LISTENING SKILLS: CHINESE PODCASTS

Ksb5BCBoKJQListening comprehension is one of the trickiest skills to better when learning a foreign language. Spoken language is almost always less formal and more contracted than its written form. Not to mention different accents, dialects, speech impediments, slang or colloquial expressions that can make it hard to understand.

According to a research on communication done by University of Missouri we spend 45% of our time listening. But when it comes to learning and/or practicing a second language – is this true? In class or at home do we spend 45% listening to a foreign language? Not in my experience.

To make things right here are 4 Chinese podcasts for training your listening skills.

         1. CHAIRMAN’S BAO

Texts with audio on relevant topics taken from news aggregators.

LEVELS: Elementary to Advanced (HKS1 – HSK6+)

PRICE: $10/month, $80/year

ADVANTAGES: Reading Comprehension Tests after each lesson, Vocabulary Flashcards, Grammar Commentary, Analytics, 4-5 new articles a day, can switch between Simplified and Traditional Characters.

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DISADVANTAGES: only one sample lesson per level,  no free trial period.

         2. CHINESE POD

Videos and/or podcasts on fun topics.

LEVELS: Newbie to Advanced + Media

PRICE: $14/month, $124/year for BASIC PLAN

ADVANTAGES: 30 DAY FREE TRIAL but only for some of the lessons, vocabulary explanation, examples, exercises, forum, dictionary.

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DISADVANTAGES: no transcript or download button unless you upgrade to premium.

         3. LINGQ

Audio with texts. Lingq is designed as a vocabulary app but it has GUIDED lessons that contain audio and can be used for listening comprehension training.

LEVELS: Beginner – Advanced

PRICE: Has a free version, PREMIUM $10, PLUS $39

ADVANTAGES: Can add your own texts (web version only), vocabulary practice, tutors, can be used for many languages.

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DISADVANTAGES: Designed mostly for reading so the audio content is limited. Just look for that sound button.

         4. SLOW CHINESE

Slowly spoken Chinese articles on relevant topics about modern phenomena in Chinese culture and society.

LEVEL: doesn’t have a breakdown, appropriate from Intermediate and up.

PRICE: FREEEEE!!! (They have a shop, check-out and order something to support the project).

ADVANTAGES: Fun and short. Downloadable. Texts are translated into English, German, Russian, Spanish, Portuguese, and even Arabic.

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DISADVANTAGES: It is spoken really slowly. You might want to speed it up on a 2nd or 3rd listen. Updated roughly once a month. Does not have vocabulary training.

So what do you listen to?

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ADVANCED CHINESE

Being an absolute beginner in a language is fun – you can find a lot of great materials, learning goes pretty fast, you feel proud saying your first couple of phrases, people compliment you a lot on your progress – it is hard not to be enthusiastic.

The more you learn, however, the more you realize how much longer the road ahead of you really is. You go through denial, anger, depression, bargaining – until finally you come to accept that even as an advanced learner you still need textbooks.

That’s my story with Chinese. Having passing HSK 5 this year (low C1 level) I still feel like too far away from „mastering“ the Chinese language. Here are the tools I am using to work on my reading skills.

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TEXTBOOKS

  1. BOYA CHINESE: ADVANCED

Great texts – modern and relevant. Has 3 levels, is accompanied by a CD. If you need someone to correct your written Chinese (for free), use http://www.lang-8.com.

2. DEVELOPING CHINESE: ADVANCED READING COURSE

Fun short texts about Chinese culture. Bonus: each chapter has a „real life“ situation – reading receipts, warnings, labels, etc.

3. WATCHING THE MOVIE AND LEARNING CHINESE

This is my favorite series! It is a great way to learn more about Chinese cinematography, while working on your listening and reading skills. Has advanced vocabulary, grammar section and comprehension section. Bonus: ANSWER KEYS!

4. A LEARNER’S DICTIONARY OF CHINESE NEW WORDS

Technically not a textbook so don’t expect to see exercises. Still this is a useful book for learning the newest vocabulary – it has explanation in Chinese, usage commentary, and examples – perfect for sentence mining technique.

