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Comparison of language learning podcasts


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I'm a huge user of language learning podcasts.. also listen to some regular Chinese radio shows as well, but this post is just about language learning podcasts. I've listened to pretty much every Chinesepod lesson produced with the exception of the advanced ones. The hosts and audio quality are great, but I find that listening to the lessons isn't the best use of my time. I find there's too much English used in each podcast, and repetition of explaining the same words over and over again, especially at the lower levels. Although little to no English is used at the upper immediate and above levels, the Chinese at these levels is way above my comprehension and the vocabulary is either too specialized or are words I don't have the need to ever say in everyday conversation. The only point I see to the repetition of explaining the same words over and over again in each podcast and huge amount of English used in the lower newbie/elementary levels is so that new users just discovering the site can jump into the current lesson and therefore be studying the same lesson everyone else is... which is great for keeping the community together and CPod's business model, but not in the best interest of the student in my opinion.

I've also listened to the entire chineselearnonline.com podcast series which is indeed excellent. Compared to the CPod random lesson approach, the host of chineselearnonline.com has carefully planned out the lessons in a very thoughtful manner.. linking lessons together and building on vocab from previous levels. And the host continually uses less and less English in each lesson, by gradually introducing the Chinese way of saying common English words used in each podcast.. I believe by about lesson 150, there is a lesson that is entirely Chinese, and if you've listened to the previous 149 lessons, you'll completely understand it. New words at the higher lessons levels are either explained using simple Chinese words, or the English word, but no verbiose English explanation as Chinesepod has. However, so far, this progressive series of lessons is still at a rather elementary level but is advancing slowly, as the host is releasing 2-3 new lessons per week.

For the past 6 weeks or so I've been focused on imandarinpod.com and, for the level I'm at, the podcasts are perfect. The podcasts are almost entirely in Chinese, with occasional English words spoken when giving a definition. Listening to these podcasts that are entirely in Chinese, yet with rather simple, everyday vocabulary, allows me to keep my mind in Chinese mode throughout the entire podcast. I've recently listened to a few CSLPod podcasts and found their intermediate podcasts to be excellent as well - pure spoken Chinese, and with relatively simple vocabulary. I'm planning on focusing my attention on imandarinpod and cslpod for the time being, with occasional listening to real Chinese radio shows.

Does anyone have thoughts on the relative strengths/weaknesses of the main Chinese learning podcasts on the net? or any podcasts that I have missed?

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I agree with most of your opinions.

CP is nice for newbies and for very advanced learners, but makes it very difficult to jump from the elementary to the intermediate level. The gap between these two is very hard to "jump", and CP does not help here a lot.

CLO is great in many ways: 1. you learn progressively, 2. you hear different voices, 3. there are videos too, 4. and it is also non-mainland (i.e. Taiwan) oriented.

I decided to use CLO as my main dish, and CP from time to time as a dessert ;-)

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