In case you are wondering, "D" is my husband -- Dave Liu! As you've probably noticed, I don't update this blog often but I may post more as I've linked this to my Google+ account.

Sunday, June 17, 2007


I've been trying to figure out how to improve my Mandarin Chinese for a long time. David has some CDs but they're too basic. I did some searching on the web and I found a site called ChinesePod. As the name suggests, they provide a series of podcasts in Mandarin that you can download from the website or iTunes.

I like it because the podcasts are broken out into different levels from Newbie to Media (which is the level above Advanced). If you're unsure of your level, you can use their online listening test to find out. Each class revolves around a topic. At the beginning of the class, there are two people who discuss the dialog and introduce some of the more complicated vocabulary. Afterwards, you hear the dialog. Finally, the initial two people break down the dialog further to explain what transpired. It's very well done because on the website, you can read the dialog in Chinese to follow along, download the transcript (written in Chinese, pinyin and English) in PDF format, look at a list of related vocabulary, see expansion sentences and even see comments from other users about the class. The comments section is surprisingly useful because some of the users provide helpful suggestions, including supplemental vocabulary. Also, when you read the dialog online, as you mouse over words, it shows you the pinyin for the phrase as well as a translation in English

I've only listened to a couple of classes: "Losing Weight", "DVDs" and "China's Supergirl", but I really like what I've seen (heard!) so far. The topics are contemporary, and are geared to assist you if you were to engage in a real conversation with a Chinese person. I'm eager to work on the one about the stock market since it's related to my job, but that one was pretty hard (Upper Intermediate) so I'll have to spend quite a bit of time on it. I'm theoretically at the Upper Intermediate level (according to the online listening test), but I've been bouncing between Intermediate and Upper Intermediate classes. For the Intermediate classes, the introduction is narrated by John (who switches between Mandarin and English), and Jenny, who speaks Mandarin exclusively. In the Upper Intermediate classes, both John and Jenny speak to each other in Mandarin only, and at a slightly faster pace. I tried listening to a Newbie class for fun, and it was mostly in English and at an appropriately slow speed.

I told D about ChinesePod, and while he was interested and curious about the concept, he refrained because he didn't want to sign up. {As a general rule, he is averse to providing his email address to websites unless he absolutely has to. Meanwhile, I'm his defacto web service tester, so I end up signing up and trying a ton of stuff. I hope it doesn't catch up with me - I'd go ballistic if my computer ever became infected with a virus or spyware.) I also told my father and brother about the service, and I think my brother will sign up since he's learning Mandarin now as well. He says he's even going to give dad his old iPod which I think is a great idea.

My two-week trial for ChinaPod has just expired, and although I can continue to just listen to the podcasts for free on the web, I bought a paid membership. There are several types you can choose from with various services offered for the different packages. I went with a Premium subscription which costs U.S. $30/month, US$150 for 6 months, or $240 for 12 months. Given the discount, and the fact that I'm serious about picking up Mandarin again, I selected the annual subscription, especially since I have the option of getting a full refund with 30 days if I'm not satisfied with it.

My next step will be finding a method for inputting Chinese characters. I need to find an actual program inputting pinyin. I'm told Sohu has one, but I've never been able to get it to work. I'm also worried about messing up the fonts on my computer since I'm sure I'll need to download Chinese fonts to make all of this happen.

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