Yeah, I agree -- I think real-life Mandarin sounds way different than classroom-style dialogue. I learned most of my Mandarin from Taiwanese speakers and online resources, and that dialect sounds quite different than the one most classes teach. It's a lot softer than "standard" Chinese because Taiwanese speakers tend to flatten out the tones and some phonemes. For example, "zh" becomes "z" and "shi" becomes "si."

If you're looking for other resources where people sound natural, I'd recommend this YouTube channel:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC6FcYHEm7SO1jpu5TKjNXEA

They're a comedy group and I think most of their videos have English subtitles, too.

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