advanced. media. an honest critique.

August 31, 2013, 05:07 AM posted in General Discussion

My sub is up for renewal, and I am weighing up if it is worth it.

I have been a premium subscriber for over 3 years now, and it has been a fantastic experience.

-I have given technical conference talks, in Beijing, in Chinese.

-I am marrying a wonderful Shandong woman next year.

-I have had more warm yanjing/cold noodle combos, than is reasonably healthy.

All this is credit to cpod ^_^

The issue, however, is that cpod is no longer a leader in advanced/media content. And it hasn't been for a long time.

I am not sure when cpod lost its "mantle" as best practice in Chinese learning. But I suspect it started when they stopped listening (and started arguing) with long term customers. Cpod team - do you want to be right (in your own view), or, do you really want long term customers?

The key problem is that there is no natural, native content on this site, with transcripts. At all.

A side issue is that the quantity, and focus, on advanced/media content has dropped over the years.

And I am tired of hearing cpod make contrived or incorrect excuses for this. It is not spoonfeeding to provide this. And it is never a lesser learning experience to have an opportunity to read over a section of dialogue.

There are currently two models of learning that are better than cpod (imo).

The first: is the model of providing natural dialogues around a topic that is then transcripted after.'s wolf and huahua series is a best practice example of this model.

The second: is to take native content and provide a transcript. The fluentU native series is a best practice example of this model.


So...a question, then, to other long term poddies. Time to move on to fluentU or other better products that listen to users, or persist at cpod out of an odd sense of loyalty?

It will be tough to leave this place, but I can't see value in the current advanced/media offerings. And I am certainly not the first person to make this comment.

The crazy thing, it would actually be cheaper for cpod to offer better content, at these levels, and more of it.

If only they would listen...


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August 31, 2013, 05:43 AM

"Cpod team - do you want to be right (in your own view), or, do you really want long term customers?"

These days CPod makes decisions based purely on economics, then try to justify those decisions with contrived educational arguments. (Not that I blame them I guess - what business doesn't put the dollar before the customer).

Naturally I don't know the numbers, but the vast majority of Newbie subscribers don't see their studies through to the advanced levels. So from a purely economic viewpoint, which is better - to keep one long-term customer for another 3 years, or to keep 10 Newbie/Elementary customers for one more year. As long as there is a large supply of new customers ready to join the site, they are going to pander to their needs.

I just wish companies like CPod would admit their real motivation for making their decisions instead of treating us like morons who can't read between the lines.

In my case, I am still at the Intermediate level, knocking on the door of Upper-Intermediate, and I am in no hurry to move up. So I will stay here for the time being. But I have my eyes on FluentU for the future.

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November 22, 2013, 10:28 PM

So today, is my last day before current sub runs out. I won't be renewing. There just isn't any native, natural content on this site, and this is what is most useful, and I can easily get elsewhere.

Cpod, you have my email address. If you ever are interested in regaining your mantle as an innovative, cutting edge, language site - and start doing advanced and media lessons that are natural, native and have a transcript - just let me know - and I'll gladly come back. 

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I'm sorry that you leave, Iaing. Well, actually, my current sub ends on Wednesday and I don't know if I'll renew. But, the point is that Chinesepod is not the same anymore and that's a pity. I think we've lost something...

I do hope that you'll find something better to practice with. I wish you the best !


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I already left some years ago. ChinesePod changed from a quite nice place (with Ken & Jenny) to an anonymously operating company driven only by pursuit of profit and not really interested in its old (and new) customers.

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Hello ! Did you find another website to learn Chinese with ?

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August 31, 2013, 04:04 PM

Maybe its just time to graduate ?

If the (old) upper-intermediate/advanced levels don't give you much inspiration anymore you should easily be able to read quite a bit of Chinese texts outside of Chinesepod.

I have never found Chinesepod alone sufficient to learn Chinese. The format is however great if you have like me just an hour or so to study a day.

Somehow you need to continue build that vocabulary.

(All 50,000 words you need to read a newspaper --; makes sense, a beginners Dutch dictionary already has 130,000 words)

Another path is to aim for one of the exams (TOCFL if in Taiwan, HSK in China). At the higher levels the time pressure is a real killer.

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August 31, 2013, 06:45 PM

I just got a Chinese pod tattoo. :) the tattooists name was jizhou.

But seriously I love Chinese pod. Really do. Im sure you guys do as we'll. And I suppose honest criticism will be appreciated by cp team.

I miss the old intro they use to have. Remember? With like the THX intro. And that song "I sailed away to china on a little old boat to find ya"

Sorry ill go now. :)

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September 01, 2013, 04:11 AM

I think I qualify as a long term subscriber.  My only problem with CPod's advanced and Media lessons is that there aren't enough of them.  (Well, there was a spate where Cpod thought they could get away with giving us a link to a video, chatting about it, and calling that a media lesson, but that wasn't the practice in the beginning and isn't the practice, now.)  Generally, the media lessons use written materials from blogs or news stories.  I believe the language in Media lessons is what a contemporary Chinese person would write, not the way they would speak spontaniously.  The advanced lessons more focus on spoken language, and although the dialogs are contrived, the language is contemporary and the content is interesting and fun.  There is also spontanious discussion in the lesson banter, but no transcript.  For the lesson content, there are transcripts and recordings of the dialog, or of someone reading the media.  So, they make good study material, in my opinion.  I still pick up new vocabulary from all levels of lessons.


I just took a quick look at fluentU and  For fluent U, their showcase lesson is an elementary lesson which sounds anoyingly stilted to me.  I tried one of their advanced lessons, and I'm not sure what the advantage is over just watching a movie with subtitles.  (I have a collection of ~200 Chinese movies with subtitles in English and Chinese.)


