How do I study Chinese 2: Dubbing

I love movies. Maybe it's because I grew up without TV, and my family watched first VHS and later DVDs religiously... all the great classics, modern Hollywood, and films from abroad. Learners of Chinese and any language for that matter know that exposing yourself to as much media from that language is one of the most important ways to study. Of course... not all film industries are created equal. And once you've gotten through the greatest hits collection of Chinese films you're going to be hit by a terrible realization: Chinese movies and TV shows are awful. Not just the kind of silly B film status that some Taiwanese TV shows can claim, but just pure unmitigated awfulness. Most foreigners who watch Chinese TV too long in hopes of garnering their language learning from the telly, start talking about wanting to claw their eyes out and various more productive solutions for the lack of half decent Chinese media.

My solution is to simply not watch Chinese movies and TV, except for the few exceptions that I can know in advance are actually good. For everything else, there's dubbing. Nobody likes dubbing. I don't like dubbing. But if you're going to study Chinese in the long term and watch films, you're going to have to learn to appreciate it, warts and all. Head down to your favorite DVD shop and look for the videos that include “国语配音”. Start with the movies that you've seen more than once and wouldn't mind seeing again. With the native Chinese films, that list is going to be pretty short. But with the whole world dubbed in Chinese the list is going to grow remarkably. I started out with Laurence of Arabia, Star Wars and Cowboy Bebop. Now I have quite a vast collection.

This is not just vegging out in front of the TV, you need to be actively learning. When watching a dubbed over film, you can pick a variety of watching styles. My favorite format is to simply turn on the movie with Chinese dubbing and no subtitles. Kevin, my roomate however, prefers to have traditional subtitles underneath. Do not watch the film with English subtitles! You make think that you can ignore them, but you'll just be cheating yourself! If your Chinese comprehension isn't very high/you can't remember the movie or have never seen it before, there are two other approaches to take. One is to pause the film whenever you don't understand and briefly turn on the English subtitles. Another is to keep your laptop or notebook handy and scribble out notes as you're watching. You can look them up later, or if you have the wonderful little program WenLin, you can get the answer immedietely.

For viewers of all levels, the preeminent language learning blog All Japanese All The Time, recommends writing down the vocab and phrases that you actually want to know how to say and subsequently adding them to whatever memorization system that you are using. I highly recommend that blog to learners of all languages.


Greg said...
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轉寫主義者 said...

2 Things. There are people who like dubbing, and they are called chinese people.

2. How can you use wenlin? It's like some gave you a time machine and all you did was use to go back and rescue bad 80s/90s technolgoies, interfaces, guis, etc.

Dylan said...

I don't like dubbing, but it suits my purposes.And truth be told, some dubs are quite good. Certainly there's a hierarchy though... Cantonese-to-Mandarin dubs are the best and non-English European languages are the worst. English is hit and miss.

Wenlin is a truly excellent piece of technology without equal in any of the modern Chinese studying tools. Using it to it's maximum effectiveness is quite something else. Perhaps I'll write a tutorial for a future post.

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