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5 Best Chinese Series to Learn Chinese

Discover five Chinese TV shows in our latest blog post. From the bustling night markets in "宵夜江湖S2" to the classic tale of "西游记," we explore a range of series that delve into family dynamics, professional struggles, and cultural adventures.


1. 宵夜江湖S2 (xiao1 ye4 jiang1 hu2)


What the show is about: In this mini-documentary, through diverse local cuisines and splendid culinary skills, the producers demonstrated the vitality of the night food markets in many Chinese cities, as well as the resilience and optimistic life attitudes of the restaurant owners.

Number of episodes: 8

Where to watch: YouTube

Notes: no English subtitles, but the pictures are really authentic and vivid, viewers would get many cultural exposure.


2. 少年派 (shao 4 nian 2 pai 4)


What the show is about: The show centers around 4 Chinese families, all of which have a senior in High School, the adolescents not only have to face the college entrance exams but also friendship crises and family dramas. This show opens discussion on parent & teenage children’s relationship dynamic and reminds people no matter what happens, families should stick together and grow together.

Number of episodes: 40

Where to watch: YouTube

Notes: with English subtitles.


3. 理智派生活 (the rational life)

The Rational Life-1

What the show is about: a career-driven woman not only has to face a difficult work environment, but also her nagging mom whose only determination is to force her daughter to get married.

Number of episodes: 35

Where to watch: Netflix


4. 一号法庭S1 (yi1 hao4 fa3 ting2)


What the show is about: through 13 legal cases in Hong Kong, the show presented us with the dedication of a team of lawyers, how they participated in the judiciary processes in modern-day Hong Kong, as well as how they balance their professional lives with their outside personal lives.

Number of episodes: 13

Where to watch: YouTube

Notes: no English subtitles, but around level 2 would be able to understand most language.


5. 西游记 (journey to the west)


What the show is about: a must-watch Chinese classic novel, the most intriguing aspect of this is people at different stages of their lives can find their resonance with this show, kids can enjoy the monster fighting, young adults can learn a thing or two on how to interact with people who are wiser than you, older adults can see the invisible forces that shape our thoughts and behaviors in society.

Number of episodes: 40

Where to watch: YouTube

Notes: with English subtitles.


How to learn Chinese while enjoying your series?

Expanding on the tips provided for learning languages through films, here’s a deeper dive into how you can leverage movies and series to learn Chinese. Each tip is designed to help you immerse yourself more effectively in the language and culture you're studying.

1. Read the Synopsis Carefully

Before diving into a new film or series, take some time to read through the synopsis. This gives you a clear idea of the storyline, main themes, and characters. By understanding the context beforehand, you can focus more on the language and less on trying to follow the plot. This pre-knowledge aids in anticipating dialogues and scenes, making it easier to grasp language nuances from the get-go.

2. Slow It Down

Modern streaming platforms often offer the ability to adjust playback speed. Slowing down the speech can help in catching pronunciation, intonation, and the natural rhythm of the language. However, to avoid distortion, it’s advised not to reduce the speed below 0.75f. This balance ensures clarity while giving you extra time to process the language.

3. Use Close-Captioning in the Target Language

Opt for close captioning in the language you’re learning rather than relying on translations. Close captions more accurately reflect the spoken dialogue, including colloquial expressions and slang. This direct exposure reinforces listening comprehension and helps bridge the gap between formal and informal language use.

4. Active Listening

Engage deeply with the dialogue by focusing on how words are pronounced and the melody of sentences. Mimicking the actors not only improves your accent and fluency but also enhances your understanding of emotional nuances and cultural context.

5. Repeat and Shadow

Select scenes or dialogues to watch repeatedly, then practice shadowing by repeating the dialogue as it’s spoken. This technique is akin to a speaking exercise, offering you the chance to practice pronunciation, rhythm, and intonation in a real-world context.

6. Use Pause and Repeat

Whenever you encounter unfamiliar words or phrases, pause the film to look them up. Make a note of these new vocabulary items and try incorporating them into your own sentences. This active engagement transforms passive watching into an interactive language lesson.

7. Watch Multiple Episodes of One Series

Commit to watching several episodes, or even a whole season, of the same series. This consistency allows you to become familiar with the characters’ speech patterns, accents, and the series' thematic vocabulary. Each episode builds on the last, deepening your understanding and connection to the language.

8. Consistency is Key

Incorporate films and series in your target language into your regular study routine. Consistent exposure is crucial for gradual improvement and helps in retaining the language. Like any skill, language learning benefits from regular practice and immersion.

By following these expanded tips, you’re not just watching TV; you’re engaging in a comprehensive and enjoyable language learning experience. Movies and series offer a rich source of authentic language, cultural insights, and real-world context that textbooks alone cannot provide. At ICLS, we believe that culture is an essential component of language learning and add cultural topics to our Chinese classes. 

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