Michael Kennedy, Author at Jinbupal

Great Resources for Mandarin Reading Content

When you’re first getting started learning Chinese, it’s very important to start reading as soon as possible. Reading helps you contextualize the language so that you reach your maximum language acquisition potential. If you want to learn more about this method, you can some research further into Stephen Krashen and his “Input Hypothesis.” But in this post, I want to skip over the details on why reading is so important and discuss more about how you can get started with your reading by finding content.

Once you’ve gotten over the initial plateau of reading Chinese characters. It’s important to have go-to resources on hand for content that you are truly interested in so that you can pick out a book or article at any time and start reading on the fly. Dump the textbooks as quickly as possible and get going with some of the following resources:

  • News Sources
  • Print Books – I always think it’s good to have at least one physical print Chinese book around so that you can practice reading even if you’re tired of sitting in front of a computer screen all day. When you are first getting started and not used to navigating Chinese websites, I would highly recommend buying a Chinese version book on Amazon so you don’t have to deal with the complexities of the interface and checkout. For example, my favorite genre is biographies. So to find a book like this (or for any other genre you prefer), perform the following steps: go to Amazon.com, click the menu button in the top left, select “Books & Audible”, select “Hardcover & Paperback”, scroll down and look on the left side for the filter called “Language”, click “See More” and then select “Chinese (Simplified)”, finally scroll back up find the “Department” filter on the left side and select the genre you are most interested in. The most important thing here is to find a book you really want to read because you are interested in the topic.
  • Blogs      
    • Wait But Why. www.waitbutwhy.com/wechat . This one is a little trickier to access because you will to set up a WeChat account first, add Wait But Why to your WeChat account by scanning the QR code, and then access articles by selecting View History and selecting from the Past Articles list.
    • Lei Jun’s (雷军) personal blog(Chinese billionaire tech entrepreneur)http://leijun.blog.techweb.com.cn/
  • Technical Content
    • Zhihu: www.zhihu.com – Similar to Quora.com or StackExchange.com, a forum with questions and answers about a wide variety of topics. You can find the simpliest or most technically advanced of topics on this forum for whatever you might be interested in. Download the app for on-the-go reading. This will require you to set up an account by entering your mobile number.

I would also highly recommend you check out the following post from our Getting Started Series: Pick a Go-To Source of Chinese Reading Material. If you haven’t read through that entire series, you might want to visit it because it is packed with more information to help you along the way.

Using JinbuPal’s Chinese YouTube Library

How would you like to improve your Chinese listening and vocabulary by watching genuine Chinese language videos? There are so many great Chinese films, TVs, documentaries, and video bloggers to choose from!  

JinbuPal Chinese
Youtube Library
View Library

Regardless of your current skill level, it is always more fun to learn through content that actually aligns with your interests, rather than conversation that feels like it came from a textbook. If what you’re learning isn’t interesting or meaningful to you, it’ll be much harder for it to stick in your memory. For example, I’m an engineer; for this reason, engineering and tech related videos were what I was most interested in watching. Once you find Chinese language videos about the topics you already want to learn about, you can now just use the language as a means to learn about something that is meaningful to you. The more meaningful, the more easily you’ll acquire the language! Makes sense, right? So how can you go about finding what you really enjoy?

I know that when I first started learning Chinese, I found it very difficult to track down the Chinese shows that I really was interested in.  I found in my own experience that finding YouTube channels which teach Chinese is a very simple task; just run a search for Chinese language in YouTube or on Google and you’ll find may channels available (JinbuPal being one of these). However, finding actual Chinese content proves to be a lot more difficult, especially if you’re picky enough to only watch what you’re interested in.

Having experienced this myself, I want to prevent you from having to go through the same challenges! I want to save you time and, most importantly, help you on the path to rapid success as best as I can! So that’s why I’ve compiled a huge list of Chinese content YouTube channels that I’ve found by personally mining through YouTube. I’ve even categorized all of these channels based on common topics and subtitle availability. This way, you can easily filter by category and find something you like right off the bat! It’s available right here for you to download and it’s absolutely free! All you have to do is join the JinbuPal email list below and I’ll send you a free download link! It doesn’t get simpler than that!

