The intermediate stage of language learning is both freeing and frustrating at the same time… you now know enough of the language to start having meaningful interactions, but you still struggle to understand native speakers.
Many people reach the intermediate level (CEFR B1) and fail to progress any further. Some people are happy with a B1 proficiency but others want to continue towards fluency (B2/C1).
The problem is that most learners reach a plateau at the B1 stage and feel like they aren’t making any progress. You may feel stuck and frustrated that your proficiency isn’t improving.
Well, you should know that this is pretty normal. Reaching plateaus is part of the language learning process. Breaking through the intermediate plateau is a test of your commitment and passion towards the language you’re learning.
Immersion is one of the best ways to break through the intermediate plateau. Think about it… it’s impossible NOT to improve after a further 500-1,000 hours of listening in your target language. Does that sound like an unrealistic feat? Trust me it’s not!
By replacing your regular NetFlix series with Chinese talk shows, you can dramatically increase your listening exposure and improve your understanding of the language.
Here are three TV shows to watch if you want to break through the intermediate plateau and improve your understanding of Chinese.
WTO jiěmèi huì is a talk show from Taiwan that features a panel of foreigners who permanently reside in Taiwan. The show is light-hearted, fun, and relatively easy to follow.
It’s often much easier to understand foreigners speaking Chinese than native speakers. Foreigners tend to speak slower and clearer whereas native speakers talk so fast that many words are “slurred” together. Kind of like how we say “I’m gonna go now” instead of “I’m going to go now” in English.
Every episode of WTO jiěmèi huì centers around a specific topic, which all participants chat about. The show features foreigners from France, Germany, Thailand, Japan, and other countries. I find it really interesting to listen to people from different countries and hear their perspectives.
Before I tell you to go and watch this show, I need to add a quick disclaimer/warning. SOME of the foreigners on the show speak VERY POOR Chinese. Yes, I know it’s not a very nice thing to say but unfortunately, it’s true.
Some of them are incredibly fluent and speak wonderful Mandarin (I could only hope to reach their level!), while others only have a rudimentary grasp of the language. While this show is fun to watch, it’s definitely better to spend more time listening to native speakers.
Having said that, I encourage you to give it a go and make up your own mind. There are hundreds of episodes available on YouTube for free.
Dàxuéshēng le méi (“college talk”) is a Talk show from Taiwan. Before I tell you what it’s about and why you should watch it, you should probably know that the show ended in 2016 so it’s 5 years old.
Even though the show isn’t running anymore, I still recommend this show for intermediate learners. In fact, it’s one of the shows I watch on a regular basis.
The show features three hosts and a panel of Taiwanese university students. Each show centers around different topics. The show is very light-hearted and really hilarious.
Some episodes feature special guests while others involve funny challenges and/or competitions. Each student on the show has their own unique talents and views and that’s what makes this show so good.
There are literally hundreds of episodes available on YouTube so you can watch as much 大学生了没 as your heart desires!
Tóngxué láile is very similar to Dàxuéshēng le méi. In fact, it’s basically a continuation of the show (it even features 2 of the original hosts!).
Like Dàxuéshēng le méi, Tóngxué láile features three hosts and a panel of university students who discuss topics and engage in fun and exciting challenges. The show is fairly new and new episodes come out almost daily!
They also occasionally invite foreigners to the program to discuss things from a more international perspective. Overall, this show is a lot of fun and definitely worth a watch.
Once again, all episodes can be found on YouTube and it’s 100% free to watch.
Xiǎo míngxīng dà gēnbān (“Super Entourage”) is another Taiwanese talk show with a comedy aspect. The show is hosted by father/daughter duo Jacky and Sandy Wu.
Xiǎo míngxīng dà gēnbān features appearances from Taiwanese celebs and well-known foreigners. Together they engage in friendly challenges or simply talk about different topics.
Personally, I feel this is the most challenging program on this list for learners to understand. The hosts frequently crack jokes that are very difficult for nonnatives to catch and there is a distinctive Taiwanese feel to the program. Although this is the case for all the shows on this list, I feel the previous two are easier to understand.
Nonetheless, Xiǎo míngxīng dà gēnbān is still ongoing and there are plenty of episodes on YouTube to keep you engaged! So, give it a try!
Improve Your Chinese With These Popular TV Shows
If you want to be able to understand native speakers, you have to listen to native speakers. Makes sense, right? One of the best ways to do this is by watching TV shows in Chinese.
These four shows are some of the most fun and engaging to watch and there are 100s of episodes available for free on YouTube. Watch an episode of each show and decide which ones you like the most. If you’re having a difficult time understanding natives, start with the very first show on the list.
Once you’ve watched a few hundred episodes you’ll find your understanding is good enough to begin watching the others. Once you’re able to follow along and enjoy the program, it won’t feel like “effort” anymore and instead, you’ll be watching for fun.
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