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!

RTI, my favourite radio station

As soon as my Chinese level was good enough to understand normal, spoken Chinese, I started listening to native radio stations. At that time, I was living in Taiwan (and have now returned, but that’s a different story) and just used normal, analogue radio, but later I also tried a number of online radio stations. Today, I almost exclusively use one, RTI, or Radio Taiwan International. In this article, I will introduce you to RTI and how to use it to improve your Chinese.

Note that what I write here is relevant for people who don’t have any specific interest in Taiwan as well. Apart from learning Chinese, you can also broaden your horizons. In addition, this article is not only about listening to this particular radio station, but listening to radio in general,  something I highly recommend (see the list below).

First, though, I should tell you why I like RTI:

  • A broad variety of radio programs (gardening, pop culture, politics, singing lessons, drama, news, story reading, finance, travelling, food, history, talk shows)
  • Authentic content (most programs are natural and non-scripted, so language use is natural and relaxed)
  • News with transcripts (daily publication of more news that you can listen to, all with subtitles)
  • Freely available online (both as a stream and as mp3-files for individual programs)
  • Extensive archives (with old episodes of most programs, making it easy to listen to a series of programs in one go)
  • Heavy focus on speaking (there is some music, but not much, which is excellent for listening practice)

Note that this is a Taiwanese radio station, so the speaking is Taiwanese accented Mandarin. However, this radio station is suitable for any learner, simply because you should diversify the Chinese you listen to regardless of where you’re currently learning. You don’t need to speak like this, but you need to understand it. The website exists in two versions:

Chinese radio for background and passive listening

I have had this radio station on autostart every morning for close to two years. This way, I have to actively do something to not listen to Chinese. Sure, I can turn off the sound if I really want to, but a normal morning still contains Chinese. After getting to know the hosts who have programs roughly at this time, it’s a pleasant way of waking up.

Here’s a direct link to the RTI live stream:

If you want some suggestions for what to do when listening passively or why it’s good to have Chinese in the background, please check my article series about improving listening ability.

RTI for active listening

One really good thing with RTI is that it provides large amounts of read news reports with transcripts. Here’s where you can find the transcripts:

Recommended programs

Here’s a short list of programs I like and that I think other people might find interesting as well. If you want to see a list of all programs (with downloadable versions of older episodes), click here. I should mention that I listen to these programs live most of the time. It’s much more convenient to just have the radio on in the background all the time rather than actively having to download the audio. Still, always having a bunch of programs on your phone or mp3-player is essential (keep reading about this here: Make sure listening isn’t a practical problem).

  • 為人民服務-楊憲宏時間 (Politics) – This program is based solely on discussions between the host and one visitor. The programs are fairly long and they have time to explore topics thoroughly. Topics vary a lot, but are mostly political in some way.
  • 十分好文摘 (Literature) – This is one of the best programs on RTI. It contains one story each episode, and as the name implies, it takes roughly ten minutes to finish. The stories are often interesting and would be excellent as the basis of an advanced or upper-intermediate textbook focusing on listening ability.
  • RTI劇場 (Drama) – As the name implies, this program features drama in Chinese. I find that the acting is sometimes quite different from what I’m used to in the west and so is the language. Good practice anyway and sometimes interesting stories. 
  • 音樂M.I.T (Music) – Music in Taiwan is a good program if you want to keep track of what’s going on in the world of Taiwanese music. Daily broadcasts with new music (and lots of talking about the music, of course).
  • 空中體育課 (Health) – This program is about health and sports, usually through interviews with scientists, authors and other people who have something to say about the subject. It’s not about current sport events and doesn’t report sport news, but rather focuses on health and physical activity in general.
  • 影音 (Video) – This is not a radio program, but rather a section of the websites that contain videos. I haven’t used this very much since I’m mostly after audio only, but I still wanted to include it here.

A few final words

For all the above-mentioned reasons, I think RTI is a very good source of learning for anyone from intermediate level and above. There’s plenty of audio on many different topics. There are lots of news broadcasts with transcripts. I personally find the diversity to be RTI’s strength, along with the availability and ease of access.

What radio stations do you listen to?

I want to broaden my horizons as well. What do you listen to? I’m particularly interested Mainland radio stations with more talking and less music, preferably about interesting topics (i.e. not only pop culture or talk shows). Please leave a comment below!