Study Methods

May 25, 2011, 01:41 PM posted in General Discussion

Ni Hao everyone,

I'm new to ChinesePod, have started sampling a few lessons and I think this is great!

Who else here is doing this as purely self-study, i.e. without Skype calls or local classes? I was wondering what the best method would is, do you read the transcript first, and then listen to the lesson? Or the other way around? How do you review/study the content after listening to the lesson (vocab cards, etc)?

Xie xie!


Profile picture
May 25, 2011, 10:19 PM

At the moment, I am doing self-study. I took four semesters of Chinese in college but it was very heavily focused on writing so I have been searching for a way to practice/learn speaking. Chinesepod is meeting that need very nicely so far. I am planning to continue studying on my own for a little while, then I will try out the lessons once I have an idea of what level I belong in.

Profile picture
May 26, 2011, 01:38 AM

Hi jschun.  I am also currently doing self-study only with cPod.

I think the answer to your question about *how* to study on your own with cPod is the frustrating "Well, it depends." :-) If you don't have a teacher, you're probably going to need something to challenge yourself and add discipline. So depending on whether a particular lesson is easy or hard, you might want to try to do whatever is just a little outside your comfort zone.

So for a lesson that's within my reach, but really hard (most Upper Intermediate lessons fall into this category for me), I prepare myself a lot by reviewing the written materials first, before I listen. I'll look at the vocab first, then I'll try to read the dialog through, probably a couple of times. Only then will I listen to the lesson.

For a lesson that's a little easier but still challenging -- like an easy Upper Intermediate or some of the older Intermediate lessons -- I challenge myself by not reviewing the vocabulary in advance, but I will try to read the dialog first to see how many of the new words I can figure out without looking them up.

For a lesson right in my comfort zone -- most Intermediate lessons -- the challenge is to try and listen to the lesson without reading it. I'll read along later during reviews. And I spend a lot of time with the expansion sentences, usually copying them out on paper a few times.

For lessons that are "too easy" I'll just listen to the dialog alone and usually not the full lesson. The value is that 1) you can never hear too much Chinese and 2) it's a confidence-booster, which I probably need after beating myself up all week. :-)

Profile picture
May 26, 2011, 06:11 AM


SF_Rachel: don't you find that it takes some of the "reality" out of it by reading the lesson transcript first before listening to it? After all, in real life you also wouldn't be handed a sheet of paper with what the person you are talking to is going to say, before they actually say it :)

If a lesson is in the comfort zone and you already know most/all of the vocab in it, then no further review or studying is required (other than trying to use the language patterns in daily speech). But how do you deal with lessons that contain some (or a lot) of new vocab? You obviously read the transcript in order to know what they mean, but how do you try and memorize them so that you still know those words a week or a month later?

That I think is probably my biggest challenge. I see how listening to lessons gives you the benefit of a) hearing spoken Chinese at a pace I can follow and b) introducing perhaps new language patterns, but I feel I am not getting the most out of it if I can't retain the vocab. Do you know what I mean?



Profile picture

First of all, welcome!

Re your question, it really does depend on your personal learning style and goals. There are a lot of users who go through the transcript the first to guide their learning. But if you feel it hampers you, then listen first or read the vocabulary first. I will recommend focusing the key vocabulary in each lesson and pay special attention phrases in the dialogue that build around these words.

Another important tip is don't get too bogged down by details at the expense of enjoying the learning experience. When I was learning English, I felt the most productive when I had the desire to learn.

Hope it helps.

Profile picture

This is a challenge that I sometimes struggle with myself. There are times when Chinese becomes a chore, but if I continue to study anyway, then it becomes a pleasure again!

Profile picture

jcschun -- we probably agree more than you think. It might come down to how we each define "comfort zone." I agree that if I already know nearly all the vocab that's "too easy" and not worth studying. But a lesson where I know much but not all the vocab -- and which is spoken probably a bit unnaturally clearly -- would be "in my comfort zone." Bottom line, lessons like that aren't particularly hard work -- mostly just new vocab. Psht, vocabulary's not scary! I can knock those out without too much trouble and just add new words to my deck as I encounter them. It's just important to know where your comfort zone really is, so you know where you can most effectively challenge yourself without feeling overwhelmed or discouraged.

As Jenny says, it's all ultimately very personal and individual. I'm playing the long game here; with patience and determination I know I'm making progress. A year ago I wasn't sure that I really belonged outside the Newbie pool; now I'm wringing my hands over trying Upper Intermediate lessons. A year ago I couldn't read at all; now I enjoy wandering through Chinatown trying to puzzle out street signs and vendor displays, or getting my feet wet visiting Chinese corners of the Internet. It's exciting to wonder what I'll be ready to try a year from now! None of this is about what's *in* my comfort zone really, it's about reducing the number of things that are utterly beyond my reach. It's about firming my grip so I'm never afraid to reach for the next rung on the ladder.