Any resource recommendations for listening practice?

I’ve been at this for almost 2 months now. I have almost 300 characters learned. I tried doing one of the “breakthrough” levels of Mandarin Companion’s graded readers. Reading the story wasn’t too difficult. But when I tried listening to the audiobook without the aid of the text, my comprehension was terrible, but has been improving with repetition. Mandarin Companion is a nice resource, but at a price point of ~$10 for book + audio book for like a 30min story, I feel like on principle I’d be throwing away money, I’d have to probably buy a new book every week.

Does anybody have any suggestions for super beginner listening practice? Bonus points if there is a text to read along with so I could practice reading as well.

Here are some resources I used:

  1. Chinese Learn Online. Now rebranded to . Pretty bad website, but they have all of the podcast episodes online for free. Paying is only for the supplemental materials/quizzes/etc. I paid briefly so that I could download all of the transcripts. It has 7 levels, the first level being primarily English, and starting from the third or fourth level it is mostly/entirely Chinese. I went straight to the third/fourth level to avoid the English. I mainly used this because it is a Taiwanese resource, so if you are looking for Mainland accented stuff, it’s probably not worth the while.
  2. - Organized by HSK level. I used this for a month or two, it was pretty decent. I would listen to an article multiple times before reading along with the transcript. The articles they have are pretty amusing I thought.
  3. - another one, a bit more pricey. They are “stories” instead of just newspaper articles. Honestly, I (personally) didn’t like the stories, and found the audio to be a bit too child-storybook-like. But the app/website is actually well-designed, and also includes read-along functionality.

I personally got the most out of just listening to the recorded audios that come with a textbook. I used the Taiwanese series CCC (newer) and PAVC (older). However, I’m sure whatever the most popular mainland textbook series will also have the same format of having a dialogue/vocablist/audio. They are really quite good for building up the basics. A bit expensive, but if the aim is to bootstrap into native content (e.g., children cartoons) then only a book or two suffices, drastically cutting down the price.

Lastly, here are two other resources that I have not personally used, but had bookmarked:

  1. - has some free ones for sample, but need to do Patreon to sign up. Recording with transcript.
  2. 慢速中文 Slow Chinese | Chinese Cultural Podcast - FREE! Seems to have transcripts as well.
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Little Fox Chinese is an excellent free resource ( It has several levels starting from the basics, with animations and transcripts, so it can be used both for reading and listening practice. The stories are aimed at children, but its top levels are actually pretty advanced, with Alice in Wonderland, Monkey Kind, etc.

Another good resource is Mandarin Bean. It has a paying option but the free version covers a lot.

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Also, Jeff Pepper’s adaptation of “Journey to the West” mentioned recently by @tuobiyasi has free audio for all the books. With 30+ books, and ~ 40-min long audios, it comes to 20 hours of listening (about misadventures of Sun-Wu-Kung here, and there, and then over there, now with his travel companions.) It does begin at 650 words though so I transitioned there from Mandarin Companion.


@lorentz I can definitely identify with this frustration in my foreign language pursuits. I’m curious, what do you feel is your biggest challenge when it comes to comprehension?
In my experience, hearing “time stretched” (to use an audio engineering/production term)
Audio time stretching and pitch scaling - Wikipedia.
versions of the target audio material is monumentally helpful at breaking down the listening comprehension barriers provided you also have an accurate transcription.
Personally, I find that “time stretching” the duration by a factor of 2 (halving the speed in other words) to be ideal for comprehension without loss of any intelligibility.
I can point you in the right direction if you or anyone feel this might help.

Is pitch correction done in most audio playback software by default? E.g., VLC? Or more importantly: when playing 2x speed on YouTube? I believe it is, but not 100% sure.

I’ve always tried to avoid altering the original audio speed out of a concern of making things “less natural”, but I came across someone some time ago who raved about the benefits of recording and playing back at slower speeds for adjusting to new languages. They could hear/speak many languages, which convinced me of its potential benefits.

Thanks CharirmanBao with the news stories actually looks kinda interesting to me. I remember using some graded reader esq. news thing for Japanese years ago.

learningchinesethroughstories looks pretty decent as well. One thing I dislike about most of the other audio resources is they s l o w d o w n e v e r y t h i n g in this near monotone voice that feels off. This one is also slowed down, but feels more palatable.

