Commenting Policy: Some More Explanation

December 31, 2009, 04:00 AM posted in General Discussion

On a recent lesson, there has been some discussion of the ChinesePod commenting policy, particularly with regards to how much Chinese in comments is acceptable at different levels.

Some users interpreted that as ChinesePod possibly preventing them from practicing reading or writing their Chinese.  This, of course, is not our intent.  As I mentioned on that thread, the whole thing started because:

There was a recent rash of all-Chinese comments from non-learners, and I was simply trying to stem that.

We need a policy in place so that our removal of certain comments doesn't seem random.  We have that policy in place, but the goal here is learning Chinese, so we're going to enforce the policy to that end, not just to delete stuff.

The kind of stuff we will delete are irrelevant (or semi-relevant) posts entirely in Chinese that are not useful (do not help learners), do not help foster a cooperative learning environment, or will simply confuse learners at the level the lesson is meant for.  (For example, you don't launch into an all-Chinese history of the grammaticalization of 在 (zài) simply because 在 is used as a preposition in an Elementary lesson. It's not helpful to Ele learners, and it's not appropriate.)

We're here to help you learners!  Let me know if you still have questions.

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December 31, 2009, 04:11 AM

One other thing...  xiaophil said:

Just to be clear, I didn't originally understand why John made his request.  I fully support him deleting the comments of native speakers if they pass the threshold of being useful to learners.  

The highlighted portion is exactly the point.  Unwanted comments would not so much fall under "not so useful" as "confusing and counter-productive."

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January 02, 2010, 08:29 PM

One of the problems is that "intermediate" can mean lots of things - people's skills don't progress at the same level. So - as a compulsive skritterer and reader - my reading is pretty good, and my listening is not bad, but I am more or less a stuttering mess when it comes to producing the language (hopefully a few weeks in China later this year should at least take me up a notch in that respect). But others may be the other way round.

Perhaps - particularly at the intermediate stage - we need to have a policy that is flexible enough to take account of all these differences. I can see John's point that at Newbie and Ele level, English should also be included as a courtesy, and the weighting should be towards writing hanzi at UI and Advanced level (although I occasionally stray into UI territory as the air's bracing up there, and my occasional comment over there has been largely in English).

But in the end intermediate is, well... intermediate (and it's a pretty broad category too!); so it makes sense to have a big old mixture at that level. Bring on the hanzi, I say. And the pinyin. And the English, too.

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December 31, 2009, 04:30 AM


Option 1: Go to Resources then Add-ons, add the Pinyin Tone converter. It converts ni3hao3 to ni3hao3 so you still have to type the pinyin.

Option 2: Find one of the hundreds of freely available Hanzi->Pinyin converters on the web. This enables you to just type the Hanzi and have a computer convert it for you. Google wrote one but John pointed out how much it sucks. I wrote one, it doesn't suck. But I really didn't work that hard on it so I am sure there are better ones out there.

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December 31, 2009, 04:32 AM

Thanks John for going out of your way to clear things up. 

I smell a debate coming here (although who knows due to the holiday), so let me just paste my basic argument against encouraging pinyin and translations in the intermediate and above lessons. 

This is most of what I originally posted here.  If you want the full background, you might want to go back.  Anyway...


I see translation at the intermediate level and above as an unwanted distraction, and thus doesn't promote a good Chinese learning environment.  What I mean is, it is a natural reaction for humans to zero in on the language that we are most familiar with, so no matter how good we get at Chinese, must of us will read English first, and only then if we have patience will we read the Chinese. 


CPod staff has been very good at chatting with us lately in Chinese.  (Thank you CPod!) If CPod management suddenly tells them to use pinyin and translate, I'm afraid they will simply post less. 

I think people might say, "Well, if people want to learn Chinese, they should force themselves to read the Chinese, and as for staff, it's their job, so they should just grin and bear it," but I think human nature gravitates towards the path of least resistance.

I want to add, a while back I had an argument similar to this with another user who disagreed with me.  This particular user seemed to think I was an elitist.  I don't think I'm an elitist.  I just think my views are the proven way to learn.  But if others disagree, I'm all for them trying to change my mind ;).  Besides, if there is a civil discussion, perhaps a better CPod policy will come out of it.  (Although I like the current policy, haha.)


Perhaps this will be useful.

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December 31, 2009, 05:13 AM

Ohhh.....I see。 我没张眼睛 wǒméizhǎngyǎnjīng

Thanks again a1pi2 / 谢谢小飞 xièxièxiǎofēi :-)

Both are very useful!

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December 31, 2009, 05:22 AM

Hi john

Whatever the policy is, it's no use if people don't know it. To me, Chinesepod commening policy is just like insurance clauses written on the back of an insurance policy, hehe. How many of newcomers, native guys included, notice the "pinyin/translation, please" policy?

