How to Learn Chinese by Watching TV - Pimsleur

How to Learn Chinese by Watching TV

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Can you learn Chinese by watching TV? For generations, Asian countries have supplied the United States with pop culture trends that have impacted Americans from all walks of life. From television shows to movies to gaming technology, these countries have introduced new concepts that have sparked the imagination of nations worldwide. Although these trends often initially come in entertainment, one game show may demonstrate to viewers how to learn Chinese.

Chinese Characters Dictation Competition

Since its August 2013 debut in China, the television program Chinese Characters Dictation Competition has exploded in popularity. The Chinese game show originally aired on a small educational programming channel.  The show was an instant hit and has now been moved to Friday evenings, airing on the popular CCTV1. Even more surprising is that the Chinese Characters Dictation Competition is now challenging the popularity of China’s most-watched shows, which includes their version of The Voice.

The show’s creator, Guan Zhengwen, was inspired by the Scripps National Spelling Bee, which takes place annually in the United States. Essentially, the Dictation Competition is a spelling bee where contestants are given a simple word and must create the word properly in Chinese characters. For example, if the contestants receive the word “toad,” they must create the three-character word using the forty-six brush strokes that make up the character of the word without making any mistakes. The strokes must be made in the proper order and in the proper direction.

Different Dialects Affect Learning Chinese

Anyone who has ever wondered how to learn Chinese would find this popular game show a great introductory lesson to the written language. It is a beautiful art that is slowly being lost, thanks to the technology boom of the last ten to fifteen years. Although they read the characters, an increasing number of people are unable to write them. Just as you find in popular American children’s educational television shows, words are given to the contestants, who create the word using Chinese characters or Hanzi. The process of creating the characters, with the intricate amount of strokes to make up each character, takes a considerable amount of time. This actually gives those who don’t speak or write Chinese the opportunity to study the form of the characters as they are created. With repetition and patience, one could learn to write Chinese this way.

Chinese is an intricate language, one of the harder languages for English speakers to master.  This especially holds true for anyone who has had little exposure to the language and culture. Chinese consists of multiple dialects, with Mandarin and Cantonese being the most widely-spoken. What’s amazing about Mandarin and Cantonese is that they are almost entirely different than each other and learning one dialect will not help you understand the other: they are not mutually intelligible. The dialect of Chinese spoken varies by region. Cantonese is mainly spoken in Hong Kong, Guangdong, and the Guangxi provinces, while Mandarin is the official spoken language in Mainland China and Taiwan.

Whether you are traveling to China or just want to learn a new language, finding out how to learn Chinese writing will prove to be a rewarding venture. With the vast array of films, music, and television shows taking the American shores by storm, learning Chinese would be a major benefit for anyone who enjoys the unique trends coming from overseas.

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