Authentic videos for learning Chinese
What is it?
Yabla Chinese is a site aimed at helping learners of Mandarin improve their listening proficiency through watching “authentic” videos. Often, listening comprehension tools are based on scripts that sound unnatural and contrived, and they don’t help learners prepare for the “real” speech they hear on the street. Yabla attempts to address this problem by providing videos of “real” unscripted monologues and conversations. I’m not sure whether these are scripted and just acted out, but I would say that they do sound much more natural than other video tools I’ve used. Many of them are also filmed in public spaces, so your ear has to contend with the sounds of the street and other people talking, just like it would in real life.
The site offers a few free videos to sample, but it does require a paid membership. I think the price is quite reasonable for the product that you’re getting, but it all depends on your language-learning budget.
Yabla also offers videos in Spanish, French, German, Italian, Chinese, and English (although I’m only qualified to review the Chinese site!).
Who is it for?
The videos vary from quite simple to very difficult. And because it provides scripts and a dictionary, even someone who is just starting out can make good use of the videos.
Why do we like it?
It’s hard to find “authentic” speech that’s still aimed at learners. Even sitcoms or children’s shows can be difficult to follow (for myself, this is because of how quickly the actors speak), and scripted dialogues from language learning tools can be unmotivating. Yabla provides a nice balance between the two. I find listening comprehension to be the most challenging aspect of learning Chinese, particularly because I always feel that I would be okay if only the speech was a tiny bit slower, so I love having the ability to slow the videos down and take the time I need to process the speech.
The really cool thing about this site is that you can pause, slow and rewind the videos, and you can also read along with a script or review the script before or after you’ve gone through the video. I think this is great because you can evaluate your understanding and check any words you’re not sure of. Plus, you can keep track of your new vocabulary.
I absolutely love the Yabla pinyin chart, available for free. I think it’s vital for new learners (and advanced learners who need a refresher!) to get a good grasp of the sounds that pinyin represents, and then to drill all the possible combinations. The Yabla chart lets you listen to all the sounds in each of the four tones, and even provides extra videos to help you differentiate between tricky similar sounds.
Go try it out! The sample page offers videos of varying difficulty that will help you decide if this site is right for you and your ears.