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December 31, 2009, 06:08 AM


That's very true. In many cases, people won't read it, so we're just going to have to point it out to new users occasionally. If existing users understand and are on board, it won't be too much work to do in order to keep the discussion content helpful.

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December 31, 2009, 07:25 AM

ijust think that the chinesepod teachers post should include otherwise it detracts from being valuable learning far as other users are concerned it is no problem to me and i like trying to read their posts and have improved my chinese reading from not being able to see the pinyin with the i agree with xiaophil and also with john...i think as a learner we can use both methods of improving our chinese ..but when a teacher empoyed by chinesepod answers a post from a student i would like to see that in pinyin as this increases immensely my ability to understand clearly what is being taught....


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December 31, 2009, 07:51 AM

Hey Pauley

Fair enough.  I'm just wondering, do you use a pop-up dictionary?  I know sometimes they are imperfect, but they are usually right, and by using them you get a translation and a definition all in one.  I personally think it is more convenient than trying to read a string of pinyin.  Is it that you are unaware of this kind of tool, do not like using them or can't use them for whatever reason?

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December 31, 2009, 01:43 PM


When you used the term "non-learners", I think you have included the Cpod counsellors as well. I've learnt a ton of additional and valuable Chinese from their casual conversations among themselves or with other poddies on the lesson topic. You can't buy lessons of Chinese teachers having practical conversations in Hanzi with students..... these are precious real-life lessons...... actual day to day language in short sentences by teachers chatting with students or among themselves completely in Hanzi. When I don't understand the Hanzi, I simply use MDGB. It takes only a few seconds for any Hanzi to be translated into pinyin and into English. The translation is not where the real learning is (although used as a red herring by whining learners who are too lazy to help themselves) ..... the real learning is in figuring out the sentence structure and why as such.

So any ruling of yours that will de-motivate the free flow of conversations in Hanzi by Cpod counsellors among themselves or with poddies is a misguided action. Even comments of the occasional transient Chinese natives during the one week trial period have many a times added to my learning.

Instead of stemming written Hanzi, it should be the other way around. If indeed the goal is to promote learning Chinese, the ruling should be to ban all conversations in English from Intermediate upwards. After all, what Chinese will learners learn when poddies converse tons in English? Why is there a policy for pinyin and English translations when people write in Hanzi and not the other way around? If the goal is to truly make the discussion boards a learning environment, then the policy should be: If you want to write English, you must translate and write in Chinese.  Only those asking questions or seeking clarification on the lesson topics are allowed to use English. All other chit-chat should be written in Hanzi.

It a second time now that in the start of a new year, there arises again this emphasis to require pinyin to accompany Hanzi. Last year it was in Novice and Ele boards. Now it is spreading to the Intermediate boards. I'm getting tired of this notion that only Cpod knows how individuals learn and therefore knows when to delete the non-learning Hanzi.  

p.s. If you really want to learn Chinese correctly, you should not be asking for Pinyin and English translations of Chinese sentences written on the discussion boards.  The Pinyin written by counsellors or poddies do not provide you with the break-down of meaning and pinyin of each word or phrase in the sentences. Only online dictionaries such as MDGB does. 

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December 31, 2009, 04:16 AM

Um, sorry, probably going over old ground here, but where can I get that cool pin1yin1 tone converter thing...

Thanks in advance.

P.S. I find pinyin really useful in learning the characters, as a 'stepping stone' to full character recognition, so I agree with John's sediments.

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December 31, 2009, 02:30 PM


It is not that simple, really!

"There are many Chinese forums with lots of Chinese people chatting with each other. I'm sure you can find them. I've looked at some interesting posts at Baidu, which has a forum section. Completely free of charge."

I'm very aware of the Chinese forums. However, they are very different and very difficult to learn from compared to the discussions at Cpod's board simply because (a) the board discussions stick to a particular topic of interest i.e. relating to the lesson at hand, and (b) the counsellors and natives commenting on Cpod's board have the perspective that readers are learners and thus would frame their sentences so that readers can more easily understand.

"In addition, teaching is simply a lot more efficient when done in a language the learner understands. Teaching Chinese by talking Chinese is simply not efficient until the learner knows Chinese (which intermediate learners don't)."

Teaching has already been done in the lessons podcast (numerous times on the particle 了 John, how about the many other parts of grammar?) and more teaching when poddies ask questions on the boards. I'm referring here to the casual conversations on the topic matter... which if done in Hanzi on the topic matter will greatly expand our learning and give us the wings to fly earlier. For example, on the lesson of Buying A Gift, wouldn't you like more simple sentences and short stories in Hanzi of personal experiences to expand on this topic? You cannot get this by joining an outside all Chinese boards.