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BOOKS

  1. SHORT STORIES IN CHINESE

I am not a huge fan of bilingual books because it is hard not to cheat by reading the English version before you read the Chinese text… but, I guess, it is a good way to become more familiar with the 20th century literature.


2. THE AGONIZED JOURNEY OF CULTURE BY YU QIUYU

Essays on culture and history by a renowned Shanghai author and scholar who I might have never heard about … hadn’t I asked my professor for a recommendation. This is the book Chinese high school students read at school, which makes it ever so more interesting.

    3. THE COUNTRY OF ‚GIANT BABIES‘ BY WU ZHIHONG

Another recommendation (by a different professor). This book is banned in Mainland China (yet I got it in Shanghai thanks to my Chinese friend) because it criticizes infantilism and dependency of the Chinese. I mean, you can guess it from the name. I haven’t found anything that insulting in the book yet but I have only just begun.

 

If you have any books you use as an advanced learner of Chinese, please share!

UNPOPULAR LANGUAGES 

20180906_163229-01The most learned languages in US Higher Education are Spanish, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Chinese, and Arabic. If you look at Europe, English would be on the top, of course, but, otherwise, the list is more or less the same. 

What does it mean for language learners?

Finding good textbooks, finding films to watch and book to read, finding a language exchange partner or a teacher is easy if you are learning, say, German, but what if you want to learn Croatian?

According to the language difficulty ranking by the Foreign Service Institute (FSI) for a native speaker of English learning Japanese is harder than learning Romanian. But how much harder is it to find materials in Romanian? How much time will be wasted to find online resources?

This is what I have encountered myself with Georgian. There is no Assimil course, no Georgian option on lingq or duolingo, no podcasts or popular youtube channels for people learning Georgian. I have bought 3 self-teaching books, none of them have audio, and only one has communicative approach and utilizes sentence mining method.

Another potential problem is how native speakers are going to react to learners. In countries where people are used to foreigners breaking tongue trying to say a few words in their language, it is easier to find opportunities to practice. People are more patient and will try to let even an absolute beginner to say a few words.

On the other hand, people who are not used to foreigners mastering their language (*cough* French *cough*) have zero tolerance, and will switch to English or another lingua franca at first opportunity.

Does it mean there is no point learning an „unpopular“ language? Of course not. It just means that you will have to rely on more „old-school“ textbooks and methods. It means that you cannot be as picky when comes to choosing authentic materials (i.e. TV shows, movies, books), find every opportunity to practice, and pretend to not speak English (or another common tongue) if necessary.

Good news – these methods work really well, and it is worth adapting them even if you CAN find the language your are learning on memrise.

HOW TO SUCCEED AT LANGUAGE LEARNING

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1 out of 5 American K-12 students take a foreign language class. By the end of high-school 7% of these students say they can speak a second language „very well“, and another 2.5% of students say they can speak it „well“.

How to master a language?

HAVING A CLEAR GOAL

Language is a communication tool. Learning a second language should answer a need for communication in a person’s life: understanding k-pop music, reading Nietzsche in original, buying potatoes at a market in Spain, talking to your Dutch great-auntie.

When there is a need there is a way.

KNOWING HOW TO MEASURE SUCCESS

It’s closely connected to your goal. If you want to start reading in German then your first success would be reading a comic strip, then you can switch to fairy-tales or short-stories, young-adult or fantasy literature, classic novels – all the way up to Nietzsche.

Milestones are important to stay motivated.

KEEPING IT INTERESTING

Thick textbooks and cramming sessions can be helpful when preparing for a test, or a big presentation but one needs to remember to have fun. Guilty pleasures in a second language are vital, it is language practice without feeling tired.

Relax, watch a comedy in Chinese.

REGULAR IS BETTER THAN BINGING

Spaced-repetition is a way to transfer new knowledge from short-term to long-term memory. Simply speaking you need to repeat what you learn, to do that you need to have regular breaks between your sessions. Smaller portions are easier to remember, plus this helps to avoid burning out. 10 hours first week, zero hours the next – is not going to bring the desired result.

Hare vs. Turtle. Take it slowly.