All work and no play?
Makes for a dull Chinese language learning experience.
Constantly tempted to skip your lessons in favor of more leisure activities?
Well, here’s a piece of good news!
Starting today, you can combine both. You no longer have to choose one over the other.
Neat, isn’t it?
Attending classes and following a rigid syllabus doesn’t always sit well for most us. So, it’s always a good idea to branch out and try some other unconventional methods.
Watching Chinese shows is one of the best ways to do just that. You can check out Chinese language variety and talk shows but, for me, drama series are the most effective.
With shows like variety hours and such, you’ll be exposed to a great quantity of vocabulary for sure. However, most of these require viewers to have a certain level of understanding regarding Chinese culture and current events to make light of what the people are actually talking about.
With dramas, conversations revolve around everyday living. This makes it practical for Chinese language learning.
How Drama Series Will Help You Learn Chinese
Just so you can be fully convinced of how effective drama series are in helping students learn Chinese, we’ve listed some of their wonderful features:
- Subtitles. Reading while listening is one of the best ways to learn an unfamiliar character. It helps you retain the words better in your memory. Almost all Chinese dramas have subtitles. You can follow the dialogues while reading the characters. One of the trickiest parts of learning Chinese is the pronunciation and intonation. A lot of characters have similar pronunciation. Subtitles help reduce this kind of confusion. They’ll help you distinguish one character from another.
- Conversation pieces. You’ll want to start learning the basics. Dramas cover a variety of words and dialogues that you can use every day, even those that aren’t available in Chinese courses. Most of the time, you’ll be taught only a sample sentence or two in class. With dramas, you’ll be exposed to the different ways a character can be used in sentences and the various possible expressions you can use it to make.
- Repetitive words and phrases. My friends learned Japanese after constantly watching anime. It’s a clear testament how repetition can help teach you a new language. That’s the same with Chinese dramas. Over time, Chinese words and expressions will come naturally to you. You needn’t try to memorize them or anything. Constantly hearing and reading them will do.
- Interactive scenes. You won’t understand everything the first time you try to watch a Chinese drama but you won’t feel that lost either. Why? Because the scenes will help you out. That’s the very reason why I recommend dramas over other types of Chinese shows. Most of the dramas revolve around love, family or office life. The context is clear in these scenarios, and visual cues are always theer for you. You’ll be able to weed out the meanings of new words without looking them up.
- Slang words and unique expressions. This is one of the best things you’ll learn in Chinese dramas. There are just some things you can’t pick up in a book or class. You’ll get to understand their culture and unique expressions. You can even pick up a chengyu or two.
Tips for Self-teaching Chinese with Dramas
Before you get started, here are a few tips you have to keep in mind.
- Check out websites that allow video-streaming. Not all of you will have access to Chinese dramas through your cable provider. So, the best resource would be the web. Check out the Chinese YouTube channel at youku.com or tudou.com. They have comprehensive lists of Chinese language dramas. Be forewarned though that everything’s in Mandarin, so you may get a little overwhelmed by all the Chinese characters in the controls. The good news is there are other sites available. For a less linguistically intense experience, check out maplestage and dramafever. They even have Chinese subtitles for other Asian dramas.
- Practice watching videos with FluentU.
You'll find a wide range of contemporary videos that cover all different interests and levels, as you can see here:
FluentU brings these native Chinese videos within reach via interactive captions. You can tap on any word to instantly look it up.
All words have carefully written definitions and examples that will help you understand how a word is used. Tap to add words you'd like to review to a vocab list.
From the description page, you can access interactive transcripts under the Dialogue tab, or review words and phrases under Vocab.
The best part is that FluentU always keeps track of your learning. It customizes quizzes to focus on areas that need attention and reminds you when it’s time to review what you’ve learned. In other words, you get a 100% personalized experience.
Try FluentU in your browser or, better yet, download the FluentU iOS or Android app today!
- Pick your favorite genre. The purpose of watching dramas is to inject bits of learning into your day without compromising your schedule. The only way to achieve this is to ensure you enjoy what you’re watching. This way you’ll get your “me” time to unwind and have fun. There are so many genres to choose from – romance, comedy, family, office, politics, royalty, etc. — but if you’re a beginner you might want to veer away from the dramas on politics and imperial families. These are the hardest to understand.
- Follow the tones and sounds. Mandarin has a number of intonations you’ll have to keep in mind. It’ll be tricky the first time you hear them. So, be sure to follow drama dialogues well. Take note of the characters in the subtitles in conjunction with how they’re pronounced by the characters. You’ll get used to making these connections over time.
- Take note of sentence structure. Follow the dialogues. Observe the sentence structures. Take note of the way a character is used in one particular sentence versus another. There’s no one way to use a given character. This’ll be your best takeaway from watching Chinese dramas. You’ll be able to start conversing in Mandarin the proper way, not in broken sentences.
- Pause the videos and check out the characters. People often complain about the rapid pace of spoken Chinese. But you needn’t have this problem with Chinese dramas. If you think you missed a couple of words, just pause the video and read the characters. Read and reread. Repeat the scenes if necessary. Over time, you’ll get used to their way of talking.
7 Best Taiwanese Dramas Every Chinese Learner Should Know
With the hundreds and thousands of Chinese shows out there, you might be at a loss over which show to start with. To help you out, we’ve compiled 7 of the most popular Taiwanese shows for you to start with.
1. 摩登新人类 | New Modern People
This is one of the drama series I’m sure most of you can relate to. It tells the story of different personalities working in the fashion industry. If you’re interested in learning workplace vocabulary and corporate lingo then be sure to pick this one. It’s got the perfect balance of romance and office politics.
2. 蓝球火 | Hot Shot
Most of you will think that dramas are more suitable to the female audience. But that’s just a misconception. There’s a whole array of genres for males, too. “Hot Shot” is one of them. It revolves around the youth’s passion for basketball and the lengths a person is willing to go just to fight for his basketball title and to win the love of his life.
3. 原来是美男 | Fabulous Boys
This is a funny story about a girl who dresses up as a man, which was quite the trend in Asian dramas a few years back. If you’re interested in bands and the lives of idol groups, check this one out. You can learn a lot of vocabulary about music, fame and friendship.
4. 海豚湾恋人 | At Dolphin Bay
This series became a household favorite when it aired back in 2003. It tells the story of a provincial girl who shot to stardom because of her pure voice. It’s a typical rags-to-riches story, but the hardships and challenges the lead character has to experience will surely move you to tears. There’s so much to learn from this series, from the motivational words about reaching your dreams to corporate lingo and Chinese culture. This is a must-watch series.
5. 有爱一家人 | Love Family
For all the moms, dads and other family-centric learners out there, this one’s for you. It’s a family drama about four sisters, so you’ll get to learn a variety of words based on their many dialogues. You’ll get to peek into how a typical middle-class Chinese family lives and learn the terms of endearment they use with one another.
6. 翻糖花园 | Fondant Garden
This series revolves around baking, from the measurements needed to perfect a cake to the management skills needed to save the bakeshop. It’s the perfect series for those who are interested in learning language about food and the particulars in the kitchen.
7. 流星花园 | Meteor Garden
No list of Taiwanese dramas will be complete without this classic. It’s been more than a decade but “Meteor Garden” remains one of the top Taiwanese dramas around the world. Remember F4? It revolves around the university life of the youth whose social standings are clearly dictated by their wealth and power. It’s a really nice drama that shows both the materialistic and humane side of these people.
Try watching these dramas. These will surely help you in your Chinese learning. If you’re interested to try other types of Chinese shows then, check out these movie classics and TV shows. Enjoy!
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