Just about each and every one of us grew up with a favorite sitcom.
Sitcoms are token markers of our eras.
The 80s kids loved “Family Ties.” 90s kids loved “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.” We all got addicted to “The Office” at the turn of the century!
Looking back, you probably remember the laughs and life lessons you gained from those sitcoms.
If you want to dive into Chinese sitcoms, you’ll gain more than just laughs and life lessons. You’ll also gain some Mandarin language skills!
Why Should I Watch Chinese Sitcoms?
- Listening to spoken Chinese will improve your listening and speaking skills. What better way to improve your ability to understand oral Chinese than to listen to someone speaking the language? Sitcoms are often scripted in a way that only one person speaks at a time, making Chinese sitcoms a great type of media for beginners to watch.
- Reading Chinese subtitles will boost your reading skills and Chinese-English word association. Reading subtitles while watching a sitcom is a great way to practice associating Chinese characters or pinyin to what’s being audibly spoken.
FluentU can help you get started with using Chinese subtitles to your advantage.
FluentU takes real-world Chinese videos—like music videos, movie trailers, documentaries, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.
It has a wide range of contemporary videos, as you can see here:
Don’t worry about your skill level being an issue when it comes to understanding the language: FluentU makes native Chinese videos approachable through interactive transcripts and subtitles.
You’ll see definitions, in-context usage examples and helpful illustrations. Simply tap “add” to send interesting vocabulary words to your personal vocab list for later review.
The powerful learning program turns every video into a language learning lesson. You can always swipe left or right to see more examples for the word you’re learning.
The best part is that FluentU always keeps track of your studies and suggests content and examples based on the words you’re learning. That means every user gets a 100% personalized experience!
- Experiencing Chinese media through sitcoms can help learners understand Chinese culture and history. Sitcoms often take place in modern or semi-modern times and reflect the struggles and joys of living in a particular society. Watching Chinese sitcoms can help the foreign Mandarin-learner understand a bit more about Chinese culture in addition to the language.
Chinese Sitcoms: 5 Shows to Keep You Laughing for Hours
“Home With Kids” or literally “Home with Sons and Daughters” is a drama/sitcom that debuted in 2004. It spawned three sequel series through the years and is considered to be very similar to the U.S. sitcom “Growing Pains.”
This show is particularly interesting because the adult characters take a back seat to the children, who absolutely steal the show. It’s funny, heartwarming, dramatic and immensely entertaining. And with nearly 365 episodes to watch between all the sequel series, you’ll be busy binge-watching for a while.
In “Home With Kids,” Xia Donghai has divorced and moved from the U.S. back to China with son Xia Yu and daughter Xia Xue. Similarly, Liu Mei and her son Liu Xing have recently endured a separation.
The two families move in together and some pretty hilarious antics ensue. In the end, the show demonstrates how important family is and how divorce can impact a family, especially children. Still, “Home With Kids” is far from a dramatically sad television show. It’s pretty hilarious, too!
This show is available with Chinese subtitles, and the dialogue is easy to keep up with, so intermediate learners would benefit the most from this program.
“iPartment” or “Love Apartment” is a sitcom that originated in China in 2009 and lasted for three seasons. It’s a slice-of-life type of sitcom about the lives of seven 20-somethings living in the same apartment complex. Each character is vastly different from the other, and they all run into various mishaps.
Unlike many other sitcoms, this series has interesting editing and transitions that viewers may find intriguing. Plus, this series has a lot of cultural and political references that can help the Mandarin learner understand a bit more about Chinese culture, even if it is a little dated.
If you like surreal slapstick thriller comedies, check out “iPartment.” This show gets a bit odd at times and capitalizes on the Chinese style of humor that Westerners may not really understand, so it isn’t everybody’s cup of tea. But in my opinion, it’s definitely worth trying out!
This series has Chinese subtitles and fast-paced dialogue, so advanced learners should try this one on for size.
Here’s a sitcom that’s a bit more modern. “Mad About You” debuted in 2016 in China and Taiwan and is a fairly true adaptation of the U.S. sitcom “Mad About You.”
The cutest part about this show is that the actors behind the main characters, Wu Yue and Xie Xia Jun, are actually married in real life. If you’re a sucker for romantic comedies, you need to watch “Mad About You.” The series ran for about 60 episodes, so there’s definitely plenty to get addicted to.
The plot is fairly simple: Two newlyweds trying to navigate what it really means to cohabitate and be married. It’s definitely an adorable show with an exciting ending that you’ll just have to watch to experience!
The simple dialogue and Chinese subtitles make this show ideal for intermediate learners. However, newbies with a decent grasp on Chinese characters may also benefit from watching this series.
“The Showroom Tales” is another fairly dated sitcom (it was released around 2003 in mainland China on CCTV-3) but it’s a very fun show to watch. Think of it as the Chinese version of “Friends.”
In “The Showroom Tales,” five interesting, young sales representatives try to get through life and their jobs at a real estate showroom in Shenzhen, China.
The show is known for the nearly 40 famous Chinese musicians and actors who made cameos in various episodes.
This series is available with Chinese subtitles and the dialogue is a bit fast-paced, so intermediate and advanced viewers may enjoy this one the most.
Imagine working at a registration office for people who want a divorce! That would certainly put you in a bad mindset for relationships and marriage.
Guo Ran is a clerk at one such office and has also seen his parents’ messy divorce firsthand. But a blind date with the beautiful, unique Yang Tao, a hotel manager, leads to Guo Ran falling in love. However, falling love doesn’t just make your commitment issues magically disappear.
“Marry Me” aka “We Get Married” debuted on CCTV in Beijing in 2013. The show has won awards for everything from “Best TV Drama” to “Best Director.” It’s definitely a well-written piece of work that will tug at your heartstrings and make you laugh at the same time. If you have commitment issues or love a good romantic comedy, this is a show you need to see.
“Marry Me” has both English and Chinese subtitles, making it the perfect sitcom for Mandarin-learning newbies. Either way, it’s such an enjoyable show that any level of learner will have fun watching it. If you’re an advanced learner, try shutting off the captions to focus on your Mandarin listening skills.
We bet at least one of these Chinese sitcoms will have you splitting at the seams with laughter!
But if not, at least you learned a bit of Mandarin by sitting through the cheesiness.
Em Casalena is a published author, freelance writer and music columnist. They write about a lot of stuff, from music to films to language.
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn Chinese with real-world videos.