A short while ago a tweet by @JonAndyMills caught my eye: Tip for learning foreign languages: stop wasting time endlessly searching for tips and pick up one of the many resources you’ve already got.
A very wise tip indeed. I think we can all relate to this (especially if you’re on Twitter). I’ve been subscribed to Chinesepod.com since about last year September if I remember correctly. At first I only had access to elementary level lessons. A few months later they had pretty great year-end specials and I upgraded to a premium subscription at a very good price.
However a few months has passed and I have not been entirely happy with the amount of time I have been spending on improving my listening ability even though ALL the while I had been paying for the use of this resource. Imagine my guilt and frustration.
I thus decided at the beginning of this year that I was going to focus more of my time on listening to Mandarin podcasts and also on sentence mining. (If you’ve visited my blog before you’ll also know that I’m slowly working my way through Heisig and I’m close to the 1000 characters mark.) In order to spend more time using my Chinesepod.com subscription I was thinking about getting some structure in my studies and have done so by setting a plan in place where I ideally study about 4 -5 podcasts each week.
I am going to follow this plan because it gives me something concrete to work towards rather than just randomly listening to whatever catches my eye on my iPod (when I get some time). In addition it gives me a way of monitoring what I’ve done and assess just how effectively I’ve been using this particular resource.
To help me stay on track and ensure I’m making most of this resource, I’ve started a spreadsheet. Yes this sheet requires more preparation and planning but it’s minor really (perhaps 15 to 30 minutes a week including sourcing the podcasts I feel are relevant) and by doing this, I at least feel that I am far more “aware” of my progress and how I’m using Chinesepod.com… (I realise there are other ways to track progress but I think this is the one that will work for me. You’re welcome to share your thoughts and ideas via the comments section with me though please )
Using Chinesepod.com: How is January progressing for me?
Let me explain – for the month of January, I am basically prepping for a few days in Singapore – a country celebrated (at least in my opinion) for its food, and an incredible amount of shopping malls per capita, and cultural diversity (amongst many other things). (Unfortunately they speak a lot of pretty good English too). I’m focusing on doing anything to do with: travelling, cooking, food shopping, perfume, drinks, hotels, restaurants, Chinese New Year Celebrations etc.
With all of this in mind, these are the podcasts I’ve chosen to keep me occupied for the month of January.
What more can I say – these topics are great and speak for themselves… I think they are rather well suited for the purpose.
Hopefully I can source a bunch of related podcasts for every month of this year.
What am I enjoying most about Chinesepod.com?
Besides the fact that they’re a pretty good sport on Twitter? Well, on an elementary subscription you get access to the basic show / lesson audio only including a text transcript but by upgrading you get access to the audio review and the dialogue-only file (amongst other things). The latter is really useful for listening to the dialogue on repeat.
The best part in my opinion is the audio review – it really brings it all together. You get to practice new vocab learnt in the dialogue and you can have a go yourself at forming a sentence in Mandarin – a guess at an equivalent translation for a sentence you’ve just heard in English. I love pausing the podcast and coming up with what I think is a suitable equivalent. If you remember most of what you’ve learnt in the show and you’ve given the dialogue a fair bit of listening then simply doing revision with the audio review a week or two later is pretty good and most likely all that would be necessary for revision. In fact if it is a difficult one you might want to do the audio review at later regular intervals.
True that some of my other resources may feel a bit neglected (sorry Heisig book) to allow some time and space for this resource but it’s all just about picking up a resource and learning something, isn’t it? It’s also about finding some balance in your studies and trying to use multiple resources I think – not just one.
You might have ideas about how to make the best of your Chinesepod.com subscription. If you have any valuable tips – as trivial as they may seem to you – do share with me please. I would be interested to hear how it works for you and what bits YOU enjoy most.
Finally, I would suggest – do spend some time looking for resources, getting tips about a particular resource or topic, find out what other people say works and doesn’t work for them. In fact this plan wasn’t even quite my own initiative. In fact @alexvanv (Alexandra van Vianen) shared her general insights with me on how to achieve some structure and that has been quite helpful.
Furthermore, read interesting articles and find inspiration if you need it. However be careful not spend too much time doing this – there’s a fine line between marinating and procrastinating . Don’t neglect one of the many resources you already own.