Watching Chinese TV for language learning

So I’m sitting on the couch about five minutes into an episode of this one show that’s supposedly the Chinese equivalent of Friends (爱情公寓) when Jessica, who’s sitting opposite where she can hear the dialogue but can’t see the screen, suddenly says, “Hey! I know that scene! They’re totally ripping that off!” Turns out this show isn’t just a similar; it actually copied parts of the script and story from the original Friends so blatantly that Chinese viewers complained on social media and the producers apologized.

american_Friends
(So does that make it extra Chinese?)
chinese_friends

I’ve never even seen a full episode of the original Friends, but it’s really popular in China for learning English — the dialogue is simple, filled with digestible one-or-two-liners, and the canned laughter tells you how to understand the context (funny, sad, touching, etc.). That’s what we need, only in Chinese: something that’s easy to follow because it’s simple nearly to the point of stupid. We’re not aiming for challenging content; we’re aiming for lots of content. (And the reality of it is, nearly any Chinese TV show is challenging; you’ll need intermediate/upper-intermediate Chinese to even attempt to follow most mainstream Chinese media.)

In addition to Googling through the language study blogs, I asked on Weixin what TV series we should watch for language learning. Here’s what the first 26 responses suggested: 人民的民义(x8)、西游记(x3)、琅琊榜(x2)、欢乐颂(x2)、大宅门、伪装者、父母爱情、芈月传、甄嬛传、三国、一仆二主、大头儿子,小头爸爸、小别离、我爱我家、康熙王朝、神探狄仁杰、海尔弟兄。

At different language levels, you need to study in different ways. I’m in the middle of revamping my study routine — much in the spirit of what Hacking Chinese describes here — and part of that is regularly consuming more Chinese content.

Are there any Chinese TV shows you’ve actually found helpful to your language study?

We haven’t picked anything to follow yet, but we’ll take a look at 欢乐颂、我爱我家、大头儿子,小头爸爸 and 人民的民义,along with 爸爸去哪儿?, 快乐大本营 and 爱情公寓。And for whatever we watch, we’ll also try to get our hands on the subtitle files.

xkcd’s Duty Calls in Chinese

Humour may be hard to translate, but with xkcd’s life-altering Duty Calls, someone had to try.
dutycalls中文
你还不上床? nǐ hái bù shàngchuáng?
等会儿。手头有要紧事。děnghuìr。shǒutóu yǒu yàojǐn shì。
你说什么? nǐ shuō shénme?
网上有个人很蠢! wǎngshàng yǒu ge rén hěnchǔn!

This was part of a class assignment, and it’s been polished by my teacher. Her first choice for the last line was, “网上有个彪子!” But, “彪子 (biāozi) is a little 脏(zāng)” [giggle] “Well, it’s not that 脏” [giggle giggle] “just a little.” [more giggling]

How to tally things up in Chinese

Found this on a partially finished structure in a work site on the east side of the last remaining piece of Qingdao’s old Licun Prison for Chinese:chinese_tallyingThis is how you tally things up in Chinese — with the character æ­£. Notice it has five strokes, just like Western tallying, and that the last æ­£ in each section is only partially finished. Go ahead and count ’em up, and see if their total of 266 is accurate!

tallywestern

The Romance of Han & Leia — in Chinese

First let’s set the relational context by recalling Han (汉 hàn) and Leia’s (莱娅 láiyà) recent romantic history…
delusionslaserbrain
aloneinthesouthpassage
truefeelings02
…in which Leia calls Han a:
stuckup
nerfherder
scruffylookin
…and then looks at him like this:
leiaglare
Leia (莱娅 láiyà):
真不知道这些幻想哪里来的 zhēn bùzhīdào zhèxiē huànxiǎng nǎlǐ láide
“Really don’t know where these illusions come from”

Han (汉 hàn):
但你没在南侧通道看到我们 dàn nǐ méi zài náncè tōngdào kàndào wǒmen
“But you didn’t see us in the south passage”
她对我倾诉钟情了喔 tā duì wǒ qīngsù zhōngqíng le ō
“She poured out her heart to me”

Leia (莱娅 láiyà):
你这个自大、愚蠢、邋遢的呆瓜! nǐ zhège zìdà、yúchǔn、lātade dāiguā
“You self-important, foolish, sloppy idiot!”

Han (汉 hàn):
谁邋遢了?shuí lāta le?
“Who’s sloppy?”

