7 of the Best Podcasts for Learning Chinese

So you’ve decided to learn Chinese? Congratulations! Learning Mandarin Chinese is a truly rewarding and enriching experience. As the world’s number one economy now, if you can speak Chinese, you’ll be adding an important feather to your cap. But I’m going to be completely honest with you here. Learning Chinese can also be extremely frustrating.

While indisputably beautiful, the (many) Chinese characters are also a total nightmare for the foreign learner. There is no alphabet to learn and the sheer scope for error in its tonal pronunciation make Mandarin Chinese one of the hardest languages for English speakers to study.


How to Help Your Chinese Learning with Podcasts

Difficulty notwithstanding, Chinese is a fascinating language to listen to due to its varied tones. As a learner of Chinese, it’s an exciting time when you are able to differentiate the words and connect them into comprehensible sentences.

This is where listening to a podcast can pay huge dividends. Focusing on listening to Chinese is one of the most useful things that you can do to improve your language abilities, especially when you find yourself stuck in that seemingly endless stretch between intermediate and advanced levels. Committing yourself to listen to hours and hours of words – can help you close the learning gap, while having fun!

Here are at least five reasons why you should use podcasts to learn Chinese:

  • Podcasts cater more to your niche interests than an educational textbook.
  • Portable and mobile, you can download a podcast to your smart phone.
  • You can listen to a Chinese podcast show while traveling, commuting, jogging, cooking, etc.
  • You can pause and rewind the podcast whenever you want – a big advantage over listening to a Chinese person face-to-face.
  • With the wide variety of Chinese podcasts available, you can pick up subject-specific vocabulary while learning more about Chinese culture.

Without further ado, here we’ll delve into seven of the best podcasts for learning  Chinese. All worthwhile to listen to if you’re looking to rise to the next level of Chinese language fluency.



Podcast #1: Slow Chinese (慢速中文)

Who is this for? Upper Intermediate to Advanced Levels of Chinese

Materials: Transcripts

Slow Chinese is a new, original Mandarin Chinese podcast show. Created by Chinese university students, the show’s creators spend time talking about an aspect of what it’s like to live in China, in segments just under 10 minutes long.

The program’s creators make sure the dialog is spoken very slowly to make it easier for the listener to make out the individual words. The content, in turn, may be a bit more advanced for the intermediate learner of Chinese.

The show is a bit lacking in learning materials compared to other podcasts that will show up on this list, but in terms of podcast content, it can be captivating. These episodes allow you to explore the lives of everyday college students in China. You’ll definitely learn more about China from a Chinese citizen’s point of view.


Podcast #2: Sina (新浪視頻)

Who is this for? Advanced Level of Chinese

Materials: Video subtitles

Sina’s website has a tremendous presence in China and is one of the most visited websites on the planet. Think of it as the Chinese version of Bloomberg, but of a much larger size and with greater media coverage. If you enjoy learning about current affairs, this podcast definitely deserves a listen.

Sina uploads almost 20 clips daily to its site, with all clips covering a huge diversity of subject matter.

However, this is not an easy Mandarin podcast to listen to. As a native Chinese podcast show, it’s not designed for students of the Chinese language and doesn’t include any learning material.

What especially throws you is the wide variety of accents: non-Beijing accents are used by some of the anchors, which can pose a significant challenge to the learner of Chinese. The podcasts are for advanced speakers only.

My recommendation is to use it as a daily listening comprehension session to improve your understanding of different accents, which you will encounter every day on the street if you ever travel to China.


Podcast #3: Ghost Talk (鬼話連遍糗事百料)

Who is this for? Intermediate to Advanced Levels of Chinese

Materials: Video subtitles

If you’re a fan of the supernatural, then you’ll appreciate this pretty popular TV show in China. Produced as a reality TV show, the cameras follow people who are visiting places that are commonly understood to be haunted.

Their reactions are recorded and aren’t rehearsed so occasionally you might be spooked yourself watching the audience members deal with their “haunted” environments.

Unfortunately, the series isn’t updated anymore but there are still plenty of episodes on file to keep you busy for a long time to come. The show is subtitled and well produced – a definite must-see if ghosts and goblins tickle your fancy.

Podcast #4: Eight Minutes Reading (開卷八分鐘)

Who is this for? Upper Intermediate to Advanced Levels of Chinese

Materials: None

This Mandarin language podcast is broadcast widely in China and is about a niche topic – books!

Basically, a host delivers his book recommendations in 8-minute segments. He reviews each book in depth and widely explores the story twists of the plot, relating these to Chinese society and culture in general.


