Last updated Dec 31, 2008. New pricing and comparison chart of available subscription plans uploaded.
First of all, Palm Discovery would like to extend a BIG THANKS to Adi of Chinesepod for providing the temporary Premium access to Chinesepod for this review.
Thanks for visiting and supporting Palm Discovery. If you are not reading this article from Palmdiscovery.com or Palmdiscovery.net, the website you are reading it from is copying and posting my content without consent. Please visit Palm Discovery for the original source of the material.
Disclosure: Palm Discovery is an affiliate of Chinesepod and Spanishpod. Subscription purchases made from the affiliate links in this review and elsewhere on the Palm Discovery website will help keep the site running and pay for giveaways offered from time to time. At the end of each year, a portion of the proceeds will be donated to Plan Canada. Thanks to your generosity, $20 was donated in 2006 purchasing a bee keeping kit for an Egyptian family and $85 was donated in 2007 purchasing a birth registration kit for a child in Sudan, a pig for a Chinese family and clean water for a child in Benin. Thank you for your support!
This is part one of a three part review on the Chinesepod language learning portal website.
Part 1 will discuss and explain what Chinesepod and Spanishpod is about and how it works. I will go over a video review of the website showing the services and features offered.
Part 2 will show via screenshots of pages in the Chinesepod website that are normally only available to premium subscription users to show what features are offered.
Part 3 will discuss my observations and suggestions as well as a review summary of the services offered.
Keep in mind that although the review is focused on Chinesepod, that Spanishpod, Italianpod, Frenchpod will offer similar services and features except focused on teaching Spanish.
Here’s a very interesting and unique way to learn a new language: listen to a daily podcast! (For those who are not familiar with what podcasts are, please check out this article on podcasts for more information.)
Okay, in this day and age when there’s so many podcasts out there for practically every topic, this may not be the newest idea on the block, but it certainly is one of the most successful. Anyone can make a podcast to teach you a new language, but the people over at Praxis Language (creators of Chinesepod and Spanishpod) have made it very easy and fun to learn just by listening to their entertaining and sometimes even funny podcasts.
Most language teaching podcasts will have a certain systematic chronological order of presenting the podcasts, usually starting from the beginner level and then going on to more advanced levels. But, not everyone is at the beginner level and won’t likely want to listen to stuff they are already familiar with. So, they’ll have to figure out by going through some of the podcasts to determine their personal starting point. This is where Chinesepod and Spanishpod excel over many others. They offer podcasts in several different levels (Newbie, Elementary, Intermediate, Upper Intermediate, Advanced and beyond) and you can learn at the level that suits you best. So, if you’re at the intermediate level, you can choose to only listen to podcasts at that level and higher and skip over the lower level podcasts. And you don’t need to start at the earliest lesson. Actually, Chinesepod encourages you to select the ones you are interested in instead of selecting them in chronological order. You can search by topic via tags, by popularity, member (voted) ranking, etc. You have full control over what you learn and listen.
Being a podcast, you have many ways to listen to them.
The easiest way is to visit the website at Chinesepod.com or Spanishpod.com and access the streaming mp3 podcast. Simply click on the Play button or icon that looks like a white right pointing triangle inside a red circle for the podcast/lesson that you wish to listen to. Or, browse through the podcast/lessons by their level and load the specific podcast/lesson page and then listen to it. You will need to ensure that you have Adobe Flash player enabled to be able to play it on your computer via the browser.
Alternatively, even if you are not registered at Chinesepod or Spanishpod you can still download the 64kbps quality mp3 file podcast (the green left diagonal downward arrow with blue music bar icon labeled 64) directly onto your computer and listen to it offline from the hard drive at your convenience. Or, you can then transfer it to your iPod, mp3 player or other smartphone or portable device that supports mp3 playback and listen to it wherever you are at any time. It’s all up to you. And, this is all FREE.
Most of the links with regards to the podcast and in the Lessons Page are links to podcast downloads ranging from the 64kbps mp3 podcast file to 128kbps podcast file to a “dialogue only” podcast file to “The Fix” podcast file which is like a self test or revision tool. The main difference is the Lesson PDF link, which will download or open a PDF Transcript of the dialogue with key and supplementary vocabulary. Here’s what the PDF Transcript looks like. The full transcript for this specific lesson is 4 pages. I decided to only show the first and third page to give you an idea of what the main dialogue and the vocab page looks like.
PDF Transcript Dialogue Page
PDF Transcript Key and Supplementary Vocab Page
Although there is no direct link to it on the Lessons Page, there is a PDF Transcript of the Dialogue and Vocabulary in Traditional Chinese text for those who wish to access it. You will need to make a change in your personal feeds so that you will obtain the link to the traditional text pdf file.
To do so, you’ll need to click on the Your Feed tab from the Home Page.
