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The Quick Guide to Binge-Learn Mandarin Chinese Through TV Shows

Apr. 19, 2019

HSK 3 quiz

Here we are going to introduce 3 TV shows that are recommended for Chinese language learners. Not only does it train your ear for listening skills but you also get to be exposed to Chinese culture as well. This is a great way to create a more immersive environment and can be a wonderful supplement to your structured learning.

Learn Chinese through Movies And TV Programs

1. 家有儿女 (Jiā yǒu érnǚ) Home with Kids

What’s it about?

“家有儿女 (Jiā yǒu érnǚ) Home with Kids” is a funny and relaxing sitcom based on the theme of childhood that tells interesting stories between a mother and a father that were both recently divorced and came together to unite their families including their three children.

The story of this show takes features a special family including the parents, Xia Donghai and Liu Mei’s relatable characters. They are strict while loving and caring for their growing children and expect to integrate their shared love and wisdom to cultivate their children and create a happy and new life for them.

Although the three kids living under the same roof are different in relation and age, they get along as if they were close friends. The whole show still displays all of the problems of children growing up in family life, such as learning, making friends, honesty, love, interests, conflict of ideas, and so on.

Why should you watch it?

The story is simple to follow and is funny. In addition, because of the family theme, it is conducive to students’ understanding of Chinese family life and family culture.

Since the language speed of the characters is slow, it is helpful for the students to learn and therefore, it is good for seasoned Chinese language learners.

And the plot of each episode was adapted as a textbook and is very popular among foreign friends who love Chinese.

At which level is it suitable for Chinese learners?

This series is suitable for students at the middle and advanced level. And students at the primary level need to have explanations by a teacher on the side.

It would be very helpful for Chinese language learners to learn a lot of useful and daily Chinese vocabulary: for example, how to “称呼 (chēnghū) address” family members such as “爸爸 (bàba) father,” “妈妈 (māma) mother,”“儿子 (érzi) son,”“女儿 (nǚ’ér) daughter,”etc; and learn native dialogue based on various themes in daily life. The Family oriented themed TV series would be the easiest to understand.

And if you think about it, it kind of makes sense, doesn’t it? Between “家庭 (jiātíng) family” and daily “生活 (shēnghuó) life,” all of the conversations are still colloquial. Only the simplest of words are necessary to express your ideas, which really fall under the scope of questions like “what’s wrong”, “hows the weather”, “where are you going”, and so on. It goes without saying that it’s indeed simple to understand.

The keywords that we focus on for this series include many familial words as seen below.

爸爸 (Bàba) papa; dad; father; daddy

妈妈 (Māma) mother, mom; mum; mommy

儿子 (Érzi) son

女儿 (Nǚ’ér) daughter

家庭 (Jiātíng) family

生活 (Shēnghuó) life

The interesting daily dialogue for this series can be seen below.

Liú Xīng: Mā, nǐ néng gěi diǎnr líng huā qián ma?
刘星: 妈,你能给点儿零花钱吗?
Liu Xing: Mom, can you give me some pocket money?

Mā: Gàn má?
妈: 干嘛?
Mom: Why?

Liú Xīng (mō le mō tóufà): Wǒ xiǎng bǎ zhè wányìr rǎn chéng lǜ de, zài jiāo yígè nǚ péngyǒu.
刘星(摸了摸头发): 我想把这玩意儿染成绿的,再交一个女朋友。
Liu Xing (touched his hair): I want to dye this green and get a girlfriend.

Mā: Nǐ gǎn!
妈: 你敢!
Mom: Don’t you dare!

Liú Xīng: Wèishénme Xiǎo Xuě jiù néng zhǎo kuángyě nánhái, wǒ jiù bùnéng zhǎo wǒ de yěmán nǚyǒu a?
刘星: 为什么小雪就能找狂野男孩,我就不能找我的野蛮女友啊?
Liu Xing: Why can Xiao Xue (his elder sister) have her wild boy, and can I not find my sassy girlfriend?

Mā : Nǐ yào gǎn zhǎo yěmán nǚyǒu, nǐ jiù huì fāxiàn nǐ yǒu yígè yòu kuángyě yòu yěmán de lǎo mā!
妈: 你要敢找野蛮女友,你就会发现你有一个又狂野又野蛮的老妈!
Mom: If you meet a sassy girlfriend, you’ll find you have a wild and sassy mother!

Click it to watch the video

2. 小别离 (Xiǎo biélí) A Love for Separation

What’s it about?

It was adapted from Lu Yin Gong’s novel “小别离 (Xiǎo biélí) A Love for Separation,” focused on the Chinese-style parent-child relationship and covers the hot topic of “the overseas student boom.”

In this show, three families with different socioeconomic backgrounds are featured to represent countless families in today’s Chinese society. Although the situation is different, they have to face multiple pressures about the children going to school, studying abroad, and adolescence problems. And the middle-aged parents are themselves experiencing professional and family challenges and pains.