To borrow the terminology of Matt vs. Japan and other language youtubers, I think I’ve (consciously) “learned” a lot of words, but I haven’t (subconsciously) “acquired” them”. Like sure, I know “找到” means “to find/to have found”, but when I hear it it’s not ingrained to the extent that I can passively “understand” the meaning, especially in context. So I’ll spend way too much mental CPU on consciously contextualizing words to the extent that I don’t even pick up the next few. I suspect with reading I haven’t fully acquired these words either, but you can read arbitrarily slowly.

Here’s the relevant post with the Jounrey to the West and more on Youtube in Easy Chinese

I’m on the same boat, it’s hard to find good resources for beginner listening.

Recently I have been using the app that was mentioned here, Immersive Chinese:

It’s not amazing as it’s not based on stories/news so it gets boring fast, but I can just put beginner sentences on repeat while I’m doing something else and it does help.

@lorentz @damia @tuobiyasi @Igor101
Great questions!
In my experience, the quality and preservation of “naturalness” is dependent on two factors.

1)The quality of the time stretching algorithm and program.
I know some teaching websites provide the functionality to be able to slow down the audio lines in the lessons, but the algorithms they use, in my opinion are far and away from being the best ones and they don’t allow you to control the speed of playback by specific percentages. Net resulst: not that useful, despite the good intentions.

You can maintain very high quality of the speech and sound if a higher quality algorithm found in nearly all Digital Audio Workstations, like Logic Pro X or Ableton LIVE, among many others.
This technology is nothing new or cutting edge relatively speaking, but it is very robust, and still fairly CPU intensive, so few if any websites out there offer this functionality and the robust features that go with it). The digital technology was first introduced in the late 1990s and since then has improved signficantly over the decades to the present time period and will continue to make leaps and bounds with AI. Seems like everything we talk about nowadays, AI has to be mentioned so I’ve done my duty there for the day. LOL.

Audacity is a free, open source platform that I believe has higher quality time stretching algorithms as well which may work as well, but I myself am only familiar with Logic Pro X and Ableton LIVE.

To fully explain, I’d have to go on a fairly lengthy tangent about properties of sound and audio editing and processing, which right now might not be the best time for it. The downside is that using a DAW to slow down target audio does take a modest familiarity with the software and basic recording and audio production concepts and techniques. If you have some familarity with a DAW already, this will of course make it easier.

It’s really up to the person and their goals. While it sounds like a lot of time to invest, for me, it was worth it and has made listening comprehension so much easier. The other major benefit is that you can capture ANY audio source that’s available digitally and is output by your computer’s sound card. Movies, TV shows, YouTube, etc. If you can make it make a sound on your computer you can record it and edit it and time stretch it. You aren’t confined to “lessons” which is especially useful for those of you who are advanced beginners or intermediates or higher in my opinion. Additionally, you can even record, edit, and time stretch those “lessons” as well. The power is in your hands.

I will say this.
It’s crazy - once the audio is slow enough for your brain/mind fully track and process the data just once - how quickly (almost instantly) you become able to catch and comprehend it in real time and in context in any situation. I’m exaggerating a bit for effect here, but not by much.

2)The multiple of time stretching being less than or equal to 2 (in other words not slowing down the audio by more than 50%). 50%-75% seems to work really well for maintaining “naturalness” and allowing for the beginner’s ear to easily capture and comprehend each syllable as well as easily notice which syllables are sort of “mashed” together.

A really useful listening practice resource for me is TeaTime Chinese ( I am sure I mentioned it here some time ago but, IMO, it’s worth mentioning again :slight_smile: . Their website has all the transcripts to the podcast, and the podcast can be found anywhere in “the podcastsphere”. What I find helpful is that: 1) Nathan the host speaks slowly and clearly; 2) the number of words is limited, but is not artificially low; great for the listening comprehension; 3) I actually find the podcasts’ topics interesting. Very recently I tried to do some shadowing along, and the podcast speed worked nicely for that.

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