You’re at intermediate level and want to improve your listening skills, but you haven’t found the right materials yet? Mandarin Corner is a good option for learners that have entered the intermediate stage: no explaining in English, no dumbing down. And because their podcasts are completely subtitled, they’re ideal for slow listening!
Mandarin Corner for intermediate learning
I already mentioned on this blog that I’m a fan of Mandarin Corner and even listed them first in my top 10 of YouTube channels for learning Mandarin. Why I recommend Mandarin Corner to intermediate learners:
- They discuss interesting topics that appeal to an international audience
- They are one of the few channels that mainly produce content suitable for the higher HSK levels (4 – 9)
- They provide free flowing conversations you can actually understand
- Their videos are completely subtitled (Hanzi, Pinyin, English)
- Scripts and audio can be downloaded if you make a one-time donation
You’ve probably heard of different listening modes and developed your own listening strategy. By the way, I distinguish these four listening modes:
- Passive listening: play Chinese audio while you’re doing the dishes, fixing your bike or working out. You don’t take in every word, every sentence, but enough to grasp the general topic and some keywords.
- Active listening: You turn your full attention towards whatever you’re listening, trying to understand and retain as much as you can.
- Slow listening: You listen attentively, playing the audio at a lower speed or stopping the audio from time to time to break down sentences and discover details. You can even pause the audio to study the script.
- Re-listening: You keep listening to the same content over a period of time to the point you get so familiar with it you know what the person is going to say next.
It’s actually not a bad strategy to apply the different modes above in this particular order, from passive to more active and then repeating the cycle. It’s what I used to do with a new dialogue or chapter from a textbook. I’d just put the track on repeat while doing other stuff, before turning my full attention towards it and studying each and every sentence. It’s kind of like a mental warming-up, making the training itself a little less tough.
Slow listening with Mandarin Corner
I applied these listening techniques while enjoying the Mandarin Corner podcasts. Not because I’m so cool, but because that’s how things “work out”. Finding time (and using that time!) to listen to comprehensive Mandarin audio comes first – that’s a daily struggle. So if I do manage to make that choice for Mandarin, even if it’s just for 10 minutes, I pat myself on the back. That’s why how I listen comes second. Sometimes I do background listening, sometimes I’m able to be fully focused on the audio content.
In this case, I opened my laptop for some slow listening, studying the subtitles and singling out a bunch of keywords and some vocabulary I was less familiar with. While I was at it, I decided to add a little introduction to each of the five videos as well. I hope you enjoy the discussions in the videos. Here we go:
- China’s alarming divorce rate
- Why is getting a wife so expensive for Chinese men?
- Stereotypes Chinese have of foreigners
- Six cultural aspects you must consider when doing business in China
- The 996 work culture
Mandarin Corner: China’s alarming divorce rate
Main questions: Why is China’s divorce rate so alarmingly high? What are the main reasons for people in China to get divorced?
My thoughts: People from my generation (90’s) seem to think you shouldn’t marry before you’re at least 35 of age and have gained “experience”. And even then it’s probably a stupid thing to do, because you’ll never be free again. But does this lead to a lower divorce rate? It doesn’t look like it. So is the Chinese divorce rate really that high? Do we have reliable Chinese and international statistics to make a solid comparison?
The reasons for Chinese marriages not working out are manifold: some are universal, some are more related to Chinese culture and modern Chinese society like the pressure to marry early (25, 26), if need be with the help of a matchmaker (so the soon to be wed hardly know each other). Other reasons mentioned in this podcast include long-distance marriages, the financial pressure on young couples (家庭压力 – jiātíng yālì), conflicts produced by the couple living together with the (grand)parents and last but not least higher expectations towards marriage, especially by financially independent women.
China’s divorce rate has been increasing since 2003; in 2019, more than 4 million couples decided to end their marriages. These numbers are interpreted as a sign of gradually improving gender equality: Women are becoming more financially independent, and the social views on marriage have changed as China became more and more economically developed in the last two decades.The Diplomat, 03.06.2020
|number of divorced people
|to cheat / have an affair
|gǎnqíng bù hé
|feelings don’t match
|jiāchǒu bù wàiyáng
|Don’t hang out the dirty laundry
|a lot of couples
|relations between wife and husband
|marriage without sex
|only son / daughter
|support the elderly
|yǎng er fánglǎo
|to bring up children for the purpose of being looked after in old age
|relation between mother-in-law and daughter-in-law
|mā bǎo nán
|zìwǒ dì xìnggé
|flash wedding, flash divorce
|to be urged to marry soon
|matchmaker / blind date marriage
|duì hūnyīn de guānniàn
|views about marriage
|duì hūnyīn de qīwàng
|expectations towards marriage
Mandarin Corner: Why is getting a wife so expensive for Chinese men?
Main questions: Why is getting a wife so expensive for Chinese men? When it comes to finding the right husband, why do most Chinese value financials over personal qualities? How can China’s young men live up to these high standards (buy a house, car, wedding gift, take care of their parents etc.)? How do they deal with the pressure?
My thoughts: Even though gender roles in Chinese society have changed (with more and more working woman becoming financially independent), the dominating ideas about marriage are still very old-fashioned and materialistic. Parents and grandparents have a lot to say in this. Men are traditionally expected to provide a house, car and other things. For the average Chinese guy these things are not easy to come by, so it’s not that hard to imagine that such expectations put immense financial and psychological pressure on even the strongest marriage.
