ChinesePod is good for you.
I just want to say thanks to the ChinesePod/Praxis staff for letting me drop in and check out the office when I was in Shanghai a few weeks ago. Like I said at the time, it was very surreal to visit the physical office after lurking about in the virtual CPod world for these last several months. Adi gave me a tour and I got to say hi to Ken, John, Clay and Leonardo (from SpanishPod). I apologize that I did not bring a gift with me! I suck.
I've tried other learning tools (CD-roms, books, audio, etc) before settling on CPod for learning Mandarin. I'm still just a newbie (and I'm sure I will be for a long time), but because of the nature of the learning system, I (along with many others obviously) actually enjoy the challenge of learning a very difficult language like Mandarin.
Ken said something to me when I visited and it has resonated with me ever since. I'm not able to repeat his exact words, but the message that I took with me was that CPod (Praxis) is only now beginning to fully understand and utilize the online learning medium. The subscribers/learners have driven the direction of the website in a way that may not have been fully anticipated.
Our various interpreters and tour guides during my trip approached me several times and commented on my pronunciation. Although it takes me too long to translate long sentences in my head, I impressed everyone in our group bits of Mandarin vocab. I actually got to apply what I've learned so far and take part in small exchanges with local people. When I was able to say "Wo keyi ma?" and point to my camera, the response of "keyi" was a small victory which gave me a warm feeling inside (as silly as that may sound). When I was in the city of Chengde, I was the only foreigner around. Two adorable little girls followed me around one afternoon in the Mountain Gardens, very curious about me but also extremely bashful. I surprised them when I said, "Ni hui shuo Yingwen ma?" I asked them where their parents were, "Ni de mama baba zai nali?" and all kinds of simple little things. I know my sentence structure was incorrect at times, but they understood much of what I asked them even though I could not understand all of their responses. It was one of the highlights of my trip.
Unlike other learning tools, the CPod lessons put the dialogues into a cultural context which allows me to make associations that facilitate learning. Although counterintuitive to some teachers, the ability for the learner to begin at any lesson actually works! The success of CPod has proven that. So thanks for everything, CPod. Not only did your Mandarin lessons help to prepare me for my China experience, but I've decided that I'm going to continue learning even though my trip is over. Who knows, perhaps I'll return to China next year.
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