This show is great if you’re a dedicated reader who would love to venture into the world of Chinese literature, short stories, essays, etc. while receiving qualified advice as to what to read. The reading level of the books, however, is strictly for advanced learners of Chinese, although the podcast itself is perfect for intermediate learners to comprehend.

The slow pace of the host’s speech enables anyone to flex their listening comprehension skills while learning vocabulary words about books and literature. A popular program in China, you’d do well to watch and listen to the podcast in order to get a firmer grip of what people are reading there these days.

Podcast #5: Melnyks Chinese

Who is this for? Beginner to Intermediate Levels of Chinese

Materials: Transcripts, worksheets, mobile apps, videos and more

Melnyk’s Chinese podcast consists of a series of themed episodes that cover a variety of situations travelers will encounter while visiting China. At present, over 200 podcasts are available, of which 100 are available for free on iTunes.

Each episode starts with a review of new vocabulary words, which are then discussed in a dialogue in Chinese between a native speaker and Serge himself, the non-native host of the podcast.

Throughout the show, the host does a good job in identifying the typical common mistakes and trouble spots of non-natives learning Chinese and from time to time, delves into aspects of Chinese culture, which make the lessons interesting.

Serge, the presenter is highly personable, and attends to any question you submit via email or comments on his site.

All lessons are progressive, meaning that each lesson is built on the preceding lesson and are not just random lessons. Unfortunately, grammar notes and full explanations are not available in the audio lessons but can be downloaded as transcripts.

All in all, Serge does a good job with the show and is host and producer to one of the most popular podcasts for learning Chinese available on the Internet for beginners.


Podcast #6: ChinesePod

Who is this for? Beginner to Advanced Levels of Chinese

Materials:Mobile App and flashcards

ChinesePod was originally launched as a simple subscription podcast, but has since expanded into a popular and massive platform that contains so much more. Its library spans upwards of 3,500 lessons and is made up of dialogues on life situations you’d encounter in China.


The standard lesson of this podcast consists of an introduction, a brief review of five to ten vocabulary words, a text read aloud and a discussion. Complementing the format are grammatical explanations, grammar exercises, transcripts, flashcards and online tutoring. The program is useful and does a good job of covering all the bases for students ranging from beginner to advance.

Its massive catalog of lessons allows you to find situational topics about nearly anything you can think of, so that when you want to learn the vocabulary specific to a situation, such as visiting the dentist or buying a sim card from a kiosk, it’s in the catalog.

The first 100 lessons are free, after which the service charges you a reasonable fee.


Podcast #7: Popup Chinese

Who is this for? Beginner to Advanced Levels of Chinese

Materials: Flashcards and vocabulary lists

One of the other big players on the Chinese Learning podcast scene is Popup Chinese. With a much smaller archive of podcast episodes compared to ChinesePod, Popup Chinese’s advantage is the quality and humor of its lessons.

The lessons are twisted and funny while still being highly educational. The host of the podcast, Brendan, does his best to keep the show funny and upbeat, with episode topics ranging from a father cooking his daughter’s pet rabbit to an honest cab driver stating how awful a foreigner’s Chinese is.

Similar to ChinesePod, Popup Chinese’s lessons are sorted into different levels: beginner, elementary, intermediate and advanced. All its lessons are available for free online, but the site charges a fee to have any episode downloaded to your phone or computer. If you want podcasts for learning Chinese on a budget, Popup Chinese is a less expensive alternative to ChinesePod.

Popup Chinese also produces a show about China in English, known as the Sinicapodcast, which is a good complement to the Chinese learning material on the site. Mature and deep, theSinica podcast hosts an interesting guest with thought-provoking views every episode and frequently ventures into discussions about controversial issues.



The Takeaway

While it may be more effective and certainly more gratifying to take a year or two off and travel around China; if your spouse, wallet, or other commitments won’t allow you the luxury, you can still become fluent in Mandarin.

Make use of the resources at your fingertips, find the time to study and get listening to these awesome podcasts to propel you along your way. And if you need Chinese translation services at any point during your learning, you can find many fast and inexpensive resources online.


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Sean Patrick Hopwood is a polyglot and language enthusiast. His goal in life is to bring world peace through education, tolerance and cultural awareness. He is also the president and founder of Day Translations, Inc., a global translation company.

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Sean Patrick Hopwood

Sean Patrick Hopwood is a polyglot and language enthusiast. His goal in life is to bring world peace through education, tolerance and cultural awareness. He is also the President and Founder of Day Translations, Inc., a global translation company.