50 newbie lessons on ChinesePod and now just over 30 elementary lessons. I love learning with ChinesePod but I also use other resources such as ChineseSkill, DuoLingo, HelloChinese, etc. I try to listen to Chinese Radio Network sometimes on my short commute to work, and other times I relisten to dialogues from ChinesePod lessons. Sometimes I watch Chinese TV and programmes on YouTube (including Peppa Pig in Mandarin!) And I also have a lovely Chinese teacher who I see every few weeks.

But apart from my Chinese teacher I rarely get the opportunity for one-to-one practice with native Chinese speakers. I feel that I am still struggling to understand spoken Chinese - Is this normal at this stage or am I doing something wrong?


I don’t think you’re doing anything wrong. I’ve been trying to learn Chinese for over 2 years and my listening is still slow. I try to watch dramas, listen to Chinese music, etc. The thing with listening is that it takes time. It’s not like practicing speaking where you can do it so many times by yourself and get it within a few trys just by practicing some sentences or phrases. Listening is something you can’t really control and it’ll take time and practice. My main issue is that I get stuck at a word I don’t know and I completely don’t even hear the rest of the sentence, losing everything. It’s just something you have to actively work on and improve with time.


Oh yes, I recognise the problem of encountering an unfamiliar word and then missing the rest of the sentence because my brain is tying to process it. And also the opposite problem when listening to things I mostly don’t understand and then latching on to a word or phrase that I do recognise and then missing the rest of the sentence! Thanks for replying.


You are doing nothing wrong but the way you are doing is not efficient specially watching tv etc etc. tried myself many times but found out that it is no use to listen to something which you donot understand. The only thing you learn is the “ rhythm“ of Chinese, nothing else I am afraid. The most efficient way is too listen to ,for example your, chinesepod you have learned, put all these dialogues in one play list and listen to this as often as you can. You can do this active ( really listening ) or non active. ( when you are jogging, doing dishes ) Sentences you donot understand you can look up and learn again. In this way you are also reducing the time you play around with flash card.
The problem here is however that the stories are too short and after xxx times listening you know them from head so you are not sure if you really have understand it all.
Started there for with books, breezer series or Pleco has also some nice E readers which include mp3 , You first listen, properly you will not understand much or at least I did not understand much, than you read a chapter and you listen again, there after you read and listen at the same time. When you also are learning characters than this is also a good way to repeat these and learn them better and quicker in recognizing. Again sentences you donot understand quick enough you can look up and learn again. Mine understanding was improving this way much quicker than watching tv or listening to blogs far above mine level. Another positive point was I was reading things I like which keep the fun in learning in Chinese .
Combine there for your chinesepod which have clear explanation about grammar and words with reading books for fun and listening.
Succes with it.
Ps the best is too read them aloud


谢谢你!I do have my ChinesePod dialogues in a playlist and I do listen to them on the way to work. I will definitely do more of this. I will also try the audio books.


You can find excellent advice here:

A part from cPod thechairmansbao helped and still helps me a lot (reading and listening)


I suppose moving to a Chinese speaking country for a period of time isn’t an option! I had to spend 2 years in Taiwan, constantly around Taiwanese people who speak little English, before I felt like I really knew what was going on around me most of the time and could engage in more than a simple conversation.

As an alternative to this, may I suggest a website like italki. You can pay people (more for qualified teachers, and less for regular people) to talk to you in Chinese. I think the rates are reasonable and you can make bookings with lots of different people (so you could have the same conversations over and over again with different people, to cement the language you already know!) - so in a nutshell, in addition to the great suggestions from other above I feel that you could really benefit from more one-on-one conversation with native speakers.


There’s a good thread on this issue over at, see

Also the Hacking Chinese website has some detailed discussions on listening strategies.

As for a teacher, I found it made an enormous difference when I changed from having 1 lesson per week to 3 per week, which meant I was either having a class or doing homework almost every day of the week. If you’re only seeing your teacher “every few weeks” you’re missing out on that valuable opportunity.

Edit to add: I’m currently working towards HSK 3, and my teacher and I are using the HSK 3 Standard Course textbook and workbook. They both come with audio.

The textbook audio is just 3 dialogues from each chapter + new words, and some example sentences. I have these on my phone so I can do lesson preparation on the way home from work, plus lots of repetition for some passive listening. The workbook is more useful for active listening as it has listening comprehension tests, similar to the HSK exam itself, for each of the 20 chapters in the book. I’ve been doing these and finding them very hard, but keeping at it I am noticing a slow improvement.

When I first heard the audio tracks my reaction was “how the hell am I supposed to understand anyone at that speed!”, but it does get easier with time, especially when you’re listening for the gist of the dialogue rather than tripping up on a word near the start and then missing everything else. (And all those homophones are a problem too!) You can buy the answers for the tests, which also includes transcripts of the dialogues.

The pattern I’ve settled into is that I try and do the listening test without pausing or slowing it down, just like in the HSK test, then I check the answers, and those I got wrong or couldn’t answer I go through the transcripts in detail, listen to the audio again, and make notes on what to ask my teacher in the next lesson, which is usually word order or grammar. Keeping a track of your scores over time helps to see the improvement, and in turn helps with motivation.


The thread I linked to previously is currently being driven by a learner (AdamD) who is freaking out while in Taiwan, because after studying Putonghua he is finding it very hard to understand the Taiwanese accent and differences in vocabulary.

How did you cope with this, @fisheyes11…? (Or maybe you learned in TW to begin with?)


Thanks for all the replies. Some useful comments here.

I am definitely going to try to listen to my playlist of ChinesePod dialogues from lessons I have studied more often, and make more effort to listen actively rather than passively. I have also ordered the HSK3 standard book and work book.