Holiday All Access Special

Now that level 7 has been finished, I will be adding it to the bulk downloads section over the next few weeks. Once that is done, I will be raising the price of the All Access package from $149.95 to $199.95. For this price, you will get access to all the bulk downloads for all 7 levels, which would normally cost you $349.85. You also get 3 months of online access thrown in which has a value of $49.95 on its own, giving you a $399.80 value for only $199.95.

Until the release of the level 7 bulk download package however, those who purchase the current All Access package for $149.95 will get free access to level 7 when it is available. This offer also extends to all those who have purchased the All Access package in the past 2 months, as their access should extend into the release of the new level.

Suspension of New Lessons

I’m considering suspending the creation of new lessons at the end of level 7 (up to lesson 420). The following is my reasoning – however I’m open to any feedback that users may have.

It seems that the vast majority of our users are still in the early levels (1 to 3) perhaps. The majority of the bulk downloads are all coming from those areas. However the majority of our production costs are in the later levels and lessons of which, only a small minority of our users are on. I think at this point it would make more sense to shift some of the focus back to the earlier levels and lessons. By this, I mean creating more resources for them to enable students there to progress further.

When we aren’t creating new lessons, we have been working on two areas:

1. A new version of the CLO site, that is more user and student friendly. I have been releasing hints on the approach I am planning in recent podcast updates. The idea is for students to have better control over the resources they want, to enable themselves to progress quicker in their learning.
2. Rerecording of older lessons to meet current standards.

Both these points have taken MUCH longer than I expected. By suspending production of new lessons, I can put more resources into these areas so we can finish them off. There’s also a lot of other work, like creating more sentence builder and other activities for older lessons. I also have some ideas for new features that I would like to do some research on. My thinking is that once I have caught up on these areas, then we can continue producing lessons and resuming with level 8.

As mentioned above, I’m open to feedback. If subscribers on extended subscriptions feel that I have an obligation to create new content, then I am open to continuing to do that. However if the same users would rather see me put more resources into the lessons they are currently on (older ones), then I can certainly do that too.

Let me know what you think!

New Landing Page

I updated the CLO landing page a few days ago, to provide more of an introduction for new users on our course and how it differs from others. I also added some user testimonials to it. There was a problem with members not being able to log in from that page however, so I just added a login link to it. Hopefully this didn’t cause too much inconvenience.

CLO 3rd Anniversary

It was only 3 short years ago that I began CLO in my basement in Canada, releasing lesson 1 on September 4, 2006. At the time, I wasn’t sure where it would lead or how far I would be able to take it. 3 years later, I am now based in Taiwan with a full time staff of 2 and a part time group of 10 people that include voice actors, a language consultant, a proof reader, a salesperson, a programmer, a cartoonist and a graphic designer. We just released our 382nd lesson and have expanded from the main site to 2 iphone applications and a site for a local university Chinese language center .

So what’s in store for CLO in the future? Apart from working on a brand new CLO site, with much improved functionality, I’m working on introducing our model to more Chinese language schools in Taiwan. I’m also building a site for teachers in an American Chinese school to use, and I hope to import some of that functionality into the next version of CLO. There will also be more tools released for the general public to use, that should help Chinese learners in general.

I would like to thank all of you for your support over the past 3 years, and hope we can continue this relationship over the next few years!

Typhoon Morakot

Sorry for the lack of updates here of late. Most of our efforts of late have gone into development for the new version of CLO. Since it will be using a different software system, there is no point in implementing any of the features in the current version since they have to be rewritten on the new system. More details on what exactly you will see in the new version will be released over the next few weeks.

Regarding some news close to home here, some of you may have read about the floods and mudslides caused by Typhoon Morakot in Taiwan this past week. While we at CLO weren’t directly affected by it, there are a lot of people in Taiwan who were. As a result, I will be donating 5% of our revenue this month towards Typhoon Morakot relief. If anyone wants to donate money specifically for this cause, please use the donate button below.

If you want to know what happens to this money, please read this blog post written by my friend Michael.

September 2 Update: Contribution made today – a big thank you to all our subscribers!

New Additions

With the start of level 7, I’m happy to announce some new additions to the course and website. Regarding the course, you may have noticed two new speakers in lesson 361. They will be used for the regular speed dialogues from here on. We will also be inserting them into older lessons.

I’m also happy to announce that I have upgraded the site to a new, faster server. This is the second time I’ve had to do so in the 3 years (approaching) the site has been around. This is a result of the site growing and its needs growing with it. The new server should make the site faster and more responsive. It’ll also give me the flexibility to keep adding more features, especially with a new version of CLO around the corner.

A few bugs have now been fixed – comments have now been restored – however the music pages are a bit of a mess, so please bear with me as I fix those.