The rest of this post is a walkthrough of how to use the document, so I’d encourage you to go ahead and enter your email so you can download it right ahead!

Here’s what you’ll find inside your downloaded file.

Each channel has the following details filled out:

  • Channel Name
  • Category
  • Typical Subtitle Format
  • Subtitle Style
  • Topic
  • Direct Channel Link

If you’re unfamiliar with using filters in Excel, check out the following GIFs which so how to turn filters on and off as well as how to activate filters for in specific columns. Once you’ve downloaded your copy, you’ll be able to sort and filter the listed channels based on topics you’re interested in.

Using filters:

Applying filters to specific columns:

Depending on your current skill level, you may want to filter the channels by subtitles. Digital (or “soft”) subtitles will be the easiest for you to make use of if you’re work a lot on your vocabulary and encountering new Chinese characters. These soft subtitles will be capability with popup dictionaries, such as Zhongwen.

Lastly, if you haven’t already, I’d highly recommend you read through our posts on how to utilize YouTube as the ultimate language learning tool and ways to find Chinese content on YouTube. Trust me, you will not want to miss out on the information provided in those posts because they should really help you see how incredibly powerful YouTube can be for learning learning.

Also, check out our related video with some extra tips on how to search for Chinese content on YouTube.

Ultimate Guide to Learning Chinese on YouTube

When I first started studying Chinese, I found it really difficult to find interesting video content to watch. After talking with some Chinese friends, I learned that tons of incredible content was right under my nose – on YouTube. In this post, I will discuss how to turn you YouTube into the ultimate language learning tool. This post (and JinbuPal, in general) is geared specifically toward learning Chinese. However, these same tools are applicable regardless of what language you’re learning. And the best part is… all but one of these tools are completely free and will take you less than 5 minutes to set up! Ready? Let’s start!

YouTube can be an incredible resource for learning any language. You’ll find all sorts different topics of interest such as movies, TV shows, TED talks, documentaries, and more. But even aside from the content itself, the YouTube video player and interface itself can be adjusted to create huge benefits for the language learner.

Before jumping into the tools, I’d like to introduce a mindset I’ve found super helpful for efficient Chinese learning – combining tools for efficiency. In this article, you will learn about several different browser tools that are useful by themselves but way more powerful once you combine them together. Once you’ve see how this works, you might want to consider this same mindset in the future to eliminate any time that you feel is wasted in your studying process. Because even repeatedly wasting just 30 seconds to look up words inefficiently can add up significantly over time. So remember, any time you notice waste in your studying process, look for tools that could be used by themselves or in combination with others to optimize your use of time.

Alright, bring on the tools!

1. Google Chrome Browser – Free

         No. 1 is pretty straightforward, but we will need to install several Chrome Extensions to add functionality to YouTube so it’s important that you are using Google Chrome.

2. Zhongwen Popup Dictionary – Chrome Extension – Free

         No more looking up unfamiliars words! Every second you spend looking through a dictionary is wasted time. Hover your mouse over a Chinese character or word and Zhongwen will instantly display the definition, pinyin, and tones. You will find this tool essential for your language learning and particularly on YouTube, it will help you find definitions from subtitles and the titles of videos themselves.

Link: https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/zhongwen-chinese-english/kkmlkkjojmombglmlpbpapmhcaljjkde?hl=en

3. Youtube Playback Speed Control – Chrome Extension – Free

         You may know that you change the speed of a YouTube video by clicking the Settings gear. It offers the speeds .25x, .5x, .75x, 1x, 1.25x, 1.5x, 1.75x and 2x. These settings work really well for speeding up an English video to quickly get through all the information. However, the .25x increments make it less than perfect for language learning because it’s often too slow and can also result in poor sound quality.

