Chinese TV shows have been great for my brain
I like TV. I’ve been told that it’s bad for your brain, but if you’re like me and like to unwind with a good (or terrible) crime show, then I say harness the power of television for language learning as well. Listening comprehension has always been my weakest area, and listening to recordings without anything visual to grasp on to stresses me out. So I find TV to be an effective and enjoyable way to hone my listening skills. Three shows that I’ve watched over the years stand out for me as favourites. They may not be the best in Chinese TV shows or have the most profound storylines, but they have each had a significant role in my language learning.
水晶之恋 (Romantic Crystal Love)
This is the first Chinese drama I watched in its entirety. It played when I studied in Harbin for two months, my first study abroad experience. My friends and I got hooked on the storyline (something about forbidden love, I think) and would gather around in someone’s room to watch it every night. At this point, we only had about a year of Chinese classes behind us and a couple of weeks in China, so quite a bit went over our heads, but the great thing about these kinds of shows is the amount that you can glean from body language and context. We may not have understood exactly what the main character said to her boyfriend, but we do know they both walked home in the rain, crying. That kind of knowledge, combined with the amount we were able to glean from our understanding, made watching the show fun and got us excited about improving our listening. Watching it together allowed us to co-construct meaning and bond as a group, which are both vital processes in language learning.
情深深雨濛濛 (Romance in the Rain)
I bought this show at the end of my time in Harbin, and I watched it when I got home. The story is set in 1930s Shanghai and deals with some heavier historical events. Still, the story is relatively simple enough to follow and contextual clues make it fairly accessible to learners. (My mom used to watch it with me sometimes, and I would occasionally translate. Once, I proudly let her know that the two characters had just broken up, and she responded with “I gathered as much from the yelling.”) Watching this show at home in Canada made me assert more agency in my learning. Instead of leaving it at school, I started incorporating Chinese more into the things I do during my spare time–and I started to do things that I wanted to do instead of just readings and homework that I had to do.
我叫金三顺 (내 이름은 김삼순-My Lovely Sam Soon)
This is a Korean show that was dubbed into Chinese and aired during my second study abroad experience. By this time, I had four years of classes and a few months in China under my belt, and I was able to understand substantially more. Being dubbed made it a bit more difficult to follow, but this show marks the peak of my confidence in Chinese. Being able to follow the majority of the storyline without relying only on the dramatic signposts made me feel like a “true” speaker of Chinese, which in turn made me more motivated in other areas of my learning.
It’s been a while since I’ve watched a Chinese TV show from beginning to end, but I have a sudden desire to improve my listening skills…