What makes listening in Chinese so hard? What makes it so frustrating? It’s the lack of control.
Listening is the only part of language learning where you’re not in control. You read, speak and write at your own pace. You choose the words you want to say, you look up the words you want to use or understand at your whim.
Listening, in contrast, is a messy affair. It’s full of tone changes you aren’t expecting, it is layered with accents you’ve never encountered, speeds you aren’t used to, topped with grammar you haven’t mastered, and sprinkled with a heavy dose of words you never knew existed. It’s a recipe for confusion. You have almost zero chance of guessing what someone is about to say.
Control what you can control
In the midst of all this chaos, you can only really do two things. First, really focus on your listening. Second, relax and stay in the present. Sometimes someone’s pace will make you feel dizzy, and other times you might feel like they’re speaking some form of Chinese you’ve never studied. Don’t despair. It’s part of the process.
Listening to Chinese is tough, but the more you practice it, the more you’ll become familiar with the way Chinese feels.