The first advanced lesson in's set seemed kind of patronizing to me.  Speech was slower than it would be for a native audience, English definitions were thrown in for some of the harder vocabulary, and at the end the speaker said, "someday you may understand what I am talking about".  Well, I pretty much understood everything he said on first listen.  This is a contrast with Cpod upper level lessons where I catch 80% on first listen and have to listen more times and read the dialog transcript to get the other 20%.


As to alternates or supplements for Chinesepod, I do like Tingyun's suggestion of "5000 Years of History".  There are dialogs with transcripts and history intersects with about every discipline imaginable.  So, I think it is helping me become more literate in Chinese.

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Cool man. Enjoyed your comment.

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September 05, 2013, 12:50 AM

Hi iaing, 

I am definitely sharing your concerns, and I am getting the same feeling.  It feels that a lot of improvements to the site have been geared towards lower levels and new services like classes.  I imagine this will only get worse since the bigfoot takeover.

My sub will expire at about the same time I will finish UI (20% through now) and leaving CPod at that time is definitely an option to consider.

Already at UI level you have to complement Cpod with other subs, like skritter and flashcards, but Cpod is still the main source of content.  Not sure what will happen at advanced, once Cpod drops to less than 30%, I imagine I would leave...

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August 31, 2013, 03:37 PM

I also think that chinesepod focuses too much on beginner dialogues as they publish a new almost everyday it seems and somewhat neglect advance language learners. Also a lot of intermediate dialogues these days seem to be simpler as well as, to a certain extent, upper intermediate.


I can tell just by studying some of the older intermediate and upper-intermediate lessons (like the lili zhang liang series) that change in linguistic complexity.


It does seem a bit short sighted for chinesepod to do this.

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September 06, 2013, 01:18 AM

Hi Mark, this is the link to the lingq series I was talking about.

Not sure if the link will work for you? Let me know if it doesn't.

It is a brilliant series, mainly just a few friends in Beijing picking a topic and chatting about it in casual language for 10-12 minutes. Then they are transcribed afterwards.

Cpod could do a similar series - just stick a recorder in the lunchroom and record team members chatting at lunch, and then have someone transcribe afterwards.

For a small cost it would be a brilliant series...

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September 06, 2013, 07:09 AM

The soaps and province-level newscasts are great, the agricultural channel, travel shows and so on. 

CPOD is just a tool and will be used as long as it is useful to me. Really just too busy and lazy to change at this point. I do need to look at the other options mentioned.

Lucky to have a real Mandarin teacher, won't be trading her in anytime soon.

It is fun to look at textbooks from several years before just to see how much progress has been made.

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November 13, 2013, 11:23 PM

also the issue of media lessons having broken links over time is not something that is going to go away...

I raised this 8 months ago...


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November 14, 2013, 02:12 PM

I study a mix of intermediate and upper intermediate lessons here and occasionally advanced/media. What I have always done after about a year of CPod is to, in tandem with CPod lessons, read "real world" material, like the, Chinasmack (a depressing site), which is way above my skill level, but keeps my interest level high as I am reading about subjects more relevant to me. Plus Tweets in Chinese, also movie comments in Baidu - doing this doesn't feel like work and time zips by. I also watch CCTV, which goes way way over my head. IMHO, this is way more material that I can handle and I'm never lacking for new things to learn.

What I found is that my vocabulary for things like transliterated people, company and place names, plus idioms, tech, politics enables me to understand newscasts and everyday conversation.

I am far from running out of new material from CPod (and Popup Chinese which I also use and FluentU as well), so until I do, I'm good for now. 

As for broken links, I've always copied the referenced article to my Dropbox or Evernote account. Anything in the wild can dissapear w/o notice. I dunno about the legal implications, but perhaps a usergroup can C&P the text to a text file and put it on a public group Google/Dropbox account.

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September 05, 2013, 12:57 PM

I would say that if one is comfortable at the upper intermediate level on ChinesePod, it's time to expand your horizons and start using real world sources.  I've found that when I'm reading a Chinese novel or watching a soap or movie I have no trouble with the grammar or the basics, it's merely a question of vocabulary, which is something that a ChinesePod style podcast cannot efficiently address at HSK levels 5-6 as there are just too many words to cover. For that there's Skritter (I'm currently about 1/3 of the way through HSK 5 vocab) and sites like which drill you on vocabulary depending on your level.

Think of ChinesePod as a really good High School with a few college level courses.  There comes a time when you have to graduate and go out in the real world.  Get a book on a subject which interests you and start reading.  I was pleasantly surprised at how much I understood the first time I tried.  Even at a page or two a day there is a real feeling of progress.  The same with movies or soaps, as a lot can be understood just by tone of voice and watching the action. Best of all is the feeling of accomplishment in dealing with real sources, not just lessons.

Just remember, that any teacher can only take you so far - you have to start using your knowledge sometime, the sooner the better.  I started watching soaps when I was still struggling with intermediate lessons, but I could still figure out what was going on most of the time. 

Start using the real world as your teacher and I think you'll be pleasantly surprised at how much you already know. 

That said, I'll still be sticking around ChinesePod for another year or two because I still pick up some useful stuff from the upper intermediate and advanced lessons.  It's just not the central part of my study anymore, the real world is.


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"Comfortable at upper intermediate" is still rather far from "fluent", in my estimation. I definitely agree other sources should be used, in particular reading / writing practice. But I feel that at upper intermediate, and perhaps higher levels, a study mode with reading and hearing the content enunciated is still valid and most useful. I think this is the study modality iaing is referring to, and this is what I am finding most useful when beginning upper intermediate.

As for me, I am not sure that i will feel the same -- that advanced level content is insufficient, after all, recommended level is 120 lessons and there are way more than that produced. Time will tell, but I do hope to use CPod for one or two years after finishing 160 upper intermediates...