Learning Chinese may be considered difficult, but nowadays it’s easier than ever to pick it up, especially if you learn Chinese with podcasts.
As a Chinese learner, you’re spoilt for choice. There are so many great pods to choose from – in fact, there’s probably a better selection for learners of Chinese than there is for people learning something like French or Spanish.
However, to make the most of this invaluable learning resource, you need to know which ones to use – so in this post, I’ll give you my recommendations for the best podcasts for learning Chinese to give you somewhere to start.
By the way, if you want to learn Chinese fast and have fun, my top recommendation is Chinese Uncovered which teaches you through StoryLearning®.
With Chinese Uncovered you’ll use my unique StoryLearning® method to learn Chinese through story… not rules. It’s as fun as it is effective. If you’re ready to get started, click here for a 7-day FREE trial.
Learn Chinese With Podcasts: How To Choose The Best One For You
Podcasts are a powerful tool for improving your Chinese listening skills while also building your vocabulary and working on your grammar.
They’re convenient to use, and many are designed to fit into the schedule of even the busiest learner. But how do you pick the right one for you?
When working on listening, one of the most important things is for the material to be at the right level. This is a core consideration in all the material I create here at StoryLearning®.
If it’s too easy, you won’t learn anything new. But if it’s too hard, it will all just go right over your head. It needs to challenge you, but ideally, you need to understand about 70-80%.
Also, podcasts that are mostly in Chinese will be more useful for you because they will give you the maximum amount of exposure to Chinese – although, for beginners, it’s ok if they speak some English too.
You need to choose one with the right balance, but the more Chinese you know, the less English there should be in your podcasts.
Finally, look for something that interests you. If listening to your daily pod is a drag, you probably won’t stick at it. But if you find something you enjoy, you’re likely to keep going – which will lead to the biggest, fastest improvement.
So now let’s have a look at nine recommendations for you to try. Get a quick overview of the podcasts in the infographic below and then keep scrolling for more information about each one.
Level: All levels
Although nowadays, there is a huge number of podcasts to choose from, if you were learning Chinese a few years ago, ChinesePod would have been one of your only options.
However, even back then, this was an exceptional pod, and it sets the standard for others to follow.
The format is simple and is followed by countless other pods teaching many different languages. Most episodes are based on a dialogue in Chinese, which the presenters then break down for you to pick out the useful new language items it contains.
ChinesePod has episodes for all levels. You’ll need to pay for full access, but there’s still loads of free stuff if you don’t want to cough up.
However, whether you decide to pay or just use the free stuff, you can be sure that this is a podcast that has helped countless learners over the past decade or so – myself included!
- One of the original Chinese podcasts with a huge back catalogue of material
- Lively lessons keep you entertained
- Everyday vocab and expressions you will really use
- Suitable for all levels
- Paid subscription for full access
- Quite a lot of English spoken in some lessons
Level: All levels
Chineseclass101 is not a traditional pod, although the core of the app and site is based on podcast-style lessons that follow a similar format to those found on ChinesePod.
However, as well as the basic lessons, the app and the website also offer many other tools and features that allow you to take things further.
You have to pay for this material, but there are a range of subscription options – and you also get a free week-long trial to see if you like it.
For example, with the phone app subscription, you can choose to listen to just the dialogues instead of the whole lesson. And there are also features that let you practise repeating the sentences or work on the new vocabulary. So, in a way, this is like a podcast and more.
I've used this pod for Chinese, and as a comprehensive source of learning material to supplement study at all levels, I can recommend it! Check out my review ChineseClass101 review.
- Well-established resource with hundreds of lessons
- Mobile app for ease of learning and navigation
- Extra features for deeper learning
- Lessons for all levels
- Paid subscription – not much for free
Level: Intermediate (some material available for lower-intermediate and advanced)
ChillChat is summed up perfectly by the name of the pod.
You’ll hear the presenters chatting about a wide range of topics in intermediate Chinese after introducing some of the grammar and vocabulary items you’ll need to understand the discussion.
New episodes appear at least once a week, and there’s also some downloadable supplementary material. Each lesson is around half an hour long, so there’s lots of useful content in each lesson – although some people might find they use a little too much English.
You’ll need to pay for some of the extra stuff, but the podcasts themselves are all free, making this a great option if you’re looking to take your Chinese to the next level.
- Authentic, useful dialogues
- Introduces new vocab and grammar as well as Chinese culture
- Downloadable transcripts and other study materials
- Main part of the pod is free
- Presenters speak quite a lot of English
- Not for beginners
#4 Coffee Break Chinese
Coffee Break Chinese is part of the Coffee Break language series and consists of 40 lessons of around 20 minutes that are ideal to listen to during a coffee break at work.
The lessons present the basic language you’ll need to make yourself understood in China. Lessons include things like buying items in a shop, asking for directions and eating in a restaurant.
The format is based on a native Chinese teacher and her student talking together, and between them, they give you all the explanations for the grammar and new vocabulary items you’ll need to quickly understand how to say things in a variety of situations.
The pace is just about right, and once you’ve worked your way through these lessons – perhaps in conjunction with some other study materials – you should feel equipped with all the basics you’ll need for a trip to China.
