Listening skills are one of the most important elements in learning Chinese. It allows you to be able to actually communicate and make concrete interactions with Chinese people. To help smoothen your communication and improve your listening skills, here are a few tips of Chinese listening practice for beginner, intermediate, and advanced learners.
Aim: To understand basic conversations
At the beginner stage, learners generally would know a limited range of vocabulary and sentences. Therefore, to avoid confusion caused by having too many extra words and complicated sentence structures, it’s suggested that learners focus mainly on understanding the words and phrases that they have learned.
Tip 1: Audio learning
Audio learning is especially useful in balancing your ability between reading and listening. When learning new words, learners usually start with reading, while the listening part may be neglected. So, we suggest that you learn with both textbooks and audio. You can start with listening to the text once, then read it to learn the new words. Listen to the audio once more, this time without reading the text. Understand the context of the sentence to ensure all is understood. Repeat this method whenever new text comes by, and in time, your listening skill will certainly improve.
Apart from textbooks, you can also perform your own audio learning with other materials of your learning level. For example, in LingQ, all their texts are accompanied by recorded audio which you can add to your playlist. In addition, an English translation is also provided. In Edugora, most courses are made for beginners, in which users are taught sentence by sentence. As the courses all come with a short video, it allows you to watch and listen as many times as you like. In MandarinBean, you can access all HSK levels listening materials for free, which include Chinese transcription with pinyin, English translation and vocabulary flashcards. The topics also varies from daily life news to business, from fun stories to Chinese idioms origins.
Tip 2: Real life one-on-one practice
To further enhance your listening skills, practice is essential. As a beginner, being able to practice the content you’ve learned would build a stronger base for improving your listening. Therefore, we suggest you find a native speaker who knows your level well and together, you can conduct practice conversations. It could be a friend, your tutor, or a language exchange partner. The format can be simple Q&A, in which your partner will ask simple questions and you respond accordingly. This can be a fun and engaging exercise, while giving you a taste of putting your knowledge into real life conversations.
Aim: To understand general topics
As an intermediate learner, you should possess knowledge covering wider and more general topics. Therefore, it’s time to also make sure your listening skills are also up to that level. Apart from continuing to follow the above tips for beginners, we have other tips specifically tailored for intermediate learners.
Tip 1: Watch Chinese videos and shows with subtitles
At this point, you may want to get away from purely text-based studying, right? It’s a good idea to now learn from things that are close to daily living. Why not try to watch Chinese shows, movies, or video clips, with the help of subtitles? It’s suggested that you first watch the full video once to gain an understanding of the whole story, then choose the parts you particularly enjoyed the most, and watch it again, but this time without looking at the subtitles. This will not only hone your listening skills, but you may be able to learn some new words and phrases.
To search for Chinese videos, check out Viki, which provides free Chinese TV dramas and movies with both Chinese and English subtitles. On the other hand, CNTV could also a good platform. Videos are filmed mainly for educational purposes, yet they show real life situations, and have English subtitles.
Tip 2: Step into real life situations
Apart from shows and videos, why not try real life scenarios? At this time, you should already be able to comfortably handle some simple Chinese speaking settings, such as in restaurants or shops. If you’re not living in China, find out if there’s a Chinatown within your area, where most people would use Chinese to communicate. Being physically in a Chinese speaking environment is a very direct and effective way to practice your listening.
Aim: To understand a wide range of topics
When you’ve reached the advanced level, you should be able to interact with people easily under normal daily circumstances without any problem with listening. To improve further, you might want to focus your learning on a specific topic of interest, like your professional scope. What you’re doing is looking to expand your Chinese usage to a broader set of topics, where richer listening skills are required.
Tip1: Get immersed in the Chinese environment
To do so, it’s highly recommended that you immerse yourself in a complete Chinese speaking environment for a certain period of time. Relocating to China is a good option, and the trip can last from a couple of weeks to even years. Being fully immersed in China means you’re passively listening to Chinese being spoken daily, where you are exposed to all sorts of scenarios, ranging from buying groceries, renting apartments, to looking for jobs. Meanwhile, you’re exposed to native speakers who may even become new friends. In this way, you will get loads of opportunities to practice Chinese listening.
Tip2: Join Chinese seminars of your interests
Aside from travelling to China, if you’re seeking to expand language skills to a more specific scope, such as your professional field or a topic of your interest, we recommend that you join relevant seminars, webinars, talks, or conferences which are conducted in Chinese. As the content discussed would be entirely related to your chosen specialty, you’ll get a great opportunity to enhance your listening ability within these areas. It works best if these events could be attended regularly, which helps to maintain your level.
Listening is often an overlooked skill when learning a language. A learner can end up focusing too much on reading texts and speaking the language, that he forgets that listening can also enhance his overall language skills. There is a saying that goes, “When you talk, you are only repeating what you already know. But if you listen, you may learn something new.” Such is the same with learning Chinese. Chinese listening practice really matters! If you listen, you will certainly learn new things, and your language skills will improve much faster.