Five free Chinese podcasts you should be listening to
As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, I really like Chinese podcasts as a source of listening material.
There are plenty of great paid Chinese podcast services that teach you Chinese. Those are great and often worth the money, but always remember that there’s no shortage of totally free Chinese podcasts offering genuine Chinese audio for free.
This is by far my favourite of the Chinese podcasts I listen to. The presenter is a guy from Kunming, and each episode consists of him talking about his interests and playing a few tracks that he likes. He often reads out feedback and messages from listeners as well.
There are quite a few reasons I like 狗熊有话说 so much.
The first is that the content is very natural, genuine Chinese, which isn’t always the easiest thing to find as a learner. Each episode really is just 狗熊 chatting away. This is good from the perspective of a Chinese learner, but is also pleasant to listen to because it’s unpretentious and easy-going.
Another thing I like about 狗熊有话说 is that 狗熊 talks about topics I find interesting: productivity, technology and language learning. He talks about his approach to learning English, which makes it great listening material for those of us studying Chinese.
I’ll also add that it’s nice to hear slightly accented Mandarin, and a down-to-earth male voice. A lot of Mandarin learning materials and publicly available audio is excessively correct, and there tend to be more female voices than male in my experience. It’s good to hear a balance of how different people speak.
狗熊有话说 has an audio podcast, a video blog, and a channel you can subscribe to.
锵锵三人行 is a current affairs discussion show. It’s actually primarily a TV show (it has a YouTube channel), but the audio podcast version makes good listening material as well.
I like 锵锵三人行 because it is ostensibly a news show but isn’t composed, with each episode taking the form of natural conversations between the host 文涛 and two guests.
静雅思听 offers recordings of Chinese literature by various readers. Because of this it differs widely from 狗熊有话说 and 锵锵三人行. The Mandarin is generally very standard and rehearsed, and has more of a performance feel.
Because the content is more literary, 静雅思听 episodes use a richer vocabulary and greater variety in style and sentence structure. This makes it a great complement to 狗熊有话说 and 锵锵三人行 in my view.
The content doesn’t shy away from deep issues, and is often genuinely engaging. Having said that, I have heard quite a few readings of extremely wordy and not particularly interesting texts on dull topics (in my opinion!).
The only thing I dislike about 静雅思听 is that they intersperse the readings with adverts for themselves that are either ostentatious or overly jolly. This tends to break any atmosphere that the reading has built up over the preceding minutes. Then again the podcast is free, and there’s a paid version if the adverts get on your nerves too much.