In celebration of our 15th anniversary, we want to take a moment and look back on our origins and accomplishments. Because ChinesePod launched in 2005, many of you may not know our story. Let’s look back at how the longest-running Chinese learning platform came to be.
ChinesePod’s origin is closely tied to the evolution of the internet. In the year 2004, this new kind of internet was developing. While the world wide web has been around for several years, the earliest iteration was a one-way road with static sites—not very exciting. This changed with a newer iteration of the web, which was more interactive and dynamic. New functions allowed people to collaborate and share information with each other. This was done via blogging, social media platforms, web-based communities and podcasts.
Ken Carrol (below), an entrepreneur and educator living in Shanghai, saw that our evolving internet channels would pair well with education. Ken commented in an interview at the time saying:
“[With these new channels] there’s a billion people connected now—
so what are we going to do with this?
People’s first instinct is to communicate.”
This led to ChinesePod’s launch. The earliest podcasts were casual, engaging conversations between Ken and native Chinese speaker Jenny Zhu. They worked from a no-frills studio in Shanghai, and churned out fun content that was quickly downloaded by over a million language learners. In the first days of ChinesePod’s launch, many users asked for phrases they could use to flirt in Chinese. Ken and Jenny obliged, and proved to users that they were listening to what the community wanted. Language learners were also drawn to ChinesePod’s innovative free-form learning method, which the platform uses to this day. It’s different from the classical approach to learning a language, which has typically been tied to textbooks. ChinesePod’s free-form learning method offers of flexibility and choice, thus empowering students choose lessons that appealed to their interests or answered a particular need, or suggest new topics.
ChinesePod has continued to evolve over the past 15 years, both by responding to user’s requests, as well as adding new features. Many series prepare learners for the pragmatic parts of living in the PRC—from doing business, to making friends, to showing off KTV skills, while several series delve deep into China’s rich culture. “Dear Amber” talks about living among the Chinese on a daily level and “Poems with Pete” introduces ancient Chinese poetry and reviews what was happening in the country at the time the piece was written.
In 2015, ChinesePod expanded our lesson format to video tutorials for visual learners and cell phone apps for the user on the go. In terms of functionality on the website, our expanded intelligent search feature allows students to use the site as a dictionary, and then refers them to lessons that teach the term or phrase they want to learn. The website is now a comprehensive, fully-integrated learning platform.
ChinesePod’s greatest asset—our amazing teachers
ChinesePod has had many amazing instructors throughout the years; our teachers are fun and engaging, and super skilled in explaining the nuances of Mandarin.
Our earliest users will remember the original cast of ChinesePod lessons—John Pasden (right) and “J-dog” Jenny Zhu (left). John took us through a full seven years as academic director and podcast host. And Jenny, due to her work producing and co-hosting over 3,000 ChinesePod lessons, has been hailed as one of the most prolific Chinese teachers in the world! Amber Scorah, a pioneer on ChinesePod to explore a new lesson style, brought Chinese cultures and living-in-China close to the ears (and hearts) of tens of thousands of Mandarin learners throughout the world.
Over the past 15 years, we’ve been pleased to work with other amazing hosts like Fiona Tian, Constance Fang, Grace Wong, Jenny Wong, Alice Shih, Sissi Wang, Sophie Lee, Joe Raazt, Lyn Wang, Joy Lin, Joshua Fan, Jessica Ianniciello, and Elijah Wilcott.
As we look to the next 15 years, we’re excited about continuing to serve Chinese language learners. We have always pursued the same goal: to be the best online resource for studying Chinese. With over four thousand lessons, accessible any time, for all levels of proficiency there’s something for every student. Whether it’s wanting to get in touch with a diverse and storied culture, or getting prepared to live in China—ChinesePod is there for you.