Treat yourself to some guilty pleasure television shows.
You know what I’m talking about.
So yes, we’re giving you permission to go ahead and indulge—but with a twist.
While you could always just watch your typical “Sex and the City” episode, why not nurture both your feelings and mind by getting addicted to Chinese dramas?
Genius! Immersing yourself in Chinese is going to be more fun than ever with these captivating shows. Here’s why:
Why Improve Your Language with Chinese Dramas Online?
In the world of the internet, it is now entirely possible to find a wide range of Chinese dramas online. No longer do you have the excuse that you do not live in China, do not own a television, or do not have a DVD player. Some websites will only be available to those in China, but this article will break down the best sites to watch dramas for those in and outside of China.
Don’t be fooled into thinking watching Chinese dramas will feel like regular language practice. You will find yourself counting down the hours to watch your favorite Chinese show—or you might even find yourself binge-watching seasons! From Taiwanese romance dramas to old-fashioned dramas about Chinese history, there are a wide array of shows you can choose from.
Don’t know where to look for engaging content?
Well, with FluentU, finding content that keeps you glued to the screen is easy!
Suits Beginning, Intermediate and Advanced Learners
Are you daunted by the fact that you’re a beginning Chinese learner?
Chinese dramas will probably best benefit intermediate to advanced learners, but beginning learners may be surprised to realize how much they can pick up based on context clues solely from the action on the screen. Read on for more tips that all of you Chinese language learners can use, regardless of your level, to get the most out of these dramas.
Simulating Real-life Experiences
Chinese dramas enact the real world and are an excellent way to practice your Chinese listening skills using relevant content. They also can give you tips and vocabulary for your own Chinese conversations in the future.
How to Use Online Chinese Dramas for Maximum Language Learning
Context Is Key
Trust your instinct. Just like watching any foreign film, it’s surprising how much you can pick up without understanding a word. Picking up on context clues from previous conversations in the plot and facial expressions is a sure way to understand the general idea of what’s happening. This is excellent practice for when you have real-life conversations in Chinese, and will only increase the amount of spoken Chinese that you understand.
Set an Active-learning Schedule
Setting a schedule for how you will learn with these dramas can make for more effective learning. Watching Chinese dramas is great in itself, but turning the passive drama watching into active learning will be key to get the most out of it.
For example, you can cycle through three ways of watching Chinese dramas. Allow yourself to relax for the first episode. Simply focus on absorbing the story and what you can catch listening naturally. You do not have to worry yourself about pausing and writing things down. You can set the second episode for a more intense learning session by picking out ten vocabulary words from the video that you will look up and memorize. Try using a third episode to focus on language pronunciation, and practice repeating after the characters.
Find a Partner
Having a language partner is helpful in every aspect of learning, but especially so for Chinese dramas. Not only can you turn this into a weekly event to get together and watch an episode or two, but during that time it can be helpful to discuss with each other what new words or phrases you can integrate into your vocabulary. When you watch with a friend, you can ask each other what certain words mean, or when you are not quite sure what is going on in the drama.
Try making the learning active by telling a synopsis of what happened in each episode in Chinese to your friend. They can add in parts that you are missing, and together you will fill in vocabulary and content that the other missed.
Pause and Look Up Words
Try rewatching one episode several times. After you have absorbed the content the first time, go back and rewatch the same episode, but this time with a handy dictionary (or at least a phone app) in your hand. Watching Chinese dramas online instead of on a television makes this even easier for you to pause and look up words without feeling as if you are missing out on key plots.
Write down the Chinese character, Pinyin and English translation to what you do not understand. Provide some context to the word by jotting down what scene in the drama the word appeared. This will help you attach meaning to the word or phrase, and it will be much easier to go back and recall it. Try to focus on learning five to ten vocabulary words for each episode so that you do not feel overwhelmed.
Use Chinese dramas to work on your writing skills by writing down a brief summary of the events that happened in the episode. Make sure you include the new vocabulary you learned as well.
Pause and Use Subtitles
If you are a beginning to intermediate learner, you will want to make sure you have subtitles. Listening to Chinese dramas are different than speaking as the speed will be much quicker than you may be used to.
