Practice Chinese while watching TV

How can watching a Chinese TV language series improve your language skills? If you have ever tried, you know it’s not an easy task. Every movie, TV program, and even advertisement requires at least a basic understanding of the language to know what’s going on. Nevertheless, spending some time watching Chinese productions can really improve your vocabulary and your listening skills.

To improve your Chinese language skills, the best way is to watch everything twice: first with English subtitles (if available) and then with Chinese subtitles. This way, you can focus on the language but still understand what’s happening in the storyline.

While there are a variety of TV shows and movies that China offers, a majority of them aren’t going to be the blockbuster hit of the summer. Mediocre acting, cliché storylines, and poor production value is pretty much a recipe for disaster. Fortunately, there are still a few hidden gems that we’ve uncovered for you!

So where do you go to find these binge worthy TV shows? Luckily for you, the Internet has plenty of options! Better than YouTube or Youku, we suggest Viki.com. It’s similar to Hulu but with a focus on movies and TV shows from all over Asia. It’s completely free and thanks to a huge community of volunteers, all major productions have subtitles in multiple languages. The one catch is that there are a few advertisements sprinkled throughout, so prepare yourself for a few intermissions.

Here are our top picks for binge worthy TV show.

Taiwan, 22 episodes, subs in English

Chen Che doesn’t know who his father is and the topic is a taboo subject in the Chen family. When an accident takes him back to 1989, a year before he was born, he gets a chance to find out for himself. He gets to know his younger, happier “mom” and the possible candidates for his father. He soon learns the reason his mother never talks about his father, and he is faced with a dilemma: He must choose between his mother’s future and his very existence.

This award winning Taiwanese series filled with fantasy, comedy, and romance is definitely worth your time. The plot of the story begins pretty quickly as the time traveling happens within a few minutes of the first episode. The story is engaging, keeps at a good pace, and really starts to suck you in, so it’s impossible to get bored. The production value is amazing, both for acting and directing. Since there are subtitles in multiple languages it’s easy to follow the story and understand everything that’s happening.

chinese tv
chinese tv

Taiwan, 15 episodes, subs in English

Meng Ke Huai is a famous romance novelist who suffers from writer’s block and can’t finish his new book because he no longer believes in love. After a flight from Taipei to Kaohsiung, a crazy fan kidnaps him along with an innocent flight attendant and forces him to finish his long-awaited novel. Caught in an inexplicable situation, Xiao Yang helps him to work through his writer’s block and finish his novel. The two develop a friendship that turns into something more.

Are you looking for something simple, charming, and easy to watch? Then this Taiwanese series is perfect for you! The storyline isn’t overly cliché and it follows a good pace. There are a few plot twists and the character developments make it interesting enough to spend the next few hours of your life on it. Subtitles are available.

China, 21 episodes, subs in English

Can a woman trust tomb raiders to help her find her missing father? Shirley Yang is an archaeologist who grew up in the United States. When she learns that her father has disappeared while exploring tombs, she returns to China to try to find him. She meets Hu Bayi, a tomb raider that will help her to find his father, while looking for clues that will help him to undo a curse he fall victim of.

chinese tv

Candle in the Tomb is definitely a breath of fresh air compared to many other Chinese TV shows. It has adventure, humor, and a bit of romance: the perfect ingredients for a successful show. The plot of the story is engaging and keeps you on your toes, the acting is good, and the storylines has a nice flow. For practicing Chinese, sometimes the vocabulary is a little too specific, but it’s still easy to understand with English subtitles.

China, 42 episodes, subs in English

Five women are living in Shanghai, in an apartment called “Ode to Joy”. They all have their own struggles in career, family and in their love life.

The reason why Ode to Joy has become a favorite in China is not only due to its high production quality, but also because its core story is close to reality. It reflects the current mindset and lives of China’s urban middle class, which has undergone some major changes over the years. Being full of rich dialogues, realistic characters and comedy situations, this show is fun and easy to watch, and sometimes even inspirational. The dialogues are easy to understand, and it’s a perfect opportunity to hear some “real young” people language, far from the academic version of Chinese (lots of Chinglish and few slang terms).

Taiwan, 20 episodes, subs in English

Based on the Japanese manga “The Devil Does Exist”, this TV-series tells the story of Qi Yue, a hopeless romantic, and Ah Mon, the evil school’s prince. Qi Yue is in love with the team captain of the basketball team, Yuan Yi and writes him a letter confessing her love. She accidently gives the letter to the Ah Mon instead and he threatens to expose her letter to the whole school. In order to stop Ah Mon, Qi Yue agrees to his list of demands. Eventually Ah Mon and Qi Yue start falling for one another. Unfortunately, fate doesn’t agree on their union when they find out that they are soon to be step-siblings.

The story has a typical plot from an shōjo manga, with lots of romantic misunderstandings and embarrassing situations for the two main characters that eventually fall for each other. Nevertheless, the TV series is enjoyable, fun, and the language level is perfect for beginners.

Interested in learning more about Chinese language? Read our post on how to start learning Chinese, or see the seven ways which learning Chinese will turn your world upside down. Just arrived in China? Get a hold of our China survival guide here: