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deanis45

Is watching dvds a good way to learn chinese?

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deanis45

I have been studying Chinese characters for a year primarily through the use of flash cards trying to work on the speed of my recognition.

I have lived in China for 3 and a half years and have an enormous collection of dvds all with Chinese subtitles(traditional simplified or with both).

Recently my hanzi recognition has reached the level where I can recognize nearly all the characters on most dvds(save traditional which I have only begun to study).

Anyway I will watch a dvd: south park, the simpsons or other.

I will listen to the English and read the Chinese translation.

It is a strain and far too quick to smoothly read all the characters but I have already started to get some benefit learning some new vocabulary that I think is much more relevant than what I learn in the books (such as profanity, which I like to understand not necessarily use).

It is not easy at this moment its very fast, however I have not really been studying Chinese characters for even a year, that makes me a beginner right?

This seems to me to be the perfect way to learn a foreign language. You can at your leisure watch an entertaining movie or tv show read the Chinese while completely understanding any new words.

Why touch any other study material when you have such a perfect method at your disposal.

But like most perfect things it must have some sort of disadvantage.

I'd like to here some other members comments who perhaps have more experience with this study technique.

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MarkKang

Really, you have only been studying characters one year and you can follow subtitles. Very good!

It is a great method for listening comprehension, because you get to also view a situation. It helps you immerse yourself.

Try turning off the sound, and just reading the characters, like a speed reading machine. It will get you into the habit of reading in blocks of characters. Remember also, you can repeat stuff like tapes.

DVDs have their limit as far as improving your reading skills, because it is a transcription of kouyu, and not very shumian. But you can get various DVDs that are more shumianyu- science subjects mostly.

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roddy

I can see it would be helpful, but if as you say you are listening to English rather than Chinese soundtracks, I have major reservations.

If you are listening to the English, then you are going to be doing nothing for your Chinese listening skills.Following the subtitles will help your reading (especially speed / skim reading) ability, but realistically how often do you need to read a conversation, which is what subtitles will almost always be? I'm dubious about how much help this will be when you come to read a book / article, etc.

Plus you've got to worry about the quality of the subtitles - a common complaint from Chinese friends of mine is that the Chinese subtitles on English language DVDs bear little or no relation to the actual script, which could easily be confusing. Add on to that the actual source material - personally I'd be wary of learning to speak like a South Park character :wink:

Sorry if that comes across as overwhelmingly negative - on the plus side, I think that any learning method you enjoy is better than one that you hate and makes you want to give up and learn Swahili.

Obviously if you are watching Chinese stuff alongside the Simpsons and South Park, it's going to be different - I do agree that's an excellent way of improving listening and speaking skills, along with speed-reading of the subtitles.

Roddy

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skylee
I can see it would be helpful, but if as you say you are listening to English[/b'] rather than Chinese soundtracks, I have major reservations.

I agree. And merely watching DVD obviously would not help to improve your speaking skill/pronunciation.

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MarkKang

Whoops, I missed the part about you listening to the Engish. That will be no help. You'll have to look for the DVDs with 国语配音 on the cover. Also ask the shop keeper, they usually know which ones have it. Don't be afraid to make them pop the DVD into a machine and let you have a look before you buy.

I have had the same experience with the subtitles being inaccurate. Some of my Chinese friends won't even watch this type of movie with me because they are so bad.

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magores

In my case, I have a number of DVDs that I watch.

I will listen to the Mandarin audio, while watching the English subtitles.

Also, on a number of the VCDs that I own, the audio will be in Mandarin, and the subtitles will be in both Chinese and English.

Is this a good way to learn? By itself, I would say probably not.

But, is it a good addition to the other tools and activities that I use/do? Then I would say yes.

---

If nothing else, it has helped me to realize that their are as many ways to pronounce something, as there are people to say it.

Good example.... I was watching the Stephen Chiau (Chow) movie "God of Cookery" last night. At one point, a few different people were asked to repeat a particular sentence. Each of them had differences in the way they pronounced the words.