If you are just beginning, try using sites that offer English subtitles. You can slowly upgrade to Pinyin subtitles. Pinyin subtitles may be the hardest to find for many dramas, so depending on the show, you may need to skip directly to character subtitles. When you start learning more characters, subtitles are an excellent way to reinforce Chinese writing into your brain.
Advanced learners should challenge themselves by going without subtitles and see if you can understand everything that is going on in the story.
Where to Find Chinese Dramas Online
There are countless free ways to find Chinese dramas online. Here are just a few of the top websites that Chinese speakers will use. To find general TV shows, just go to the “电视剧” (diàn shì jù – TV series) tab and browse your options.
Tudou is a video sharing site, and can be compared to YouTube, though most of the videos on Tudou will be significantly longer. You can find all sorts of video categories from full-length movies to clips on sports and fashion.
You may have to browse through several choices to find videos with Chinese subtitles, but there are plenty of options available for the same title, allowing you to choose from the best quality and experience.
As Tudou TV and Youku TV have recently merged into one company, you may find similarities between the two. However, at this point in time, they are different enough that it’s worth searching on both. Both websites will use soku as their search engine for videos.
PPTV works in two main ways. The first is similar to Tudou and Youku with a simple search online. You can also choose to download their app, which allows for more convenient viewing. Be aware that if you are not in mainland China, you may have limited access to content on the app.
Another excellent search engine for Chinese dramas online is QQ TV. QQ Player is also available for download, which can make the process easier. You may find that watching the videos at certain off hours (according to the Chinese Standard Time) with less traffic will help with loading issues.
If all the other search engines fail you, you can also try SoHu TV. It is a very similar layout to the other websites and it’s also available in a convenient app form.
Zhong Wen movies is targeted to the foreign learner and has some dramas available with English and Chinese subtitles. The choice selection is slim compared to the other sites, but this is a good choice for beginners.
6 Addicting Chinese Dramas You Can Watch Online
An extremely popular TV show in mainland China, “还珠格格” (huán zhū gé gé) is two seasons long and tells a love story based on 18th century Qing Dynasty palace life. Much of the setting will be placed in the Forbidden City.
It is common to find some of the most entertaining Chinese dramas based in ancient China, which is an excellent way to learn about the rich history of the Qing Dynasty.
A Hong Kong television series, “寻秦记” (xún qín jì) tells the exciting story of how the Emperor of China time travels into modern day Hong Kong. The series shows the Emperor adjusting to a new, modern life, and how he uses his skills to create a life for himself in today’s society.
If ancient-China dramas do not appeal to you, you should still give this drama a chance. Most of the episodes will be based in modern day Hong Kong, but will allude to Chinese history and traditional stories.
This show is best for intermediate to advanced learners, as there will be many idioms and phrases used that you will want to understand to get the most out of this laughing comedy.
If you like watching “Friends” or “Sex and the City,” then “粉红女郎” (fěn hóng nǚ láng) is the perfect show for you. Packed with famous Chinese movie stars, this show tells the tale of how four young women end up living together. You’ll see into their lives surrounding men, work, friendship and everything in between.
The same writer as “粉红女郎” (fěn hóng nǚ láng) developed “双响炮” (shuāng xiǎng pào). It is similar in humor and style, and has several of the same actors and actresses. “双响炮” focuses more on the romantic relationships and ups and downs of marriages in a critical yet humorous way of viewing Chinese society.
An emotional tale of the lives of various Chinese individuals who have immigrated to Canada, this drama is full of suspense, tears and romance. The main focus is on a young lady,Xiao Xue, and though the rest of the characters seem to all have separate lives, the story begins to unravel as to how they are related.
You’ll learn why they are in Canada and about the lives they left back in China. This is an excellent show to watch to get a general understanding of how Chinese view the immigration process and their lives in a foreign country.
“男人不醉” (nán rén bù zuì) is a rather new drama that gives a perspective of what it’s like for the young Chinese workforce in today’s society. Based in Shanghai, the drama follows eight young men and women through their lives. From romance to betrayal, this drama will keep you on your toes.
Once you watch one episode, you may find yourself hooked for the long run. Try scheduling in a weekly time to sit down, relax and enjoy some Chinese learning through these engaging Chinese dramas!
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn Chinese with real-world videos.