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How I Choose ChinesePod Lessons


I’ve created a new video on how I choose ChinesePod lessons. I demonstrate that within the first 3 minutes of the video. The rest is an explanation of why I choose ChinesePod lessons that way.

Short version: I more or less randomly choose lessons produced between 2008 and 2014. Long version: I explain why those lessons are so appealing to me, going into detail on how the ChinesePod approach worked back then.

I’ve also posted a version on YouKu, and on my own blog.

How I Move Up a Level

Great post ewilc773: As always your videos are quite professional and interesting to me as a retired course designer (Old 'skool ISD) and later language instructor. The linkages and gears you presented clearly showed what CPOD students face diving into the lessons. The evolution isn’t obvious, but leaps out at you once you see it. Nice catch! Since I took your advice from your first video my retention/learning, has really skyrocketed and I’ll hopefully leverage this one a bit more as well. CPOD is a superior learning tool for me and your insights increase that instructional value.

From a designer’s view, do you think CPOD adding video widened the ‘scope’ of production too far? I look at learning styles seriously (visual, auditory, kinesthetic) and I wonder about my own learning and how to improve it. CPOD now leans toward visual and has dropped kinesthetic. I do my own pen and paper writing practice now and enjoy it, but miss the easy Skritter link. Did you use it back when it was connected at the hip with CPOD? I’m thinking the CPOD videos are fun, but maybe I’m too distracted by them and good 'ol audio, with visual character repetition, is best for me. Easy fix for video lessons, just listen!

Learning question for you: At the Elementary level should I get a true dictionary? My little Oxford Beginner’s Chinese – ISBN: 019929853X – is great, still its highlighting is showing. Is it still OK or should I move up to a true dictionary. If so, which would you go with?



It’s good to hear that you’ve benefited from these videos. I’ll try to keep cranking them out!

As far as making sense of the evolution, I can’t take full credit for that. I developed hunches about what was going on, but I wasn’t confident of my assessments until I had a chance to actually communicate directly with John Pasden about it. He still uses ChinesePod in his language consulting business, and is quite aware of all of the trends. I wish I could pin him down for a whole day and hear everything he could say about learning Chinese!

One of the smartest guys I’ve ever known saw this video on Facebook almost immediately after I posted it, and he gave some surprising feedback. He is over 40 and starting to learn Chinese. He stayed away from ChinesePod because his perception was that it’s random with no structure. This video changed his mind, and he’s going to be passing it on to his son who is now learning Chinese.

I think ChinesePod adding video has certainly been a great asset - it just needs to be refined so that it’s backward-compatible with the “specifications” of the past so that the structure can be retained. It’s not an easy task, but with the right understanding of the original goals and objectives of each level, I certainly think it’s possible. It’s like writing software to be backward-compatible with old versions - software companies out there are doing it every day. But, of course, if you don’t understand what the original software was designed to do, you’re likely to break it.

You make some interesting points about the shift from kinesthetic to visual learning. I’m going to have to give that some thought.

I think I’ve only used Skritter for a total of 30 minutes. I think it’s great, but I’m a die-hard Pleco user with tons of data I’ve entered over the years. I have thousands of custom dictionary entries, and the flashcard database says I’ve done over 219,000 repetitions! I used to use Pleco’s “Lyrics Reader” to open the ChinesePod lessons, which enabled me to read along and quickly add words to my flashcard lists. Last I checked, this was an iOS-only feature; it didn’t work on Android.

Which brings us to dictionaries: I’ve never actually used a paper dictionary until this year. I’ve purchased quite a few dictionaries from within Pleco, but I recently picked up a copy of the 5000 Graded Words for New HSK (Level 6):

Levels 1, 2, & 3
Levels 4 and 5
Level 6

I’ve not used the lower level dictionaries, but that level 6 dictionary is terrific. It’s all in Chinese, but it does two things we foreigners need:

  1. Emphasizes examples instead of definitions
  2. Grades the language of those definitions and examples down to HSK-appropriate vocabulary

Native-language dictionaries are notorious for taking simple words and making them complicated. This is great for native speakers, but horrible for foreign learners. This dictionary doesn’t do that. Highly recommended if you can get one.


