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Is Chinese Pod worth paying for?

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Previously, I've signed up for a free account on Chinese Pod. In this way, I can download some audio lessons to listen to on an MP3 player while I cycle around town or potter down to the shops. Once I've let these wash over me a few times, I can turn to the PDFs to see exactly which characters are being used.

But now, it seems this is not possible. The current incarnation of Chinese Pod seems rather complicated and, as far as I can tell, you cannot download PDFs with just a free account.

To be completely honest, I Googled "Chinese Pod torrents" and downloaded a huge load of audio lessons. However, the torrent did not include the PDFs to learn the specific characters and so was of very limited use to me.

So I'm wondering - is it worth paying for an account on Chinese Pod? I believe that all I want is some MP3 to listen to a few times and PDFs or text files with the new words to revise afterwards.

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yialanliu

Disclaimer: I tested and interned at Chinesepod back in 2009.

I am not an advocate for illegal downloads for things you can easily get if you pay for it. There's a lot of work involved in the lessons and if you are going to use it, I'd suggest you pay for it.

What the free account allows is actually a lot compared to other lesson sites. If you want to take advantage of the entire site, I'd recommend paying for the annual fee. The lessons on the site gives you plenty of material to work with and is easily worth the fees you pay for a full account.

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feihong

I used ChinesePod a lot a couple years ago, and I thought it was a great resource. I basically listened to all the lessons from lower intermediate all the way through advanced (mind, there were a lot fewer lessons back then). ChinesePod is a great value if you use it often. When I was a member, I listened to podcasts every day and probably finished within six months. That really doesn't add up to that much money, considering the convenience and overall high quality of their lessons.

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WestTexas

I have listened to a few lessons and didn't care for them. Some of the topics seemed odd and the Chinese sounded overly textbooky to me (not sure how to describe the sound other than 'textbooky' but maybe some of you know what I mean). The site appears to be blocked in mainland China where I am. Also, why do they use white people in some of the podcasts? I think this is strange and tbh I'm really not interested in ever learning Chinese from a white person.

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count_zero

Thanks for your response, yialanliu but to be brutally honest I have absolutely no interest whatsoever in how much effort a company puts into a service or a product. As a potential customer, the only thing I could possibly be interested in is what I get out of it - which in this case, I'm still not sure.

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feihong

@WestTexas: ChinesePod's main host is Jenny, who is a native of Shanghai. Yes, the cohosts are white, but they are there to raise points that wouldn't be obvious from a native speaker's point of view. Also, once you get to the advanced level the hosts are always native Chinese speakers. The advanced and "media" levels compromise a pretty large portion of their lesson offerings.

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siledouyaoai

I'm not sure as to what ChinesePod is like in it's current incarnation, but I used it from 2008-2009. Back then you could get most of the lessons for free by signing up for a month. I think I extended my subscription for another month after that, but then felt it wasn't really worth it. All I wanted was the lessons and pdfs, the other stuff they offered just seems like stuff for people too lazy to make their own resources (like flash cards).

The English used in the podcasts did tend to annoy me quite a lot, and I think they could cut down on that. But I found using English speakers gave a useful angle on things, something you don't get in Chinese classes in China. A lot of my problems in Chinese are caused by interference from English, so I think it's not unreasonable to have non native speakers on the show.

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murrayjames

I've been using Popup Chinese for a few months and I love it. The dialogues are concise and funny. A paid subscription is inexpensive, compared to ChinesePod.

Dave (he posts here under the name trevelyan) recently made pop-up transcripts available for all lessons for all users for free. You can listen to any podcast from Beginner to Advanced and follow along with a transcript so long as you're signed in. This is free. With a paid subscription, you can download it all, plus extras, etc.

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icebear

If you're considering subscribing, subscribe long. A 2 year premium subscription cost me slightly more than $300, which is around $13 per month. I think for the premium services that's worthwhile - but I use it every day, day in, day out.

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drencrom

Why do you need a subscription? Can't you just download everything in the first month and then listen at your leisure?

Count me in as another person who's annoyed they use foreigners. The chingy-chong wing-wong music is repellent, as well. I've lived here for years and I never hear that kind of stuff playing, not even at a teahouse.

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icebear
Why do you need a subscription? Can't you just download everything in the first month and then listen at your leisure?

I personally feel its worth supporting companies that produce a service I use regularly, lest I end up bitching in a year or two when all the services I enjoy using no longer exist.

