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!
Yep, it’s true. Watching Mandarin-language sitcoms can totally improve your Chinese speaking, reading, listening and comprehension 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.
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!
- 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
家有儿女 (jiā yǒu ér nǚ) — “Home With Kids”
“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.
爱情公寓 (ài qíng gōng yù) — “iPartment”
“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.
新婚公寓 (xīn hūn gōng yù) — “Wedding Apartment” aka “Mad About You”
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.
售楼处的故事 (shòu lóu chù de gùs hì) — “The Showroom Tales”
“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.
咱们结婚吧 (zán men jié hūn ba) — “Marry Me”
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.
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