Studying Chinese

My Chinese listening goal for 2012

I already have goal for managing my vocabulary (Skritter goal) and for reading Chinese books, but of course that is not enough. So here comes the Chinese listening goal for 2012:

Watch as much Chinese TV as I watch American TV

You might think this isn’t a very good goal, how much TV watching does that mean? Let me first tell you how many American TV shows I’m following at the moment: Desperate Housewives, Gossip Girl, Pan Am, Revenge, Pretty Little Liars, Grey’s Anatomy, Switched at Birth, Private Practice, Good Wife and The Lying Game. Oh my, that is a lot! That means 10 episodes every week (at the moment).

Here comes the catch! If I want to watch 10 episodes of American drama every week, I also have to watch 10 episodes of Chinese drama (or any other kind of TV show) a week. Now just forget all those series I listed and imagine I just told you I watch 10 episodes of Chinese TV series per week, sounds good right?

Keeping studying fun keeps me studying

I know that not everyone likes to watch TV and some of you might think I’m wasting a lot of time by watching my favourite American dramas. But watching TV gives me too things, language practice and relaxation. Remember that English isn’t my native language and I do have to practice it or I forget it (just like what happened with German and Swedish, and what is happening to my spoken English).

I have used ChinesePod before, especially when I was still at elementary level and couldn’t follow native material. I also started listening their upper-intermediate shows last Autumn, but gave it up a while ago. I have to keep my studies as fun as possible in order to keep enjoying Chinese, and to be frank watching TV is more fun than listening podcasts. But if you’re a beginner or at elementary level in Chinese I do recommend trying ChinesePod.

Chinese shows I like

Majority of Chinese dramas are too fake, too dramatic or too cute for me, but I have manages to find one show I like. 裸婚时代 is about young Chinese adults who face lots of pressure from the society and from their parents to live a life that is expected from them. A young couple find out they are going to have a baby, get married and try to figure out how to manage this new life situation. I can understand most of the dialog and I can enjoy the show even there are vocabulary I don’t know yet.

A bit more challenging one is a daily show 纪实 which introduces interesting and heart braking real life stories around China. It’s excellent listening material for intermediate and advanced learners. I have to concentrate quite a lot when listening to this show, but I think it’s needed in order to get my listening skills to the next level.

Managing my goal

This is simple! I have a post-it where on the left says Chinese TV and on the right American TV. Every time I watch an episode I mark it to the post-it and keep the tally marks even.


Do you think watching TV is a waste of time or a good way to learn languages?


  • Stanley

    How about the show I mentioned on your twitter?
    There is an Austrian actress playing a Russian girl speaking fluent mandarin.


    Sara Reply:

    Thank you for reminding my Stanley, I still haven’t watched it. Have to add to my list!


  • seija

    Absolutely a good thing to watch tv to keep up your English and to learn Chinese. Although I think your English tv-serials are a bit one-sided for language purposes. What about some neat documentaries, too.

    Basic family dramas are excellent to learn the basics of any language.

    I would tighten up the regime, for two Chinese dramas you could watch one English. What do you think of that…just to give you more time for Chinese learning.


    Sara Reply:

    Do you know any websites where I could watch documentaries about China in English? I would love that.

    I think I will first keep up with one Chinese episode for one American episode, but might reconsider that later on.


  • Shu

    You should include song singing to your listening goal :) It is enjoyable and memory lasts for a long long time.
    Also, try the news or radio. It will help you with the current usage of words and issues.


    Sara Reply:

    I can sing to myself when I’m alone, but don’t want anyone else to hear my terrible singing :) I like 酷狗 because it has subtitles for most songs.


  • Ana

    I like to watch American shows like Gossip Girl with Chinese subtitles or dubbing on, depending on what I’m practicing. This works well because I’m not familiar enough with Chinese/Taiwanese shows to find stuff I like, plus of course it ensures I’ll have an English translation available. Have you tried that? It’s one of my favorite things about learning a foreign language, not having to feel bad about wasting time watching junk TV! :)


    Sara Reply:

    Can you find them online? That would be a great solution to my problem! :)


    Ana Reply:

    There’s a few ways to do it. First and easiest, you can find some American shows with Chinese subtitles on and sites like that. Second, if you’re willing to put a bit of work into it, a pretty comprehensive selection of Chinese subtitles is available at The “work” comes because you then have to match up these subtitle files with video files you get elsewhere. Finally, if you buy DVDs of American shows in China, they will typically have subtitles or dubbing available as an option. Hope this helps!


    Sara Reply:

    I know what I’m going to say is just excuses, but I know if something like this takes too much work, I probably don’t do it. DVD’s would be great, but I happen to own two computers, both having problems with their DVD player, sometimes it works but usually doesn’t. I’ve got lots of DVD’s from my friends, but can’t really watch them. This would really be the ideal situation, if I also forget the fact that I watch new episodes as soon as they are shown in America.

    I think my best bet still is to watch Chinese TV shows and just try to find those series and shows I can tolerate or even like :)


  • Rosalie Davis

    Hi Sara. I’m slowly reading through your blog. I appreciate your suggestions for studying Chinese. I always promise myself that I’ll watch Chinese TV shows and movies, but I rarely do. I do think it helps, so I’m going to try 裸婚时代. The only show I’ve ever gotten through is 北京人在纽约, which is a show from the early 90’s. I found it pretty interesting, especially being an American. They way they portray the US and the cultural differences is entertaining and it’s an easy show to follow.


    Sara Jaaksola Reply:

    Don’t beat yourself too hard if you don’t study as hard as you would like to. That happens to be all the time. Just start again :)


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