I'm a year into an unusual Mandarin-acquisition experiment. I am trying to learn Chinese exclusively by watching movies and TV shows. I have very little free time, so I'm putting in just 40 minutes a day. Thus, I expect to take 5 years to complete 1,200 hours. At that point, I hypothesize that it will become clear that I can learn Mandarin this way, and I hope to have achieved an intermediate level of comprehension.

I am doing this for a variety of reasons, including pure enjoyment, but probably most importantly to test and hopefully evidence the value of watching authentic video at any stage of the language acquisition process. I should note that I do not think this is the best way to learn a language, and would generally recommend watching videos (at any level) as part of a more balanced acquisition strategy, including conversation classes and study of Chinese characters (reading and writing).

What I have discovered so far that I would like to share with others on this forum are three great video sources.

1. Qiao Hu - The very best source for beginners. It is a show made for toddlers, so it can be quite boring for an adult or even a younger child to watch, but if you can put in at least 5 or 10 minutes a day, I'm sure your Mandarin will benefit. And the best thing is that it is so easily available--just search for it on YouTube.

2. Boonie Bears - This is a popular mainland cartoon. The Mandarin is difficult (for me anyway) and this source might be best for intermediate students. However, even beginners like me can enjoy watching it, because of the very simple plot, good animation, and slapstick humor. It's an integral part of my Mandarin diet.

3. Chinese movies - The quality of many of the great Chinese films I have seen has been a big and pleasant surprise. I plan to update my Chinese films list soon and will share it again here. 

How about my progress?

I recently completed 240 hours, or 20% of my total time. I believe the project is going well, as I continuously learn new words and feel that I am understanding more and more. However, I'm still most definitely at a beginning level of comprehension. 

I devised a little test to gauge my comprehension and check how it progresses over time. I watch 15 minutes of a soap opera that I have never seen before and count what percentage of words I understand (including all repeats). My latest result was 8%. I know this is very unimpressive, but it is far better than the less than 3% I estimated I understand at 120 hours, or 10%.

I'd be happy to get your impressions, feedback, and learn about your Mandarin-acquisition adventures on this thread.

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Wow that is a cool method. I think what would be even more effective, if you aren't already doing this, is to repeat repeat repeat. Try to repeat sentences or words after the characters. This will help with pronunciation and ingrain common phrases into your memory. Maybe it will even help your grammar subconsciously because your ear will hear what is right and can later know what sounds familiar and right when you try to speak. 

This is a more active learning process without the tedium of studying. 

I am currently studying using my book from school. I only took a year in college. I am reviewing now and self-studying. I use audio as my main source of learning and am trying to learn the calligraphy as I go. I am still pretty beginner, but not elementary.

Thanks for your feedback!

I'm sure you're right that repeating what I hear would be helpful. I do that some mentally already. Since I'm not speaking at all and am not allowed (by my own rules) to have a teacher or receive corrections, I'm a bit wary about ingraining wrong habits of pronunciation in my mind.

However, my listening is generally pretty "active," just in the sense that I pay close attention and try hard to understand some of what I'm hearing.

I can't recommend Qiao Hu enough, including for character study (beginner level). Check out this episode that I happened to come across yesterday, especially the section that starts at 21:17


Amazing material for beginners!


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