Ever feel guilty for skipping over to YouTube when you’re supposed to be studying?
Here’s a slacker’s guide to studying with videos.
So, next time someone asks you, “hey, are you slacking off and watching videos on YouTube?” you’ll be able to say…
“No… I’m studying Chinese!”
How to Learn Chinese from Chinese Videos
1. Choose according to your level
If you’re a beginner, start with short videos that teach simple words or phrases, rather than full-blown conversations and storylines that can be overwhelming. We’ll suggest several beginner-friendly resources below.
For beginners, videos should include subtitles in English or both Chinese and English. Mid-level learners will benefit from seeing subtitles too, but they can try to rely on Chinese subtitles only.
Higher-level learners will benefit from watching longer, discussion or lecture videos, which can train up listening and speaking skills.
2. Know what to listen for
The greatest advantage in learning from videos is hearing and seeing natural speech.
So, take advantage of videos by observing minor connecting words and transitional phrases used in conversation. For example, you might hear 那么(nà me), which means “so…” or 所以呢 (sǔo yǐ ne), which means “therefore…”
Picking up the nuances in natural speech will help you sound more like a native speaker.
3. Master native ways of expression
Chinese has its own way of expressing things, such that if you directly translate a thought from English to Chinese, it wouldn’t always sound natural even if it were grammatically correct.
Part of becoming fluent in Chinese is thinking like a Chinese speaker—adopting their idioms, expressions, cultural perspective, courtesies, etc.
Watching Chinese videos helps you know how locals think, act and talk. Learning and mimicking common native expressions (which may not exist in English) will boost your fluency level.
8 Chinese Video Resources for All Levels of Chinese Learning
1. Crazy Fresh Chinese Slang with Jessica 白洁 (Bái Jíe)
YouTube Channel: Crazy Fresh Chinese
Jessica, or 白洁 (Bái Jíe), teaches new Chinese slang in 30 seconds on her channel Crazy Fresh Chinese. This channel is suitable for beginner learners and useful for learning vocabulary and short phrases.
Here you’ll pick up trendy colloquialisms you won’t learn in a classroom, like “twerk” 电臀舞 (diàn tún wǔ), “Minions” 小黄人 (xiǎo huáng rén) and “retweet” 转发 (zhuàn fā).
Know useful everyday phrases like “Give me a break” 饶了我吧 (ráo le wǒ ba), “I got your back” 我支持你 (wǒ zhī chí nǐ) and “I don’t feel like it” 我不想做 (wǒ bù xiǎng zùo).
Who’s Jessica? Jessica Beinecke is a Chinese language broadcaster for “Voice of America.” In addition to teaching Chinese, Jessica also teaches American slang to Chinese students on her Chinese channel, OMG!美语 (mĕi yŭ).
2. Real World Video Content on FluentU.com
Website: FluentU Chinese Learning
App: The FluentU iPhone or Android app
Have you ever wished you could learn Chinese from real, entertaining, everyday media content, like music videos and commercials?
FluentU helps you do just that.
FluentU takes real-world videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.
Every video has English, Chinese and pinyin subtitles which you can toggle on and off as desired, along with an audio pronunciation of every word when you hover your cursor over it. Vocabulary definitions are also available for every video.
Your viewing history and learning progress is tracked, making FluentU one of the best language learning apps available. (FluentU also has a YouTube channel, but their full online platform is what offers the complete learning experience.)
3. Chinese Stand Up Comedy by Dashan
YouTube Channel: Dashan’s Stand Up Comedy Playlist
You might have heard of Dashan, a Canadian broadcaster in China who speaks fluent Chinese with a wonderfully native accent. Most people know him from the many shows he’s produced for CCTV, China’s state television, over the past decades. But you may not have heard of his latest project—his own, solo stand up comedy.
Dashan’s comedy shows, featuring English subtitles, are suitable for mid-level to higher-level learners. His shows can increase knowledge of local Chinese culture and humor, and train up listening skills.
If you’re interested in more Dashan, see his official YouTube channel which has his interviews, skits, dramas and other media productions. He’s particularly famous for acting in Xiangsheng, a traditional form of Chinese humorous performance involving two speakers (like a two-person stand up comedy).
4. Khalil Fong Musical Artist Official Channel
YouTube Channel: Khalil Fong Official Channel
Music lovers will enjoy learning from Khalil Fong’s videos which feature pop and R&B songs in Mandarin, English and Cantonese. Khalil’s videos are useful for learning vocabulary, expressions and phrases, and they’re suitable for beginner to mid-level learners. Check out Khalil’s Chinese New Year vlog, in which he performs a magic trick (includes English and Chinese subtitles).
Who’s Khalil? Khalil is an American-born singer and songwriter based in Hong Kong. He sings in both Mandarin and English. He recently played a role in the movie “Love in Disguise” (2010) alongside famous actor Leehom Wang.
5. Xi Yang Yang Cartoon Adventures
If you’re looking for something fun and light-hearted, try Xi Yang Yang (happy mountain goat), one of the most popular cartoon series in China. These cartoons feature easy conversations that are suitable for beginner to mid-level learners. Chinese subtitles are included.
6. Chinese-speaking German Traveler, Christoph
YouTube Channel: 德国自干五 (dé gúo zì gān wǔ) Christoph Rehage’s Channel
Christoph Rehage is a Chinese-speaking German living in China. He’s the author of travel memoir, “The Longest Way,” chronicling his incredible walking journey from China to Germany. Online, Christoph is famous for a viral time-lapse video of his walking journey from China to Germany and how he grew immensely long hair and a killer beard along the way.
Christoph’s channel is suitable for higher-level learners. His discussions on Chinese current events are useful for practicing listening comprehension and broadening understanding of Chinese society.
7. Yang Lang Teaches You How to Date
YouTube Channel: 天呐女人 (tiān nà nǚ rén) Yang Lang’s Dating Talk Show
Successful talk show host Yang Lang has been called “China’s Oprah.” Yang Lang is also one of few Chinese nationals to present at the TED talks.
In Yang Lang’s latest series, she and two other co-hosts discuss relationship trends in China, for example, how older men date younger women, how women are being pressured into marriage and how some women keep a “spare tire” guy friend (a male friend who helps you when you need but isn’t the official boyfriend).
Yang Lang’s talks, which include Chinese subtitles, are suitable for higher-level learners and useful for learning Chinese societal trends, listening skills and conversation skills.
8. Mega Collection of Chinese TV Shows on YoYo
YouTube Channel: 优优独播剧场 (yōu yōu dú bō jù chǎng) YoYo Television Series
If you’re looking for a good storyline to draw you in, try this collection of Chinese TV shows. This channel is your one-stop page for a variety of current Chinese TV dramas with genres including romance, detective, historic and family saga.
These dramas include Chinese subtitles, and are suitable for mid-level to upper-level students. Improve your Chinese conversation skills, listening skills and knowledge of colloquialisms through these shows.
Learning through videos is just one of many creative ways to learn Chinese.
With online resources at hand, learning Chinese never has to be boring! Knowing how to adapt media resources like videos into language learning lessons opens the door for new and enjoyable learning experiences.
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn Chinese with real-world videos.