Site Maintenance

Please note that the entire CLO site will be down for 4 hours on Sunday, May 3 from 2 a.m. to 6 a.m. EST for some server maintenance. I apologize for any inconvenience this may cause.

Update: You may have noticed some problems with comments not showing up on the main site and the updates blog. Seems like there are some hardware problems on the server we are using, so it will need to be replaced. This involves some extensive backing up and movement of data that may take several days. In the meantime, if you notice any other aspects of the site not working the way it should be, please let me know.

Lessons 148~117 Updated

As the title says, over the past few weeks, we have updated lessons 148 down to lessons 117 on the site, so feel free to listen them again for review. If you notice any transcripts or online content that doesn’t match up with the new lessons, please let me know.

Typing Test

I’ve added a new feature that should show up in any vocabulary page that features a dialogue or article. It is called “Typing Test” and can be found in the same area as the Test Your Pronunciation, Sentence Builder, New Characters and other tools.

In the Typing Test, you can hear audio from the dialogue or article of the lesson, and your goal is to type out the lines that you hear. You can type them out in either simplified or traditional characters. When finished, click on “Check” to see if you were correct. Characters that you typed incorrectly will be highlighted in red, so you can try again.

You can try out a sample on this page.

For those of you who have never typed in Chinese before (quite an exhilarating experience I might add), here are the steps required to add this feature to your computer:

Here are the steps required to type in Chinese on your computer using a pinyin interface. Follow the steps below for your computer to add the interface. Once the interface has been added, switch to it when you want to type in Chinese. Just type the pinyin (don’t worry about tone marks) of what you want to type, eg. ni hao to type 你好. To see the Chinese, hit your enter button. If the characters aren’t what you want, use the left arrow key to move the cursor to the left of the character you want to change. Other characters with the same sound will be shown and you can choose the one you want.

If you have trouble with any of these steps, post a message here and I’ll see what help we can provide.

PC: Windows Vista

1. Go to the Control Panel (usually available from your Start Menu) and click on “Regional and Language Options”
2. Click on the “Keyboards and Languages” tab on top.
3. Click on “Change keyboards”
4. Click on “Add”
5. Search for “Chinese (Simplified, PRC)” and click the “-” button for more options.
6. Select the first option “Chinese (Simplified) – Microsoft Pinyin IME”
7. Click on “Ok” to get back to the previous screen and then click on “Apply”
8. A small icon that says “EN” should now appear on the bottom of your screen, just to the left of the icons near your clock. Clicking on this icon should now allow you to switch between English and Chinese. Somewhere in the options, you should see the option to switch to Traditional Chinese characters.
9. If you can’t figure out how to switch to Traditional Chinese characters, try this:
a. When you click on the “EN” icon, choose the option that says “Show the Language bar”. You should now notice a new bar on the top right of your screen that says EN English (United States) [if this is your default language setting].
b. Select “Chinese (Simplified, PRC)”
c. At the far right of this language bar, there is a tiny arrow button pointing downwards. Click on it to reveal more options.
d. Make sure there is a check mark on the “Character set” option. If there isn’t, click on this option to choose it.
e. You should now have the option to switch between character sets (simplified and traditional) by clicking on this new option within your language bar.

PC: Windows XP

1. Go to the Control Panel (usually available from your Start Menu) and click on the “Date, Time, Language and Regional Options” category.
2. Choose the “Add other languages” task or click on “Regional and Language Options” icon.
3. Click on the “Languages” tab on top, if you are not there already.
4. In the “Supplemental language support” section, make sure there is a check mark for “Install files for East Asian languages” and click Apply. If this box is checked, click on “Details” in the top area.
5. Click on “Add”
6. Choose “Chinese (PRC) from the top drop down menu labeled “Input language”
7. From the “Keyboard layout/IME” drop down menu, choose “Chinese (Simplified) – Microsoft Pinyin IME” then click on “Ok” and then “Apply”
8. A small icon that says “EN” should now appear on the bottom of your screen, just to the left of the icons near your clock. Clicking on this icon should now allow you to switch between English and Chinese. Somewhere in the options, you should see the option to switch to Traditional Chinese characters.
9. If you can’t figure out how to switch to Traditional Chinese characters, try this:
a. When you click on the “EN” icon, choose the option that says “Show the Language bar”. You should now notice a new bar on the top right of your screen that says EN English (United States) [if this is your default language setting].
b. Select “Chinese (Simplified, PRC)”
c. At the far right of this language bar, there is a tiny arrow button pointing downwards. Click on it to reveal more options.
d. Make sure there is a check mark on the “Character set” option. If there isn’t, click on this option to choose it.
e. You should now have the option to switch between character sets (simplified and traditional) by clicking on this new option within your language bar.