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deanis45

Thanks guys I appreciate your input and agree alot with what you say.

Perhaps I should give a bit more information about my language study history.

I've been studying chinese for over two and a half years and the first 1 and a half was strictly spent on pinyin, listening and speaking skills.

I've practiced listening and speaking to death.

The beauty about listening to the English on the dvds(I know its not full immersion I'm naughty!) is that it allows me to pick up new vocabulary easily which I could not do if it were in guoyu peiyin.

Also its nice to watch a dvd and be able to completely understand everything that is said rather than 50% which can be rather grating on the nerves.

Certainly every translation should be treated with a heavy pinch of salt and I think some translators have no idea about the content of some of these dvds such as one time I saw "a match" (as in identical) translated into yi chang bisai. Pretty dreadful hey!!

But if you're going to watch a dvd anyway its good that you can spend part of this leisure time studying.

Also I hope I didn't give anyone the idea that I can fluently follow the subtitles, far from it.

Can any of you non-native Chinese speakers do that? Because for me its a long way off.

Deanis45

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wushijiao
But if you're going to watch a dvd anyway its good that you can spend part of this leisure time studying.

As a long as you only make this just a piece of your studying repertoire, I see nothing wrong with flipping on the Chinese subtitles when you watch the Simpson's.

I suppose this is good because:

-You already know the plot and what is being said

-It forces you to speed read in blocks, like markkang said.

-The reading is usually simplified.

As far as subtitles, for most pirated copies of DVD's, I've read that they hire college students to translate it. These are often horrible. The worst I ever saw was a pirated "8 Mile", in which less than 5% of the movie was translated well. Even when they are professionally done, all the slang and flavor of the original is sucked out. But I guess that is why reading translated subtitiles is a lot easier than reading subtitles to Chinese TV shows or programs.

As kind of a side discussion, I took Spanish Film in college, and the strick, Francoist, prof who hated subtitles with a passion because it distracted the viewer from what the director was trying to do visually on screen and from the unique way that dialogue was spoken.

Can any of you non-native Chinese speakers do that?
Well, I wouldn't say that i can follow everything by any means. But sometimes I do rely on subtitles way too much, almost ignoring the spoken Chinese, which in turn widens the gap between my listening and reading abilities. However, I've been working to end this. I'm thinking of trying a personal "no subtitles" policy for a while to see if my listening improves and maybe, like the prof said, I'll notice more visual aspects.

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deanis45

I think so it should be part of one's complete breakfast.

I look forward to the time when my hanzi reading skills reach a level where I'm relying too much on subtitles. Well done wushijiao!

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i.rage.robbins

deanis45, this (watching DVDs) is one of the most effective ways I have found for studying Chinese and I preach it continuously to my college students as a way for them to study English. The whole "it goes too fast" thing has not been a problem for me and my students because, well, there's a pause button on most remote controls.

Usually this is how I do it in the sound lab with my students: We watch 20-30 minutes of some DVD, then stop it and go over vocabulary they were writing down while watching. Then we replay the DVD *beginning 15 minutes before we stopped.* This way, they get to see and hear the words they were confused about *again,* instead of just forgetting them as we get involved in the story. You can do this at home. I have a copy of Hero that I have worn out this way (although I know the language in Hero is antiquated Chinese, I do know that the translation is excellent and it helps reading anyway. Plus I love that movie to bits.)

Another thing that may not be as boring as seeing the same movie again and again is getting some of those Kareoke KTV VCDs sold in any Chinese music store and popping them into your computer or DVD/VCD player and singing along. I have learned SO MUCH Chinese this way, it's like being a child and singing along with those...well... "sing along/follow the bouncing ball" videos, you know? Granted, the vocabulary in songs is kind of specific---for instance, you will immediately learn how to say everything you've ever wanted to say about love , breaking up and beauty, but not much about losing your job or about how the East coast knows how to party. This is simply 'cause most Chinese pop sucks.

