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bchang

Chinesepod.com-Does it really work?

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rherschbach

I recently finished a year's worth of study with Chinesepod. It has evolved quite a bit during that time. For example, the intermediate lessons a year ago were comparatively simple. Then they brought John Pasden aboard, relegating Ken Carroll to the elementary and newbie lessons, and for a time the intermediate lessons were really hard, with practically no English explanations at all. Some listeners seem to have complained, so recently they have eased up on the difficulty level.

When I started, I'd just finished the Pimsleur series, which left me at about the high beginner/low intermediate stage. After a year, I can see a big difference in terms of vocabulary and listening comprehension improvement. I even tried out an advanced lesson recently and found it somewhat within my range. As some others have pointed out, one thing they've been particularly good about is recycling vocabulary through the lessons so you get a chance to hear the terms in varied, unpredictable settings. This is pretty important.

It's been less useful as a tool for boosting my speaking ability, though to be fair my emphasis this year was mostly on listening and reading. I have sometimes found myself trying out phrases I learned from the podcasts, and my native Mandarin speaking wife usually understands them and is impressed/amused.

As a reading development tool, it's a useful resource, especially in conjunction with something like Adsotrans.

Having tried out nearly all the alternatives I've seen people mention here on Chinese forums, I still think Chinesepod is by far the best thing out there in terms of overall effectiveness. However, the "basic/premium" thing is baffling. Specifically, the premium service still doesn't seem to offer anywhere near the amount of additional features one would expect with the big leap in price. That was true a year ago, and it still looked true when I checked it again a couple weeks back. Another thing that bugs me is that the premium features, as far as I can see, all pretty much require you to be sitting in front of your computer.

But that's just one person's view -- the existing model must make sense to enough people, since they've stuck with it.

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laowai1980

I wouldn't bother about cpod or any course whatsoever if I had a native Mandarin speaking wife :mrgreen:

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rherschbach

Yeah, but I don't want to bug her. I was an ESL teacher once and remember it was annoying to have to give friends/significant others/taxi drivers/random strangers free English help all the time.

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flameproof
I wouldn't bother about cpod or any course whatsoever if I had a native Mandarin speaking wife

I don't think just a wife will bring automatically a difference. Simple because YOU YOURSELF have to make the difference.

I still listen sometimes to CPod, know I make the lessons more effective by cutting them in 3 parts:

1. Beginning, just up to the start of the Mandarin only lesson

2. The Mandarin only lesson (once only, usually just 30-60 Seconds)

3. Everything after the lesson.

If you hear it now, the lesson is exactly the same, difference is, in the car or on the MP3 I can simply repeat the Mandarin only dialogs.

I also cut out the start and end jingles, which are well done, but get a little on my nerves if hearing them too often. Same for some English blabla if I can find it.

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rherschbach

That's a great idea -- should be much easier to review the dialogues as many times as needed. Probably makes for safer driving too. :)

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roddy
for a time the intermediate lessons were really hard, with practically no English explanations at all. Some listeners seem to have complained, so recently they have eased up on the difficulty level.

I think this ties up with what's been said elsewhere (perhaps earlier in this discussion) about advanced level classes being 'advanced for our students'. If the intermediate classes are too hard, then the students need to go back to an elementary or lower-intermediate level - you don't redefine what intermediate means to keep them happy.

Edit: Split discussion on mp3 editing to mp3 editing

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venture160

I agree with you Roddy. I just checked back with chinesepod to see how their design was, and I noticed the advanced levels are considerably easier than they were a few months ago. The dialog is slower and the grammar is less complex. Also, they have some super annoying woman trying to fake one of those high-pitched girly accents. That needs to go.

While I applaud chinesepod for their work their claimed "expertise" seems dubious, while forking out a salary for a PhD level Chinese professor from a western country might be expensive, I think it would benefit them.

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roddy

Just had a listen to one of the recent advanced lessons and I see what you mean - the actual dialogue really didn't seem 'advanced' to me - in fact it was much simpler than the chat on either side. No real analysis of the language used in the dialogue, no meaningful reasons given for listening - it's a handy bit of listening material, but it's not focused learning and therefore best use is not made of time. That said, they need to keep something back for the premium sections.

Also, they have some super annoying woman trying to fake one of those high-pitched girly accents.

讨厌!!!!!

My first month's subscription is almost out and I will certainly pay for another month, if not for the 6-month deal as it saves a bit of money.

Did you keep up your subscription? Any longer term impressions?

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imron
That said, they need to keep something back for the premium sections.
Unfortunately here, for advanced classes they are providing definitions for new words in English, or at least they were shortly after they updated their site to the new version. For me, any learning material that still uses English is at best Upper-Intermediate.

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gato
I noticed the advanced levels are considerably easier than they were a few months ago.

I think they probably made the decision that there wouldn't be enough real advanced students to make providing such advanced material profitable.

First, there are not too many real advanced students like you guys around when compared to the vastly larger number of beginners.

Second, real advanced students can already understand native Chinese materials (probably at least 80-90% of it), much of which is available for free on the net, and are probably reluctant to pay for artificial materials prepared for learners.

Third, many advanced students are likely to have much more specific learning needs (such as literature, history, or business), making it even more costly for them to provide genuinely useful learning material.

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kdavid

Quote:

Originally Posted by kdavid several months ago

My first month's subscription is almost out and I will certainly pay for another month, if not for the 6-month deal as it saves a bit of money.

Did you keep up your subscription? Any longer term impressions?

Since ChinesePod's switch to V3 I've been skeptical to resubscribe, but I did it once again hoping that the changes (for the worse) will be corrected. If they're not corrected by the end of this subscription (next month) I will not resubscribe.

