How I'm using Netflix to improve my Mandarin.

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Following on from how I use Youtube to learn Mandarin, Netflix can also be a great way to get exposure to Mandarin, particularly when you’re not in China.

Todays post is about what tools and methods I use for learning Mandarin using Netflix, as well as my recommendations for shows/movies.

A Google Extension to the rescue

I’ve been using Netflix for learning Chinese since the start of my Mandarin learning.

Back when I started, I would watch with Chinese subtitles on. I would stop every time I didn’t understand a word or sentence in order to look it up on my phone.

This process was painstakingly long as it meant I was trying to write the character on my phone using Pleco. Another option was to use English subtitles but I found it easy to ‘tune out’ of the Chinese and would just be reading the English.

In short, learning using Netflix was quite tedious.

Luckily, a google extension by the name of Language Learning with Netflix has come to the rescue!

Language Learning With Netflix

This extension allows you to build your listening comprehension with ease by showing subtitles both in Chinese and English simultaneously. It also allows you to click each individual Chinese word for a description of what that word means. No more trying to write the character in Pleco to figure out what it is!

It also has some other super helpful capabilities:

  • Listen to subtitles one sentence at a time.
  • Change playback speed.
  • Automatic pause after every sentence.
  • Has a catalogue of shows/movies you can find for your target language.

It also has a ‘Pro’ mode, which enables additional features such as saving words that will be highlighted whenever they next occur.

Personally, I think the free version features are more than sufficient, so didn’t feel the need to buy Pro mode.

What to watch

What to watch

So you’ve got your Netflix subscription and you’ve downloaded the language learning extension.

Time to start watching Chinese videos, but what should you watch?

As I said in my post about how I use Youtube to learn Mandarin, what you watch should mostly depends on two things: Your interests and your current level.

Here’s the thing I’ve found about a lot of Chinese TV shows and sometimes films too: They’re cheesy and exaggerated.

Now this is a problem for two reasons:

  1. It means that often the language used (especially in TV shows) is not an accurate reflection of language you would see in everyday Chinese.
  2. Personally I struggle to enjoy watching these types of cheesy shows.

There’s also a large amount of ancient Chinese films/tv series, which aren’t great for learning Chinese since, well.. they are using a lot of ancient Chinese..

Therefore the amount of shows and movies I’m willing to watch is filtered down significantly.

Here’s some recommendations I’ve watched that I felt were both good for learning and were at least moderately entertaining:

  • Meteor Garden

    • Even though this is soppy and cheesy, I still kinda enjoyed this? Like a guilty pleasure I suppose.
    • Note that there is a Mainland China version and a Taiwanese version of this show, I’ve only seen the Mainland Chinese version.
  • Us and Them

    • This is a great film and actually uses every day Chinese!
  • King of Peking

    • Another interesting film showcases watch 90s Beijing was like. Based on a true story, too.
  • A Love So Beautiful

    • Similar lovey-dovey story to Meteor Garden, with the same main actress!

What I’m currently watching

Kings Avatar

Recently I’ve been watching The Kings Avatar, which is a live action TV series based on a manga/anime.

The series is about a top tier esport player in the online game “Glory”. After getting kicked out of his professional team, he gets employed as an Internet Cafe manager.

They actually made a mobile game based on this series in China!

If you like video games, then this might be a great choice for you! However I must admit, the anime is much better than the live action series.


Well that concludes todays post.

Did I miss any great shows or films on Netflix?

Let me know in the comments below!

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