Some Thoughts on the Audio Review

March 23, 2013, 04:23 AM posted in General Discussion

Hey all,

I've been using ChinesePod for almost a couple of years now. I really love it, but I find the Audio Review feature a bit frustrating, and right now it's actually preventing me from being able to continue studying (I'll explain why in a bit).

Firstly, just to be clear on how I used to use it: First I listen to the lesson in the morning, then I review the lesson features on the website during lunch (dialog, expansion, grammar and exercises). Finally, on the drive home, I used to do the audio review by speaking out aloud.

Here are the problems I had with the audio review:

  1. In a typical audio review, about half the time is taken up by the vocabulary test, which is the easier part. However, that's not the most valuable part. The most valuable part is practicing combining the vocabulary into sentences. Suggestion: Devote more of the audio review to practicing the sentences..
  2. When it comes to the sentences, I feel like there often isn't enough of a pause to let me practice saying it. In some cases, even when I can say the sentence out loud immediately, the Chinese speaker starts to say the answer before I've managed to finish. Suggestion: There should be more time allocated between the English and Chinese, and it should be based on how long/difficult the sentence is.
  3. Often the answer is spoken too quickly for me to understand. Even though I've seen it earlier in the day, when reviewing the web site, I don't always remember every one. Suggestion: In the audio review, provide the answer slowly. For longer sentences, maybe break them into pieces.
  4. Another problem is that if I didn't know an answer, the audio review really doesn't help me learn. It moves onto the next sentence, and the one I didn't know may or may not come up again. Suggestion: Repeat each sentence 3 times consecutively in the audio review. Then insert it again, a few questions later. This way, you could provide the answer slowly the first few times and faster later.
Here's why this is preventing me from continuing to study with ChinesePod: Until recently, I used to commute by car on a fairly straight freeway. So I was able to pause the Audio Review to give me enough time to answer them, and rewind to repeat the ones I didn't hear correctly the first time. Now I'm commuting by bicycle, so I can't pause/rewind.
As I said I really like ChinesePod and want to continue studying. Have other users shared similar experiences?
Also, my suggestions (speaking slowly, and repeating questions) should not be difficult for the ChinesePod team to implement.

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March 23, 2013, 08:31 AM

What hinders you to download the audio review and edit it with Audacity according to YOUR PERSONAL needs? ChinesePod will not be able to create an audio review that will please everybody... So, take action!

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March 23, 2013, 09:11 AM

Audio review is really not critical for progressing quickly in Chinese. Being picky about it will just hold you back. If you want really effective listening/speaking practice just spend 15 minutes on a few times a week.

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March 23, 2013, 04:54 PM

Hi usr5623,

The main thing that stops me from editing the audio reviews one-by-one is time. Chinesepod's tagline is "Chinese learning for busy people", and given that I'm trying to squeeze my Chinese learning into my bike ride to work, I think I'd qualify as a busy person who doesn't really have time to manually edit each audio file :)

But thanks for the suggestion, I had thought about it, and will give it a try.

However, I can't really change the speed that the speaker talks at. (Well I can, but it will change the pitch too, and sound unnatural).

Given that the service costs $360/year, it's reasonable for me to suggest improvements, especially as the audio review is a premium feature that I'm paying for. (Plus, most of my suggestions would be easy for ChinesePod to implement at the time they publish their lessons).

When you do the audio review, do you not need to pause/rewind it ever? 

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March 23, 2013, 05:01 PM

Hi iaing,

Thanks for the suggestion. I will try, but it looks like it's an online system. The thing I like about audio practice was that I could do it anywhere. Before I started with ChinesePod, I did the Pimsleur system. The advantage of this is I can squeeze it in when I have the time - commuting, or when my kid is playing in the playground and I've got nothing to do.

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You are better off focusing on core things that really improve your Chinese, rather than being hung up about the audio review. If you want to improve pronunciation try ai, if you want to improve listening just focus on the dialogue-only files.

Previously, people have asked for all the English to be taken out of the audio files, as it is simply not helpful for learning Chinese. Would you like that to happen? I know I would, but it isn't going to hold my learning back if it doesn't happen.

The key thing is -- focus on the things that really work, and don't get hung up on the side things that aren't important (like the audio review files).

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March 23, 2013, 06:22 PM

If you have an iPhone or iPod touch, you may use this free app for audio practice: