An Irregular Ode to ChinesePod
Now that I am leaving China soon, to set up house in the old home town I left in 1975, I am reflecting on what has been a big part of my language education in recent years.
I spent roughly a year here, full-time, learning the language, 2 ½ years teaching in universities, and about a year loafing … and writing. I now have six months experience writing for a living, blogging really, about China. I have been coming and going for more than ten years.
ChinesePod is still the best site around – excellent lesson material, and a lively community. Somehow it just does not feel like a task – they are masters at encouraging learning while being entertaining. The site keeps you up with new Chinese issues and expressions.
It’s a clever business model because the supply side is extendable – like the old dining table your parents have at home – compared say to a textbook, which has a beginning and an end, and a finite shelf-life. Demand for service can only grow with the importance of China globally.
I have toyed with the idea of doing the HSK as I leave, but I am thinking now that I will renew my ChinesePod subscription instead. It’s quicker. I might save the HSK for when I am old and house-bound.
I have used ChinesePod in fits and starts over the years; other things like work and writing for pleasure often got in the way.
For those interested in how I use ChinesePod, I listen, write out the dialogue and extension sentences by hand, highlighting new expressions and vocabulary, and sometimes I use the review to check my mental translation. Then I forget what I learned, and on a bad day I forget where I put the exercise book that contains my notes.
When I’m in the groove I try to listen, at least, to most lessons, but I focus my learning efforts on Intermediate level. Or I view the community board and join in any conversation that looks like going rampantly off-topic. I’m easily distracted.
Some tips, and in no way claiming any great success: (1) don’t spend a lot of time on vocabulary you won’t use regularly; (2) find a topic you enjoy and become a real expert; (3) use a lot of channels for learning, you can’t rely solely on ChinesePod.
It’s hard to come up with anything new in learning Chinese – it is just hard work, and it takes a lot of time. It doesn’t take any special skills – I am ‘hopeless’ at languages – but you do need to be stubborn, and love it.
I don’t know about the ‘shift to mobile’. My Android phone is now functioning like laptops of old, but I haven’t yet tried mobile at ChinesePod. I like to sit somewhere for study; I like to write things in a book, and refer to other materials. I have yet to discover the best way to fit mobile into my learning style.
I plan to return to China once or twice a year (DV, as my father used to say, Deo volente) with a ‘Tour of Street Food and Dirty Kitchens’ (it’s a working title, people). I have an interest in everyday Chinese food. I used to like destinations that are a little off the beaten track, but I’ve gone soft.
I might call it the Re-education Tour …
2013 Apr 10
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