Thanks Elijah, very interesting video. Really an eye-opener. I started learning Chinese only 2 years ago (when I was almost 45 years old). The way in which ChinesePod is built and how it originated is therefore relatively new to me. So every shared experience of fellow students is valuable and ensures that learning goes faster.


Fantastic post! This is exactly what I needed to get started.
Honestly, I’ve looked at ChinesePod before and felt so confused about how to get started and how to progress that I never bothered. Now that I understand how to approach things, it’s extremely attractive–to the point that I signed up.


It’s great to have you with us Dave! I plan on publishing a quick post on my blog soon about how you’ve challenged me with Cangjie. I’m looking forward to your future contributions.


Thanks Robert! Hopefully ChinesePod will serve you well for years to come. You’re actually the second begin-after-40 learner I’ve interacted with in the last 24 hours. Seeing your determination is a great encouragement, and I look forward to hearing about your progress.


Hao hao xie xie ni for your advice studying ewilc773. I’ll spin up the Pleco. :iphone:


Hah, I started 2016 with my first attempts in Chinese. I was 53 years old. My wife and my children immediately declared me as crazy - Midlife Crisis or something like that. But it was a childhood dream, never had the time. Now I do not have the time either, but I was two times in China for business purposes, I do have Chinese colleagues and a Chinese boss. Well, we’re all talking in English, but visiting China was the starting point - I wanted to learn this mystery.
To be honest, from my current perspective, if I would have spend the same amount of effort into learning Spanish, Italian or even improve my French - I would be fully fluent :slightly_smiling_face:
I know that I will most probably never become really good in Chinese, but that does not matter. I want to be able to communicate in this language. It’s so abstract far away from all what I know, that’s so interesting.


That’s funny - when I started learning Chinese, people thought I had gone crazy, too!

Chinese does indeed require far more effort than most of the other languages out there, but once you get bit with the “learn Chinese bug,” you never really get over it.


Another great video, Elijah. Together with the video on moving up a level it explains a lot about the Chinese Pod method.

I am currently studying pre-intermediate lessons, which are a good level for me, and the intermediate ones (mostly Fiona’s and some recent Grace and Jenny ones) are still a bit challenging. But now you’ve explained the pre-intermediates don’t really fit in the core ChinesePod method. Maybe I should try intermediate lessons from 2008-2014?

The progress chart doesn’t have a bar for pre-intermediate and I don’t think my studied pre-intermediate lessons are included in the intermediate bar on my chart. Do you know if they are included in the elementary bar or just not included anywhere?

Incidentally I am another person who started learning Chinese after 40. I started in 2017 when I was 47.


I would say if the pre-intermediate lessons are good for you, then by all means continue! They don’t show up on the progress bar, but as long as you understand what’s going on, that’s what matters.

I had one person comment that in switching between the earlier Intermediate lessons and the later Intermediate lessons, they got confused and began wondering if they were “just stupid.” That’s what I want to avoid.

I think you’ll find that no matter which era you choose from, the teachers are all quite helpful. The most important thing is to keep moving forward with material you like.


This is very interesting as even without your methodical approach to selecting lessons I always go back to those years between 2007-2013 and I think we know that those were the years when John Pasden was at Chinesepod. I’m not attached to any hosts or teachers at all. In fact I really like Fiona, Gwilym and Constance so it must be how the curriculum was designed and the content that make me prefer lessons from those years. I’m around Intermediate level and I find that the balance between understanding a lot of the dialogues and the new words I’m learning are in good proportions and the lessons seem to be delivered in a fairly fast paced but not at all rushed but also don’t drag on and on. Clearly, I haven’t done proper analysis but after watching your video, it sort of make sense now.


Fantastic post! This is very helpful! I used to learn Chinese on Youtube randomly, at that time I found some good video from Chinesepod, so I start to just focus on Chinesepod. It helped me to study Chinese with organized plan.