Extensive Listening, October 2015


I participated in the October 2015 Hacking Chinese challenge, Extensive Listening, and since Olle posted a blog post asking for feedback I thought I'd extend my own notes to something publishable.


The challenge format is actually rather clever. Setting a goal makes you take inventory of your available time and the reporting of results is a kind of gamification that makes you study more.

There are also some social aspects of the challenge apart from the leaderboard, when you report progress you can add a comment and optionally post it to twitter. Unfortunately there isn't a good interface to browse the comments which is a pity because there are often good ideas about what to study hidden in them and the could be more community building in general.

The length and spacing of the challenges (20 days/month) is also clever since it gives time for reflection and reduces the risk for burn-out.


I discovered that it isn't easy to find suitable material for extensive listening, 'real' content is often too difficult for extensive listening while material produced for learners take some effort to prepare. It is well worth paying for material that matches your level. Since that material usually isn't immediately available it makes demands on your planning to make sure that you always have it ready to use.

I used audio from the sources in the following table

source comment
ChinesePod Upper Intermediate and Advanced lessons are OK but require more active listening
TV Shows Mainly QQSRX and some TV-series, interesting, but mostly too difficult to be optimal
Online radio Mainly RTI and Beijing News Radio, also interesting but too difficult for passive/background listening
Slow Chinese Easy enough for extensive listening, but I didn't have time do download enough episodes for binge listening
Glossika The Glossika Mandarin course is probably the most efficient source, but also requires preparation


I managed to fulfill my 15 hour goal, but probably to the expense of other learning activities and perhaps real life stuff. I noticed that I can usually squeeze out more time than I first thought, but almost all it is very low quality, e g I did most my listening while doing the dishes and cleaning the house or being constantly distracted by my kids.

Most listening was native materials that were interesting but too difficult for extensive learning, this was a result of poor planning on my part, most material for learners needs some preparation which I didn't have the energy to do.

The most efficent material was problably the Glossika Mandarin course and Slow Chinese, but ironically those were the ones I used the least because most my study time is very low quality, and practicalities (like not having a podcast player that automatically plays the next episode connected to my kitchen speakers) stopped me from making the most of them.


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