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Tag: Chinese-Pod

I wasn’t kidding when I said I liked the new dictionary at labs.chinesepod.com. After getting used to using it all the time via the search bookmark I made last week, I started wondering why I still had the MDBG searchbar up on my page.

After I quick consultation with David (CPod’s CTO), I had my answer. There wasn’t a searchbar for CPod’s uber-adsotated dictionary with audio recordings. So I decided to be bold and make one. You can see it in context in the picture below, and it’s now a part of toshuo.com’s sidebar. I’ve already run this by David, and if anyone would like to copy and distribute the image or the code to make the searchbar, go ahead!

My searchbar for the new Chinese Pod dictionary

Here’s the code:

<!-- CPod Dictionary Search -->
<div id="cdict">

<form method="get" action="http://labs.chinesepod.com/" target="_blank">
<div style="border: 1px solid rgb(192, 192, 192); padding: 0px 3px 5px;
background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255); width: 200px; text-align: center;">
<a href="http://labs.chinesepod.com/dictionary"target="_blank">
<img alt="Chinese Pod Chinese-English dictionary" src="labsdict.png"
title="Chinese Pod Chinese-English dictionary" border="0"/>
<input value="node/4" name="q" type="hidden"/>
<div style="clear: both;"></div>
The Dictionary<input name="search" size="26" value="" onclick="this.focus();
 this.value='';" type="text"/></div></form>

</div><!--End Dictionary-->

And here’s the image (which you’ll have to upload to your blog host):

I have no design skills! If anyone can improve upon the look of the searchbar, I’m sure people would appreciate it.

I’ve long been a fan of David Lancashire’s Chinese-English dictionary and anotation engine Adsotrans. I’ll admit I’ve had my share of frustrations with its previously poor support of traditional characters, but I’ve always loved the engine.

Since he David joined Chinese Pod, his various technical marvels have been springing up here and here throughout their service, and I love it! Their new dictionary is huge and growing at a good clip– rapidly closing in on the total size of ABC Chinese-English dictionary. More common entries also have example sentences, which are fully adsostated with pinyin pop-ups and accompanied by voice recordings.

Here’s my Firefox search bookmark for the CPod dictionary: http://labs.chinesepod.com/?q=node%2F4&search=%s

Ever since I visited the Chinese Pod office last summer, I’d been meaning to really put in some time listening to their podcasts. Unfortunately, one thing came up after another- I changed jobs, I moved twice, Martin and I got really into watching DS9, etc… It wasn’t until this last couple of weeks that I actually bought an MP3 player and started listening to multiple CPods every day.
continue reading…

Yesterday was my first whole day in Shanghai, and it was awesome. After showing late the night before and crashing at John’s place, I was psyched enough about finally being here that I was still able to get up pretty early. John had a final in the morning, but after he got back from that, he showed me around the subway system a bit, and we grabbed some lunch. After that, he took me over to the Chinese Pod studio to check the place out. It was quite a bit different than I expected, but still very neat. continue reading…

Chinese Pod has changed quite a bit in the last two and a half months. Some new features have been added, there are many new podcasts, the quality of the podcasts has improved, and there have been several minor but important changes in the lessons since the last time I wrote about them. continue reading…

I guess it’s time to write what I think of Chinese Pod. Unless JT really ramps up the volume of his podcasting and gets friends to help out, Chinese Pod is the only game in town. There really isn’t any other large collection of podcasts for Chinese learners out there… yet. There’s a pretty fearsome argument about Chinese pod going on over at Sinosplice, and I want to toss in my $0.02. One commenter, named Roy, said:

I have downloaded an intermediate lesson. First thing you are greeted in ENGLISH. The Chinese person also presents themselves in ENGLISH. “I am Jenny”. Are those at an intermediate level not expected to understand “I Am” in Mandarin?

The tones used by the Chinese person are very unimpressive to say the least. I would not hire her as a private tutor. It’s like she was thinking about ENGLISH while she was speaking Mandarin or something like that. Anyhow, the above commenter already stated this. I would not listen to their casts if only for this reason — her bad “tones” and pronunciation. I am very disappointed by this.

Not only this, but it followed by the English speaker in ENGLISH. Why is it necessary for the student to her this repetition from a native English speaker (I hope) in an unaccurate Mandarin? What does this achieve exactly??

