C-Pod Lesson Study Strategy

June 29, 2009, 04:20 PM posted in General Discussion

Hello C-Pod'rs.  I am very curious about sharing and learning about our C-Pod learning strategies.  Currently, I...

#1  Listen to a lesson.

#2  Listen to the vocab one by one and save all vocab lists (including supplmental).  I repeat until I'm comfortable I know how to say each word (but not memorized).

#3 Dialogue Tab:  (I can see many different strategies here).  Because my primary desire is spoken Mandarin (secondary is reading), I listen to a sentence and see if I understand it completely.  If I don't I go through and see if I can understand by just looking at characters.  Next, I look at definition of the words I didn't understand and save those I haven't learned to the vocab section and click the sentence play button again and play it until I understand.  Repeat this process for 6 sentences, then go back over all 6 starting with the first to make sure I have the vocab/structures down.  Then I go to the next 6 sentences and repeat.  After the full dialogue I go back through a thrid time.  This process is inteded to slowly move the material to my long-term memory.

#4 Do the excercises and try to do them in simplified characters (even though I do the dialogue's in traditional, I want to be exposed to both until I hit the point where the vast majority of characters are inextricably different).

#5 Go back to vocab tab and make sure I remember at least casually everything.  Listen to the full dialogue one more time to see if I missed anything. 

#6 Read the discussion page to pick up any good tips.

#7  Click 'studied' and watch lesson dissapear from the me page and get a sense of satisfaction!

#8  REVIEW:  This is the part I am struggling with and really need help with.  I am only a month into my CPOD experience and it's really fun.  But I am getting tons of lessons "done" but would really appreciate understanding how you guys go about reviewing old lessons and especially the vocabulary.

How do you guys tag the vocab?  I have so many vocab words now that its a bit unruly so I have been using one of around 20ish tags that seem most appropriate but doing tags like 'verbs' gets you over 100 real fast so you lose some of the value.  Not sure if I should have a tag for studied and dump all the known words in there and delete the old tags, but I don't want a ton of mainenance on this. 

It would be real nice if words came with a few tags already like part of speech, lesson #, etc.  

But in the abscence of this what do you guys do for your vocab strategy?

What do you do for your lesson study strategy?

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June 29, 2009, 07:04 PM

Hi dadahuhu,

I have studied with cpod for about 8 months. In the beginning I tried to use the cpod vocabulary list, but I found that it was a bit hard to use vor reviewing and it lets you only review individual words.

I work through the lessons similar to you ( but not so thorough, I have to admit). Then I export all the vocab and all the sentences ( dialogue and expansion) to a flashcard desktop programm. This I use to revise everything. The advantage of this is there are many tools that track your progress on the studied items and organize for you how often and when to repeat which items, based on how well you know them already.

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October 12, 2009, 04:03 PM

Well, it's hardly rocket science. :)

I can imagine upper intermediate lessons being extremely difficult. I don't think I'll be doing that for a while, if ever. Might be that they're too long to be able to do this profitably. The sweet spot is around a minute to a minute and a half. For upper intermediate, I think I'll split them up in segments, when I get that far.

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June 30, 2009, 12:35 AM

I stopped using CPod's vocab feature a long time ago. I highly recommend you download a flashcard program. I use Anki, and it's incredibly helpful. It utilizes a spaced repetition algorithm for scheduling cards for review, and it has done far more to increase retention than anything else I've tried. If you decide to go with it and need help setting it up, feel free to send me a private message (I may forget to check this thread later on).

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June 30, 2009, 12:39 AM

As for a study strategy, here's my routine:

Pick 2 elementary, 2 intermediate, and 2 qing wen lessons for the week. Listen to each lesson and it's audio review at work, once a day throughout the week. I also read the PDF for each lesson once a day. Also, every day I go over my flash cards (using Anki - an excellent flashcard program). At the end of the week, I add the new vocab from my lessons into Anki.

Also, on days where I have more free time, I like to listen to an upper intermediate lesson a couple of times- once with the PDF at hand, once without just for listening practice.

I don't use ChinesePod for learning how to read or write Chinese though. I'm using a book called "Remembering the Hanzi" which I highly recommend. It associates pnemonics with each character, so you can forego the traditional brute-force method of rote memorization.

