Everyone knows that you learn more effectively when having fun! As soon as you make learning a chore you are simply making it harder for yourself. This is true for most things but especially language learning. That’s why I have a great suggestion to add an extra bit of fun to your children’s Chinese studies! Here are something we all can learn from Chinese students.
Watching a Chinese film or documentary! Today I’ll take you through the best family movies to watch.
It will also help you cover another essential to help improve your child’s language studies… exposure! Think about how they learnt their native language? Through constant exposure, even in moments you don’t think about. Even if by playing some of these movies in the background you will be helping your child to improve their Chinese.
If you’ve been taking our classes at Lingo Bus, then you will understand how important Chinese culture is. By just focusing on the language your child won’t go very far in your studies. Chinese language has such cultural ties that you need to try to understand Chinese culture. That’s the only way to take your child’s language studies to a new level. The best way to do this is by studying Chinese history, which many do not have access to or the time. You can travel to China with your child so they experience it first hand. But this is not a viable long term solution unless if you move to China! It’s expensive, time consuming, and just offers a small glimpse into Chinese culture. By far the easiest way to introduce Chinese culture is through documentaries.
Documentaries can help to reveal some hidden truth and transform our understanding of an unknown topic. You can use documentaries as an insight to Chinese culture. There are plenty of documentaries based on history, environment, social changes, etc. I will suggest some fun, child friendly one’s bellow so your child can begin to gain further understanding about China.
Here are my top 10 picks for best family movies to watch as a Chinese language learner.
1- The Karate Kid (2010)
Unlike most of the other films I will suggest, you should watch this one in English as the Chinese version is dubbed. This film is the remake of the classic and focuses on Chinese Kung Fu rather than the Japanese karate of the original. It stars Jackie Chan as the Kung Fu teacher. You’ll see more of Jackie Chan in the other movies we suggest! Karate kid introduces traditional practices, such as traditional medicine and features famous Chinese landmarks. It means the film can be used as an introduction to different aspects of Chinese culture. This film is helpful for children who are just beginning their language journey and may not have a large amount of Chinese vocabulary.
2-Together With You 和你在一起
A heart-warming tale Mainland Chinese film that follows a 13-year old violin prodigy. This movie introduces elements of contemporary Chinese society. It shows the Chinese dream that through hard work and persistence you can change your life. It show’s the struggle many Chinese go through moving to the city to chase success. The 13-year old and his father move to Beijing from a small town to achieve the father’s dream that his son will become a famous violinist.
3- Mulan (Disney)
There have been many adaptations of Mulan (some that are not very child friendly). The reason? Because her story manages to capture the hearts of anyone watching no matter the culture. It’s a tale of intrigue, honor, and bravery about a daughter who pretends to be a boy to save her family and in turn all of China. The Disney version is available in Chinese. I suggest watching the English version first (if you haven’t already) with your child. In this way they will know the story line. After that you can watch the Chinese version and encourage your children to learn the songs. Even now as an adult I’ll be happy to admit that I listen to Disney Mulan songs for motivation.
‘Let’s get down to business to defeat the huns”. Consider yourself lucky that you guys can’t hear me sing!
Another animation! The Chinese film version has very famous actors and actresses. It follows of course a panda, which as you may well know is one of China’s most famous animals. Your child can join the cute chubby panda as he finds who he is. It involves martial arts, which is another important part of Chinese culture. This movie is filled with plenty of slapstick humor, which will keep your child laughing endlessly.
5-Monkey King (animated 2015): The Hero is Back
If you are not living in China, you won’t be aware how famous this film is! It’s based on the series of books “Journey to the West”. This is a Chinese child’s childhood staple, everyone knows who the Monkey King is, and has watched at least one adaptation. There is a famous TV series, there’s plenty of films! Like Mulan it has many many adaptations! This version is the highest-grossing Chinese animated film of all time. A familiar voice plays the Monkey King, you guessed it Jackie Chan! In this version the Monkey King is accidentally freed by a little boy 500 years after a displeased Buddha banished him to an ice cage beneath the mountains. I wonder what fun adventures they will get into… You’ll have to watch it to find out!
6-Happy Daddy and Son 大头儿子和小头爸爸
The film of the hit kid’s TV Series with the same name, there are now two films. The film follows the famous animated father and son duo. The literal translation of “大头儿子和小头爸爸” is “big head son and small head dad”, once you watch you will see why! Because it’s a cartoon geared towards kids the language they use is very easy to understand. This makes it a great film to watch with beginners. You can also find clips of the TV series free to watch on Youtube or Youku online.
Along the same lines you might also like the animated series and film of bears and a hunter. Just search for “Boonie Bears: Mystical Winter熊出没之雪岭熊风”. Or ”Pleasant goat and big big wolf喜羊羊与灰太狼” another Chinese TV series with a movie franchise. They have so many films we would need a whole new article to list them! If you want your child to watch films and TV series popular with Chinese kids, these are the ones to look out for.
8-A Bite of China: Celebrating the Chinese New Year
Even thinking about this documentary makes me hungry. This is a long series that explores different cuisines in China. It travels to far off isolated villages or big towns, letting you see how a dish is made. From how the ingredients are grown to how they are seasoned, cooked and then finally tasted! I suggest you start by watching the film version that focuses on the most important holiday, Chinese New Year! The full-length feature not only introduces local food culture, but also illustrates how families across the country celebrate CNY. This film will fill you with joy, appreciation, happiness but most importantly hunger! I suggest having some Chinese take away menus or ingredients at the ready. Believe me you won’t be able to watch it without salivating and craving Chinese food!
Featuring some of my favorite animals. If your child is an animal lover then this is the documentary for them. It introduces different Chinese habitats and animals that live in them. It journeys through the life of three animal families. A stunning snow leopard, a clever monkey, and the sleeping panda, showing their struggles for survival. Filmed by four of the world’s top wildlife cinematographers, the documentary captures amazing moments.
Somewhat related to the documentary above, it can be used to spark discussions about the environment and recycling. Since the 1980s, China has been cheaply processing imported rubbish. What that means is that China deals with other countries rubbish. Maybe even something you threw out! It can be hard to watch at times over how saddening it is for the people who deal with this rubbish. However, it’s a good movie to show the impact of globalization on the lower class in China, and how even though you are far you have an impact. The documentary follows the life of an 11-year-old girl as she takes care of her siblings and works through the trash to find small treasures. Since the film can be upsetting to watch I only suggest this for older children.
I hope you will have fun with your family by picking a Chinese film to watch! These are some of the best family movies to watch, lets us know which one is your child’s favorite! Here are the five classic Chinese films of all time! Enjoy them.
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