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Listening as an early beginner


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I began learning Chinese again just under a week ago. I'm aware of the importance of getting a mix of reading, writing, speaking and listening to learn well and I'm doing this from the start. I feel (although I don't have any basis) that listening to native material from the start is the way to go. But (unsurprisingly with a vocab of just over 100 words), even Peppa Pig played on .75% is over my head. I get odd words or a tiny phrase here and there- much the same as the cctv news. Am I sweating it too much at too early a stage? Maybe I'm just used to being able to guess a higher percentage of content if it was was easy French or German and I'm not able to do that with Chinese...


Should I be looking for even easier content or do I calm down and just roll with what I'm doing and trust in the process?

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Hi Liebkuchen and welcome to the forum.


The first thing is to master the reading and writing of Pinyin (which is harder than it seems). Pinyin has a couple of points that are tricky and you need to know them before anything else. Are you 100% capable and comfortable with Pinyin?


For listening, I recommend watching videos for children. Would you like some links to children's videos on YouTube?

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These are available on Audible in audiobook format read very clearly:

If I was beginning now, I would definitely begin my listening practice with the breakthrough level books.

I'd get the text and audio versions and listen to them and read them over and over again.

I actually began that with the Level 1 books and I'm still doing it, but now with regular books meant for native audience.


Nothing wrong with dabbling with content that is way over your head, but It's good to have a more comfortable zone as well, where you can revert when you get tired of that. And for me these really helped me to ease into listening to native speed speech.

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Well, @Liebkuchen has been on the forums since 2009, so I guess that's why they described themselves as a "false beginner" in that other thread.


As someone also mentioned in that other thread, it's probably best to stick to "graded" materials until you reach around HSK4-5, otherwise your vocab probably won't be sufficient. Peppa Pig (for instance) may be for young children, but the voices are quite strange and that doesn't really help adult learners IMHO.


On 9/12/2021 at 9:08 PM, Liebkuchen said:

Am I sweating it too much at too early a stage?


I would say that yes, you are.


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@NinjaTurtleI'm more of a long lost forum member- I joined back in 2009 when I first started thinking about going to China.  I'm pretty happy with my pinyin. I got that down years back when I was first trying to learn Chinese in China as an English teacher. I'm also just going back to basics with an italki teacher so we've been doing the initial letters, vowels and tones- all good practice. I'd love some recommendations if you have them. 


@alantin Thanks for the recommendation re: the graded readers. I'd seen the ones you've linked to on ebay but never got them but I'll order straight away. Good shout!


@mungouk Ta-I'm taking up the graded reader route as you say. And I'm taking a chill pill :)

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You need to listen to something that pushes you, but not too much. Practically that can be hard to find. Particularly since as soon as you advance a bit you have to look again for something more challenging.


This is where a good tutor can be very useful, one who adjusts his/her speech as needed so it hits that challenging but not too challenging sweet spot.

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On 9/12/2021 at 6:27 PM, 889 said:

This is where a good tutor can be very useful, one who adjusts his/her speech as needed so it hits that challenging but not too challenging sweet spot.


This is a good advice! Also, you can record iTalki lessons either with skype or their classroom application. I've recorded the tutor's voice each lesson for a while now and I then proceed to cut out the pauses. I have dozens of hours of these recordings and I often listen to them too.


The iTalki lessons are an inexhaustible source of this kind of high quality listening material exactly at this sweet spot. Remember to ask your tutor permission first!

If you're prepared to pay a little money, I recommend the Vidmore Screen Recorder for recording the sessions. It allows you to record all sounds produced by the computer (including the tutor regardless of the meeting software used) and leave your own voice out.

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On 9/12/2021 at 7:48 AM, Liebkuchen said:

I'd love some recommendations if you have them. 




I am a strong believer that, once the proper preparations have been done, everything should be done in question-and-answer form, with two people speaking and asking questions of each other. Please take a look at my post in this thread:




My post is the fourth post on the page. (The ideas on that page are for students learning English, but they work just as well for students learning Chinese.) Please be sure to read my methodology at the bottom of the post.


I am aware some people think that answering a question with a simple 不是 is not correct.


I have some more ideas, but please tell me what you think of this first.


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I subscribed to Chinesepod for a couple of years. I don't like the new format/lessons they introduced a couple of years ago so I'm not subscribing anymore but it has tons and tons of graded listening materials. I really recommend their earlier stuff from when Jenny, John and even up to when Fiona hosted the lessons are all very good (I think maybe from 2008-2018 lessons) especially from Beginner - Upper Intermediate. Even if you don't like the new stuff there are so much old materials that it would still be worth it to sign up for those but you might also like the new materials.


For me it was just personally I find their new levelling is all over the place and I have a few pet peeves with the way the new lessons are presented, like the hosts are playing some kind of role play which irks me a bit, the old hosts used to be more natural like 2 people having a conversation which is a style I prefer, I also have difficulty finishing their new materials. If you're interested in signing up they normally run some offers during Chinese festivals and Christmas/New Year so I used to wait until those periods to sign up. Mid-Autumn is coming up so they might have offers then. 


The good thing about Chinesepod is they have pretty good levelling system and each lesson has the transcript of the dialogue and then the host explain the dialogue and you listen to it one more time afterwards. The repetition is great and they speak less and less English as you progress, from Upper Intermediate up they only speak Chinese. There are also quizzes you can do after each lesson to test whether you understand the lesson. 

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