In the end, it is the growth of their children that support the big beliefs of every small family and they gradually realize that studying abroad is by no means the way to solve all their problems.

Why should you watch it?

The setting of the show revolves around high school students abroad and tells the story of three families facing their children’s entrance to various schools, studying abroad, and adolescence. Therefore, it is quite useful to see familial life from this perspective as well as hear daily language regarding education and life struggles.

As a modern drama, the content is up to date, relatively relaxed, and since it’s from the perspective of ordinary people, we can understand the life of Chinese people.

At which level is it suitable for Chinese learners?

This series is suitable for students at or above the middle level of Chinese since the dialogue contains a lot of natural and daily conversations.

It would be better to have a certain proficiency in Chinese before watching this. Otherwise, you ’ll struggle to understand what’s going on. You will know more about Chinese parents’ educational methods and ideas through it, or you can learn some commonly-used Chinese words and expressions on education and study through standard dialogue, such as: “留学 (liúxué) study abroad,””出国 (chūguó) go abroad,””青春期 (qīngchūnqī) adolescence,” and so on. You can also learn how to talk about a series of questions and topics on studying abroad, which will help you to efficiently improve your reading comprehension and listening ability.

The keywords that you can learn from this recommended series include words related to education and family matters.

Chinese Keywords:

留学 (Liúxué) study abroad

出国 (Chūguó) go abroad; leave one’s native land; went abroad

青春期 (Qīngchūnqī) puberty; adolescence

问题 (Wèntí) question; problem; matter; trouble; issue

It’s not enough to just soak up the vocabulary, though. Here are a few classic lines from the TV series.

Chéngzhǎng de guòchéng jiù shì yígè dǐzhì yòuhuò de guòchéng.
成长的过程就是一个抵制诱惑的过程。
The process of growth is a process of resisting temptation.

Xìngfú jiù shì xuǎnzé zìjǐ xǐhuān de fāngshì shēnghuó xiàqù.
幸福就是选择自己喜欢的方式生活下去。
Happiness is to choose the way you like to live.

Click it to watch the video

Unlike the previous two, this last series we will look at today is devoted to “职场汉语交际 (zhíchǎng hànyǔ jiāojì) Workplace Chinese communication.”

3. 欢乐颂 (Huānlè sòng) Ode to Joy

What’s it about?

The synopsis includes five women that are very different in character and live in the same neighborhood called Ode to Joy. Each woman faces different difficulties and disappointments from work, love, and family. They know each other because of the neighborhood relationship.

The ladies go from acquaintances but gradually accepting each other then eventually get closer. In this process, they have worked together to solve the problems and puzzles that have occurred to each other’ lives and have witnessed each others growth and transformation.

This series conveys the values of keeping pace with the times and being positive. The five women never evade their faults and shortcomings in life, in the workplace or in love. At the same time, regardless of their family circumstances, they all work hard, live actively, and love each other while constantly getting better. It also shows modern women’ emotions, behavior, and growth as women in the 21st century.

Why should you watch it?

“Ode to Joy” has been said to be an excellent work depicting reality in recent years. Regardless of the subject matter, the plot, or even the characters, it can be said that it is truly in line with the developments and changes within society, which are very relatable to our own lives.

It is a work related to our own lives, and because of this, it will affect our lives, lead the trends in thinking throughout the mass culture, and change widespread public opinion in society. The reason it has become a popular drama is due to the reality of its subject matter. The five people in the show represent each of the five groups of people in today’s society and are extremely representative and authentic.

At which level is it suitable for Chinese learners?

It is suitable for middle and advanced Chinese students. For foreigners who are learning Chinese for the purpose of business communication, Ode to Joy is one of the best manuals of Chinese communication in the workplace.

By watching Ode to Joy, viewers can expect to be exposed to a lot of useful workplace communication as well as natural dialogue between associates about various topics including “爱 (ài) love.” This TV series is a practical choice for Chinese language learners who want to learn more contemporary figures of speech as well. Therefore, this series is highly recommended for most anyone looking to expand their Chinese language scope.

Learn a Useful Chinese Character: 爱 (Ài) Love (Beginner)

Click it to watch the video

All of the shows were handpicked by our teachers at eChineseLearning for their quality dialogue and relatability. They are popular and are great additions to learning Chinese. From these 3 TV series which would you most likely enjoy watching? After you take the quiz let us know in the comments below!

HSK 3 quiz
1. After reading the dialogue answer the question below.

Lì Li: Zuìjìn yǒu yí bù jiào zuò xiǎo biélí de diànshìjù hěn búcuò, tuījiàn nǐ kàn kan.
丽丽:最近有一部叫做小别离 的电视剧很不错,推荐你看看。

Xiǎo Xīn: Hǎo de, wǒ huì qù kàn de.
小新:好的,我会去看的。

What is the literal meaning of “小 (xiǎo)” in “小别离 (xiǎo biélí) A Love for Separation?”

A. Long
B. Short
C. Small
D. Big

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