Mac: OS X

1. Click on the Settings icon
2. Click on “International”
3. In the top part of the window, select “Input Menu”
4. Look for “Traditional Chinese” Within that, there will be a few sub choices, one of which should be Pinyin – select this.
5. After this has been chosen, you can switch between English and Chinese mode by clicking on the flag on the top bar representing language.
6. Alternatively there is a third party program for Mac called QIM Sogou Dict that also provides a pinyin interface for typing Chinese. I found that one better myself, although it costs money. I believe you can download a demo to try it for free. Experiment with the built in Mac version and that one and decide which one you prefer.

If you have trouble with any of the above, please let me know. Happy typing!

New Lesson Downloads

As was explained in the last podcast update, we have removed the free downloads of older lessons and replaced them with lesson download packages that can be purchased. This allows us to provide you with more features than before, including the following:

– RSS feeds of older levels: now you can download all the lessons as podcasts and have them categorized properly in your iPod or within iTunes.
– Embedded transcripts within lessons: now you can view the entire transcript of a lesson on your iPod or MP3 player screen – you can choose to view the Chinese in pinyin, simplified, traditional or even English translated format

Our pricing structure has also been updated with a Promotions category that lets you purchase multiple downloads for greater savings. Existing premium online subscribers may be eligible to receive some of these downloads free if they have earned enough credits.

Lessons 173~149 Updated

As we have mentioned in the past, we have begun a process of updating older lessons. The latest batch is 173~149. The recordings themselves have been updated, as have the associated transcripts. If you notice any inconsistencies, please let us know.

Level 5 Downloads

I’m happy to announce that the download sets for level 5 of our course are now available on our bulk downloads page. These sets include PDFs, audio flashcards and premium review files.

If you are an online subscriber and have been for some time, you may be eligible to get free access to these download sets. Check your member page to see if you have any download credits available, then let me know which download sets you would like access to.

For a limited time, the all access package found in the product purchase page will also include access to level 5, which means you are getting a $220 value for only $99.95, a savings of 55%! We will be introducing new download products and redoing our downloads pricing model over the next few weeks, so take advantage of this price while it’s available.

Chinese Flashcards II for iPod Touch and iPhone

We are proud to introduce our second Chinese Flashcards app for the iPhone and iPod Touch.

Chinese Flashcard Words

Chinese Flashcards II from continues where our original Chinese Flashcards app left off, by providing you with a list of 1000 common Chinese words and characters to learn from. This is the same list used in level 1 of the HSK test administered worldwide to let people gauge their level of Chinese proficiency. The list used in this program has been sorted into a logical format so that words with similar meanings or from similar topics are arranged together. The list is also structured so that smaller words are taught first, and then put together to form larger words. This makes meanings a lot clearer and makes the whole list much easier to learn.

Usage: Go through the practice mode first to familiarize yourself with the words in the list. Once you are ready, you can start testing yourself in 2 modes.

Character mode: View the word in Chinese characters (simplified or traditional). Decide for yourself how well you know it, then click on Show Answer to reveal the pinyin pronunciation and English meaning.

If you guessed correctly, click on Yes and the word will be considered memorized. If you are not sure of it, click on No to have it shown to you again. If you choose not to study this word, click on Skip to have it removed from your learning list. You can also choose to have the audio for the word played back automatically when the word is revealed.

Want to perfect your pronunciation? Then use the recording tool to record yourself and compare it to that of a native Chinese speaker.

Audio mode: Test your listening skills by listening to the audio of the word only. Decide for yourself what the word you hear means, then click on Show Answer to reveal its Chinese characters, meaning and pronunciation.

When you have finished a session, the application will count how many words you memorized in this session, plus how many words you have memorized overall.

– 1000 words from HSK Level 1 list
– Switch between simplified and traditional on the fly
– Choice of 3 modes of study: Character, Audio and Practice
– Auto playback of audio for each word available
– Record and compare your pronunciation with a native Mandarin Chinese speaker
– Choose number of characters in each session

If you have suggestions on how this app could be improved, please leave a comment below.

Back to our apps list.

New Flashcard Modes

Thanks to user feedback, I have added new modes to the Flashcard memorization feature. You can now choose to test yourself from English to Chinese or even Audio to Chinese modes. Try it out and let me know what you think.

Member Rewards

Some of our premium subscribers may notice a new addition to their member pages. Over the past little while we have been adding several download options to the bulk downloads page, many of which have to be purchased. To reward subscribers who have been with us for an extended period, we are giving away free downloads!

Take a look at your member page to see how many downloads you qualify for, then contact me and I’ll grant you download access. If you’re wondering what the formula for your download credits is, it’s basically 1 free download ($19.95 value) for ever 3 months of membership that you have completed.

If you’re not a premium subscriber yet, perhaps this will be another incentive to become one!

Export to HTML

There was a problem with some users not being able to view the characters in the text file generated by our export feature. So we have added an HTML option, which lets you view the content within an HTML page. You can then copy and paste the content into any external application that you prefer.

