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How to make the most of Chinese audio lessons

Chinese audio lessons offer many benefits. 

The most obvious one is that, with audio lessons, students can free their eyes and concentrate on using their ears when learning Chinese. A direct result is a more flexible learning style and improved Chinese pronunciations and listening skills.

However, many students don’t realise that listening to audio lessons is only the first step of their Chinese language acquisition process. To make the most of any audio lessons requires them to do more than listening.

In this article, we’ll talk about how audio lessons can bring listening into the core of Chinese study, and what else students can do to achieve the best result.

Bring listening to the foreground

Listening is important in learning Chinese. The earlier students focus on it, the better their learning result is. For this reason, audio lessons offer students a wonderful head start. 

Too many Chinese programs excessively rely on using pinyin to teach Chinese with little listening support. The result is that students look at pinyin as gospels. They make great effort to memorise pinyin, and to correct their pronunciations according to pinyin. Listening remains a weak spot for a long time. 

When their ears are finally able to pick up Chinese sounds and to tell the differences, they’d often realise that, to their ears, the same pinyin sounds quite different, for example, the same pinyin final “an” sounds different in “san”, “yan”, and “shan”. 

“How strange! Perhaps I heard it wrong?” Their initial reaction usually is. 

The fact is that they did not hear it wrong. It is the pinyin that does not reflect the exact way that Chinese is pronounced. The real pronunciations almost always differ from the written pinyin scripts (Read more here: The gulf between pinyin and Mandarin Chinese pronunciation). Tones alone can come in a variety of ways (Read more here: Tones, a fluid and dynamic concept).

Audio lessons can turn this learning style around. 

Students focus on listening to, and repeating after, the sound first, and later use pinyin as a backup. All the inconsistencies of pinyin can be ignored, like millions of Chinese kids when they are learning pinyin. 

Listening to audio lessons definitely brings listening into the center of Chinese study. But that’s not all. 

Limit the number of Chinese audio lessons

In order to maximise the benefits of audio lessons, students need to limit the number of audio lessons they are working on.

Based on this Chinese Learning Pyramid, a 10-minute audio lesson may require one hour or more, some times even days, to be fully re-enforced and transformed into the active memory zone.

Listen audio lessons to “Understand” is quick and easy, but “Re-enforce” is long and hard. 

Therefore, unlimited audio lessons are not necessarily a good thing. When you are teaching yourself Chinese, you’re spending your time on it. (Read more about time management here: Learn to manage your time when teaching yourself Chinese.)

Keep listening one lesson after the next without any re-enforcement is not as good as listening to a smaller number of audio lessons with sufficient re-enforcement. 

Knowledge that is not re-enforced thoroughly will be forgotten in no time.

A variety of practices for re-enforcement

“Repeat after” and “talk back” are usually the first step of practice when listening to audio lessons. 

After that, students need other appropriate resources for further re-enforcement, such as Work Books, which provide a variety of different exercises. 

With each exercise they complete, they become faster and more responsive to words and sentence patterns they have learned in audio lessons, and one step closer to use these words and sentence patterns in the way they want.

Have a good time

After all the hard work, the final step is for students to check their learning results. Opportunities for them to use Chinese are limitless.

I recommend students go for soft goals.

With each goal completed, they’ll be more confident to achieve the next goal.