Tips and Tricks for Learning Chinese with the News
Let's take a look at how you can practically apply your Chinese comprehension strategies and skills to news broadcasts:
Watch and listen – Listening to the news on the radio is much harder than watching the news on TV. The reason is very simple: when you watch news, not only do you see the person speaking, you're also likely to see pictures or video of what their talking about. This gives you the fundamentals you need to get the general gist of things. There is also a chance you will see subtitles or headlines written out below the newscasters. It is not necessarily a crutch – learning to listen and make sense of things in context will help you develop comprehension skills in the long run.
Old news – Instead of listening to news about something you are unfamiliar with, listen to news about things that you already know. Perhaps you will have heard about this topic before or read about it in your native language already. This also gives you a good base to work from.
Absorb headlines (标题) and pictures – Before you start listening, read the title of the broadcast carefully. Be aware of what you are getting yourself into. Are you interested in this? Will discussion of this topic involve a lot of technical language? Sometimes there are pictures, so look at them too. This, again, sets the stage for the actual listening and makes it a lot easier to make sense of what the broadcast is about. If there is a transcript, there might be several subheadings. Read them as well.
Wean yourself off reading – Reading about news stories beforehand, following transcripts, and turning on subtitles can be good to get you on the right track. However, it is important to understand that reading and listening are two separate skills and that if you are very good at one of them, you will probably rely more on that. This could stop you from effectively learning the other. So, if your reading ability is very good, you need to step up your game after a while and watch Chinese news broadcasts without subtitles. You could also look to radio broadcasts and podcasts to help you with listening practice.
Don't give up – When I started listening to news in Chinese, I usually didn't understand much the first time around. I didn't give up. I listened to the same old thing over and over again. After several times, I gradually understood the content. This is true for most Chinese language learners. You have undertaken a difficult language to learn, so you must understand that the first time will be hard. The second time will be slightly less hard, the third even less. These things take time.
Avoid perfectionism – You don't have to understand every little detail. In fact, trying to understand everything is very bad for your long-term learning, mostly because you will end up spending a lot of time learning things that aren't very useful. You want to spend most of your time learning the most useful words, not the other way around.
Read the News – Reading the news is very useful for learning language structures common in the news. You will come into contact with important vocabulary, phrases, and grammatical patterns which are used in newspaper articles as well as broadcasts. Reading is usually easier because you can use pop-up dictionaries while online, and you will never doubt which word is being used. While listening, it can sometimes be hard to figure out what someone is saying. Taking the time to read articles online can really boost your overall news broadcast comprehension.