Suggested Difficulty: Advanced (or higher)
Video or Audio: Both formats are fine
Lesson Idea: I would like to see more exploration into lessons that go beyond a simple dialogue presentation. This has been attempted before with Media and monologue (usually narrations of literature or political speech) lessons. I feel like more advanced audio should better reflect what native speakers actually listen to.
Consider using a college lecture-based format on a given topic. Rather than dumb it down (as in some of the past lessons, especially with Jenny’s team), keep it at the advanced difficulty. There are a lot of topics to explore: History, Philosophy, Politics, Society, Culture, and International Relations. Personally, I think the best lessons I ever listened to on ChinesePod were the four-part series on Diplomatic Terms (外交辞令). I would encourage similar lessons in the future.
I would even suggest lessons on controversial topics of interest. Most conspicuously, a lesson on Tiananmen or other democracy protests has been disappointingly evaded. ChinesePod should not shirk away from any topic of major interest to students or that offers major insights into the Chinese cultural and political landscape. Lessons on Mao Zedong and Chiang Kai-shek have also been insufficient in discussing their catastrophic failures: Great Leap Forward, Cultural Revolution, White Terror, and martial law. As an educational platform, ChinesePod has a responsibility to present all aspects of Chinese culture – positive and negative, controversial or not – in an objective and informative manner. If it fails to do so, eventually another platform will arise that does not refrain from broaching tough topics and it will have the potential to overtake ChinesePod as the premier Chinese language learning online service.
Along those same lines, there are so many great topics that have yet to be explored: the “national humiliation” narrative; US-China Relations (including concerns of US hegemony); the Chinese Internet (the Great Firewall, the five-cent party, etc.); Xi Jinping and other leaders’ many proposals and initiatives ranging from the Chinese Dream to fighting corruption. I believe Fiona and Constance were moving in this direction with some of their political lessons – all of which I loved – but there could have been so much more. Jenny’s team also had a few lessons (especially Media lessons) that addressed these topics, but again they were comparatively few and far between.
In sum, I think ChinesePod could improve its services by breaking away from its over-reliance on banter-style dialogues and modeling itself off of more academic formats that explore issues comprehensively and objectively. There could even be a new category of lesson, call it Informational, in which lessons explore a specific subject of interest in-depth in Chinese.