Undaunted, our hero Han, who always shoots first, is not about to let little things like kissing your brother or getting called nerf herder slow him down for long:
scoundrel00a
scoundrel00b
scoundrel01
scoundrel02
scoundrel03
scoundrel04
scoundrel05
Han (汉 hàn):
承认吧,有时候你觉得我还不错
chéngrènba,yǒushíhòu nǐ juéde wǒ hái bùcuò
“Admit it, sometimes you think I’m not too bad”

scoundrelliumangLeia (莱娅 láiyà):
或许……偶尔吧……
huòxǔ……ǒuěrba……
“Perhaps, occasionally”
你在不耍流氓的时候
nǐ zài bù shuǎliúmáng deshíhòu
“When you aren’t behaving like a hoodlum”

Han (汉 hàn):
耍流氓?shuǎliúmáng?
耍流氓?shuǎliúmáng?
“Behaving like a hoodlum? Behaving like a hoodlum?”
你喜欢我,因为我是流氓
nǐ xǐhuān wǒ,yīnwèi wǒ shì liúmáng
“You like me, because I’m a hoodlum”
你这人就需要流氓
nǐ zhè rén jiù xūyào liúmáng
“You need a hoodlum”

“I’ve got a bad feeling about this” — in Chinese

buxiangde yuganEvery single “I’ve got a bad feeling about this” line from the original Star Wars trilogy — in Chinese.

For all those times in China you wish you’d known how to say, “Um, guys? I’ve got an inauspicious premonition about this…”

Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope
星球大战4:新希望 xīngqiú dàzhàn: xīn xīwàng
badfeeling01
badfeeling02
Luke Skywalker 卢克·天行者 lúkè tiānxíngzhě:
“I have a very bad feeling about this.”
Han Solo 汉·索洛 hàn suǒluò:
“I got a bad feeling about this.”

Both lines translated as:
我有种不祥的预感 wǒ yǒu zhǒng bùxiángde yùgǎn
“I have a kind of inauspicious premonition.”

Honourable mention: 伍基 楚巴卡 wǔjī chǔbākǎ aka 楚伊 chǔyī

Star Wars: Episode V The Empire Strikes Back
星球大战5:帝国反击战 xīngqiú dàzhàn: dìguó fǎjī zhàn
(The Empire Counter-Attack War)
badfeeling03
Princess Leia 莱娅公主 láiyà gōngzhÇ”: “I have a bad feeling about this.”

我有不祥的预感 wǒ yǒu bùxiángde yùgǎn
“I have an inauspicious premonition.”

Star Wars: Episode VI Return of the Jedi
星球大战6:绝地归来 xīngqiú dàzhàn: juédì guīlái
badfeeling04
badfeeling05
C-3PO: “R2, I have a bad feeling about this.”

我有种不祥的预感 wǒ yǒu zhǒng bùxiángde yùgǎn
“I have a kind of inauspicious premonition.”

Han Solo 汉·索洛 hàn suÇ’luò: “I have a really bad feeling about this.”

我有种不好的预感 wǒ yǒu zhǒng bùhǎode yùgǎn
“I have a kind of not good premonition.”

BONUS! Star Wars: Episode VII The Force Awakens
星球大战7:原力觉醒 xīngqiú dàzhàn: yuánlì juéxǐng

P.S. – The list of lines comes from Wookieepedia.

P.P.S. – Character names came from Baidu, so no guarantees.

P.P.P.S. – More bonus!

“May the Force be with you”
愿原力与你同在
yuàn yuánlì yǔ nǐ tóngzài

And if you’re with your small laowai kids at a Chinese restaurant or your neighbours’:

“May a fork be with you”
愿叉子与你同在
yuàn chāzi yǔ nǐ tóngzài

English teachers in China be like… (LOTR version!)

I’m thankful for this day job at the neighbourhood preschool; it gives us a visa and a place in the local community, and it’s easy. But some days — like right now at the end of the semester when you have to prepare 200 Chinese 3-to-6-year-olds for their English exam — I could be one of several characters on a hopeless quest into the depths of Mordor:
one-does-not-simply_CHINESE_PRESCHOOL_PRONUNCIATION
Gollom-hates-it-forever_PRESCHOOL_EFL
I-cant-recall_ENGLISH
English-teachers-in-China-be-like_POH-TAY-TOES