Chinese Language Learning – Good shows/media to expand vocabulary and understanding (for heritage speakers)?

I’m taking a Chinese class right now for heritage speakers at my university. I’ve learned that although I’m great at the exams and learning the fairly few and basic/familiar vocabulary words, I really struggle with a ton of phrases and words I’ve never heard of in my life, since my parents don’t use a lot of more complex words. Plus, their sentence structures are more familiar and simple than what I hear elsewhere.

For example, most people in my class are decent at speaking and even better at understanding. Most can watch Chinese TV shows and understand most if not all of it completely, it’s just that they’re completely illiterate and don’t know pinyin. Me on the other hand, will not understand every other word.

I tried to watch a popular show (Reset, 开端) the other day but I spent nearly 5 hours watching an hour long episode because I paused to read the captions if I didn’t understand a word or phrase, then searched it up to get its meaning. And that meant pausing on nearly every sentence.

My level of comprehension is like so. If the words and sentence structure are familiar, I can understand it without failure and internalize the meaning easily (this is opposed to in Spanish where quick speaking would trip me up because I don’t internalize the meaning, I translate to English in my head). I have enough understanding to get by and understand my parents conversations, but not enough for any other case. I can introduce myself in mandarin, give directions, order food, handle simple conversations, and understanding enough about common words to gossip in on most idle conversations people may have.

I’m not sure if my way of going about studying so far, like I just did with that show, is ineffective, since I feel I still don’t really know many words meanings. People say if I just keep exposing myself to this then I’ll eventually understanding, but on the other hand I’m not sure if going straight into shows like this with more uncommon words is too much, or if jotting everything down is a bad idea (I just search it in my Dictionary app and bookmark the word) rather than just matching sound with meaning and just associating things like that.


With that being said, I was wondering if anyone has any good media recommendations to help me in this regard? Hopefully with both mandarin and english subtitles at the same time.

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