5 reasons to learn Chinese through authentic video content

I have a secret to share with you.

It’s embarrassing, but I want the best for our readers.

It’s how I broke through Chinese learning plateaus.

What’s my secret? Hours upon hours of Chinese dating shows and the Chinese version of “Sex and the City.”

My point? Not that you should watch those shows, but that you should consider learning Chinese with authentic video content. Here are 5 reasons why.

5 reasons to learn Chinese through authentic video content

1) Videos are fun

The biggest challenge while learning Chinese is motivating yourself to continue – through tones, Chinese characters, and countless embarrassing moments.

Do yourself a favor and make it fun. Videos are natural for this. The beauty of learning Chinese is that what was once just a guilty pleasure can be highly productive as well. Let yourself get addicted to TV shows, movies, and music videos and your Chinese will improve as a convenient by-product.

2) Videos engage your senses and make words memorable

The old saying goes that “a picture is worth a thousand words.”

And we all know that as much as 93% of communication is non-verbal.

And did you know memory champions can memorize entire phone books?

What’s their secret?

They convert non-visual information into images. 

The moral of the story: don’t limit yourself – video is a higher bandwidth medium that can brand words in your memory.

3) Videos show you Chinese culture

There was a point in my Chinese learning where I realized that I was fluent but still unable to communicate.

I would join in conversations with Chinese friends and understand every word they were saying.

But I still didn’t know what they were talking about and couldn’t contribute anything.

In other words, I knew  Chinese language but not Chinese culture, and you need to know both in order to really communicate.

So much of culture is captured in video – don’t let yourself be culturally illiterate!

4) Videos are cheap

Learning Chinese is a lifelong endeavor (学无止境 – “studying never ends” – xué wú zhǐ jìng).

So if you’re always paying for a tutor, that can end up being pricey.

Nowadays, Chinese videos are basically free (eg. Youku, Tudou, and Youtube).

5) Videos are convenient

You can watch videos basically anywhere and anytime.

If you want to review a line, or skip forward, you click your mouse.

Classroom settings have many advantages, but this isn’t one of them.

You may be thinking that this is a one-sided discussion of the benefits of video.

I agree – learning Chinese through videos has many advantages, but it’s still an imperfect experience. Some of the frustrations:

  • Where do you start? How do you know what to watch amidst an ocean of content?
  • Looking things up in a dictionary is surprisingly difficult and time consuming, especially for a beginner.
  • Rewinding, repeating, and fast forwarding can be a pain.
  • Writing stuff down in your notebook is labor intensive and a poor way to learn vocabulary.

This is where FluentU comes in.

FluentU will take the advantages of video, and smooth out the rough edges. The result will be a new fun way to learn Chinese through TV, movie clips, and other videos.

FluentU takes real-world videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.

Stay tuned!

In the meantime, here are some shows that we recommend:

  • 非诚勿扰 (fēi chéng wù rǎo) – China’s top dating show
  • 好想好想谈恋爱 (hǎo xiǎng hǎo xiǎng tán liàn ài) – Chinese version of “Sex and the City”
  • 男人帮 (nán rén bāng) – Chinese version of “Sex and the City,” except with guys
  • 蜗居 (wō jū) – a popular drama that was censored in China!
  • 裸婚时代 (luǒ hūn shí dài) – Naked Wedding (refers to trend of young Chinese people forgoing all the expensive trappings needed for Chinese weddings traditionally)

Like this post? Check out our other Chinese learning tips!

If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn Chinese with real-world videos.

Experience Chinese immersion online!

11 Responses to 5 reasons to learn Chinese through authentic video content

  1. Sara November 29, 2011 at 7:17 pm #

    I think watching Chinese dating shows is an excellent wayt to learn Chinese! Your hear different accents around China, the topic is related to everyday life and it’s usually quite easy to follow the discussions.

    I’ve been looking for a Chinese TV series to get hooked on, but I still haven’t found one. I saw a bit of 男人帮 but didn’t like it too much. Have to try 好想好想谈恋爱 or 裸婚时代 next!

    • Alan November 29, 2011 at 8:30 pm #

      Hi Sara,

      Yes I have to agree!

      好想好想谈恋爱 does feel like Sex and the City (not that regularly watch that show…) but it feels a little more serious. I haven’t actually watched 裸婚时代but have heard a lot of good things about it.

      Thanks for the comment!

      • Sara November 30, 2011 at 8:12 pm #

        I watched two episodes of 裸婚时代 yesterday and realised I had seen some small parts of it on TV already. Based on those first two episodes the series doesn’t seem too bad.

        It tells about the difficulties young people face in todays China when getting married and starting a family. Lot of pressure from friends and family to marry the “right kind” of girl or boy.

        • Alan November 30, 2011 at 8:33 pm #

          Cool – sounds a bit like 蜗居, which actually gets pretty serious.

          My go to program is still the lighthearted 非诚勿扰 for now but I need to check 裸婚时代 out one of these days. :)

  2. Allan Ngo December 4, 2011 at 10:57 pm #

    Hi Alan,

    I totally agree with your post. I have started watching videos again lately to immerse myself once again in Chinese conversation and also to supplement my studies with my language partner.

    I am also a very visual person, hence the actions and the subtitles are very helpful for my learning. Immersing myself in pure audio like Chinese music doesn’t really do much for me.

    More power!

    • Alan December 4, 2011 at 11:02 pm #

      Thanks a lot Allan!

      Yes I think learning Chinese requires a varied approach and anyone who’s not using video is missing out.

      Thanks again!

  3. Ying November 3, 2012 at 2:43 am #

    That clip from the dating show is hilarious! I’ve never had so much fun learning Chinese!


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