If you want to learn Chinese you need to memorize common Chinese speaking phrases. You will also need to learn the many different meanings one character can have when combined.
The best way to do this is to copy phrases and characters from real dialogues, but it’s not always so easy. Some shows’ language is too fast and complex for beginners. The easiest way to start is with simple cartoons instead of live action shows.
These five cartoons will help you upgrade from a toddler’s Chinese level to a first grader’s.
1 Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf | 喜羊羊与灰太狼 | Xǐ YángYáng Yǔ Huī Tàiláng
This show is classic cartoon comic relief with tons of “Tom & Jerry”-style action. It centers around a wolf’s wife telling him to bring food home. The food in question is the school-aged goats. Each time the wolf, Wolffy, tries to bring food home, his plan is foiled by Weslie the goat and his pals.
This cartoon has been popular ever since its debut in 2005. Since then, the story line has gotten more complex. It has had six animated shows and two live action movies. You can even find it playing on the screens inside of subways and trains. Sometimes the cartoon is even repurposed to give safety announcements.
It’s a silly fun story with simplified Chinese and English subtitles. There is only one warning: It is at a native speaker’s second grade level and may be difficult to learn for fresh beginners.
2 Peppa Pig | 小猪配齐 | Xiǎo Zhū Pèi Qí
Highlight:This video stops periodically to break down the episode’s dialogue.
“Peppa Pig” is one of the best cartoons for Chinese beginners. The language is very simple and repetitive. It also has a lot of day-to-day vocabulary in its sitcom-like episodes that make learning the basics entertaining.
Peppa is a cute kindergarten-age pig in a family of four who has realistic adventures in her town.
Originally a British show, “Peppa Pig” has become very popular in China since it first aired in 2015. The franchise even has a cute live action film called “Peppa Pig Celebrates Chinese New Year."
Everything about “Peppa Pig” is family friendly except for that one time it was banned on Chinese TikTok for being related to gangster content.
Pro-Tip: This playlist offers the pinyin, English and Chinese characters all at once.
3 Penelope | 蓝色小考拉 | Lán Sè Xiǎo Kǎo Lā
This cartoon series is even more simple to learn than “Peppa Pig.” Each episode is only 5 minutes long.
“Penelope” centers around the life of a blue 3-year-old koala bear. The show follows her playing, learning basic life skills and spending time with her family.
Here is a list of subbed “Penelope” episodes on Bilibili.
4 Boonie Bear | 熊出没 | Xióng Chūmò
Pro-Tip: Use the auto-translate feature from the original Chinese subtitles into English.
Studying Chinese with the help of cartoons can’t be all fun. If you really want to learn, you must pause the show multiple times then write down key words and phrases.
For a show like “Boonie Bear,” it’s worth it. This Chinese cartoon franchise came out in 2012 and is very popular for its 3D animation. The story-line follows two bear brothers protecting their forest whom go from enemies to friends with a logger.
It is good for a native-speaking first grader due to its simple sentences, yet mature content. Well, more mature than “Penelope” or “Peppa Pig” that is.
5 Bob the Builder | 巴布工程师 | Bā Bù Gōngchéngshī
This British show is great for learning basic work and professional language. You’d be amazed at how much you can learn about talking to customers and coworkers by listening to Bob.
There are no options to show both Chinese and English subtitles, but you have a choice. If you watch this first playlist, it gives you the Chinese dub with Chinese subtitles. If you watch this second playlist, it gives you the English dub with Chinese subtitles.
The first playlist is better for those who want to write each phrase and decipher it with a Chinese way of mind. Choose the second playlist if you want to write the Chinese equivalent of common English phrases. Objectively, the first playlist is better for long term learning.
What’s your learning level? Let us know if these cartoons help you below.