Enter the Youtube Playback Speed Control Chrome extension. With this extension there are no limits on how fast or slow you play a video. Not only that, you can also change the speed increment to whatever you want. To set this up, right click the extension icon next to the browser URL bar and select Options. Click the Settings tab. Here you can update the value in the setting Speed Change Step. I typically use “0.05,” which will allow you slow down the value by 5% at a time. This allows you to slow down to exactly the speed that is manageable for you at your current ability level.

         Link: https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/youtube-playback-speed-co/hdannnflhlmdablckfkjpleikpphncik

4. Controls for Youtube – Chrome Extension – Free

         Now that our video playback speed is just right, we need to think about how to quickly skip backward and repeat dialogue when you don’t understood. YouTube has built-in keyboard shortcuts to jump backward and forward by 5 seconds by hitting the Left and Right Arrow keys. But I find that 5 seconds usually skips back a few seconds more than would like to. And what do extra seconds mean? You got it, wasted time! Install this Chrome extension and it will add 2 rewinds buttons to your YouTube playback bar with customizable Seek Duration settings.

I like to set my buttons to 3 seconds and 1.5 seconds. Having these two buttons plus the 5 second keyboard shortcut, you are all set to quickly skip backwards with precision.

Link: https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/controls-for-youtube/doocmbmlcnbbdohogchldhlikjpndpng

5. CopyFish – Free

         Now let’s move on to the topic of closed captions. As you probably have noticed, a vast majority of available Chinese content has subtitles already embedded in the video. On the plus side, this is great because you almost always have the ability to look up unfamiliar phrases from the subtitles.

However, because so many videos contain these “hardcoded” subtitles, it is less common that someone has taken the time to create a digital version of the subtitles, or “soft subtitles.”

This tool offers a quick way to lookup characters from hardcoded subtitles by performing an OCR (optical character recognition).

Also, the tool is compatible with Zhongwen, which we already added to your stack of tools. You will have to activate this functionality as shown below. Note that to use the Zhongwen dictionary, you have to hover your mouse over the red font overlaid on the actual screen capture, not the text in the OCR Result field.

Link: https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/copyfish-?-free-ocr-soft/eenjdnjldapjajjofmldgmkjaienebbj

6. Closed Captions & Open Transcript – Free

         Okay, so you’ve found a video with soft subtitles? Fortunately, this adds a lot more functionality. Select the Subtitles/CC setting (shown below). Note that the Zhongwen dictionary will be compatible with these subtitles!

Next, click the “…” button as shown below and “Open Transcript.”

This will open the entire closed caption transcript in the right pane of the window. Again, this text will be compatible with Zhongwen.

7. LingQ – $12.99/month

         Have you heard of LingQ? If you haven’t you should definitely check it out for learning any language. There are a lot of excellent features in Lingq that are outside the scope of this article, but I would like to discuss one potential use for Lingq to add to your YouTube Chinese learning experience.

Lingq includes a Chrome Extension which allows you to scrap content from the web, including YouTube videos and their closed caption transcripts. If soft subtitles are available for your video of choice, you can upload the video to Lingq through the extension. After uploading you can view the video directly in Lingq and follow along with the text.

All of the YouTube extensions we’ve just added will be applicable when you watch a video on LingQ.  However, I find it a bit cumbersome switching back and forth between adding definitions (called lingqs) and watching the video because both features appear in the same pane one at a time.

To make things easier, I prefer to open the LingQ app on my iPhone and follow along with the transcript on my phone while watching the video on my laptop browser directly on YouTube.

Link: lingq.com

This brings us to the end of the list. I really hope that you find these tools helpful to get the most of your Chinese learning on YouTube!

Now you have all the tools you need to use YouTube to it’s fullest potential. But do you have many sources of Chinese videos on YouTube?
You don’t want to miss the next post: 4 Ways to Find Chinese YouTube Content. In this post, I’ll share a few tips for how to find videos and you can even download a document with tons of popular Chinese YouTube channels organized by category.

Lastly, we’d love to hear from you! If you know of any additional tools that didn’t make the list or if you have some unique ways of using these tools, please share your thoughts in the section below.

