Story-based series are my favorite feature on ChinesePod. Regardless of the topic, they sustain an element of curiosity from lesson to lesson. Watching my kids grow and learn, I’ve seen that one of the most important ways for them to absorb language is listening to stories. They love it. They soak up every word. Even if the lines aren’t exactly Shakespeare, they’re still curious to know what happens next. Drama and suspense make things memorable.
The first extended story I listened to was the 9-part Intermediate-level “Beauty Pageant for Bloggers” series. To say that this topic didn’t interest me would be a major understatement. However, the opportunity to participate in an unfolding plot line in Chinese for the first time was thrilling. I gained an appreciation for why kids want to watch the same simple shows over and over: Each time, they’re picking up something new.
The next series I heard was a real treat: The 17-episode Lili and Zhang Liang love story. When you put the dialogues into a playlist, they last for a whopping 26 minutes. And remember: This entire drama is appropriate for HSK 4 learners. I know of nothing else like it out there.
The Intermediate level gives us several more, including Lao Wang’s Office, a mixture of useful office language with the realistic and intense conflict between new and old management.
At the Upper Intermediate level, things get even better. The suspenseful Jizhou series is a strange story about a couple who travel to a remote mountain village. The man disappears after hearing a strange flute, and no one but the woman remembers that he existed. Creepy. I recently played the first dialogue for my 5-year-old, and he wouldn’t let me stop until he heard the whole story.
Perhaps the most popular story in ChinesePod history is the 11-part Detective Li crime series. Initially, it’s like a TV show where each installment stands alone, but the further it goes, the more entangled the episodes—and the mystery—become. The audio production values are on par with Hollywood, and the plot is so entertaining that I plan to re-study this whole series in the coming months. Warning: Some episodes are not for the squeamish!
In a similar genre, Funny Business is actually a continuation of Lao Wang’s Office, but now with a surprising turn to the underworld. Lao Wang’s failure in the office pushes him into new and “creative” ways of making money that cause his accountant to start asking potentially fatal questions.
On the Advanced level, we get a dramatic introduction to archaic language: 小太监进宫 tells us of a young eunuch dealing with catty intrigue in the Emperor’s palace, while 孙悟空三打白骨精 introduces us to a beloved character every Chinese child knows—the Monkey King.
While shorter than most others at only 3 lessons, 扎着麻花辫的女孩 provides gripping audio and big twists with each episode.
If these are all out of your reach, don’t despair! There’s the hilarious junior high Yang Jie’s Diary for Elementary learners, detailing “the simpler days of ugly boys, teenage angst and unrequited crushes.”
Most of the above links will only take you to the first lesson. I’ve created a more complete list of links to these and other ChinesePod stories on my personal blog.
Even if you’re not interested in a particular topic, the opportunity to hear a developing story in level-appropriate Chinese is priceless. I’d recommend resisting the urge to listen ahead. Don’t spoil the story! Instead, study each lesson thoroughly before moving forward.