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Chinese Podcasts for Intermediate learners weak in listening


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#1 share DrWatson

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Posted 21 March 2008 - 07:54 AM

I really really need to work on my listening skills (and speaking too, somehow). It is so easy to get wrapped up in grammar studies and reading and what not. Since I can't find a local conversation partner to meet weekly with, I'm trying to fall back on some daily listening materials.

I would put myself somewhere in the intermediate range in terms of reading skills, thus I am not looking for entry-level or beginner material. Vocabulary is also a big issue for me, I have a small vocabulary. I suppose I've just been focusing on grammar all of this time.

So I know of two Chinese podcasts:
ChinesePod - I tried it a year ago and found it very lacking. There was a short dialogs, but for the most part it was two hosts doing small-talk and explaining for the entirety of the podcast. That is fine the first time I listen, but what I really want is the dialog only so that I can listen to it over and over again without having to worry about rewinding too far and listening to those chatty hosts once again.

iMandarinPod - I like the level of this podcast, and the length of the dialogs are perfect too. However, the explanations are all in Chinese and because my listening skills are not that developed I tend to read the PDF explanations rather than paying attention to the explanation as there are too many words I just can't seem to catch when the host is speaking. In the end it ends up becoming another reading exercise for me rather than a listening exercise. I suppose that is good too...but I know I need to focus on my listening.

Is there any podcast that meets in the middle of these two styles? Something with less ChinesePod chit-chat, but not quite at higher level of iMandarinPod?
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#2 share Luobot

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Posted 21 March 2008 - 09:32 AM

You can try CLO (ChineseLearnOnline). It's a free progressive podcast series with "premium" subscription features, but you'll have to find the right starting point by listening to some podcasts from a few levels. Level 1 and Level 2 is very basic. Around Level 3, it starts to go from mostly English explanations to increasingly Mandarin. They're presently up to "Level 4," which is mostly in Mandarin and has longer dialogues. Eventually, I think it will be entirely in Mandarin.

You can check their "course outline" to see the new vocabulary used in each podcast and to get an idea of where to jump in. They also provide a free pinyin transcript of any dialogues used in each podcast on the website.

(fyi - I'm not associated with the site, except as a subscriber.)
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#3 share DrWatson

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Posted 21 March 2008 - 02:01 PM

Thanks for the link. Do you know if the podcasts are really "chatty" like ChinesePod?

I noticed on ChinesePod's homepage today that they have an option for the dialog only. But you can't download that onto your mp3 player, you have to download the full recording. How irritating!
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#4 share imron

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Posted 21 March 2008 - 02:19 PM

But you can't download that onto your mp3 player

I think you can if you subscribe.
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#5 share calibre2001

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Posted 21 March 2008 - 02:21 PM

I try to listen more to the chatty sessions (esp the upper intermediate and above) as opposed to the dialogue as it resembles closer to real life conversation. Dialogues are too textbooky btu nevertheless have value.
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#6 share DrWatson

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Posted 21 March 2008 - 03:33 PM

imron:

Is that right? I wish that was written clearly on their website. I have no problem with paying for learning materials, I'd just like to know what I'm getting into. I'll check it out, thanks.

calibre2001:

Agreed on that one! However, if the chatty sessions are in English like the Adv. Beginner lessons...
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#7 share imron

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Posted 21 March 2008 - 03:47 PM

Is that right? I wish that was written clearly on their website.

I just checked the site now, and if you go to a given lesson, there will be a bunch of MP3s and other files on the sidebar. When you move your mouse over the Dialogue MP3 you get a popup that says "This is premium content. Consider updating to premium for full access to all study resources"
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#8 share Luobot

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Posted 21 March 2008 - 04:02 PM

Do you know if the podcasts are really "chatty" like ChinesePod?


They're not chatty like ChinesePod. In CLO’s current level-4 lessons, the speakers use mostly Mandarin to talk about what they’re teaching, but I wouldn’t call that chatting. CLO has a completely different style and approach to teaching than does ChinesePod. I listen to and enjoy both for their differences.

