If you planning on studying Chinese in China or Taiwan then watching TV while you are there is essential if you’re to pick up on the local lingo and improve your listening and comprehension ability. The problem is that you’ll quickly find it’s hard to catch words as they fly by the bottom of the screen (all pre-recorded programmes in Taiwan have subtitles by default), and if the Chinese is spoken too quickly for your current ability level you’re also out of luck. Recently I did what I should have done when I first arrived in Taiwan – bought a TV tuner stick for my Macbook to let me record TV shows to watch back later.
Where you are located and what services are available there will determine what kind of TV tuner stick you should buy. TV tuners for computers usually come in three varieties – analogue, digital, and dual analogue & digital. Here in Taiwan cable TV is analogue and doesn’t require a special set-top box or cable card I just had to buy a tuner stick that supported analogue broadcasts. But there are also 19 free digital over-the-air channels that are also available. The dual analogue/digital cards are usually more expensive than the single analogue or digital tuners, too. The one I bought in the image above was $2990NT (around £60UK/$100US) which is quite expensive for a tuner stick but this is due to the lack of support for Apple Macs by most manufacturers so the choice is reduced when compared to Windows PCs. If you are using a Windows PC then you can pretty much buy any stick available and prices start from as low as $600NT (£12UK/$20US). If you go to your local “3C shop” (electronics shop) as ask I’m sure they’ll point you in the right direction for what is suitable for your circumstances.
Now I can record all of my favourite programmes such as The Simpsons in Chinese (above) and Cartoon Network in Chinese is also a great resource for Chinese dubbed cartoons. If a sentence is spoken too quickly, I can just skip back a few second and listen again. If I want to analyse the subtitles for a few minutes then I can pause and write down any words that interest me. It makes watching TV as a resource for learning Chinese exponentially better.
The moral of the story? If you’re going to China or Taiwan to study Chinese then make sure you pick up a decent TV tuner stick to record your favourite programmes for watching back later!