What makes Chinesepod Chinesepod?

January 02, 2011, 03:26 PM posted in General Discussion

You know you've got it bad when you fake toilet breaks for a chance to jump on Chinesepod!...

Here I am in the middle of my vacation with family, and instead of enjoying the fun, food and festivities, I'm sneaking a post on cpod. SAD I know, yet also mysteriously intriguing! This brings me to my point...

For the past few months since I signed on to cpod, I have been drawn inexplicably to what is on offer here, something definitely something more than just language lessons, exercises and forums. I can't percisely put my finger on it, but I have noticed a few special features I well respond to. I'd like to share there observations, in the hope that cpod will promote them even more, that my fellow poddies also share your opinions for us all to consider. Perhaps together we'll get to the bottom of what makes cpod cpod.

Here's my list to start things off:

1. The best environment to learn about a culture is one where many different cultures are interacting. You can for example grow up in traditional Chinese family like I did and know my bits and pieces of Chinese culture, but it is really when people outside of the culture points things out that we become aware, and we together actually 'learn'. Cpod has this environment.

2. It is eye (or ear) opening to hear John's switch between his Mandarin and English in quick succession. We get to hear the change in tones, spacing and voice emphasis. Somehow it is a lot more obvious when one person is doing it than when it happens between two person each speaking one the two languages. I especially notice his change in the use of appropriate mood particles - in Chinese he would use the appropriate particles 啊/a, 嘛/ma, etc, and when in English he would do his American "uh-huh", "oh", etc. We can't really speak a language until we can 'grunt' with appropriate mood particles!


3. Jenny's wit is a joy to listen to. More than that, she does wit in Mandarin and English, AND (the hardest bit) is original in both languages. The common mistake by bi-linguals is to think of something funny in one language and translate to another,  which usually comes off flat after translation. It is a challenge to learn wit in any language. I enjoy learning from the way Jenny does it.

4. Jiaojie's clear intonation and pronunciations.

5. David's knowledge and enthisiasm for Chinese culture.

6. Jen's humour.

... aaarrghhh, too many in the team to list off the top of my head... anyway, fast forward...

101. PODDIES! Gems, the lot of ya... luv youse all!

Let's not forget the most mysterious, inexplicable part of cpod: the proof that a smile can be transmitted through sound recordings. This of course Connie does all the time. Very powerful skill. Can Connie and Cpod package this up and sell - I'd pay BIG MONEY! Just hope it's not some 郑家女将家传神功 (Zhèng jiā nǚjiāng jiā chuán shéngōng/Cheng family secret female warrior kung-fu) of some kind that can't be shared.

Anyway, hope others will share your views on the secrets to cpod, and I hope cpod staff will take what we say into consideration in future planning. Nothing like making a great service even better.

Better go. Hope everyone is having a great New Year. 新年快乐!

宏量 Hong Liang

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January 02, 2011, 03:45 PM

Oh I agree HiewHongLiang, smiles can totally be heard.
Enjoy your vacation now!
Happy 2011!

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January 05, 2011, 01:59 AM

I really enjoyed reading this. Thanks for the feedback.

And it made me smile when you said that the smile comes through the recording, because this is something I always emphasize when I help train new hosts.  I also like to share this article:


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January 03, 2011, 12:52 AM

'you fake toilet breaks for a chance to jump on Chinesepod!'

I think I can empathise with this.. my wife is always saying "you on ChinesePod?" and I always say "No" and switch screens.  I should point out that when she asks this question it is not an approving tone.  :)

ChinesePod has:

- more material than one average person can reasonably process(I say average because there are a few people like simonpetersen who give me the impression that they do it all)

- something new every week which takes my fancy or amuses me

- lessons which are even interesting for native speakers (I think that this is a good test) 

- expansion sentences (I wish these could be downloaded)

- a sufficient number of poddies who come here regularly to get a conversation (& occasionally a debate) going  

- a few native speakers (mostly lurking)

- a couple of teachers who are generous with their time

- Connie (these dot points are not all mutually exclusive) 

- a Dashboard (just joking) 

Anyway, these are a few of my favourite things.  I sang that.  (Thank God it is only smiles that you can hear.)

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I sympathise with the wish to make the expansion sentences downloadable.

You can get a few with the audio review file - but you also get the English interspersed as well, which I don't want to listen to.

Cpod is pretty resolute, at present, with not making the expansion sentences downloadable as mandarin only files, unfortunately. Although the reasons they have given for not doing so are less than clear. I've always presumed it is because they don't want too much premium content widely distributable?

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lol x 5. native speaker comment interesting also. Rings true. Are you basing that solely on the natives on the board or do you know of natives that listen and find it interesting? Agree that natives finding it interesting also really says something. Do you think that is mainly at the higher levels? I would think media should clearly be interesting because it's discussing current topics in the media, but what about the other levels? I guess at newbie level for example that may depend on whether we're talking about the lesson dialogue or any cultural discussion that may ensue. What do you reckon?