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June 30, 2009, 04:07 AM

My study strategy depends on the lesson level, somewhat. Lately, I have been trying to understand as much as I can on the first hearing of the lesson dialog, then listen through the entire lesson.  After that I try to read the lesson transcript and understand as much as I can without pausing to look unrecognized characters up.  Then I repeat the listening excercise, and follow up by looking up all the unrecognized characters in the transcript.  It sometimes takes me a couple more readings of the transcript (dialog tab) before the new vocabulary is in my intermediate term memory.  Finally, I edit the lesson dialog to insert silences so I can play repeat-what-you-just-heard while I commute.  For intermediate lessons, I write the dialog out by hand at the end of the week.  When I feel up to frustrating myself, I do the listen and type portion of the excercises, because my tone recognition is still poor.

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June 30, 2009, 07:40 PM

Thanks all, great advice.  I forgot to mention that I do the same work on the expansion as the dialogues.  The expansion excercises are really helpful for me.

I tried out Anki (on the shared vocab lists) and it seems like a great system once you get accustomed to it.  The iphone app at cpod is extremely convenient and hopefully it will integrate some spaced repition features in the future as well.

Do any of you listen to the whole lesson a 2nd or 3rd time in the future or just the dialogue/lesson reviews?  Perhaps as you get more advanced you only need the quick hits, but when starting out it may be helpful to listen to the whole lesson again a month later.

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July 01, 2009, 12:32 AM

I couldn't agree more about the expansion exercises. In fact, I forgot to mention that I don't just add individual words to Anki, I also pick a few expansion sentences for each lesson and add them as well. When I'm reviewing, I read every card aloud, so having entire sentences to review is really helpful.

I usually listen to each lesson every day for about a week, and after that I don't generally go back and listen to them. I just rely on my flashcards to continually reinforce what I've learned.

One more thing: since I'm much slower in learning Hanzi than Pinyin, I have 2 separate decks for Anki: one for learning vocab (concentrating on the pinyin), and one for learning reading/writing. If you want to set up your deck similarly, you'll have to tweek the Model Properties. It's kinda confusing until you've done it once, so feel free to ask for help.


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September 12, 2009, 07:47 PM

Adding my grain of salt, I think regularly going back to past lessons is a good idea even if it means doing fewer new lessons. This is because when you learn Chinese, you spend a lot of time looking up characters, in spite of electronic dictionaries etc. Therefore it pays to go over older stuff where you don't have to waste time afresh looking-up characters. Put it another way: all other things equal, re-learning 5 forgotten words is more time-efficient than learning 5 brand-new words. The latter entails new look-ups while the former doesn't, and the result is the same (= +5).

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October 12, 2009, 05:33 AM

dadahuhu, FWIW, my study strategy is similar to yours, but more metric driven.  I'm at the point where I create small notepads for my sentences and characters, so that I can carry them around conveniently. 

My weak point is also review.  I do review and consolidate lessons around once a week or so, but i've noticed that even in consolidation, I forget, and I'm not sure how many times to review before I go to the next lesson.  If i keep score, should i only forget 10 out of 50 words, and then move to the next lesson, or just 3 out of 50 words?  Pimsleur was great in that it implied that you should remember about 80% of the stuff you learned, then move on to the next lesson.  I think the theory is that in other lessons, you come across the same words in the same or different contexts, and that helps anchor your intuition, so you don't need to have perfect review/recall in order to move on.  That's the theory at least......

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October 12, 2009, 07:32 AM

I recently felt dissatisfied with my stury method, so I gave it an overhaul. I'm very pleased with my new method. Here's the lowdown:

1: Listen to the lesson. I do this at work, usually, and I do it several times, since I have eight hours, anyway.

2: Add the vocab. I add all the regular vocab into the CPod vocab tool and tag it with the name of the lesson. Supplementary vocab is only added if it seems very useful and/or common.

3: Skritter time. I use the Skritter tool in CPod to burn the vocab into my brain. Skritter is, as a previous poster pointed out, extremely good at this. I do Skritter, then do something else, then do Skritter again, and vary with some older lessons, until I can get through the entire vocab list (that is, the list tagged with the lesson name) without mistakes. I also use some mnemonics to memorize the characters, going by what they look like and/or what radicals are used (and I look up new radicals when I encounter them). I have a Wacom tablet, which makes writing characters on the computer a breeze.