- Free podcasts – no subscription required
- Useful lessons for basic communication
- Ideal podcast for busy learners with little time
- Gives you confidence to communicate in basic Chinese
- Only 40 lessons – no new lessons being added
- Beginners only – not for more advanced learners
#5 Speak Chinese Naturally
Level: Upper intermediate – advanced
If you’re looking for material that will help you make the jump from intermediate Chinese to advanced, Speak Chinese Naturally is the pod for you.
In many languages, it can be difficult to take the step from merely being competent to reaching a higher level, and this is often due to a lack of suitable study material. But for Chinese, this podcast plugs the gap.
The first thing you’ll notice is that even the written introduction to each lesson is in Chinese characters – there’s no pinyin here – so you’ll realise right from the start that this is not a podcast for beginners.
The only English you’ll find is a single paragraph of general introduction to the pod.
No English is used in the lessons either. But if your Chinese is good enough to follow the topics they discuss, you’ll find this pod an invaluable addition to your study materials, giving you the boost you need to reach the next level.
- High-level content for high-level learners – can be hard to find
- A range of interesting topics
- Authentic Chinese spoken at a natural speed
- Most material free – although paid material also available
- Only updated twice monthly
- Not for beginners!
#6 Chinese Mandarin Café
In the introduction to Chinese Mandarin Café, presenter Amy Lin tells us how she got into teaching by accident in 2013.
She is now dedicated to helping people learn Chinese through fun and interesting lessons, and her bubbly enthusiasm shines through in every episode.
Learning a language should be fun – it shouldn’t be stressful or a chore – and with this podcast, you can start picking up the basics of Chinese while enjoying yourself at the same time.
The only problem with this pod is that it doesn’t seem to have been updated very regularly in the past few years.
However, there are still plenty of lessons to get you started on your Chinese journey. The lessons are all free too, and Amy recently uploaded a new one at the start of January 2022, so let’s hope she starts putting out some new material soon!
- Great enthusiasm and passion from presenter Amy
- Creative lessons – not just the usual boring topics
- Useful language to get you communicating in Chinese
- Relaxed and fun style
- Few new lessons being created – but already enough to get started
- Beginners only, not for higher levels
#7 Maayot – Learn Mandarin Chinese with Stories
Level: All levels
The best way to improve your Chinese listening is through constant exposure to spoken Chinese at the right level, and that’s exactly where Maayot’s strength lies.
There are lessons available for all levels, and each episode consists of a story completely in Chinese with no English spoken (apart from the short introduction at the start). That way, you can just focus on the story in Chinese without listening to people speaking English.
The main problem here is that, although all the stories are free, and new ones are constantly being added, the podcast only gives you the audio – so there are no transcripts or vocabulary lists for words you don’t understand.
However, there is an accompanying app, and if you sign up, you can find extra materials there to help. You need to pay for a subscription for the supplementary materials, but if you don’t mind that, this is a pod that’s likely to prove extremely useful.
- Stories all in Chinese with no English
- Lessons available for all levels
- New material constantly being added
- A broad range of topics to keep you interested
- Monthly subscription required for supplementary materials
- Recordings not high quality
#8 Slow Chinese Podcast
Level: Most new lessons appear to be aimed at HSK 3 and above
Many people learning Chinese – or any other language – have trouble with listening because they find the real spoken language too fast to understand.
So while you will eventually need to learn to understand natural Chinese as spoken by native speakers, you’ll probably need something a bit easier to start with to help you get there – which is where Slow Chinese comes in.
Essentially, it consists of Chinese stories read out at a slightly slower-than-normal pace to help improve your listening. Then, with time, you will find real spoken Chinese becomes easier to understand too.
This is a relatively new podcast, but it looks like new episodes are being recorded once or twice every month.
For a subscription fee, PDF transcripts are available for download in pinyin, Chinese, English and Thai (!), and there are accompanying YouTube and Instagram channels too, making it a useful podcast that’s well worth a look.
- Slow and clear Chinese that’s easy to understand
- Available worksheets to accompany lessons
- Related social media channels for further practice
- Introduces interesting aspects of Chinese culture and language
- Subscription fee for additional materials
- Relatively new pod so not many episodes yet
#9 Chinese Conversations
This last one is a little different to the others on the list. Technically, it isn't a podcast. But it does have a lot of similarities.
It's engaging, teaches you through StoryLearning® and is perfect for intermediate Chinese learners.
What could it be? It's Conversations, my intermediate listening material for Chinese learners who are frustrated with their listening abilities.
Like the best podcasts, Conversations comes with transcripts, an essential tool for truly improving your listening skills.
The course tells an intriguing story in 20 parts. So it's a bit like a 20-episode podcast series that'll keep you hooked from story to story.
Even better, Conversations helps you understand real spoken Chinese and transforms your listening skills in less than 90 days.
Go check out Chinese Conversations here.
Learn Chinese With Podcasts: Plenty To Choose From
As I mentioned at the start of this post, there are so many great podcasts for learning Chinese to choose from, so don’t be afraid to try some others too. After all, the best one for you is the one that helps you make the most progress.
However, if you are looking to improve your listening as well as many other areas of your Chinese, the podcasts I’ve introduced here will be a great place to get started.