Watching TV or movies in Chinese is a great way to improve your Chinese, as it teaches you skills you may not normally pick up from traditional books and CDs. If original Chinese shows and movies are too difficult for you, you can start off with Western shows / movies that are dubbed into Chinese, and work your way up from there. DVDs are a great choice for this activity, since they give you the option to control what subtitles you see.
Most Chinese TV / movies are shown with Chinese subtitles. This is obviously a great way to practice your reading since you can try and follow along with the speakers as the subtitles roll by. Don’t worry if you can’t pick out every character – you’ll get better with practice. Your brain will also learn to speed up over time, and you’ll be surprised with what you can read in the future, if you do this regularly.
Once you get really good, you’ll find yourself reading the subtitles faster than the speaker, than using the speaker to check if you got it right. Another option would be to watch the movie with a pause button – giving you time to read as much of the subtitles first, before unpausing it to see if you got it right.
For a different challenge, you can try watching Chinese content with English subtitles. This way your focus can be on the translation of what the speaker is saying. Don’t worry if the content goes by faster than you can process it. You can always repeat it later, to enhance your comprehension.
The trick is to find material that is slightly ahead of what your brain can normally comprehend. If it’s too complicated, your brain will tune out completely, whereas if it’s too easy then there’s no learning involved.
Apart from reading and listening comprehension, there are other benefits that also come from watching this type of content:
- Learning interjection particles and when to use them – basically the Chinese versions of “Ooh, wow, huh, ugh” etc. Watch enough content and you’ll find yourself subconsciously spouting out the same particles. That’s when you’ll know that you’ve crossed to the next level!
- Learning about Chinese culture – the shows and movies will showcase a variety of contexts such as parties, weddings, funerals and festivities where you’ll get to see how people participate and what types of things go on.
- Learning emotions – how do Chinese people react when they are angry, sad, excited, confused etc. What kinds of words and phrases do they use in these contexts?
The beauty of learning from this format is that many of the above points will be taught to you passively, so you can focus on enjoying the content, even though you’re learning so much on the side!