The coronavirus outbreak has caused many changes in our day-to-day life. People are urged to stay at home and only physically interact with people when necessary. In places like New York City, everything considered “non-essential” is closed. While social distancing is needed for one’s own health and that of the public, it can be taxing for a number of reasons.
Personally, one of the most difficult things to do in quarantine is to maintain a healthy psyche and stay motivated. Given these tense times, the last thing people need is worrying about maintaining their skills in Chinese. Without access to language partners, tutors, classes, language labs or motivation, this task can prove to be quite difficult. So from one fellow stressed and unmotivated student to another, below are three lazy and low-pressure ways to practice your Chinese.
1 Watch TV with Chinese subtitles instead!
Who doesn’t enjoy putting on a lighthearted Chinese TV show to decompress? Chinese shows are highly entertaining, have numerous genres and have just enough comic relief to bring levity. Perfect for physical distancing at home! But don’t be tempted to put on the subtitles in your native language. Instead put on Chinese subtitles and follow along to see how much of the story and details you can pick up. An additional step you can take if you aren’t very confident in your listening skills is skimming the episode synopsis beforehand to get a general idea of the plot. Better yet, rewatch a drama you’ve seen before, but this time only with Chinese subtitles.
Start off easy with our Netflix Movie List. And then dive into more heavy hitting dramas that can be found on Viki (a free and safe Asian Drama watching site) and on YouTube channels. I personally recommend “The Untamed,” a period drama about clans of cultivators (the show’s term for magic users) and their struggle for power, available on Netflix and YouTube.
2 Put on some Chinese Speaking Vloggers
While there are many articles that recommend various YouTube channels dedicated to learning Chinese language and culture, those channels can get a bit tedious. For a more laid back option, opt for watching casual Chinese-speaking videos that don’t specifically cater to learning the language.
That might seem counterintuitive, but watching simple day-to-day vlogs or recipe videos is a good way to build on whatever structured knowledge you already have. It exposes listeners to casual dialogue and shows examples of the language being used in an everyday setting.
Some examples of Chinese speaking YouTubers are:
Kevin in Shanghai, a vlogger that does various skitts about the differences within Asian cultures, and differences between the Eastern and the Western cultures.
Dear Nessie, a student at Peking University in Beijing. She mainly produces “day in the life” videos and study vlogs in Manderin and English.
Kathyyymm, a filmmaker who creates makeup videos as well as travel vlogs in Manderin that have both Chinese and English subtitles.
If you really want to put your skills to the test, try watching Jessica (小蝶今天吃饱了), a YouTuber from Guizho who also attends Peking University. Jessica also makes “day in the life” and study vlogs, but none of her videos have English words or subtitles.
And if vlogs aren’t your speed, try watching cooking channels, like Amanda Tastes, who makes everything from macaroons to fermented bean curd.
3 Sit Back and Enjoy Some Chinese Talk Shows
Asian talk shows are known for being high-energy, colorful and mildly outlandish. Most people don’t see them as a resource for learning Chinese, but they are actually highly useful. The talk show dialogue is easy to understand and the added wit makes it more entertaining and gives Chinese learners a better sense of Chinese humor.
Who knows, maybe you’ll see an actor from your favorite drama as a guest.
Chinese talk shows are also surprisingly accessible. Hunan Television’s YouTube Channel uploads most of their talk show content. This includes Happy Camp, a variety show that invites celebrities to play physical and intellectual games, and Day Day Up, a talk show that draws people in with humor and various public figures.
No doubt everyone is going through difficult times right now. Studying Chinese might not even be on your radar, and for good reason. But using the methods above is a great way to keep being productive and improving a skill, while being entertained and not adding any unnecessary stress.