Consider the price I quoted above for the premium plan, just north of $300 for 24 months. I use the service every day, probably occupying about 20 minutes of my morning. That averages out to a price of around 40 cents per twenty minutes. I could probably do what you have done and download all PDFs and then proceed with my normal routine, although without Skritter integration, expansion sentences, or grammar points. I could manage to achieve the same learning without the premium service and just a bundle of PDFs, but I would have to augment my routine with other websites and it would slow the whole process down; lets say it adds 15 minutes. If I'm unwilling to pay 40 cents per day to save 15 minutes of my own time through their convenient premium package it doesn't say much about how much I value my time. The other possibility is I say that I'm going to do all that on my own, but get bored of all the leg work after a couple weeks and just stop using the pirated lessons entirely. I personally find them pretty damn worthwhile at 40 cents a pop with all the premium goodies included. I think they've done enough work to deserve that rather paltry rate per lesson, and I hope they continue making them.

I agree that the music is annoying, but that's their corporate brand and they're apparently sticking to it. I don't notice foreigners speaking so much Chinese at the intermediate and upper-intermediate level lessons.

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imron
and just stop using the pirated lessons entirely.

It's worth noting that all of ChinesePod's original podcasts (some several hundred lessons) were licensed under a Creative Commons licence. There are torrents available that contain only this content, which is perfectly legitimate and not pirated in any way. Torrents do not necessarily indicate pirated content.

Anyway rant aside, I agree wholeheartedly about supporting people who make things you value, and in figuring out the time/cost tradeoff involved in various activities.

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kdavid

I haven't used ChinesePod in years. However, I have posted here before that (back when I was using it) some of the native "teachers" do not speak with standard pronunciation 100% of the time. This may have been corrected since then.

While it's important for developing good listening skills to be exposed to a variety of accents, I believe it's bad form to ask learners to mimic accented pronunciation.

Most English learners probably wouldn't want to learn to speak English with a heavy US southern drawl.

My two cents...

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feihong

I don't know if it's been corrected, but none of the hosts in the lessons I listened to had a heavy accent. I'm not sure I can claim that they had no accent whatsoever, but I felt the putonghua was always pretty on-the-spot.

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kdavid
I felt the putonghua was always pretty on-the-spot.

I would say this was the case 90% of the time. However, on some words--more crucially the target vocabulary they were introducing--carried the distinct ch/c, sh/s, zh/zi southern Chinese accent.

At the outset I wasn't able to pick this up. One day, I was practicing some new words I had learned and a colleague asked me why I was pronouncing xyz with a southern accent. That's when I realized that not all podcasts are 100% standard.

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count_zero

I just downloaded the one free pop-up Chinese intermediate lesson.

It had a very short, very basic dialogue of about 20 seconds. Then a man talked very slowly and repetitively in English for about five minutes explaining two or three of the words - this could have been done in five seconds. It really made me appreciate how good Chinese Pod is in comparison!

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jkhsu

However, on some words--more crucially the target vocabulary they were introducing--carried the distinct ch/c, sh/s, zh/zi southern Chinese accent.

I haven't noticed this at all from the hosts who introduce vocab. I did notice a guy (native speaker) in one of the dialogs who had a strong Shanghainese accent. If southern is any place south of Beijing, then I guess you might be right but for the most part the Mandarin spoken in Chinesepod is pretty standard. It's not Beijing mandarin for sure but it's not wrong. You won't learn much 儿化音 and you may not hear the "g" sounds in "ing" or "eng" but from my experience with Chinesepod, the retroflex sounds were correct.

I've heard a lot of native speakers who don't pronounce the full retroflex in Shanghai (usually the older generation), in Taiwanese TV shows, in Cantonese restaurants, etc. However, any respectable teacher or institution (anywhere) that teaches this has failed in my book.

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Benjameno

@Murrayjames

Where on the Popup site did Dave make this announcement? When I sign in and click the transcript button on any lesson, I am hit with a paywall.

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icebear
It's worth noting that all of ChinesePod's original podcasts (some several hundred lessons) were licensed under a Creative Commons licence. There are torrents available that contain only this content, which is perfectly legitimate and not pirated in any way. Torrents do not necessarily indicate pirated content.

Thanks for clarifying that, I hadn't realized. In that case, I can see how giving the first few dozen in your set level a try before deciding if the basic service is right for you. For those of us that have been using the service longer, new lessons are the only unheard ones, which points back towards subscribing for newer, non CC content. Also, I think it's worth noting that the quality of lessons (or at the least the professionalism in production) has improved significantly since the first 100-200 lessons.

Edited by icebear

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drencrom

It's just refreshing to hear, for ONCE, 那里 taught instead of 那儿。 Judging from text books, you'd think that southern China is some sort of alien wasteland. Far more learners of Chinese live in Shanghai than Beijing.

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