Input is the #1 most important thing you can do for yourself as a Chinese learner. That said, here are some resources we recommend to get you started…
The following are some Youtube channels we’ve collected over the years. A lot of these channels are primarily in Chinese, some have subtitles in English, some don’t. So don’t worry if at first you don’t understand most of what people are saying.
The important thing is to just find something that catches your interest, and spend as much time as you can listening, actively and passively, while you’re doing chores or commuting or sitting down at your computer, whenever you have free time. The more input you get, the faster you will pick up Chinese!
We’ve included lots of popular names and channels in this list, some of which we aren’t particularly fans of ourselves, but they’re included anyway because they are influential and/or well liked by others. The key is not to restrict yourself to just these suggestions, but use them as a springboard to curate your own playlist of favorite Youtubers and Chinese-language resources!
NOTE: This list will be constantly updated, so keep checking back every few weeks to see if there are any new developments 🙂
Here we have a list of singers, songwriters, and Chinese-language musicians:
Hong-Kong based singer-songwriter GEM (Gloria Tang) is one of the most popular female artist in the Chinese-speaking world.
One of the longest-running and most popular female singers in the Chinese-language world, Jolin is a Taiwanese singer who continues creating music independently and with other artists.
The OG of Taiwanese-Chinese pop, Jay Chou is a versatile and extremely influential singer-songwriter. His lyricist, Fang Wen Shan is also well-known for his highly literate writing style, though Chou’s own lyrics are more colloquial.
Malaysian singer-songwriter Namewee likes to troll people with his songs, and has gotten in trouble a few times for his subversive lyrics. Not all of his songs are PG, but many are quite interesting, and he was the writer who created the hit “Stranger in the North” a few years back.
One of the Chinese-speaking-music-world’s biggest stars, JJ Lin is famous for his strong voice and versatility.
Eric Chou has a reputation for being the Chinese language “ballad king” because so many of the songs he writes are the heart-rending kind 😉
Sam is an American-born-and-raised musician who moved to Taiwan to develop his music career. He covers popular songs and also creates originals.
A well-known singer-songwriter with an interesting name (let’s face it, a lot of these artist types have interesting names!), Jam Hsiao is based in Taiwan.
Zhou Shen (aka Charlie Zhou) apparently doesn’t have his own Youtube channel, however he’s a Ukrainian-trained singer with an unusual voice, and has been growing in popularity.
A popular female singer with a unique voice, Angela Zhang (aka Angela Chang) sings in both Taiwan and China)
Music teacher Wiwi Kuan comes at music from a more theoretical perspective, explaining things like music theory and production in Chinese.
Vlogs / Lifestyle
You can get a lot of useful slice-of-life daily vocab and expressions from watching vlogs by everyday youtubers like…
The secondary channel of English teacher Ray Du (see below, the “Teaching English” section), this channel is a vlog channel that follows solopreneur and everyday celebrity Ray around Taiwan as he meets with other Youtubers, experiences life in Taiwan, etc.
JR spent his childhood in America and likes to comment on American and international pop culture with his channel.
Ryu and Yuma are a Malaysian-Japanese couple living in Japan, but their vlogs are in Chinese, because most of their audience is based in Taiwan and other Chinese-speaking parts of the world. If you’re interested in Japan as well, you can check out their channel.
A Chinese-American couple living and teaching in the American Midwest, Jay and Ari run a mixed Chinese-and-English vlog channel about their daily lives.
Another Chinese-American couple living in America vlog about their marriage and family and children.
An older man and his dogs have adventures in Taiwan. IF you like animal-pet-related vlogs, this one’s for you!
Other Chinese Learners
These are non-native Chinese speakers, some of whom have achieved a high level in the language:
Having studied pronunciation intensely for years, Chris has one of the cleanest sounding Beijing accents of any non-native Chinese we’ve ever seen. He’s also fluent in Spanish and English.
Xiao Ma (English name Ari) studied Chinese in Beijing for a year, then self-studied the language and uses it to make “shocking” videos in New York’s Chinatown. Although he doesn’t have a perfect accent, his videos can be inspirational for many Chinese learners.
This is a show based in Taiwan designed for Taiwanese residents, featuring foreigners from around the world (with varying degrees of Chinese ability), who talk about the differences between their native countries and adopted country (Taiwan).
This older (2016) China-based talk show features foreign residents of China getting together to chat about various social issues and international differences and similarities. What stands out about this show is that most of the participants have achieved very high levels of Chinese.
Dramas, reality TV, talk shows, etc., these are some we recommend:
A super-cute mainland Chinese reality show featuring celebrity fathers who take their kids on various adventures.
A mainland Chinese reality show where contestants vy for a coveted spot on a new pop-idol group through a cut-throat competition process. Lots of tears and drama. Based on the Korean competition show. China actually has multiple shows in this format. It’s become rather popular lately. (Ex: Chuang, Idol Producer, etc)
This Taiwanese Christian channel interviews a variety of ordinary people with interesting backstories. No English subtitles, unfortunately, but you can listen to it in the background as passive input, if you don’t fully understand what they’re saying just yet!
Mr. and Mrs. Gao are Mainland Chinese vloggers. Mr. Gao loves to delve deep into history, philosophy, politics, and other fascinating topics while his wife listens and asks questions. Their videos usually don’t have English subtitles, but they do have Traditional Chinese subtitles, which you can look at while you listen if you want to start recognizing characters.
Sometimes, you can learn something useful by watching a Chinese speaker teach English:
Ray Du is the most popular educational Youtuber in Taiwan. But don’t just watch his videos for the educational content. He also does a ton of collaborations with other Chinese-speaking Youtubers, and we’ve found many recommendations from his channel.
Michael is another Taiwan-based English teacher who uses Youtube as his platform of choice.
Columbus is yet another English-teaching Youtuber with a playful personality who focuses on grammar and pronunciation.
This Taiwan-based comedy troupe does musical as well as regular comedy. They have English subtitles for everything, although some of their more punny/specific jokes might go over some heads at first.
Not all of the channels on this list speak Chinese actively in their videos (unlike the vloggers, above), but they were included to help you learn more about Chinese culture, Taiwan, China, etc:
An American married to a Taiwanese native, Logan Beck has made his home in Taiwan and his channel is a high-energy vlog featuring his adventures in the country. Technically, this channel could be included in the “Vlog” section of this resource, but as Logan’s accent is rather strong, we put it in the “Other” section so you can enjoy his travels, but not necessarily focus on his speaking.
If you’re interested in Chinese dramas, this channel, created by a woman who used to work in the industry, is about all things C-drama.
Not a Youtube channel, but this forever-free show about the life of Jesus includes Chinese dubbing and subtitles in their app, so you can watch the show in Chinese while looking at the English subtitles, or vice versa to pick up more vocab.
This girl and her giant fluffy Alaskan Malamute pup explore the Yunnan countryside and make food with the local ingredients.
The most popular “Chinese rural countryside vlogger,” Liziqi has paused uploading but her internationally famous channel still includes videos of her making foods and handcrafts from scratch.
More to come…