Best online resources for learning Chinese #1 Chinesepod

March 20, 2010

In the course of advising on the new secondary curriculum I often get asked about resources I use for teaching Chinese, so I’ll be doing a series of posts on the best internet resources I’ve come across.

My number 1 favourite has to be Chinesepod, a site I started using shortly after it appeared in September 2005 whilst I was living in Singapore.  I had started to learn Mandarin and was looking for audio material to help develop my listening skills and came across this site.  It produces podcasts  at a number of levels:

  • Newbie
  • Elementary
  • Intermediate
  • Upper Intermediate
  • Advanced

At Newbie level the podcast consists of a 4 to 5 line dialogue which is repeated 3 times.  The hosts (there are usually two of them – Ken and Jenny or John and Jenny) then break the dialogue down sentence by sentence and word by word, so that by the end of the 10 minutes or so of the podcast you pretty much understand the dialogue.  Each podcast comes with support materials, such as PDF transcripts of the dialogues, flash cards, expansion material and exercises for which you have to take out a subscription.  However, there is also a comment section and it’s sometimes possible to pick out the lines of the dialogue from this. 

It is possible to get the transcript of the dialogue in characters if you download the podcast to your  ITunes  library.  You can then  right click on the podcast and then on “Get info” and “Show lyrics”.   If you don’t read/recognise the  characters  these can be cut and pasted individually into Chinesepod’s glossary (and I sometimes set this as a challenge to my year 12 learners) which will then give you the Pinyin (romanised script) and English meanings with examples of the words used in sentences and contexts, together with audio files.  Again my year 12s find the glossary very user friendly and one of them has downloaded the Chinesepod App  to her Iphone – this includes the glossary.

You have to subscribe to download podcasts above Newbie level, but to date there are some 326 Newbie lessons to be working through set in a whole range of contexts (just check out the Lesson Channels).   You can also subscribe to a 7 day free trial of the whole site during which time you can access and download podcasts of the higher levels and PDFs of all levels.

One of the great things about the podcasts is that because they are dialogue based, the language often includes idiomatic phrases and I’ve found some of my learners slipping these into dialogues and oral work in class.  They also use the glossary to find language and lessons related to things they want to talk about.  They are excellent for promoting independent learning especially in my KS5 beginner learners, but there are also podcasts and even songs which are suitable for younger learners – I’ll be using Audacity to edit the Colors song (they use American spelling!) to use with my KS3 club.



March 17, 2010

Having been a regional subject adviser for the Association for Language Learning  on the new secondary curriculum  support programme since 2007 I’ve decided it’s high time I had my own blog to share my thoughts and resources on anything and everything to do with learning and teaching languages.