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Getting somewhat decent at Mandarin... Basic pop culture to start with?


PinYin55

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So I am getting pretty decent at Chinese - I'd say I can now understand, say, and read about 400 characters. Nothing amazing, I know, but I only started about 5 months ago so I'm happy. :)

Anyway, I think I am reaching that point where I can actually understand some stuff BEYOND learning materials. As exciting as my chinese workbook is, it would be a great confidence booster to start looking at some actual stuff.

The obvious choice is kids books/kids shows/kids movies. When I pick up a chinese novel or watch chinese news, I am clearly lost.

Is there any chinese materials (shows, movies, books) that you guys could recommend that stay on a relatively beginner's level?

It doesn't have to be SUPER beginner, because figuring out and translating the stuff I don't understand is half the point.

Thanks for any recommendations.

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I think it's great to see an interest in finding outside material. But I'd hold off a bit on outside reading material, simply because I think it's a lot more efficient and less frustrating to tackle stuff that is not completely mystifying. There is a reason why stuff is boring at the beginning level--the student's limited vocab is too small to get into interesting stuff. I just checked out a translated (Japanese-Chinese) Doraemon comic at the Grand Comic Reading Project mentioned above, and I think someone should definitely have at least a thousand characters before tackling it. Otherwise it would probably involve a lot of translating. Full disclosure: I come at this with a pretty strong bias because I'm a product of a teaching approach that emphasised relying on limited material and learning it thoroughly. Using outside material--and even picking up a dictionary--was strongly discouraged for the first two years I studied Chinese, which was in the United States. Also, my first-year and second-year Chinese teachers--both outstanding--pursued an immersive approach and rarely used English, so they tended to define Chinese terms in Chinese or through non-verbal means. Ironically, after I got to China, I started to rely more on Chinese-English dictionaries, and that was a really bad habit that I didn't break for a long time because I was oblivious to the harm it was doing and had grown so comfortable with the cognitive ease of seeing definitions in English. The downside of this approach is that it contributed to making me a "deep" reader who's not that keen on skimming stuff in Chinese or reading quickly, which are also valuable skills. Visual and oral material is another story. I see no downside to watching Chinese movies and TV. Also, there's always ChinesePod, which I've only experimented. I'm sure other forum members have discussed it elsewhere.

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I don't think that dabbling a bit in native-speaker material will cause any lasting harm. At worst, it will be frustrating and you'll go back to learner stuff; at best, it will give you a huge confidence boost. The problem with learning stuff is not just that it's too limiting and boring, it's also that you don't get enough of it to go through. Reading the same conversation 20 times is boring, and having variety is very important for keeping language learning interesting.

I do think that getting a good basis is important, and you should definitely keep intensive learning your priority for a while: characters, vocabulary, grammar exercises, etc. But reading and listening make for great supplementary material, and will make the bulk of your learning as you approach the advanced level.

The Grand Comic Project and the Grand First Episode Project sound like the stuff you need. Be aware that they can be quite humbling! Look for some Elementary and Lower-Intermediate labelled shows, and try your luck with them.

If you have trouble finding working links for some older shows (they have recently started a crackdown on copyrighted material), let us know in the relevant thread.

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Hey newbie,

When I was at your level I enjoyed singing karaoke songs and watching HK tv (had the english subtitles as well.)

Richie, ren xian qi, is a good simple singer if you're interested. (though he's from taiwan so some songs are in fantizi)

have fun,

SimoN:)

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If you are interested in reading, why not try they Chinese Breeze readers? They have 6 or 8 books at each of the 300 character and 500 character levels. The problem with any other reading material is that even if it is relatively easy, there will still be a a much higher proportion of new characters. The Chinese Breeze books are are relatively long (8000 characters?) and therefore you get quite a bit of reading practice with characters you know. Even if you do come across new characters, the ratio of new to known is quite small.

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It's great that you are making progress, but I think you will find that 400 characters will not be enough to get much out of children's books (which are often meant to be read together with parents) or other material meant for native speakers. I had to get to at least 1000-1500 characters before I felt that reading that kind of stuff was more educational/interesting than frustrating. Of course, YMMW.

If you want something that is a bit more varied than textbooks, I would try something like ChinesePod. There you get both listening practice and reading practice (through the transcripts), and at this point you should probably work on both those skills in parallel.

If you want to try reading native-level material, you could for example try to read some 小人书. There are several available online for free, like here and here.

Look for the "少儿教育" ones. Here is one that might work for you.

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