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Well the basis for my 'native speakers' claim was 'off the board' people; probably two that I can think of off hand, both people who have helped me with the language. And I can't say that it applies at all levels, but only because we generally discuss UI, sometimes Intermediate (my current tutor does find these less interesting) or Media.

Okay this is how it works: I would most likely learn something from any ChinesePod lesson, but my approach with my current tutor is to show him a bundle of 3 or 4 CP lessons and ask him to choose something that interests him. (I've got to motivate my teacher. If he gets bored with a topic we quickly end up talking about something else. I have reached the end on 象棋; he was never very interested in that.) He glances through the lessons and if he gets a chuckle out of something we do that lesson. He often gets something that amuses him, or he says 'so true!'

We often start with a discussion about the general topic - this is how I know that some lessons "are even interesting for native speakers".

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Interesting the situation with native speakers - why do they lurk and not engage?

The reason I asked is that I have gathered from some forum discussions that too much Chinese in the Newbie and Ele discussions disengages English users. Is the reverse is also true, ie, too much (and too colloquial) English at the more advanced levels disengages the Chinese.

This is a phenomenon I always wondered about for all of the web actually, not just cpod. How do we get cultures to properly interacton the web in spite of the language divide ?

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January 03, 2011, 01:00 AM

hiewlongliang, cool post.  I think I would have changed the order in which you added things, but I think you included everything important explicitly except one, and that is the body of lessons themselves.  Universities, other online language sites, language institutes across China, the US, UK, Australia can and do teach plenty of food, welcome and business dialogues, but Chinesepod has almost 1600 lessons that go to other areas like the UN, zombies, bachelor parties and construction sites.  Few other sites have that much variety.

Don't underestimate the importance of enthusiasm of poddies like yourself.  Cpod's active community on the boards gives Cpod a used look and feel to potential subscribers.  The online world is full of hackers, crime syndicates, and ne'er do wells, so people posting and actively using the site seems helpful. That community appears loyal too.  The community stuck around after Amber left, and that seemed to have been a seismic event at the time. Its also made up of subscribers that are here for years, in some cases, almost as long as if they were attending university.  Interesting. 

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Hi pretzellogic. Completely agree with you, especially re the community. It is an unusually encouraging and positive one, based on my experience with many other online forums. It's one of the mysteries of cpod... but definitely a pleasant one to have.

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January 03, 2011, 01:37 AM

It never occurred to me before CPod that an audio track designed to teach a language could be entertaining!  Perhaps others do this too, but not many in the Mandarin world.

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January 02, 2011, 10:25 PM


Great post hong liang

On hols on iphone so cant write much but can totally relate to this

Love ur insights

Xin nian kuaile

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January 03, 2011, 05:18 AM

It is all in the bilingual grunting in appropriate mood particles.  :=)

Actually, I think what has mostly kept my interest in Cpod, for almost five years now, is the timeliness and relevance of topics, and the humor and variety in the lesson content.

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Hi Mark. A new user like me appreciates having experienced users like yourself around. When I go through the old and new lessons, comments from yourself and other like you gives a sense of the passage of time, and the growth cpod and people in it have gone through. Thanks.

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January 03, 2011, 05:22 AM

'luv youse all!'

For non-Australians and non-boxing fans, hiewhongliang is quoting Jeff Fenech. 

While many people take this as an indication of a poor education (or Australian 口语), I have heard a linguist argue in favour of bringing back this plural form of 'you'. English had it then lost it.  Australians have found it again if anyone is interested.

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yes, absolutely. You'd have to hear the original quote and the circumstances and manner it was delivered in to get the full emotion and effect of the quote. Much more powerful under the circumstances than if he'd said " I love you all". Hard to explain without getting waffly, hehe

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Linking Jeff Fenech to lingustics. Hmm... quite a stretch but applause for your flying of the Aussie flag! :-)

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I think that these are examples of colloquialisms (darn that is an awful word) that when used correctly are the difference between a native speaker and someone who has been educated in English. I notice that Jenny is using more and more Colloq's (easier to spell it this way.. stupid English) in her lessons, though she has always used them to some extent in the past. To me, this is a sign of a highly developed ability in the language rather than a lack of ability in the language as some would have you believe.

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January 03, 2011, 11:59 AM

ChinesePod 'keeps it real'. It's not unusual for poddies to become obsessed with the lessons, and then the hosts, and then invariably ask CP 'Can I come visit you one day?' and they're like 'Sure, we'd love to meet you'. (I know, I'm one of these Poddies).

And if it improves your Chinese, well that's good as well.

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January 03, 2011, 11:01 PM





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January 03, 2011, 02:36 AM

Hong Liang - great post! I agree with all of you! And in addition to everything already mentioned, CPod is also wonderful because I can still afford it on my grad student salary. :)