The Boonie Bears are Back – Week 43

Faithful longtime followers of my blog (hi Mom) will remember fondly that during the first three months of my Mandarin experiment, many delightful hours were spent watching Boonie Bears with my daughter, Camila Daya. The humor and basic storyline are quite comprehensible even if you don’t understand one word of Mandarin. Here’s a typical example:

I stopped watching Boonie Bears in April because I finally deemed it too difficult for total beginners. New decipherable words seemed to be very few and far between. I decided I should watch Qiao Hu in its place. Instead, I ended up watching mostly Chinese movies with English subtitles.

Last week I explained that I intend to gradually reduce the use of English subtitles in my Mandarin viewing. I will probably do so much faster than I specified in that post. Just in the past two weeks, I have gone from a previous average of 70% to a current 54% of viewing using subtitles. Watching movies without subtitles, however, is still not very enjoyable because I understand so little of the dialogue. So I decided to give Boonie Bears another try.

I had missed those hilarious fellas! Boonie Bear episodes are a perfect 10 minutes of mindless entertainment at the end of a long day. Even my wife watches with us, without the slightest intention of learning any Chinese!

My assessment of the Mandarin-learning benefit of Boonie Bears has changed significantly. Happily, I understand quite a bit more than before. As I’ve insisted recently with my skeptics, I’m definitely making progress. I am no longer listening to unintelligible garble. I understand a few words in each scene, enough to get the gist of the dialogue.

I also think I may have been somewhat off in my initial assessment. As I watch, I realize I did learn quite a few words from Boonie Bears in the early months—everything from how to answer a phone and ask who it is to specific vocabulary like hat and honey.

An unfortunate consequence of my initial abandonment of the ursine duo was that my daughter pretty much stopped watching Mandarin. Two nights ago, we watched Boonie Bears together just like in the old days—a total of 4 episodes or 40 minutes of viewing.

Shuda and Swar, we’re back and cheering you on as you protect the environment and endlessly torment that poor little lumberjack!

6 thoughts on “The Boonie Bears are Back – Week 43

  1. Greta Browne says:

    I love it that you – and Camila – have fun with this experiment. I believe that one of the main strengths of your approach is that is includes enjoyment. After all, what is human communication if not the expression of what we desire and need, our effort to get these met. Keep it up.

    • Indeed, if we don’t have fun with it, it’s not worth the time! And you’re right, communication is fundamentally about expressing ourselves and interacting with the world. That’s why learning a new language is so cool–it opens the door to a whole new world of enriching exchanges.

  2. emk1024 says:

    Glad to hear you’ve returned to a fun show, and that you’re enjoying yourself!

    My technology assisted Spanish TV experiment continues apace. I’ve done about 20 hours of total Spanish study, including 10 hours of Anki subs2srs reviews, an hour of grammar study with an 8-page “cheat sheet”, and some time just playing video while I was busy with other stuff.

    At the 30 day mark, I’m seeing definite progress: I can watch episode 1 of Avatar (the one that I’ve studied) with 80+% comprehension, and I can get quite a few scattered sentences from a mostly unfamiliar episode, plus a often another word or two per line of dialog.

    Of course, I’m only moving between Romance languages, which simplifies the problem tremendously (but not as much as I had hoped!). Still, it’s a fun challenge and things are moving quickly.

    • Thanks very much for visiting and commenting on my blog!

      As I’ve said before, I am very impressed with your own experiment and approach–so much so that it is the main topic of my latest blog post. I hope you will read it and comment, including providing any necessary corrections.

      Your results are impressive and encouraging. I’m looking forward to getting more acquainted with subs2srs and eventually using it myself (not likely with Mandarin, though). On the other hand, as you yourself have said, I think it is misleading to compare your results to mine, because of the very dissimilar languages, somewhat different goals, and differences in clocking time spent.

      As methods, however, they can certainly be usefully compared and contrasted. For someone who has access to and can handle the technological demands of your approach, I would probably recommend it over mine for a beginner, *especially* in tackling such a difficult language as Mandarin. In fact, I believe we both would generally recommend a more complete approach that includes speaking and reading from early on.

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