4: Syncronize. I use StudyArcade, a great free iPhone flashcard app that not only uses spaced repetition, but also syncs with CPod, for maximum convenience. This means I never have to worry about review, since the SRS algorithm handles that for me.

5: Shadowing. Shadowing is a method invented by professor Alexander Arguelles (search his name on YouTube and you'll find some videos on it). Basically, I walk for fifteen minutes to and from work every day. While walking at a brisk pace with good posture, I listen to the dialogue and I echo the speech as I hear it, trying to use the exact same tones and melody. This is difficult in the beginning, but it gets easier, and by the time I can do it effortlessly, I've memorized the entire dialogue. This is extremely effective, as I have to speak at the same pace as the native speakers on the tape. Very good for fluency.

6: Writing. Since I now have the entire dialogue memorized, I write it down, from memory, to make sure I can write all the characters used. I feel I need to do this as Skritter is a bit helpful when you're using it. It's more difficult to write on paper than on Skritter.


This works really well for me. The only thing I'm missing is a lot of reading practice. I will get to that later, when I know more characters. This method is very convenient, as the vocab takes care of itself. I just add it automatically to the list, tag it and then sync with StudyArcade, which handles the review schedule for me. The only annoyance is that the iPhone won't let you play podcasts on repeat, so there's a lot of button pressing when doing the shadowing.

EDIT: Oh, and I usually do the excercises, too, though I don't feel they do much for me. Still, they're kinda fun, so why not?

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June 29, 2009, 07:16 PM


what I do is, I to put the Dialogues and the Audio Reviews of studied lessons on my MP3/Phone and try to mix it 50% with music so there are some "rewards" in between. I listen to that in shuffle mode as often as I can, e.g. while communiting, waiting in line somewhere, doing housework.

Recently, I have also started using Skritter more extensively. I import the relevant lesson vocab of the week and add it to the (already quite immense) Skritter batch. Not only does it teach you writing, it also burns vocab directly into the brain.

There is a downside: Yet another service one needs to pay for. Sigh.

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October 12, 2009, 10:47 AM

The only review I do consciously is when I do Skritter. I pick and choose from the last five or so lessons (the words being tagged with the lesson name and all) depending on how difficult I feel they are and how much I've reviewed them already. I don't really have a method for this, and it's not strictly necessary for my methodology.

The real review is done through StudyArcade. SA tests words in both directions (Chinese to English and English to Chinese, never showing the pinyin except on the answer side). When SA gives me an English word, I sketch the character with my finger in the air. If I can't, I give myself a low score. Since SA has spaced repetition, I'll get to review it soon again. Thus, as soon as a word is added to the vocab, it's synced with SA and thus I never forget it, since SA brings it out for me when it's time to review. Skritter is just a way to do the initial brain-burning. It's an aid to the StudyArcade process, since it makes sure I know the word well when it goes into the SA system. Once it's in there, I never forget it (OK, I do, but SA reminds me).

Does that answer your question?

EDIT: Oh, and sometimes I review by simply rehearsing a lesson dialogue in my head, since the shadowing makes it memorized. I can think about the characters of the words while I do that. Of course, after a long enough time, I'll forget the dialogue. No worries.

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October 12, 2009, 11:10 AM

Yeah, this helps. Unfortunately, I don't have an iPhone, so using Study Arcade isn't an option right now.  The way you're making it sound, maybe I should break down and buy one. I forget if the iPod Touch or other iPods can use the iPhone apps, but I suppose I can go to the iTunes Store and find out such things. 

Thanks again.

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October 12, 2009, 11:21 AM

StudyArcade has been a huge boost to me. Whether or not it's worth the price of an iPhone, well ... :)

Here's how it works: You add words to your ChinesePod vocab list. StudyArcade syncs with your account and downloads the words automatically. You then start a session and StudyArcade will start showing you flashcards. You look at them and then you judge how well you did.

SA will keep repeating the cards (interspersed with the other cards you need to repeat) until you judge it to be "Easy". The, how long it will take until it brings it up again depends on how much difficulty you had with it. So as long as you just think it's "easy", SA will take longer and longer to bring it back.

