Tag Archives: podcasts

Podcasts for Chinese current affairs & history

There are two great China-related podcasts I listen to that I really enjoy and feel compelled to share. I find them both quite entertaining and I highly recommend them for anyone wanting a to learn more about the country.

Sinica Podcast

The Sinica Podcast logo

Hosted by Kaiser Kuo and Jeremy Goldkorn, this podcast deals with current affairs in China and is great for keeping your ‘finger on the pulse’ of major issues there. Each episode they have special guests with expertise in the topic being discussed, and the hosts themselves are extremely knowledgeable.

Kaiser in particular is a very entertaining host (a former heavy metal guitarist) and, as a Chinese American who has spent much time in both countries, has unique insights that are often missed by the predominantly western (albeit highly informed) viewpoints usually expressed on the program.

The range of topics is extremely diverse, but some recent examples include nationalism & censorship, China’s ideological spectrum, China’s millennials, the Tianjin explosion and hip hop in China. In fact, it was through listening to this podcast that I discovered the next one…

China History Podcast

The Chinese History Podcast logo

  • Topic: Chinese history (both ancient & modern)
  • URL: Facebook, iTunes, web
  • Average episode length: ~40 mins.

Hosted by China history enthusiast Laszlo Montgomery, this is a topic-based podcast with topics ranging from overviews of particular dynasties (e.g. the Tang) to notable historical figures (e.g. Deng Xiaoping), events (e.g. the Opium Wars), major cultural things (e.g. tea, Daoism) and more.

Being topic-based is great because it means you can jump around to topics that interest you (which may be several episodes long) instead of having to listen to everything from start to finish.

Laszlo does a great job compressing complicated and vast topics down into manageable chunks that can be easily understood. He typically uses multiple high quality historical sources and the episodes are presented in an entertaining way. He also has a good working knowledge of Mandarin, so is able to pronounce Chinese words quite accurately.

Whilst the full transcripts of episodes aren’t available, he does provide the key terms used (including their Chinese characters), will helps if you want to dig into something you’ve heard further by yourself.

Both podcasts have taught me so much, helping me establish a decent basic understanding of China. I’ve been able to use this as a springboard to dive into more details in particular areas when needed. I hope you will enjoy them as much as I do!


The Beijing accent

Popup Chinese
One of my favourite Chinese podcasts to listen to at the moment is Popup Chinese. Today I listed to an episode entitled The Beijing Accent and Standard Mandarin. The main point being made was that the 儿化 or ér-isation (putting at the end of certain words) did not automatically make it non-standard Mandarin (i.e. the Beijing accent).

They gave some examples to show that there are standard Mandarin words that do/can include the diminutive without making it specific to the Beijing accent. Some of these words include:

  • 那里 vs 那儿 (there)
  • 这里 vs 这儿 (here)
  • 哪里 vs 哪儿 (where)
  • 一点 vs 一点儿 (a bit)
  • 小孩 vs 小孩儿 (child)

They made the interesting claim that saying the non-ér-ised version in Beijing would actually make you sound quite effeminate (something for males to watch out for!).

They also provided some examples of ér-ised words that really do constitude ‘the Beijing accent’ that would be incorrect in the context of standard Mandarin:

  • vs 根儿 (classifier for long slender objects)
  • 告诉 vs 告儿 (to tell someone something)
  • vs 水儿 (water — more specific to Hebei than Beijing)

You wouldn’t hear these words on TV or other places where standard Mandarin is expected.

It’s hard to know how much of this is ‘universal truth’ and how much is the opinion of Beijingers, but at least good to be made aware that there are differences. Be sure to check out the lesson, including the interesting discussion in the comments section.