Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Trying Chinesepod's Premium Subscription

After a little more than a year using chinesepod's basic subscription level, I decided to upgrade to the next level (premium) to coincide with Chinesepod's own upgrade to Version 3.

I am in the fortunate position of not knowing what CP was like in version 2 for premium subscribers - many are feeling aggrieved with the hitches that an upgrade inevitably brings (I'm a software engineer - I'm immune to bugs :-) ).

I had vagues notions of what was available - things called expansions, and exercises, and goodness knows what else. I had held off for so long because I felt that I had enough with the podcasts and pdfs, alongside my local teacher here. But our classes are on a break right now, and I know that I'll be away for the Summer and won't have the chance to attend lessons, so I decided to take a closer look at CP and upgrade for a month.

Five days in, and I'm really pleased with the decision. I have a lot of things to manage in my life, between work, family, masters and planning a big trip, so one thing that CP Premium definitely does for me is to help me manage my learning. I can schedule what lessons I want to do. As I study them, I can save off the vocabulary that I'd like to acquire (and later play with flashcards and memory games based on my vocabulary). I can set up a feed that sends me the lesson podcasts (and the dialog only versions - very important point that) for what I should be studying that day (I've cleared down all the other podcasts I had saved and now I'm building up a collection organically from scratch).

The big revelation for me was the expansion section. All there is to it is a bunch of other sentences that use the salient structures and vocabulary from the podcast. But the effect is terrific. I have a dreadful memory, but the extra step of going through the expansion sentences makes things sink in much deeper. Not just in terms of memory, but also meaning. And the exercises are great. Having a goal during the process is something I have blogged about recently, and I find that completing the exercises correctly is nice little short-term goal to spur me through to the end.

I can't learn Chinese in my car. I realise now that I need some quiet study time. Chinesepod premium has become my desktop, my library, and my classroom. I'm looking forward to trying out the next level - Practice (where I get some telephonic time with a native speaker and tutor) - during the summer. Jeremy Uriz is already blogging about this.

PS: I know there are bugs, and some of them are very irritating. I have confidence in these guys to sort it all out quickly.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Listening till it hurts

I've been given some thought to the advice that I've been given by Chris and Liulianxiaoyu - just keep listening. I'm convinced by the argument that listening comprehension is the most important route to getting to the heart of a language. The question, however, is how should I listen (Brian: Go Away! Crowd: How shall we go away Master?).

I've found a lot of value in listening to the same Chinesepod Intermediate podcasts over and over, but I'm sure I could be doing better. I think I need to make it more goal oriented. I don't expect to understand everything, but it's too easy for me to gloss over large parts of the dialog and stick to the easier bits. (Perhaps there are exercises like this already as part of premium Chinesepod subscription - time for me to upgrade perhaps. )

Or maybe I should set myself the goal of finding one new word or phrase that I recognize each time I listen. Or read the transcript earlier, and choose phrases to recognize. Decisions, decisions.