I have been listening to lots of Mandarin from various different sources. As far as 'real' Chinese goes I can't understand full conversations (and in some cases hardly anything at all), but still feel that I am getting a lot of benefit from this listening practice.
After one month of learning Chinese I got hold of a copy of the film 'Hero' and sat down to listen to the Mandarin sound track. I did not have any great expectations but hoped to at least pick out a few words.
I was in for a shock, I couldn't pick out a thing, it was so bad I even double and triple checked the DVD box and looked on the Internet to make sure the damn thing wasn't in Cantonese.
Being a stubborn sort I listened again, and again suddenly simple words came through (we, you, have, they, I, speak, etc. etc.) Ok there were a few misunderstandings, I thought the main character knew Mr Lao the musician only later did I realise that Lao Xian Sheng was being used as term of respect to an older person.
Ok so a lot of effort for little gain, however on returning to the basic podcasts at Chinesepod I found they sounded slooow, the Chinese was much easier to hear and I progessed somewhat faster.
Since this time I have made listening to 'real' Chinese a regular part of my schedule. I always strive to find something I can at least pull a few words out of and am increasingly finding whole sentances and phrases pop out.I would identify the gains as follows:
- Normal Tv and radio Chinese sounds like average speed to me now, I often speed up the dialogues on the elementary podcasts for this reason.
- Even when I don't know the words, I can now distinguish the syallables much more easily, I have a growing list of words I have been able to look up.
- I am now much more likely to recognise words that I know (they are harder to recognise when they come out of the blue and not spoken by Jenny).
As for sources, youtube.com has a few. There are also many Chinese radio streams and few TV streams available. The streams a bit variable though, usually when the Americans come online they get a bit choppy as the amount of network load goes up. You can try this wiki page for some streams, and this forum is worth trawling as good sources often pop up for example.