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December 31, 2009, 02:30 PM

your'e both right. if a small tidbit of chinese learning can be gleaned from the comments - great, but really the learning material is the lesson. The comment section is where one can come up for air and ask questions and get answers in the language he or she understands best. Less confusion this way and then back to studying. As simple simon (sorry simon) says, there are plenty of places to experience real chinese. Here it gets sprinkled in at an amount proportional to the level. Also ok. The comments are not the end-all and be-all of chinese learning. I think this issue gets way too much press.

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December 31, 2009, 03:03 PM

Rjberki is wise. Also, I think pinyin is a bit unnecessary. It's a pain to write and its benefits are slim. However, a translation in English isn't too tiring to write and it will immensly help an intermediate learner to make sense of the sentence, just like in the lessons. Instead of "What does this mean?" you get "How does this mean that?". This would be much more helpful to an intermediate learner than only the hanzi.

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December 31, 2009, 11:21 PM

Hey rj!

Good thoughts. I was surprised when this issue was raised by John, and I just merrily  translated as necessary when some of the more archaine 汉字 appeared.

I do like John's delete policy when and if it is necessary. Otherwise, if the comment contains useful information albeit somewhat of a puzzle at times to extract, I'm happy with it.

This makes me think of Pete's 唐诗 lessons. I never did find out where I could find the old meanings of some of the characters. But, still this was for me one of the highlights of CPod's creative side. And the lesson discussions were amazing.

Since my formal graduate school education was in mathematics, I enjoy hard problems, and so, I like these long Chinese commentaries. And, with Changye there to reveal some of the sublties, all always seems fine to me.



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January 01, 2010, 01:47 AM


actually you are right..i livei n china and my computer is all in chinese as my wife uses it and i have been unable to download a pop up dictionary...but next time a younger computer expert comes to my home i will try and get one downloaded....this would solve the problem...i also agree that it would be better to look at pop up dictionary than pinyin...which to me is only good for pronunciation

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January 02, 2010, 03:19 AM


  i installed the mdbg pop up chinese today....something i should of done years ago....thanks for giving me good advice ..this will help me improve my reading heaps...especially chinese news...i am slowly becoming better at using the computer...

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January 02, 2010, 03:23 PM

Hey everybody,

Maybe it is because I have learned Chinese from teachers who cannot speak English well that I look at the issue differently from some of you.  I feel like my most valuable lessons came not from the teacher telling me 'how to speak Chinese' but rather when we just talked in class.  Many times I was lost, but later, somehow, I started to understand.  I feel it is part of the learning process to not understand all the time.  If we understand all the time, we probably are learning too slowly.  For this reason, I feel like intermediate level is the right level to drop the training wheels, i.e. pinyin and translations.  Simon is right, there are other places to chat with natives.  Actually, I have been thinking of pursuing those venues, but for the life of me, I still don't understand why CPod can't be that place too, at least to a certain degree.

Anyway, if I can't get my fix in the comment section, I will find another way.  No biggie.


Glad that worked out for you.  I prefer the perakun add-on for Firefox if you still want to try others.  If you so happen to try it and have trouble installing the dictionary, let me know.  I should be able to help you.

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January 02, 2010, 04:23 PM

Xiaophil: I agree with you, really. It's just that I don't think that the Intermediate level is the right level to do that. I think that the UI level is. I base this on how the lessons are taught, with complete translations on the Intermediate level and few translations on the UI level. It just makes sense to me to keep it the same in the comments.

Then there's also the 中文吧 threads, isn't there?

CPod can't please everyone, anyway. I'm sure no matter how the policy looks, some people will be happy. I usually skip the stuff written in hanzi, but read the translations if there are any. Of course I want more translations. Others feel like they would post less if they have to translate their hanzi, since it's a bother. Of course they don't want that.

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December 31, 2009, 02:05 PM

Paulinurus: There are many Chinese forums with lots of Chinese people chatting with each other. I'm sure you can find them. I've looked at some interesting posts at Baidu, which has a forum section. Completely free of charge.

I addition, teaching is simply a lot more efficient when done in a language the learner understands. Teaching Chinese by talking Chinese is simply not efficient until the learner knows Chinese (which intermediate learners don't).

It's quite simple, actually. In Newbie and Ellie, teaching is done in English, as you will notice if you listen to a lesson. In Intermediate lessons, teaching is done in Chinese by Jenny, which is then translated by John. In Upper Intermediate, teaching is done mostly in Chinese, with occasional clarifications in English. At Advanced, I assume it's all Chinese.

There is a reason for this, of course, and it seems to me that this style of teaching by levels has been very effective. I've never heard complaints of all the Chinese used in the lessons being translated into English. Using the exact same levels in the comments as in the lessons seems to me to be very logical. Someone at the Intermediate level is best served by Chinese together with English translation, or they would be at another level. I think it's quite simple.

EDIT: Man, I sure overused the word "simple". Sorry about that.