“I don’t think of cartoons or comics as being for kids.” – Jeff Kinney, author of “Diary of a Wimpy Kid.”
What a true statement!
Cartoons can be just as entertaining for adults as they are for children.
Not only that, but cartoons can help viewers of all ages learn a new language.
If you’re struggling as a novice student of Mandarin, enjoying some Chinese-language cartoons may be more helpful than you ever imagined.
Utilizing Chinese cartoons is also the perfect introduction to Mandarin for kids, especially if they’re learning the language with an adult. In fact, this could be an excellent way for you to bond with your child!
Want to learn Chinese with cartoons? We found nine simple, entertaining shows for cartoon lovers of any age.
How Can Chinese Cartoons Help Me Learn Mandarin?
- Chinese cartoons feature basic grammar and vocabulary for children, so they’re perfect for beginning learners. Think of it this way: a native Chinese child probably knows roughly the same amount of Chinese as an adult just starting to learn Chinese as a second language. Chinese cartoons likely have all the basic Mandarin you’ll need to practice before graduating to the intermediate level. Plus, Chinese children’s cartoons often include dialogue that’s relatively slow and easy to understand.
- Cartoons are entertaining for both adults and children who are learning Mandarin. If you’re learning Chinese with a little one, learning Chinese with cartoons is a great way to bond while being sneakily productive!
- Many of the cartoons we’ll be covering are great for breaking down Chinese as as a lesson. While most of the Chinese cartoons on this list are useful for their dialogue and listening practice opportunities, some of these shows actually have Chinese lessons in the shows themselves.
Does the idea of watching a full half-hour or more intimidate you? That’s a lot of Chinese to take in at once, especially for beginners! If you want to start small with cartoons, try watching videos with FluentU.
Each video includes annotated subtitles, interactive flashcards and personalized quizzes. This makes FluentU perfect for learners who want cartoons paired with ready-made Chinese learning material.
Access the full FluentU video library on your web browser or, better yet, watch on the go when you download the app at the iTunes or Google Play store.
Not Just for Kids! 9 Fun Shows to Learn Chinese with Cartoons
Now that we know the benefits of learning Mandarin with cartoons… where to begin?
These nine shows are insanely beneficial for anyone wanting to learn Chinese with cartoons. And don’t worry, we’ve even included information on where to watch the shows and which levels of learner will benefit from each and every cartoon!
This Disney classic was made in the United States, but the Mandarin-language version is available with both subtitles and audio in Chinese and English.
“Mulan” is the story of a young woman whose elderly father has been drafted into the Chinese military during the Northern Wei Dynasty. To save his life, she assumes his identity, hiding the fact that she’s a woman and embarking on the adventure of a lifetime.
There’s something to be said for learning Chinese with a movie you’ve already watched in English. If you know the story fairly well, you don’t have to waste a bunch of time trying to figure out what’s going on. You can follow the story and use context to figure out what words mean.
You can search for the Chinese version of “Mulan” on Amazon.
“Journey to the West: Legends of the Monkey King”
This children’s television show from the turn of the millennium is based on the classic Chinese legend of the Monkey King.
Regarded as a classic of Chinese animation, this cartoon follows the story of the magically-birthed Monkey King and his incredible, mystical journey from Chinese to India.
Some episodes of “Journey to the West: Legends of the Monkey King” are available on YouTube with English subtitles. If you’re already an intermediate or advanced learner, try turning off the subtitles to improve your Chinese listening skills.
“The Legend of Huainanzi”
This Chinese cartoon may be more appropriate for older children and adults, as there are some minor adult themes.
“The Legend of Huainanzi” follows the story of Hong Lie, a young hero who takes on the task of finding missing pieces of an occult book that could save the world from supernatural disasters.
The art style is very similar to anime. The show is available on CCTV in Chinese with simultaneous English and Chinese subtitles so all learners can benefit from watching this show, as long as they’re comfortable with the adult themes.
“Ni Hao Kai-lan”
You’ll find “Ni Hao Kai-lan” on tons of lists of Chinese cartoons online, which proves that it’s a super valuable resource!
This show was produced in English for native English-speaking audiences who wish to learn more about Chinese language and culture. The setup of the show is very similar to “Dora the Explorer” in that there are linguistic lessons sprinkled throughout the show. As a result, it’s the perfect pick for children and novice learners.
Search for “Ni Hao Kai-lan” on Amazon.
“Grandmaster of Demonic Cultivation”
Also known as “Mo Dao Zu Shi,” this anime-style cartoon from China may be better suited for older viewers, as it does contain some violent imagery.
This fantasy series takes place in an ambiguous time period in China in which humans are attempting to become immortal through magic and alternative means.
“Grandmaster of Demonic Cultivation” is available for streaming at GoGoAnime with English subtitles. The dialogue is quite heavy, so intermediate learners may benefit the most from watching.
“Pororo the Little Penguin”
This cute, computer-animated show is the product of a collaboration between South Korean and Chinese production companies and is available at Oznoz with both languages and subtitles.
This show revolves around the fun adventures of a cute penguin named Pororo and his animal friends. Each episode ends in a practical or moral lesson.
It’s worth mentioning that you will need an Oznoz subscription to watch “Pororo the Little Penguin” episodes.
“The Olympic Adventures of Fuwa”
This oldie but goodie has been around since 2007, right when the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing was announced. The cartoon follows the adventures of the Fuwa, little humanoid creatures that served as the Olympic mascots.
Episodes of “The Olympic Adventures of Fuwa” are available on YouTube with Chinese audio and subtitles, though higher-resolution versions are hard to find online. However, for those traveling abroad, it’s apparently quite easy to find reruns of the show on China Beijing TV Station, NHK and Kaku TV.
If you’re dead set on accessing higher-quality versions of this show, you can always access those channels by purchasing a VPN.
“The Adventures of Little Carp”
What’s cuter than a cartoon about a little fish? (I mean, come on, “Finding Nemo”—need we say more?)
“The Adventures of Little Carp” is based on an old Chinese folktale. Bubbles, the little carp, must find the ancient Dragon King to stop an evil snake from taking over the lake and to save his grandmother.
This show is available for streaming via CCTV with Chinese audio and subtitles. This series is simple enough and relatively slow-paced, so beginners may be able to understand some of it without English subtitles. If you’re traveling abroad, you can also enjoy reruns of “The Adventures of Little Carp” on CCTV-Children in mainland China.
This computer-animated cartoon from China follows the story of GG Bond, a sassy pig with supernatural powers. Most of the episodes are comedies for children, though adult jokes do occasionally pop up. Children and adults will definitely enjoy watching this one together.
You can enjoy episodes of “GG Bond” via the show’s official YouTube channel where new episodes are broadcast live every week. There are no subtitles for this Mandarin-language show, so intermediate and advanced learners would probably benefit the most from watching.
Ready for a night in and some Chinese cartoon binge-watching?
Watching kids’ cartoons in Mandarin is a great way to improve your listening and comprehension skills. So turn on the tube and get ready to learn Chinese with cartoons!
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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