Getting Over the Hump: Chinese Study Tools and Aids
During the Chinese learning process there are definitely ups and downs. Some days you feel at the top of your game and others you feel as if you’ve hit some kind of barrier on your road to fluency. In this glorious digital age, where better to learn languages than online? Here is a list of TV shows, films and blogs for when you want to step away from the books that will help take your Chinese from OK to good, or good to great.
1) Dad, where are we going? (爸爸去哪儿)
‘Dad, where are we going?’, a celebrity parenting reality TV show, is currently extremely popular in China. It is good for beginners, as a lot of the language is appropriate for children, and there are also subtitles.
Although some may describe this TV show as tedious or boring, it has become a cultural phenomenon since being launched in October. The spin-off movie made $40.8 million for its first three days of release!
2) A bite of China (舌尖上的中国)
‘A bite of China’ is a popular Chinese food and culture show. Although the language is not necessarily easy to follow, it has subtitles to guide Mandarin learners, and will keep you up-to-date on all things cultural. Episodes can be found on Soku.
3) CCTV’s Travel in China and Communicate in Chinese
‘Travel in China’ and ‘Communicate in Chinese’ are aired on CCTV 9, and have been especially made for language learning. Communicate in Chinese is hosted by Mark Rowswell, also known as Dashan. It is a gradual learning Chinese method, teaching useful Chinese and giving good explanations. The shows can be viewed on the CCTV website: Communicate in Chinese
4) Home with kids (家有女儿)
‘Home with kids’ is an extremely popular Chinese soap opera, about a man and a woman who already have their own children, and all the troubles they face living together as a newly formed family, is light hearted and easy to follow as it is full of emotion. It also helps get a better grasp on colloquial Chinese, and is easier to follow than other soaps which are often based in Ancient Chinese contexts. Episodes can be found on Soku.
5) I love my family (我爱我家)
‘I love my family’ is a good Chinese family sitcom which is relatively easy to follow and readily available on youku. Again, the language is not as complicated as in some historical television programs.
Watching films in an effort to learn or improve your Chinese is encouraged by almost everyone, as it not only gets you used to different accents and terminology but also provides more insights into cultural and societal specifics of a country. However, it can be hard to find something suitable to watch in standard Mandarin. The following five are not only useful for language study, but also pretty good movies (which makes the idea of watching them, so much more appealing).
1) To Live (活着)
To Live is a historical drama about the life of Xu Fugui, a man who starts out as a rich mans son with a gambling problem. The story follows him from the 1940s to the 1970s as he loses his fortune, his family and then struggles through China’s Great Leap Forward. The film was directed by Zhang Yimou and stars Ge You and Gong Li. It was adapted from the Yu Hua’s novel of the same name.
2) Shower (洗澡)
Shower is a movie about a father and his two sons, who operate a bathhouse. It follows the trials and tribulations of the family and the community, as well as larger societal trends in China. This film has won a number of international awards and is labelled as a useful language learning tool. However, the story is based in Beijing, so prepare yourself for some Beijing ARRRRRs.
3) A World Without Thieves (天下无贼)
With an extremely famous cast (Ge You, Andy Lau, Li Bingbing among others), A World Without Thieves tells the story of a group of professional thieves competing to steal a naïve young carpenter’s life savings during his travel home. It is adapted from a novelette of the same title by Zhao Benfu, and if nothing else has a fantastic egg de-shelling scene.
4) Shanghai Triad (摇啊摇，摇到外婆桥)
Shanghai Triad is an amazing gangster movie set in the 1930s in Shanghai, where a provincial boy related to a Shanghai crime family is recruited by his uncle into cosmopolitan Shanghai in the 1930s to be a servant. This film was the last collaboration between Zhang Yimou and Gong Li for more than a decade.
5) Together (和你在一起)
Directed by Chen Kaige, Together tells the story of Liu Cheng and his violin prodigy son Liu Xiaochun. The two move to Beijing so Xiaochun can become the most successful violin player he can be, but after two years of study Xiaochun learns what is really important in life.
1) Chinese With Mike
Blog written by ‘Teacher Mike’, with interactive materials often used by Chinese lecturers and teachers. Good for beginners with its use of a progressive method.
Sinosplice is written by Shanghai-based linguist, the host at ChinesePod, and the founder of AllSet Learning, John Pasden. He is also the co-founder and editor-in-chief of the Mandarin Companion Chinese graded reader series. Sinosplice has a bunch of resources based on his various different teaching experiences while learning Chinese.
3) Chinese Hacks
Great website with a whole lot of different resources, ranging from idioms and vocab to a blog and other interactive resources. Good for all levels, whether you have 5 minutes a day to spare or multiple hours.
4) Translation in Chinese
A good website with various important and popular phrases, good for beginners and semi-beginners, as well as those new to China and the Chinese culture, as most phrases are encompassed by a cultural lesson.
5) Hacking Chinese
A website focusing on how to learn Chinese rather than what to learn. Good for beginners or those who have been learning for a longer time, but are willing to experiment with some different methods in order to improve quicker.
This is just a start. There are of course many other resources, methods for learning Chinese. For example, you could freshen up on your Chinese songs and hit KTV, which will help improve the rhythm of your spoken Chinese. If you know of any other resources or have any helpful tips add them in the comment section below.
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