How and why to watch the world cup in Chinese

I often stress the importance of making Chinese interesting and/or fun. This is why I’ve written articles about how to use computer games and sports to learn languages. The reason behind this is that learning a language takes an awful lot of time and if you don’t enjoy what you’re doing, it’s going to be hard to force yourself to study and you won’t learn as efficiently either. If you really like what you’re doing, on the other hand, accumulating hours is much easier..

If you watch the football world cup, you should watch it in Chinese

footballThis is an excellent example of when you should definitely convert an interest or a hobby to Chinese. If you like football, you probably know enough about the game to be able to follow what’s going on even if you don’t understand what the commentators are saying. You’ll understand enough based on context that you will be able to pick up lots of words and phrases without even studying if you watch a lot.

Naturally, the more advanced your Chinese is, the easier this is going to be, but just as Luke wrote in a guest article earlier this month:

The progress of a sporting match can be followed even with the sound turned off, making it an ideal starting place for beginners as you’ll never lose the plot.

Where to watch the world cup online in Chinese

I must admit that I’m no football fan myself, but if I’m going to watch any games, it’s going to be in Chinese. I did some research for this article and found a few sites where you can watch live games (and sometimes also recordings of old games). There’s also plenty of related news, discussions and so on, but I’m mostly interested in streamed matches with commentary in Chinese. I tried these links during the games yesterday and they worked well, but some of them might be region-dependent:

  1. 风云直播 This is a sports channel in general, so when there’s no football, there will be something else (Formula 1 when I checked). There is a schedule in the top navigation bar (节目单) where you can see when matches will be broadcast. There’s a lot more going on than football here.
  2. 新浪体育台 Live streaming, not only of matches, but also with a lot of analysis and discussions of earlier and future games. There seems to be a lot of football even when there are no matches being played, in other words. Seems to work outside China as well.
  3. Search on Soku – This is probably the best method if you’re not looking for live streaming. Many of them require you to be in China or fool the server into believing that you are. I have so far failed to find recordings of old matches freely available outside China, please leave a comment if you know where to find them.
  4. 凤凰网 Portal site for coverage of the world cup, includes lots of news (list), live streaming, match schedule and information about teams.
  5. 搜狐体育 Similar to the other sites, offers a wealth of news and general coverage. There are also old matches to watch, but you have to be in China to view them.
  6. 网易体育 – Contains lots of news, general coverage and live streams. You can also view old matches, but again, it requires you to be in China.

If you have any other suggestions, especially if you know some way of watching old matches outside China, do let me know and I’ll add it to the list! Any other useful sites would also be nice, such as those below about vocabulary for watching football.

Some links to help you with vocabulary

I did a quick search and found several sites that offers basic football vocabulary in Chinese:

You can easily find more using any search engine. Still, only focus on this if you want to. If you think it’s boring, just watch the game, you’ll learn common words soon enough anyway if you pay attention.

Focus on what you understand

If you haven’t watched sports in Chinese before, there will be a period in the beginning where it’s going to be hard. The more you listen, the more you adapt, though, so don’t give up just because you don’t understand much during the first match.

After a while, though, you should start recognising common words and phrases. Focus on these. Focus on what you understand. There will be plenty of things you don’t understand, but that’s not the point here. If you never expose yourself to real Chinese, you will never learn to understand it. Getting used to it takes time.

Beyond football

Personally, I’m not so much into football, so I’m going to watch StarCraft 2 matches in Chinese instead. The StarCraft 2 tournament in Taiwan’s E-Sports League has just entered the playoff stage and is starting to get exciting! Can the Koreans be beaten?

The point is, it doesn’t really matter what you watch, but if you like football, StarCraft 2 or something else, you really should make an effort and try to watch in Chinese instead of your native language. It’s fun and you’ll learn a lot at the same time!

Practising sports to learn Chinese and make friends

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While living in Taiwan, I had the opportunity to practise several sports mostly using Chinese to communicate with instructors and fellow practitioners. Doing so made me realise that there is huge potential for language learning in practising sports. The obvious advantages include an increased vocabulary about the specific activity, but as we shall see, I believe sports and similar activities are really good for more reasons, mostly social and psychological. Since it’s quite good to practise some kind of sport anyway, this shouldn’t take up much extra time. Combining two activities you’re already performing is one of the best ways of increasing efficiency.

I’ve practised various sports which were all taught and/or practised in Chinese: Tai Chi (太极拳), diving, yoga and football. Apart from these, I have also had PE class for one semester, which included everything from badminton and volleyball to jogging and table tennis. From these experiences, I’ve learnt a couple of things I’d like to share with you. Have you practised any sports yourself? Leave a comment and share with us!

Real communication with direct feedback

Arriving in a new country, most people find it somewhat difficult to start interacting with natives without having any reason to do so apart from the urge/need to learn the language. Practising some kind of sport is an excellent way of circumventing this problem and making communication very real immediately. Not only will it be real, the kind of communication you’ll have will most likely also include some direct feedback. If the instructor tells you something and you don’t get it, the instruction might be followed by another one, possible with some helpful gestures.

Depending on what you practise, you can learn a lot. For example, when I practised diving (which I did consistently for one semester), I had a very good coach who not only managed to improve my diving a lot, but he also taught me much about how to describe motion, movements and the human body. He would tell me what I should change in my dives, show me as best as he could and then give me feedback on whether I improved or not. This communication was real and felt important at the time.

Practising sports, making friends

I think there are two different ways of practising sports (providing you do it in a social setting and not on your own). First, you can join some kind of club at a nearby university (might be easier if you actually study there), in which case you will get to know quite a lot of native students. The point is that these people aren’t there primarily to meet you, so the kind of interaction you will have with these natives are quite different from language exchange partners or other people you meet because of some mutual interest in each other. In my experience, most people I’ve met in this way have been very positive towards me as a foreigner, but you might meet people who just think you’re a stupid foreigner. Don’t despair, this might be very good! Always interacting with people who do everything they can to understand what you say is one thing, but talking with people who don’t particularly want to listen to you broken Chinese is quite a challenge.

Second, you can find some way of practising which is not linked to any school or university. I practised yoga this way (although not for very long). This has the additional benefit of bringing you into contact with people who aren’t students and might not interact with foreigners at all in their daily lives. Again, they’re not there mainly to talk to you, so the kind of practise you get will not be the same as with a teacher or classmate. If you’re the kind of person who can sit down and chat with random strangers in the park, then I don’t think you’ll find this very helpful, but I’m not like that personally and I think at least some readers are like me. If you share a common interest with someone, it’s a lot easier to get a conversation going. Regardless of how limited your ability might be, you still have something you really want to communicate. A common ground to build from is an excellent start.

You don’t have time? Really?

As I said in the beginning, the question of if you have time or not depends much more on being flexible than actually not having time. It’s about being smart and diversifying your learning. Most people I know either already practise some sport or have the ambition to do so. Why not combine this with your language learning? I realised that your favourite sport might not be available where you live (I was very lucky indeed to be able to practise diving) or your favourite sport might not be very social, but in these cases, you might have to make some sacrifices. Perhaps you can practise something you like, even though you would’ve preferred something else if it available. Likewise, if you’re so busy that you don’t practise anything at all, you might consider sacrificing something to get that extra one or two hours each week. This is a matter of prioritising and something you’ll have to do on your own.

I suggest that you around and see what activities you can find. If you find something which looks interesting, why don’t you try it out? In case you’re already practising sports in Chinese (or have done so), I’d be delighted to read about your experience, so please leave a comment before you go.