How to Improve Your Chinese Listening and Comprehension Skills

chinese listening skills

This article was written by Cathy of HanBridge Mandarin.

As you already know, given the four main language skills (listening, speaking, reading and writing), “listening” and “reading” mark progresses of language input, while “speaking” and “writing” represent the output of a language.

Your ability and level on language speaking and writing depends on the number of “input” that you’re able to recognize and understand. Statistics show that the progress of people’s verbal communication is influenced by listening for 45%, by speaking for 30%, by reading for 16%, and by writing for 9%. Thus, language listening ability plays a key role in language learning and daily communication.

Here five tips to improve your Chinese listening skills!

1. Grow your vocabulary

Vocabulary is the foundation of building a language: the more vocabulary you have, the more information you will be able to process. All the listening materials are made of vocabulary, only when you know a sufficient amount of words, you can understand the listening material correctly.

If your vocabulary is not enough, you can only catch one part of the conversation, not the whole sentences. Therefore, finding a good way to enrich your vocabulary is essential for your listening comprehension.

Using Chinese vocabulary flashcards is one of the most effective way for memorizing Chinese words. Besides pinyin and explanation, they usually contain useful additional information (like scripts, number of strokes, stroke order and so on), which reminds you constantly of the word you learned.

2. Make your pronunciation as standard as possible

Learning Chinese pinyin pronunciation is one of the basis of learning Chinese. Besides the obvious fact that if your pronunciation is incorrect nobody will understand you, your pronunciation affects your Chinese listening comprehension.

Chinese is a single syllable language which makes listening more difficult. It is different from many other languages, such as English, where you can guess a given word according to some sounds. But Chinese syllables are short and have only one sound. Moreover, Chinese is a tonal language with four different tones. So you must pay attention to the tones of each character and word. Listen to more audio recordings materials and read after the native speaker as closely as you can, following along with a pinyin pronunciation guide.

If your pronunciation is standard and you have a good accent, you can catch the words in listening material much easier that makes you understand it faster and more accurately.

3. React to what you hear

Listening isn’t enough. You also need to “react” to what you’ve listened to. This reaction gives you the opportunity to make sure if the information you got was correct, and understood correctly, and whether you could give appropriate response in the situation. Listening involves not only just understanding the words (literal meaning), but also understanding the context. Thus, you shall try to respond to the question you hear or continue the discussion with comments, opinions, advises or summaries.

Your listening comprehension ability will increase dramatically and quickly if you do this exercise on regular basis under different situations and topics.

4. Practice more

I believe the most efficient way to keep on your top of your Chinese is to practice, practice, practice!

This is easier said than done, but it really comes down to will power and motivation. You don’t need to catch each word in the listening materials; the most important thing is to understand the main meaning of it. The listening materials are very important during your Chinese practicing. Start listening to easy materials – cartoons, children movies – and try to make sure that you can catch the meaning of each sentence. You can also use your own words to repeat the sentences.

Then gradually move to something more challenging like CD, MP3, Audio, Movies. First try to repeat each sentence after your listening. Basically, listen to as much Chinese as possible, in as many different ways as possible, at as many times of your day as possible. 

Watching TV series is are an easy way to improve your listening skills and vocabulary. Watch close-captioned movies and TV shows with fast paced dialogue. Below are 10 Chinese TV shows, you can start to enjoying and improving your Mandarin listening skills:

  • Nirvana in Fire (琅琊榜);
  • The Legend of Zhen Huan (甄嬛传;
  • The Journey of Flower (花千骨;
  • The Legend of Qin (秦时明月;
  • The Disguiser (伪装者;
  • I am a Singer (我是歌手;
  • Hurry Up, Brother (奔跑吧,兄弟);
  • Where Are We Going, Dad? (爸爸去哪儿);
  • If you are the one (非诚勿扰);
  • The Brain (最强大脑);

5. Be Patient

There are no shortcuts for learning Chinese, this will take time. When you do “extensive listening”, it’s okay if you only get 20-50% of the information, you can repeat it after a certain period of time.

Just take the time to improve your Chinese listening at your pace, and you will certainly see the results!

Photo Credits: Creative Commons License Running, Earphone, iPod and Book 跑步,耳机, iPod与书 by Alva Chien

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Get 3 Months FREE with EXPRESS VPN

+ Best VPN For China
+ 30-Day Money-Back Guarantee
+ 24/7 Live China Customer Support
+ 3 Months Free on 12 Months Package

Scroll to Top