- Popup Chinese --- http://www.popupchinese.com/
ChinesePod --- https://chinesepod.com/
ChineseClass101 --- https://www.chineseclass101.com/
ChineseLearnOnline --- https://www.chineselearnonline.com/
Coffee Break Chinese --- https://radiolingua.com/category/coffee-break-chinese/
CSLpod --- http://www.cslpod.com/LearnMandarin/Lesson/Latest.aspx
ChineseFor.Us --- https://chinesefor.us/
If you have paid for any of these services, I’d like to know your opinion of them:
- • Were you satisfied (or not) with the quality of the material provided?
• Was it a good value for the amount you paid?
• How much did it actually help you improve your listening comprehension skills?
If you make a recommendation for or against any of them, please give your reason(s).
Here are a few preferences of mine, which may or may not be totally unrealistic:
What I need (must-haves):
☺ Lots of listening practice: Something based around naturalistic dialogues or conversations in Mandarin Chinese between people carrying out ordinary, everyday transactions (ordering in restaurants, buying a subway pass, asking for directions, reserving a hotel room, etc.).
☺ Authentic or reasonably good standard Mandarin accent (I want to get that down first before I start dealing with Shanghainese or Sichuanese or other regional variations.)
☺ Accurate transcripts in both pinyin and Hànzì. If I don’t understand something I hear, I want to be able to check, in written form, what exactly the person was saying.
What I prefer (if possible, but the lack of which is not necessarily a deal-breaker):
☺ Organized, sequential, graduated learning, starting slow and easy and then growing progressively more advanced, with later dialogues/episodes building on vocabulary or grammar introduced in earlier ones, is better than a scattered collection of episodes that cover a bunch of random topics and that were later corralled into “levels” without having been originally planned for that purpose. I prefer not to have to hear a hundred times that “we only use méi 没, not bù 不, with yǒu 有” presented each time as if they think it’s the first time I’ve heard them explain it. (I’m finding a prep book for the HSK1 test pretty easy, so I’m guessing I’m near the upper end of A1 on the CEFR scale.)
☺ Additional exercises are a nice extra feature, but only if there is an answer key to them; otherwise they’re not useful. Developing listening comprehension is my main goal, not practicing grammar. I'm primarily looking for input.
☺ The ability to download audio tracks to listen to offline at a later time is also a plus. Streaming-only services that cut off all access to their material after your subscription expires don’t seem like the best long-term value to me...or am I wrong about that?
☺ Web-based is okay–-I don’t need an app. I especially don’t like watching videos on my tiny smartphone screen, which I use only for practicing characters on various flashcard apps.
What I’m trying to avoid:
☹ Talking heads facing a camera and giving lots of grammar explanations. I want to practice and develop my skill at understanding and using the language [procedural knowledge], not just broaden my abstract knowledge about the language [declarative knowledge]. Note that this rules out at least half of what I see on YouTube. I don’t need a video that reproduces the experience of sitting in a classroom and watching a teacher stand in front of a whiteboard explaining language points. (Chinese with Mike is a perfect example of this kind of ineffective approach that will not lead to any real acquisition or fluency at all. I need example conversations, not disquisitions.)
☹ Two people using English for ten minutes or more to introduce and chat about just two or three isolated target-language vocabulary words. (One of the Spanish podcasts is like this. The density of learning in each episode is amazingly sparse, and you get no opportunities to listen to a continuous flow of the target language for even ten seconds at a time.)
☹ Series that are superficial, glitzy, and overproduced, with tons of extraneous music woven all through the lesson, constant interruptions for ads about their other products or upgrades, and annoying fake-funny scripted banter between hosts. (Another Spanish podcast is absolutely full of this, to the exclusion of much actual content. I’m paying to learn the language, not to listen to “Josh” and “Anna” pretend to be “cool.”)
☹ Services that make it difficult to cancel your subscription by burying the link where it’s impossible to find or, worse, requiring that you contact them to beg to end your subscription (and then a charge from them shows up on your credit card bill for the following two months anyway).
☹ Anything crowdsourced or thrown together very unprofessionally by Joe Blow in his parents’ basement, Joe’s only qualification being that he is a native speaker, but with no previous experience actually teaching his language and thus no insights into the best way to go about it because he has no idea what non-native speakers will find easy or difficult in the process of learning it.
I hope I’m not asking for the moon, but if I am, please let me know. My apologies if this topic has been discussed before. Searches of this forum produce many scattered comments about these types of online subscription learning sites, but I couldn’t find any single thread about the ones for Chinese, and I thought it would be useful to collect users’ reactions in one place. If you’ve tried more than one of these services and are in a position to make comparisons, your feedback is even more valuable.
[Edit: Added the words "just" and "absolutely" for emphasis and clarity.]