I find the basic package to be sufficient (which I don't think is offered anymore, or at least I didn't see it offered when I recently resubscribed). You get the free podcasts and just about everything you need is there. Yeah, the PDF helps to follow along, but it's not worth 30 bucks a month alone.

What originally really hooked me on ChinesePod was the huge database of vocab and the games. For some reason I found that plugging my new vocab words into CP and then playing their games increased my retention of characters dramatically.

Recently, since the database has yet to be introduced to V3, I haven't been on CP as often. For some reason my brain worked really well with those games, and the progress was substantial, so I was willing to part with the money. Now, since that feature is gone, I have no reason to keep paying. I'm giving them the benefit of the doubt and handing out another 30 bucks, but that won't continue beyond this month if they don't retintroduce the database.

Just my two cents.

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venture160

Has anyone noticed that the discussion section in the advanced level at Chinesepod has almost nothing to do with any of the lessons? Its simply people complaining that its not in English or saying "gee, I wish I could understand this" I've tried to post a few comments that would illicit discussion, but so far not even the Chinese moderators have responded. I think whats important at the advanced level is to develop a platform where people can really make use of their Chinese, which has yet to develop.

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kdavid

The site has got a lot of potential, but I feel that recently they've been slow in responding and reacting to the feedback regarding the new site, and therefore pushing away the very people they're marketing to.

Generally, the site is great for "learners on the run", and in today's society, many learners are impatient--if they can't get what they want from one place then they'll find it in another. I'm going on almost 2 months without having been able to access or study my vocabulary with CP. Frankly, my patience, as well as others, is wearing thin.

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roddy

Are you able (when it's all working) to export your vocab lists for study elsewhere? I don't like the idea of having that kind of thing tied up in one site which you can only access online, but I can see an ability to export it in ZDT / Plecodict readable versions being very useful.

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simonlaing

On an advanced level do you think playing games is still interesting? I feel comprehension exercises and fill in the blank HSK style questions are a good way of testing mastery of Chinese. What other ways other than reading are there of learning chinese at a more advanced level?

Also hypothetically, what would you improve on Chinesepod? Perhaps we can request certain changes.

have fun,

Simon:)

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HashiriKata
What other ways other than reading are there of learning chinese at a more advanced level?
Be a Chinese actor, or even a Chinese opera singer. I think this would push your level of Chinese quite far, and there would even be a good chance of becoming an instant celebrity, if you've also got the looks of a laowai.

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wushijiao

Just to back to the original question: does Chinesepod “work”? There is no way that I can really answer that for sure. And I think that the answer highly depends on one’s needs and, perhaps (I don’t know), on one’s level. But it seems to me that, overall, Chinesepod is great resource.

I have recently listened to a few dozen podcasts. Of course, as a relatively advanced learner, no textbooks, podacasts, or anything else will be of a earth-shattering net value. Nonetheless, I think the intermediate, intermediate/advanced, and advanced lesson all have some value, especially in light of the fact that they are often intrinsically interesting and have practical value. Also, the new words, phrases, and grammar are usually explained away in a fairly concise and interesting manner, in my opinion.

Personally, I feel that the John/Jenny podcasts are all really fun and entertaining. In some lessons, I may not learn all that much new stuff, but they always introduce a few things that I may not have been 100% aware of, or may not have know the exact meaning of (even if it were relatively easy to guess the general meaning).

Personally, since I have usually have more than two hours a day in which to listen to things, using 15 or so minutes to listen to a Chinesepod.com podcasts seems to add value to me, even if the added value is relatively small.

I also think that learning new words via listening is more advantageous than learning new words via reading, especially for relatively intermediate/advanced learners who are already familiar with almost all the characters and a lot of vocab.

So, I think that for the average intermediate learner, or the average fairly advanced learner, supplementing one’s Chinese study with Chinesepod.com seems like a good idea. I hope they continue to come out with new and topical podcasts, including some that don’t use English!

Has anyone noticed that the discussion section in the advanced level at Chinesepod has almost nothing to do with any of the lessons? Its simply people complaining that its not in English or saying "gee, I wish I could understand this"

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venture160

At the advanced level and above, its important to have a daily enviroment for an extended period of time where you speak mostly chinese, but out of an academic setting. Maybe its living with Chinese or having a dynamic group of Chinese friends, or working in a Chinese speaking enviroment. then, afterwards you can go abck to learning and really push yourself. I think its impossible for anyone on chinesepod to get to advanced or higher without actually having experience in a Chinese speaking enviroment.

In terms of suggestions, maybe they could hold weekly skype chats with their chinese staff and advanced speakers about the lessons. This would be hard to plan though and I would think levels of Chinese would be all over the place.

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venture160

If you think Chinesepod Advanced isn't hard or "natural" enough of a dialog you can always just check out live or taped broadcasts of radio shows. I like 反波 but it can get dull listening to the same guy talk over and over again. Between BCC Chinese and China Radio International, there is literally dozens of programs that are on air at least once a day! Plus, its free!

:help BTW: Does anyone know how to take a streaming .rm or .wmv file on a mac and convert it into .mp3 format? I'd love to download the NEWS茶座 programs and put them onto my ipod.

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kdavid

"Does it work?" is a difficult question to answer. I think I better question would be "Can it really help?" "Is it practical?" etc. I say this because even "the best" tools won't work via osmosis. I answer these questions with an emphatic "yes".

For me, Chinesepod was great for helping me memorize characters. As I'm living in China with a Chinese girlfriend I'm exposed daily to new words, slang, grammar points, etc and therefore the podcasts, while great, aren't as important. What is important for me at this juncture, and what I'm willing to pay for, are tools to help me memorize characters and vocabulary, which Chinesepod did until its recent "upgrade".

I will update when, and if, this is ever corrected.

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