However, for interesting lyrics that would make you sound like a genius if you used their grammatical structure and vocabulary, I recommend Jay Chou ( 周杰伦 ) and Confucius Say (子曰). Jay has these bizarro lyrics that Chinese people struggle to understand, and Confucius Say is just funny.

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cai

for me it is really useful and full of fun to learn a foreign language by watching DVD. When I learn German, I watched Friends, and it did help. I switch the DVD into German pronunciation and subtitle, record some words that I do not know or some phrases I think quite useful.

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owen

Ya the bad translation thing is a real problem. I watched a couple big hollywood blockbusters (I, robot and The Aviator) with a friend in China and i started reading some of the subtitles and they were completely off. I wish i could remember what some of them were but I would swear it was like the translator heard one word of the sentence and then looked that word up in a dictionary and used one of the example sentences with that word. Some were that far off! Needless to say i don't think she fully understood either movie.

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skylee

One of the bad translations I can remember is this -

A person's body is his temple. -> 一個人的身體是他的太陽穴. (from Ang Lee's "Ice Storm")

:mrgreen:

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Glenn

I think it's hard even with good translations, because they often are only interpretations of the original (as they should be), and don't give you a sense of what is really being said, especially when untranslatable words or expressions are used. I'm thinking C -> E translations, but I'm sure the same is true with E -> C. I always like having direct word-for-word, literal translations along with the original so that I can see the grammar at work. It's also nice to have some explanatory notes for some of the non-translatable stuff.

That aside, I think that once you get to a high intermediate to advanced level, learning by watching DVDs is not a bad idea. It can give you new ways to say the same thing, and also help you to sound more like a native in terms of idiom, and I'm sure it helps pronunciation, too.

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owen
One of the bad translations I can remember is this -

A person's body is his temple. -> 一個人的身體是他的太陽穴. (from Ang Lee's "Ice Storm")

:mrgreen:

I don't think i know enough chinese to know what is funny. I mean i understand the characters you wrote and that it is a literal translation, but are you saying the chinese is wrong? If so, why would any chinese speaker write an erroneous subtitle? I have seen some poor english subtitles but they are poor in the sense that they don't correctly convey the meaning of the dialogue but never with actual english grammar mistakes.

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roddy
I always like having direct word-for-word, literal translations along with the original so that I can see the grammar at work

Agreed. I started off with Elizabeth Scurfields Teach Yourself Chinese, and that has the very literal, word-for-word translations at the start at least - I found it a brilliant way to get a feel for the language. Ah, the days when Li / Mister / drink / not / drink / China / tea? was as difficult as it got . . .

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skylee
I don't think i know enough chinese to know what is funny. I mean i understand the characters you wrote and that it is a literal translation, but are you saying the chinese is wrong? If so, why would any chinese speaker write an erroneous subtitle? I have seen some poor english subtitles but they are poor in the sense that they don't correctly convey the meaning of the dialogue but never with actual english grammar mistakes.

Either it is funny, or I've misunderstood the English.

1 Corinthians 3:16 and 1 Corinthians 6:19

歌林多前書 3:16歌林多前書 6:19

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owen

so you are saying the translation is fine but the english is funny?

I really don't understand cuz that is a pretty common expression. Not one that i personally use or really rings true with me but common nonetheless. Are you a native english speaker? Because if not then i could see how it might strike one as funny.

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roddy

The translation is wrong because the English 'someone's body is their temple' means that they look after their body with a religious devotion, taking great care over what they eat and exercising regularly.

The Chinese, meanwhile, means 'A person's body is the flat area between their forehead and ears'. Wrong 'temple'.

Roddy

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taiwaneseguy1146

Wow, you can already recognize most of the words on subtitles by using only flashcards? Specifically, what kind of methods did you use to learn so fast? Did you just look at the flashcards and memorize them?

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