You can also set how many new words you want to get as a maximum each day. So if you add 50 new words to CPod, SA can portion them out a few each day.

There's also a "review" mode, in which SA will show you the words you haven't looked at for a long time, and a "Test Cramming" mode in which you'll get the words you're having the most difficulty with (EDIT: also a "Random" mode).

I'm starting to sound like I'm selling the program. :)

Finally, there's a "multiple choice" game that you can do, in addition to flashcards, and there are premade fact packages you can download, like HSK word lists, the most frequent characters and lists of all the radicals.

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October 12, 2009, 12:19 PM

simonpettersson, actually, two more things:

1) what level are you at? I've tried going from elementary to upper intermediate, and it seems too big a jump. I've since gone from elementary to intermediate which works much better.  But i'm curious as to how far and how fast you've been able to leap using Dr. Arguelles' methods.

2)I'm here in China, and YouTube videos are unaccessable.  Any other resources you might have are appreciated.

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October 12, 2009, 12:36 PM

I'm at Intermediate. I haven't been doing this method for that long, so I can't swear by the results yet, other than the fact that my thinking in Chinese has greatly improved. I've only been shadowing four lessons so far.

You can still use google, I hope? Do a google search for: "site:http://how-to-learn-any-language.com shadowing" (without the quotes). It was on that (excellent) polyglot forum that I first encountered the term. You need an account to search the forum, but you can use google, as above. If you do register for an account, you can even discuss the method with lots of excellent polyglots, amongst others professor Arguelles himself, who posts to the forums regularly (or at least did when I was last there, which was some time ago). He's certainly an authorty to be trusted, as he speaks a gazillion languages himself.

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October 12, 2009, 02:27 PM

simonpettersson, no luck with the other link you forwarded.  But in any event, i'm interested enough to go ahead and give Shadowing a try tomorrow.  I guess some more questions are based on the following you said in an earlier post:

While walking at a brisk pace with good posture, I listen to the dialogue and I echo the speech as I hear it, trying to use the exact same tones and melody. This is difficult in the beginning, but it gets easier, and by the time I can do it effortlessly, I've memorized the entire dialogue. This is extremely effective, as I have to speak at the same pace as the native speakers on the tape

1) when you listen to a CPOD intermediate lesson, I assume you listen to the 1 minute or so dialogue.  do you stop the dialogue after each sentence to echo the speech, or do you talk over the sentence as the actors are saying it?

2) when you listen to a dialogue sentence, do you continually replay that sentence over and over until you can say all the words in that sentence well, and then move on to the next dialogue sentence?



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October 12, 2009, 03:44 PM

1) No pausing. You speak over the audio, listening and speaking at the same time. You're trying to reduce the time between hearing the audio and speaking your echo. The ideal is speaking virtually in sync with the audio. The point of this is that you'll be getting constant, instant feedback on your pronounciation. If you're "off key", you'll hear it instantly and will be able to correct it on the next rep.

Side note: This is pretty damn hard in the beginning, and it demands a lot of concentration. This is why you do it while walking "purposefully", as if you're going somewhere, briskly, and with good posture. This helps the mind to stay focused. Also, you get excercise and oxygenate your brain. :) You can try it with Elementary dialogues first, as they're a lot easier to keep up with. But the native speakers do speak quickly, so we've got to learn, right? It also helps to read the dialogue carefully beforehand so you know what they're saying.

2) I listen to the entire dialogue through, so it's usually a bit over a minute. Then I rewind and do it again. Over and over, at least ten times. It's quite tiring, so you can't do this for half an hour straight, or your performance will likely suffer.

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October 12, 2009, 03:58 PM

holy cow.  I tried doing this before I knew there was a method called Shadowing. You're right, it really was hard.  I gave up.  It didn't help that I was doing it with an upper intermediate lesson ("When the Taxi takes the Long Way Home"), and the actors were agitated and speaking even faster than normal speed Chinese.

Great feedback though.  Sounds like I was almost on the right path. 

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October 12, 2009, 10:29 AM

simonpettersson, this is interesting.  When do you do your review of lessons from a couple of weeks ago? Do you do a review of the last 2-10 lessons or so? When you do the review, how much did  you retain? for the stuff you didn't retain, how much review time do you spend working on the lessons until you get accurate again? Thanks.