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"Making Connections" Listening Comprehension


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I have used it. I think it is rather useful in the beginning of your mandarin study, since it lets you listen to mandarin spoken at a (fairly) natural speed, but using rather simple vocabulary. However for advanved listening I think you would be better off getting some movies in mandarin and converting them to mp3s.

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I think it's useful in the elementary to lower intermediate range.

IMO listening comprehension is sorely lacking in many structured study programs, despite being the most important skill for everyday communication. When audio content is provided it's useful for familiarizing with vocabulary/grammar/usage but won't train the ear well for natural conversation.

Connections is supposedly unrehearsed and it does sound very informal and of a natural conversational flow. I've got 'em on mp3 if you want I can try to upload a sample here for you so you can decide if it's for you or not.

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I don't know that it is superfluous - there is a real lack of emphasis on listening comprehension in most high school and university courses.

I'm finishing up the first Integrated Chinese course now. The selling point for me is the limitation on vocabulary: it forces better understanding of the words I already know in proper grammer structures. TV and radio will come in handy at higher levels, when I know a larger % of the vocabulary being used. Since my classes move to higher level texts this will grow, hopefully to the point that TV and radio can assist.

That's a bottom-up view.



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Someone at an elementary level just turning on a TV won't get nearly as much bang for the buck because so much time will be spent with what amounts to white noise. Yeah it'll help them catch nuances/pace of the language but a good listening course targeted for a certain level will have enough vocabulary they are familiar with yet some that forces them to stretch a little.

Plus carrying a TV with me when walking or driving is somewhat inconvenient.

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and further along this line, the ting li series after this one I've been considering is Across the Straights


Anyone familiar with this one?

I have used both Making Connections and Across the Straits and prefer the latter.

My Chinese is all self taught, and I have no convenient Chinese language exposure within my social and work sphere, other than the Internet. I like Across the Straits, because it gives an untranslated transcript of the dialog. This is crucial for me to make much progress in an efficient amount of time.

I do not recall the features of Making Connections as well as those of Across the Straits, but I do not recall it having a transcript of the speech. I think it had more varied speakers and situations, but had slightly worse audio quality.

Across the Straits is a series of dialogs between two people: a man from Beijing and a woman from Taipei. Both speak in fairly standard accents, although there is a distinct difference in the amount of erhua used. The Taiwanese speaker does use a few different tones and slightly different vocabulary, but does not have speech that is regionally marked in any other way I can tell. She uses the standard sh's, ch's, and zh's where you would expect.

The dialogs in Across the Straits are conducted at normal-to-fast conversational speed and cover a variety of social topics, such as childhood, aging, divorce, marriage and contrast and compare the experiences of the speakers and their different societies without overt polemics. The style of the speech sounds mostly unrehearsed and unscripted, but the two speakers do follow a clear interview format and probably shared some questions and topics with each other beforehand.

The only people I would not recommend Across the Straits to would be people whose grammatical knowledge of Chinese is still quite limited. The series provides a decent amount of vocabulary, but no general translation. If you have an intermediate learner's knowledge of Chinese grammar, you should be fine. The style and vocabulary is simpler than standard newspaper Chinese, but it is still ordinary speech and not simplified in any obvious way.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I can also recommend using Across the Straits for listening comprehension practise. One thing that stood out for me was that all of the conversations/interviews were very interesting and relevant. Also the two participant's pronunciation was very clear. Having one speaker from Taiwan and one from Beijing was a good idea.

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I just opened "Making Connections" last night~! Although, I am on Lesson 8 in Integrated Chinese, I am still having to listen to Lesson 1 Dialog over and over again. There are a few words I don't know. Eventhough, they explain them in front of the Lesson, I still would like a transcript. I'll let you know if I progress any quicker.:wink:

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  • 4 weeks later...

I just purchased "Making Connections". Although I've only had it a few days I really like it so far. I've been studying Chinese completely on my own for about a year now using the FSI course http://fsi-language-courses.com/, Integrated Chinese (IC-1), Hello-Han Standard Chinese 1 http://www.hello-han.com/en-education/index.php, ChinesePod www.chinesepod.com and ChineseLearnOnline.com www.chineselearnonline.com/. To give you some sense of my level, based on flashcard tests I can recognize around 500 characters.