Bottom line: get a grip, focus on Mandarin and dump the English wherever you can. And decent Mandarin as much as possible.

I agree with much of what he said. I tried out Chinese pod recently, listened to a few podcasts and didn’t like them too much. I didn’t mind Jenny’s “southern” accent that much; since I live in Taiwan, it sounded “northern” to me! But, the absolute deal breaker is all the English.

First, I tried pod#37, an intermediate lesson. As soon as I started the pod, I was greeted by a loud gong and an anouncer saying, “great resources on the web, blah blah blah learn Mandarin with Chinese pod!” in English. After that, it was “Hello, welcome back to Chinese pod, ah… coming to you from Shanghai China, my name’s Ken Carol (sp?).” in English. Then, “I’m Jenny” in English. Jenny tosses one Chinese word, 加薪, into an English sentence really slowly, Ken makes a half hearted stab at duplicating it, and then it’s back to chatting about the word in English. By the time the dialogue starts, 12% of the pod is over. Between all of the random bantering in English, the damn classical Chinese stringed instrument that won’t stop, and all of the branding related stuff, I felt like even if the pod were at the right difficulty for me, less than half of the time spent listening to it would have been productive.

They did say pod#37 was a “low intermediate” pod, though. So, I gave pod#33 a try. The same gong and intro routine took about half a minute, but at least Jenny introduced her self in Chinese, sort of. I guess she doesn’t like using her real name as much as an English one. Considering that foreigners didn’t have the luxury of learning Chinese names in elementary school, that many Chinese people prefer to use English names with us, and that we have a hard time learning new Chinese names, this sucks. Still, they got into the dialogue a lot faster on this pod. The guy’s pronunciation was appalling, though. It seemed like he just freely swapped “jue”, “zhui”, and “zui” sounds for each other whenever the heck he felt like it. He reminded me of a coworker I had at an HFRB, known for barking out a constant stream of mispronounced commands to his poor students in a language nobody could quite consider “Chinese”. I couldn’t take it. I quit the pod halfway through.

Next, I tried an advanced one- Murder over a Steamed Bun. After the gong and stuff, I was greeted by “Hello, I’m Jenny and today with me is Liv (another English name). And whenever Liv is here, it’s a good lead that it’s going to be an advanced show…” all in English. She goes into a little speech about how there are lots of levels at Chinese pod, if this is too hard, pick a different one, blah, blah, blah. I understand that they’re throwing that stuff in because they’re afraid of scaring beginners away. Personally, I think the risk of some beginner getting on their site, going to the advanced section, downloading an advanced pod and then getting scared away is much less likely than the risk of pissing off potential subscribers who don’t want to hear that junk in every pod they download. Once they got started on the actual dialogue, though, it was pretty good. I noticed Jenny pronouncing “eng” as “en”, but as somebody living in Taiwan, I’m used to that.

In summary, I’ll say this: I’m willing to spend $300USD/month on Chinese self-study related expenses. However, the way the podcasts are now, I don’t even listen to them for free. For a Chinese student in the west who can’t get to a China town and doesn’t have any way of getting a conversation partner, though, Chinese Pod is the best resource there is for listening material. It could also be greatly improved pretty easily. If the English were trimmed out of the intermediate and advanced pods and replaced by written vocabulary lists and explanations, it would be a service worth paying for. I’m not sure if $30USD is reasonable to expect college students to pay, but at least the service would be a good use of their time. Here are what I see as Chinese Pod’s strengths and weaknesses:

Pros:

  • Downloading podcasts is free.
  • The selection of podcasts is growing.
  • Some of the dialogues are interesting.
  • There are no real alternatives.
  • They hired John, and he’s going to fix everything! 😛

Cons:

  • Too much time is wasted with branding, sound effects, etc…
  • The constant classical Chinese music in the background is damned annoying.
  • Way too much English is used in the intermediate and advanced lessons.
  • They all use English names, despite the fact that they’re teaching Chinese lessons.
  • The foreign host doesn’t speak Chinese very well.
  • None of the hosts speak “standard” Mandarin; they’re all southerners.

Rating: 2/5
Level: Beginner to Intermediate

Update: Chinese Pod has changed quite a bit since I wrote this review. Make sure to check out my more recent review.