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.

狗熊有话说 (‘BearTalk’)

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 微信 channel you can subscribe to.

Link: 狗熊有话说

锵锵三人行 (‘Behind the Headlines with Wentao’)

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 窦文涛 and two guests.

There’s a mix of topics and guests, including speakers from Hong Kong and Taiwan. This means you get a range of accents and styles of speech to tune your ears to.

Link: 锵锵三人行

静雅思听 (‘Justing’)

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.

Link: 静雅思听

BBC 新闻博客

To tell the truth, I don’t enjoy the BBC News Podcast as much as the other shows, but I feel it’s important to get used to this form of Chinese.

As you’d expect from a news show, it’s quite high-speed and pretty formal. They do have quite a lot of contributions from various speakers and experts though, who add some variety to the mix.

I like BBC 新闻博客 because it’s quick and to the point, and the episodes don’t carry on for too long. Try as I might, I just can’t maintain interest in a rapid-fire news show for too long. It’s certainly not like 狗熊有话说!

Link: BBC 新闻博客

開卷八分鐘 (‘Eight Minutes Reading’)

I discovered 開卷八分鐘 via this post from FluentU. Unfortunately they stopped making new content in Decemeber 2014, but there’s a hefty backlog of past episodes to keep you going.

Like 锵锵三人行, this is actually a video show, but the audio makes for great listening on its own. The only issue is that I can’t find an RSS feed for this one so I’ve been downloading episode files manually instead (well, with some browser tools).

As you might guess from the title, 開卷八分鐘 consists of eight-minute episodes in which the presenter reviews and summarises a book. I like this because you get to hear about potential Chinese reading material whilst improving your Chinese listening.

Do you listen to any of these podcasts? Which Chinese podcasts would you add to the list?

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