7 Keys to Improving Your Chinese Listening Skills Fast — #3: Repeat, Repeat and Repeat Some More

In How to by Angel Huang

The first time you listen to a new audio or video clip you probably understand some parts of it right away. Other parts though, hit you like a “wall of sound”! You can’t tell what individual words it’s made up of or where one word ends and another begins…

Now, if you have a script or subtitles for the clip, it might be tempting to immediately check what you missed and look up unfamiliar words — Don’t! … Not yet.

Instead, just play the clip again — x2, x5, x15… and let repetition work it’s magic! (Tip: Use short clips — roughly 15-75 seconds long — to quickly “get into the flow” and stay focused as you listen over and over.)

Each time you listen you notice something new — e.g. details in pronunciation, grammar, vocabulary and in the overall meaning of what the speaker is saying. Your brain connects this to things you already know AND gets better at recognising familiar words and phrases faster.

If there are certain bits of the clip you really struggle with, try listening a few times at a slower speed (if you’re watching a Youtube video you can slow down the speed in the player settings, and if you’re listening to an audio clip you can do this with a free tool called Audacity).

With enough repetition, what seemed crazy fast the first time you listened, now seems slower. What seemed unclear, seems clearer.

When you eventually get to a point where you feel like you’ve understood as much as you can by simply listening to the clip repeatedly… grab the script and compare it to what you think you heard. Listen again (and again and…), now reading along with the script to get better at matching what you hear to it’s written form.

Summary #3: “Repeat, Repeat and Repeat Some More”
  • Always listen to a clip MANY times before you look at the transcript/subtitles.
  • Check your understanding and get better at matching what you hear to how it’s written (in pinyin or characters) by reading along with the transcript as you listen to the clip a few more times.
  • Use short clips (15-75 seconds) to make it easy to listen actively many times in a short period of time.