Btw, both have dialogue-only versions of their podcasts as a paid-subscription feature. CLO has two dialogue-only versions, one just for listening (like ChinesePod) but also one with pauses for repeating after the speaker. Many of CLO’s podcasts also have videos of the dialogues acted out. Seeing the conversation as it would appear in real life puts it into context in a way that audio alone cannot. Probably the best feature of CLO over ChinesePod, which you get for free, is that CLO doesn’t have any nauseating music mixed into the lesson, just a few bars at the beginning and end of each lesson. One thing that ChinesePod does well, which I like, is that they discuss man-on-the-street usage rather than just dictionary definitions. So that’s one of several reasons why I find both worth listening to, but since you already said you don’t like ChinesePod, I suggest that you give CLO a try, and then come back here and let us know what you think of it, pro and con.
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#9 share DrWatson

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Posted 21 March 2008 - 05:56 PM

imron,

Thank you so much. You're right. I cant believe I missed it. I was digging through the subscription info and the FAQs and the help info. Should have known to just check out the lessons themselves first.

Luobot,

Thanks, I will download some of the CLO lessons and try them out when I get home from the office.

What I mean by chattiness is the needless conversation. I don't mind learning street definitions and what not, that is really helpful and I enjoy some of the trivia and usages that Ken and Jenny would share. What I dislike about ChinesePod is how Ken and Jenny are continuously, and I mean in every episode I tried out (albiet a year ago), trying to up each another with compliments. It might be different at higher levels, but I only tried out advanced beginner and a lots of the vocab was new to me so that felt right. I have heard ChinesePod has changed since last February, I know the website certainly has. So maybe the lessons are a bit different too now?

The reason I want podcasts without the talking is that in the morning I usually take the bus to work, and in the bus I can listen to one podcast with the explanations before I arrive at the office. On the way home though I walk instead of the bus I just don't want to be constantly fiddling with my mp3 player to review the dialog. I'd rather set the device on repeat and listen to the dialog until I feel comfortable with the tones and what not, and then I can move on and review other lessons. I can make review play-lists too that randomly play previous lessons and I don't have to fiddle with the device at all. I'm probably not a *normal* user though.
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#10 share calibre2001

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Posted 21 March 2008 - 10:59 PM

Dr Watson,

Also try to venture out beyond the safe waters of learning podcasts. For a while I used BBC chinese news podcasts. While it's pretty much native level (which is good), the fact that it's harder makes the lessons in chinese learning podcasts seem like a piece of cake. That helped improve my listening skills and vocab substantially. My learning efficiency from these learning podcasts increased alot.
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#11 share DrWatson

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Posted 22 March 2008 - 08:22 AM

That is a good idea! I know it will be hard and my vocabulary is really small but I think it would help just to listen to Mandarin more often.
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#12 share Luobot

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Posted 22 March 2008 - 08:33 AM

I'm probably not a *normal* user though.


Actually, I think you probably are more the norm for someone who is outside of China and trying to learn the language independently. Since you don't hear the language all the time in the normal course of your daily life, and you're not forced to respond to someone in real time terms, it's difficult to develop good listening skills. Portable audio is a good solution.

I also agree with Calibre on venturing out. No single podcast will make you fluent, so it's a good idea to try a variety of input sources.

Another one worth listening to is the Chinese Voices Project. These audio essays are intended to be used with Clavis Sinica's software (which is for "reading and reference") but they also stand as gems on their own.
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#13 share roddy

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Posted 22 March 2008 - 08:56 AM

If you're looking for native-level podcast stuff, don't miss this discussion. I'd particularly look at 德国之声 as it's got a nice headlines + news bit at the start which is a bite-sized 5 to 10 minutes, and often has magazine-type general interest content.
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#14 share mikeedward

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Posted 23 March 2008 - 04:08 AM

CSLpod is my favourite.. especially the level 3 intermediate lessons. They have full transcripts with extra example sentences, none of the chattiness that chinesepod has, and are pure chinese.. they're about 8 minutes long each but I cut off the beginning and end redundant intros which brings them down to about 6.5 minutes. I then listen to them over and over, and re-read the transcript over and over as well, as well as mimic the speaker. They're not the balanced mix of english/chinese that you may be looking for, but they will really boost your comprehension and everything else pretty fast if you work hard with them.
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#15 share ipsi()

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Posted 28 March 2008 - 04:37 PM

CSLPod is interesting, but I really need the transcripts. The problem I have is that I can't process what they're saying fast enough to be able to understand what they're saying. I also don't have a huge vocabulary, to the point where I don't know most of the words. Or at least, enough of the words that I could give you even the gist of what they're saying.

I'd love to be able to read the transcript first, figure out what it means, and then listen to it and see if I can understand it when it's spoken aloud. That, or just check out the new words they're using, and then listen to it. Not all their lessons have enough information for me to be able to do that. :(.
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#16 share Luobot

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Posted 28 March 2008 - 05:25 PM

just check out the new words they're using, and then listen to it.


That's exactly my strategy with CLO. :wink:
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