To enhance my Chinese language skills I am looking for some Chinese movies or series that fit a beginner's level. Currently I know around 1000 Hanzi.

Is watching movies or series too early with this amount of known characters?

If not, how do you recommend going about selecting an appropriate movie or TV series?

  • This question was closed because it's not a good fit for this format.
    – Alenanno
    Commented Jun 23, 2012 at 16:29
  • In case you don't agree with the closure, I suggest you create a question in our Chinese Language Meta, that would be the best thing to do. For example, if you want to propose ways to improve this question, etc. I'll be glad to help along with other mods.
    – Alenanno
    Commented Jun 24, 2012 at 10:01

2 Answers 2


The important thing for understanding Chinese in spoken form is not how many characters you recognize (though this is the traditional measure of "how good" someone's Chinese is -- which makes no sense at all!). The acid test is how many words you know. Words are often composed of more than one character in written form, so the character/word correspondence isn't a good one in terms of "calculating" one's Chinese level.

Also, it's entirely possible to know thousands of characters and have very little ability to understand spoken Chinese. This is particularly true with students who have been taught using traditional drill-and-kill methods or popular textbooks that believe that the more vocabulary someone memorizes the better.

So in my mind, technically yes, it's kind of early if your level of spoken Mandarin is what I'm imagining (based on the "average" student at the 1,000 character level).

BUT — big "but" here — that's theoretically speaking.

You will benefit from any exposure to Chinese. You will benefit a LOT more if that exposure is comprehensible, because input has to be understood before the brain can deal with it and use it to enlarge the brain's model of the language. But even if the input is not 100% comprehensible, anything you can comprehend will help.

Don't ignore other factors either&nbwp;— if you enjoy watching movies or series, that's a good and motivating thing. Enjoy picking out what you can understand, even while you recognize that the time spent may not be as effective as getting 100% comprehensible input in Chinese in terms of actually expanding your Chinese. There are other benefits as well -- social (you can watch with others, and discuss the films or series with other people), general knowledge (keep an eye on the backgrounds, body language, and other non-linguistic features that are shown in the film).

For most learners, it's very difficult to get 100% comprehensible input, because most teachers do not teach this way, and don't worry about readers, textbooks or AV materials being 100% comprehensible. There's even a new textbook out that deliberately gives students materials that are way too hard with the rationale that "they'll pick up whatever they can". Given what we know about how people acquire languages, I feel that teachers in general and textbook publishers specifically owe students a lot more than that, but since that's what's available, go for it.

So the answer is, don't worry about which one you watch. It doesn't really matter! Pick something that looks interesting or intriguing to you, or is popular, or that people are talking about. Any native speaking video or series will be difficult at that level. Just don't expect too much. Relax, sit back and try not to look up every word. Use the grade school strategy of "skip until you see it three times", maybe.

  • +1. I agree that characters don't quite reflect words,but characters are really the foundation. As a native speaker, I couldn't recommend any movie or series because I can't consider how helpful the movie or series would be, from a foreigner's view. How about cartoons for kids? I think they are easy to understand.
    – Huang
    Commented Jan 17, 2012 at 14:22
  • 4
    There are millions of people in the world who don't read or write at all. Written language is really secondary. Children's cartoons are among the most difficult things to understand for foreign learners -- not only do they use a lot of child-friendly vocabulary that foreigners haven't heard or seen before, they also speak very quickly and use exaggerated, often high-pitched or distorted voices. I'm a trained interpreter and I have problems with Sponge Bob sometimes, never mind my sixth-graders. But they love watching it all the same, and are happy with what they can pick out. It's motivating. Commented Jan 17, 2012 at 14:58
  • I agree with your viewpoints. I don't have any experience in teaching foreigners Chinese language, so I don't have a good idea to this question and I am willing to see good answers.
    – Huang
    Commented Jan 17, 2012 at 15:07
  • +1 to your comment Terry. If you watch an English movie and an English cartoon, the English movie is always easier to understand.
    – Alenanno
    Commented Jan 17, 2012 at 19:14
  • It was a different language, Spanish, but I learned A LOT of it from listening to Spanish love songs, a medium I enjoyed. So if you like movies...
    – Tom Au
    Commented Mar 8, 2012 at 14:40

I can recommend 'Happy Chinese' (快乐汉语; kuàilè hànyŭ) for some basic Chinese-spoken episodes with both Chinese and English subtitles. There are videos on YouTube.


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