Here's what I like about Making Connections:

1. The natural conversations seem much more interesting to listen to than the canned speach you get from the other sources I mentioned.

2. The first CD somewhat parallels the IC course so it's fairly easy to follow but still has enough new content and nuance to be challenging for me. The second CD is definitely more challenging and beyond my capability right now but I'm looking forward to working my way up to it.

3. It comes with a workbook that takes you through each dialog in multiple stages. First it introduces some of the dialog's key vocabulary. Next it prepares you to "listen for the gist", then to "listen for detail". After that there are workbook exercises to reinforce the learning. A vocabulary index is included in the back.

4. I find I pick up more and more of the meaning from context the more I replay the dialog without having to look up individual words.

5. As small as my vocabulary is right now I still know I've forgotten more than I remember, but I'm finding these recordings are pulling some of those old words out of the cobwebs in my brain and that's a good thing!

6. The dialogs are on my iPod so I can listen to them anywhere.

Bottom line, I definitely recommend it for elementary level learners like me.


For anyone who might be interested, here's my opinion of the other tools:

FSI - The course is dry, the .pdf docs range from ok to poor legibility but the course is really comprehensive relative to the others for learning spoken Mandarin. It takes effort to work through it without falling asleep but If you take it in manageable doses it's really effective. Lessons are divided into comprehension, production, and drills, each with their own recordings. There are also several sets of very handy situational recordings like for driving, in the restaurant, in social situations, etc. Great stuff, but just a tad boring.

IC-1 - I think this course is a good way to get started. It uses a very traditional method of starting with pinyin and pronunciation, then topical lessons that begin by introducing vocab followed by dialogs, grammer review, and practice. The dialogs are recorded three times with slow, medium and fast speach respectively. Maybe one of the best things about IC-1 is the wealth of support material on the net. Two of the best are http://www.usc.edu/dept/ealc/chinese/newweb/character_page.html and http://www.language.berkeley.edu/ic/

Hello-Han Standard Chinese 1 - This course has both CD and on-line versions. I have the CD version. I find the content to be good but the useability a bit clumsy. It uses Macromedia Flash which is pretty inflexible, vocab reference is organized at the course level rather than the lesson level making it difficult to review vocab for a lesson or while in a lesson. Within the lesson the vocabulary exercises are divided into matching single characters to either pinyin or English and multi-character words to pinyin or English. No help is offered like allowing you to hear the character's sound so if you get stuck you have to keep dragging the wrong pinyin to the character until you randomly pick the right one. Frustrating. What I do like about this course is it comes with an audio CD with all the lesson dialogs, so they're all conveniently on the iPod now!

ChinesePod - This is a pretty good source for exposure to lots of handy phrases and real-life Chinese conversational snippets, but not as a stand-alone course in my opinion. It's just too random. They have something they call the Learning Center for premium subscribers but even that pretty much leaves it to the student to pull together a learning strategy. Not good in my case. Another problem I have with it is the podcasts have a lot of additional chat and banter in English. This is ok and even helpful in some cases on the first listen but it makes the podcasts too inefficient to listen to over and over and although you can listen to individual snippets in the Learning Center, I don't believe you can download them for off-line use (I could be wrong about this though). So now I listen to the podcasts once, using them as a supplement to a more structured approach through other sources.

Chinese Learn Online - I think this is an interesting resource for absolute beginners. I like the fact that the lessons build on and reinforce previous lessons, something ChinesePod doesn't do. I also like that they use both Taiwan and mainland China speakers. There are enough podcasts now that a beginner can make pretty good progress in a short time. The downside is there isn't a lot of content per podcast so I found that once I got through the available lessons the new ones were coming out too slowly to keep me engaged.

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  • 2 weeks later...
  • 7 months later...

I just purchased "Making Connections" and I think it is great, but I can't make out all the dialog. The book helps by providing some hints, but there are still some patches of incomprehensible mumbling - particularly from the male speaker. Does anyone know how to get a transcript? I have listened to the first CD and I think I understand 90% of the sentences, but I still haven't figured out if the events are taking place in China or the US.


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