Beginner Series Summary

Alright! You made it! You’ve now read all the steps you’ll need to be a proficient Chinese speaker in record time. I hope you’ve found these posts interesting and you’ve learned how much easier learning Mandarin Chinese can be than you may have once thought.

You may be thinking, “Okay, great! Now where do I start?” First of all, keep your eyes on JinbuPal.com because we are currently working hard on some big plans which will revolutionize the way you learn Chinese characters using frequency data. You’ll be able to track your progress and study characters like never before. But it’s not quite ready yet, so make sure you sign up for our mailing list to stay up to date on all the details.

Until then, I’d highly recommend start off by running a quick Google search for “Chinese Characters by Frequency” where you can find characters listed out in order of their frequency usage. From there, you can start learning from the top or download the text and sort the characters however you like in an Excel spreadsheet.

Another great place to start is by reviewing the word lists which have been compiled for official Chinese Language Proficiency exams called HSK. There are 6 HSK word lists of increasing difficulty (all available here). They start with HSK1 which includes 150 of the most frequently used words and progress up to 5000 words in HSK6. Each HSK level includes all words from previous levels with each level being around double the size of the previous one. The only downside to the HSK is that some words are included which are not particularly high frequency.

As you begin your learning journey, be sure to check back here at JinbuPal for more articles packed with tools, tips, and tricks to help you along the way. Good luck!

How to get started learning Chinese Series

Chinese Accents

At first glance, this topic might seem like it’s a little advanced and unnecessary right now, but knowing about at this from the very start will save you a lot of confusion in the long run. Just like an American southern accent differs a lot from a British accent, Mandarin Chinese varies with accents as well. When first starting out, I thought this was a detail I could save for later. In fact, I wasn’t even aware it was something I was ignoring. But, I quickly realized that it’s pretty important to understand accents in Chinese so that you avoid confusion when listening to audio or talking with someone from a southern region of China or Taiwan.

Like we discussed from the very beginning, the Chinese language is composed of many dialects, but education and media in mainland China is typically conducted in Mandarin. Near Beijing, people speak Mandarin, also known as Standard Chinese or pǔtōnghuà (普通) natively and with the official accent. But as you move away from Beijing (specifically toward Southern China and Taiwan), accents of spoken Mandarin Chinese change based on the influence of regional dialects. For a foreigner learning Chinese though, this effect can be mostly summed up with the differences between two particularly noticeable accents: Northern vs Southern accents.

The Northern accent follows the standard Chinese pronunciation common in Beijing. You are likely to hear this accent in most government broadcast shows, news, and podcasts. On the contrary, Southern accents can be pretty confusing when first learning because some separate sounds from the official accent are blurred together. Because of this, context becomes even more important in understanding what someone is saying.

Compared to a Northern accent, a Southern accent has these tricky characteristics:

  • less curling on the tongue for any pinyin with an “h”, such as: shi, zhi, chi, zhou, zhong, chu, zhe, she, et cetera.  The result is that the pronunciation essentially ignores the “h” in these pinyin. This can present some serious confusion to a new learner because these pinyin pronunciations can then be very easily confused with other pinyin that do not contain an “h” at all, such as: si, se, zi, ci, zou, zong, cu, ze, etc. Context is really important to understand what pinyin is actually being said.
  • almost no use of the “-r” sound common at the end of the pinyin shi, zhi, and chi. This is also primarily because these pinyin are pronounced the same as si, zi, and ci because of the previous bullet point.

To be clear, I know virtually nothing about pronunciations of local dialects of Chinese, but I have read that most of Southern regional dialects do not include tongue curling sounds in their lexicons. This is what leads to these notable aspects of the Southern accent for Southern Chinese when they speak Mandarin. I’d advise you not to worry about the different accents right now, but just keep this information in the back of your mind so that you understand what is going on when you hear a word pronounced completely differently from your expectations.

Now that we’ve covered most everything on the pronunciation front, it’s time to demystify tones.

Next up: Tones aren’t so scary.

How to get started learning Chinese Series