Under Step #3 check or make sure the box beside the PDF Transcript (Traditional) has a green check mark inside. Then click on the Save button. From now on, the rss/xml feed will contain a link the Traditional text pdf file in addition to the Simplified text pdf file. Again, this is for those who wish to obtain the feed link to the Traditional text pdf.
If you register (it’s free and only takes a minute) at Chinesepod/Spanishpod, you can keep track of which lessons or podcasts you’ve listened to, bookmark them for later perusal or revision and delete them from your account when you have mastered it. You can add vocabulary from the conversations/dialogue to your word bank or vocabulary manager for your own personal learning and them remove them when you have mastered them. But that’s not all, there’s a lot more that’s offered at Chinesepod and we’re only scratching the surface. Again, the podcasts (64kbps in mp3 format) are free and will always be free. You don’t need to register at the website to listen. Have I convinced you yet? But wait, there’s more. Much more.
Before I continue, since both Chinesepod and Spanishpod are very similar in nature with the exception that each teach a different language, I will only be focusing on Chinesepod but keep in mind that it will likely be similar for Spanishpod as well.
There are various different subscription or membership levels offered: Free, Basic, Premium, Praxis and Practice. Here’s a bar chart that shows a comparison of the various subscription levels and what each offered.
Here’s the latest pricing chart of the plans offered:
Click on the image for a bigger picture
This is the old comparison chart (prices are no longer valid)
There is absolutely no obligation to register for an account. It’s free. Obviously, they do hope that eventually you will upgrade from the free account to at least a Basic subscription and beyond. And there’s no pressure. Absolutely none. If you don’t listen to a podcast, there’s no email to remind you to download the podcast. If you find that a particular lesson is too hard or too boring for you, you can either keep on at it, or skip it and start on another one. However, should you wish for more of an interactive approach, either you can subscribe to a different subscription level such as the Practice, or start interacting with other Chinesepod members via the lessons discussions or conversations, or through the Chinesepod forums. Again, that is up to you. Once registered, you can participate in the lesson discussion and in the forums (both require separate registrations) and again, these resources are free.
Depending on the subscription level, your access to the resources and features will vary. Check out my video reviews (they are broken down in parts for easier consumption). Keep in mind that the video is meant to show an overall view of the services offered at Chinesepod. There will be a better explanation of specific areas via screenshots of the pages visited in Part 2.
Video Part 1 at Blip.tv discusses and compares the various plans available and the features offered. We’ll go over the main home page of Chinesepod that any visitor to the website can access: podcast, streaming audio file, discussions and comments. We’ll continue with the viewing of a specific Lesson page for a casual visitor and the features that are available and accessible.
Part 2 at Blip.tv discusses and displays the differences between what’s accessible and available to the Basic and Premium subscribers. We’ll continue on with the Lesson Page and access the features available to the Premium subscribers which are normally not accessible to subscribers at the Free level and at the Basic level. So, consider this as a special sneak peek! We’ll play part of the podcast/lesson to provide an idea of its format and layout and discuss the podcast/lesson itself. We’ll look at the Lesson PDF, which provides a visual aspect of the lesson/podcast with the dialogue, key vocabulary and supplementary vocabulary which provides a much more complete and comprehensive learning of the Chinese language as you are not only focusing on the verbal but also the visual aspect of the language.
Part 3 at Blip.tv will show the Lesson PDF and the Fix/revision mp3 file to explain how they are correlated and how useful they can be when used together. We will next go over the four tabs (Dialogue, Vocab, Expansion, Exercises) normally only accessible and available to Premium subscribers. Lastly, we’ll go over the Conversations Page.
Part 4 at Blip.tv goes over the differences on the Home page when logged into the Chinesepod website compared to not being logged in. We’ll go over the Archive Page which provides an archive listing of lessons/podcasts and Your Feed page, which enables you to customize what is in your personalized rss feed. We’ll next go and look at the Extra tab which provides other podcasts that are not necessarily “lessons” perse but can not only be entertaining but also useful and helpful as well. We’ll discuss the Dear Amber, Movie Madness and Qing Wen podcasts. Next, we’ll go and look at the Vocabulary and Vocabulary manager which contains the Flash cards, Concentration game, import/export vocabulary words into CSV and XML files.
Part 5 at Blip.tv will check out the Pronunciation link from the Home page and go over part of the Pinyin chart. We’ll also show and visit the Listening Test, which is a way for Chinesepod to determine your knowledge level of Chinese to suggest which level is most suitable for you. As well, we’ll provide a brief overview again of the many features available at Chinesepod to wrap it all up.
To break this review down for easier readability as it will be very lengthy, I will continue the review in part 2, which will focus on showing the pages and screenshots of the site that I have touched on and discussed.
Thanks for visiting Palm Discovery