Thursday, January 18, 2007

ChinesePod

Indulge me for a minute...I have to tell you about my latest obssession. I recently discovered ChinesePod, a unique blend of technology, language instruction, and all around East-meets-West fun.

So what exactly is ChinesePod? Go to chinesepod.com and find out. Here's what you'll find...

Every day, an audio lesson in spoken Mandarin is posted on the web site. These lessons, usually about 10 minutes in length, range in difficulty from complete newbie to advanced. So even if you have never, ever studied the Chinese language, you can jump right in at chinesepod.com and have a little fun.

What's so fun about a web site dedicated to language learning? Well, the lessons are just the beginning. You see, the folks at ChinesePod bring you snippets of dialogues that you actually hear in the real world. Recent lessons have covered things like how to request a fork in a Chinese restaurant, how to ask and answer basic questions on the phone...and even how to tell someone at the karaoke bar you can't sing! (KTV being a major Chinese pasttime.)

These useful dialogues are presented in a hip and lively way by ChinesePod's hosts, Ken Carroll (an Irishman) and Jenny Zhu ("I'm Jenny!"). The fun of it is that they ground the language squarely in the culture of today's China. So rather than just memorizing vocabulary and grammar, you are immersing yourself (virtually, of course) in relevant situations and states of mind. There is no way, you find out, to get out of singing at the karaoke bar. It is simply the group-first mentality of the Chinese that dictates participation by all, unlike in the "me-first" West where personal preferences rule the day.

It is these kinds of insights and fun that make ChinesePod more than just language learning...a new and contemporary Chinese tour-de-force is what I would call it.

So even if you have absolutely no interest in learning Mandarin, commit to listening to ChinesePod's newbie lessons for a couple of weeks. You'll crack up, at the least. And, who knows...when the Ballas head back to the Middle Kingdom for an extended stay, you can come visit and talk a little talk.

~Steve