Everyone knows at least ONE language. Whatever it may be, we all began to adopt this language as our own and it started almost as soon we were born. How exactly did that come to be? Listening.
Listening, above all else, is the most intrinsic and fundamental aspect of any foreign language learning effort. It underlies everything and serves as the foundation for learning a language overall.
To your credit, you’ve decided to learn Chinese. Indeed a wise decision, considering that Chinese has proven to be one of the most useful languages to learn. But to do that, you’ll need to practice listening. This step is universal — it applies to everyone — whether you’re learning beginner’s Chinese or already find yourself at quite an advanced level.
If you want to learn Chinese, you have to listen to Chinese — there’s simply no other way around it.
This article will break down how to improve listening skills (for all language levels) by incorporating applicable Chinese listening techniques.
Beginner’s Chinese Listening Practice
As someone who is just starting, it’s important to look at techniques that will not only provide you with proper resources to practice basic Chinese listening but also engage you in a way that will make you stick to your goals.
The beginning of your journey is a crucial phase because it will determine whether or not you move forward.
Here’s how to make sure you do.
This one is a no-brainer, and not just because of how passive it is to sit around and watch TV. For your specific purposes, however, it won’t be as passive as what you’re used to, but it’s still an incredibly useful and casual means of learning a foreign language.
TV and movies allow you to practice basic listening as well as stay entertained while you’re doing so. That means there’s a greater likelihood that you’ll stick around and further entrench yourself in the act of learning Chinese.
On top of that, platforms like Netflix offer up an abundance of accessible Chinese content for you to consume. Visual cues and subtitles will allow your brain to better comprehend and retain the language. It’s a winning combination that shouldn’t be overlooked.
Audio Learning Software
There are a multitude of audio learning software companies that offer up an astounding library of assets to help you with Mandarin listening. They provide a variety of resources catering to all levels of language proficiency and will help you to gain a firmer grasp of the language fundamentals. A quick Google search will produce dozens of results — pick the one that works best for you.
Be sure to explore all they have to offer, as they’re a great way to help you build the foundations that are necessary to move forward.
Intermediate Chinese Listening Practice
If you’re in the intermediate phase of your journey, it’s now a matter of pushing yourself to the limit. Although you may not be ready to immerse yourself and have proper discussions with other human beings, you can begin the process of absorbing other people’s discussions.
This phase will require you to go beyond beginner’s Chinese and begin the process of understanding how to engage someone in conversation.
Podcasts are, by far, the ultimate conversation medium.
Even outside of learning a language, podcasts are a tremendously useful tool. They allow us into someone else’s discussion and grant us the privilege of being a fly on the wall, to absorb and consider all that is being said. It’s a truly unrivaled experience.
Now, for the purposes of learning Chinese, podcasts will allow you to hear conversations in real-time. They’ll afford you the opportunity to listen to Chinese speakers and examine how they interact with one another. In doing so, you will quickly grasp what it takes to eventually go out and engage someone in conversation all by yourself.
The news is another excellent resource for any intermediate learner. It provides you with a look at a more complex and sophisticated manner of speaking.
It tests your ability to understand complicated matters, as well as your ability to comprehend topics and ideas that are thrown at you in rapid succession.
You can almost think of it as the language learning equivalent to going to the batting cages, where ideas are thrown at you — you either get it or don’t. But you’ll get better at it over time, and your batting average will increase!
Advanced Chinese Listening Practice
If you’re in the advanced stages, then Mandarin listening may come across as pretty redundant at this point. By now, you know the importance of listening practice.
So, you’re now looking for the next step in how to improve listening skills. Well, it’s quite simple. You’ve more than likely exhausted all other techniques — there’s only ONE thing left to do.
Engage in Conversations with Chinese Speakers
You must have known this was coming.
You’ve been gradually working your way up to this point throughout your journey to practice listening and eventually learn a foreign language. Now, it’s time to put your skills to the test and raise the stakes a little.
Speak to someone in Chinese. It’s that simple.
Find a willing participant and give it your all. Engage them, ask them questions, listen to what they have to, and respond to them in kind. These are the fundamentals of being a conversationalist and this is how you will prove to yourself just how far you’ve come.
We all know the importance of listening. We do it every day; it’s a basic element of what it means to be a human being, a member of society. So, treat Chinese listening the same.
Listening is what allowed us to learn every language we know. It’s the backbone of learning and there’s no way to circumvent it. Just embrace the process and do everything you can to improve your abilities. Keep working at it.
The blueprint for success is already laid out for you, now it’s up to you to act upon it and move forward. Good luck.