China’s never been short of people, but under such harsh conditions I do have sympathy for those who decide that it’s better not to marry and have children – or at least not rush into it, just because their parents married when they were 23 and think that’s the only right thing to do. I notice younger generations in the big cities of China having more western, individualistic ideas about marriage and life in general. But in a way these ideas get rolled over by harsh economic realities:
At the same time (2003 – 2019), China’s birth rate fell to the lowest point in seven decades in 2019. While Chinese authorities have attempted several measures in the last decade to ease its one-child policy, established in 1979, including officially announcing an end to the policy in 2015, the country’s birth rate did not see any signs of recovery. The increasingly high cost of raising children, lack of legislation in protecting women’s rights in the workplace, and lack of government-funded family support all contributed to China’s low birth rate and the country’s increasingly imminent issues in taking care of its aging population.The Diplomat, 03.06.2020
|jià gè yǒu qián de rén
|marry a rich guy
|material things, materialistic
|lack basic necessities
|survival, to survive
|fādá nǐ de àihào
|to ‘develop’ your hobbies
|to not attend one’s proper duties
|to provide support for one’s parents
|bachelor / single
|partner / spouse
|to seduce a girl (?)
|to tolerate the other
|to hate, look down upon
|kàn bù shàng
|to look down upon
|attractiveness, attractive force
Mandarin Corner: Stereotypes Chinese have of foreigners
Main question: What are some common stereotypes Chinese have about foreigners?
My thoughts: How do Chinese people view “us”? What stunned me: when Chinese people talk about waiguoren, they usually mean “westerners with a white skin”, so they exclude pretty much everyone else, except for white people from America, Canada, Australia, New-Zealand and Europe. Aren’t Koreans and Japanese (to name just a few) foreigners too? Apparently not! Does this mean they’re sort of like China? Or that they are not important enough to be included like Africa? A conversation about stereotypes and ignorance.
|nèixiàng de rén
|to be good at sports
|gēn wǒ de yìnxiàng bùfú de dìfāng
|aspects that don’t match my impression
|duì wàiguó rén de liǎojiě bǐjiào shǎo
|knowledge about foreigners is small
|dānyī mínzú de guójiā
|fúhé zhōngguó de chuántǒng shěnměi
|match Chinese aesthetic standards
|yǐqián liú xiàlái de yìnxiàng
|an impression from the past
|cùjìn wénhuà jiāoliú
|to promote cultural exchange
|zǒngtǐ de qūshì
Mandarin Corner: 6 cultural aspects you must consider when doing business in China
Main question: What intercultural differences do you need to understand when doing business in China?
My thoughts: I love discussing cultural concepts like guanxi and mianzi! You can talk about them endlessly. To me they are key concepts to understand Chinese culture. A key phrase in this podcast: “Understanding them is one thing, accepting them is another”. Yes, that’s the hard part! Imagine your lazy co-worker getting promoted for maintaining the better guanxi with the top-level management, while you, the hard-working fellow, come out empty-handed. This can happen in a Chinese company. How do you adopt? Are you willing to adopt? Anyway, watch and learn.
|to approve, approval
|to dampen one’s enthusiasm
|to praise (to boast)
|to evaluate, assess
|to arrange, decorate (decoration)
|reject somebody face to face
|to miss an opportunity
|to lead to / produce misunderstandings
|to express respect by referring to somebody’s title
|in the workplace
|tōngguò bié de fāngshì
|by other means
|gěi wǒ fànán
|give me trouble
|dézuì wǒ le
|xūnǐ shèjiāo huòbì
|virtual social currency
|network of relations
|establish a relation
Mandarin Corner: the 996 work culture
Main question: Are Chinese workaholics?
My thoughts: Yes, people in China work long hours without complaining. It’s funny, like mentioned in this podcast, that only after some computer programmers (highly qualified workers) started “bitching” about their long working hours, 996 work culture suddenly became an intensely debated topic. (As if the local laoban selling vegetables doesn’t work 72 hours a week!). I remember working with a Chinese IT-team stationed in Beijing that our side, the European team, would stick to the eight hour working day and complain about any overtime work, while the Beijing people would show up an hour early and even spend their free evenings working in the office. Well, yes “working”, nobody can be productive the whole day. But it was obvious, that we were dealing with completely different work cultures. We’d still have life outside of work, where as our Chinese colleagues practically dedicated all their time to their company jobs. Did they feel “996” is a privilege for young people like Jack Ma said? Are they thankful to have this opportunity? I doubt they have much time to ponder this question…
|work from nine to nine, six days a week
|working overtime culture
|jùdà de fúqi
|a major blessing
|cháo jiǔ wǎn wǔ
|work normal office hours (09:00-17:00)
|bùmǎn de qíngxù
|dissatisfied state of mind
|gāoxīn de zhíyè
|lǐsuǒdāngrán de shìqíng
|a thing that is regarded as normal
|work (overtime) throughout the night
|chóngfù xìng de gōngzuò
|wǎng dàle yīdiǎn shuō
|to speak more generally
|jǐnzhāng de zhuàngtài
|tense, strained state / condition
|xiàn shàng jiābān
|work overtime online
That’s it! I hope my notes are not too bad. By the way, if you want better quality notes: the scripts for each podcast can be downloaded if you make a one-time donation to Mandarin Corner. I want to thank Mandarin Corner for creating these great videos and hope that more content will follow in the years to come.
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