This problem specifically affected Mac users, but it’s possible other users also had the same problem so hopefully this solution will help you. If you notice any other problems, or features that you think could be improved to help you, please let me know.

Lesson Updates – 193~195

From lesson 196 onwards, we began using a consultant with 10 years of teaching Chinese here in Taiwan to look over lessons and make sure we were teaching the right material. We are now getting her to go over older lessons and make corrections. This means that parts of older lessons will now be rerecorded and the new versions reposted. The associated transcripts will also be corrected and rereleased. As these get done, I’ll post updates here. We will begin with lessons 195 and work our way down.

Today I’m happy to note that 3 new lessons have been updated. Lessons 195 to 193. Expect to see frequent updates here over the next few weeks as we work our way down. The bulk downloads for now will still contain older lessons until we finish the first batch of updates.

Updated Purchase Page

As we have added a lot of new download purchase options over the last little while, we have now updated our purchase page. The new features here include:

1. Previously this page didn’t distinguish from whether you were an existing user or a new one. So existing users were prompted to create new accounts even though they already had one. The new version automatically directs you to your member page if you are logged in.

2. The member page has now been updated to separate subscription options (recurring) from download options (non recurring).

3. A new “Help me decide” option has been added to both the member and purchase pages. Answer a few questions about how you plan to use the site, and you will then be given recommendations on which subscription and / or download options you should purchase.

iPod Flashcards

I’m happy to announce that we now offer 2 flashcard solutions for iPod users:

1. Chinese Flashcards for iPhone and iPod Touch users

2. Our new flashcard sets for standard iPods and MP3 players with screens (see below):

The new sets can be purchased by level (60 lessons). Each set is available in simplified or traditional characters and features all the new vocabulary for that level. The sets currently available are:

Level 1 – 271 cards
Level 2 – 208 cards
Level 3 – 265 cards
Level 4 – 310 cards

Here is what a sample card looks like:

On top, you can see the Chinese characters. At the bottom you can see the pinyin pronunciation. When listening, you first hear the Chinese pronunciation (male voice) followed by a pause, then the English translation followed by the Chinese pronunciation again (female voice). Use the playlist feature in iTunes to create your own sets. The cards can be sorted by lesson number so you can choose how many cards you want to work with and only place those in your playlist, until you have learned them all. You can also use your iPod’s shuffle feature to randomize the order they are played in.

These cards can be used in a number of ways to build up your vocabulary and character recognition skills:

Method 1: View the flashcard and try to come up with the meaning on your own. Repeat after the native speaker before confirming your understanding by listening to the English translation.

Method 2: Listen to the Chinese pronunciation first, then visualize what the Chinese character looks like before looking at the screen to see if you were correct.

Method 3: Turn off the audio and just view the characters. Use your finger to cover the pinyin on screen, and try to come up with your own pronunciation. Then uncover the pinyin to see if you were right.

Method 4: Use just for pronunciation practice. Let the playlist run and keep repeating after the speakers. Great for in the car or for other passive learning occasions.

Method 5: Let it run in the background for an even more passive listening experience. Fall asleep to it and let your subconscious do the learning for you.

As you can see, the possibilities are endless. Try out a sample set from level 1. If you like the concept, you can purchase other sets and let me know how YOU use them!

Lesson 272

We have changed a couple of lines from the original recording, to make the explanations more clear. The lesson and transcripts have all been updated.

Lesson 279

This updates blog will also be used to mention updates to older lessons. Today’s lesson update is 279. In the original version, the lesson began by talking about weekend activities, but actually only ended up mentioning one – which was a picnic. We have since updated it so that the new topic is just picnics. Feel free to download the new version. All transcripts and PDFs have been updated with the new version.

To see other lesson updates, click on this link. Make sure the lesson file you have has a date that is not much older than the lesson update post.

Character Game

I’m happy to announce a simple game to test your knowledge of individual characters. Listen to the character being pronounced and choose it from a list of 30 or so characters on screen. You are given a score based on how long it takes you to answer it. Incorrect answers are penalized so choose wisely!

A progress screen shows you your high score for each game you have attempted (arranged by lesson number) and compares it other users who have also tried it. You can try out the game here. Enjoy!

Usability Updates

There have been a couple of minor updates made, based on observing how people use the site.

1. In the Quick Access bar on the sidebar (appears after you login), and in the word bank we have added some default text for the different modes. Hopefully that will help new users better make use of it.

2. We have added pagination to the bottom of the main page and premium feed page. This way you can go to earlier lessons more directly.

If you think of other features / issues (however minor they may seem to you), please contact us.

Chinese Flashcards iPhone / iPod Touch Application

We are proud to have released our first external application, Chinese Flashcards for the iPhone and iPod Touch.

Use this application to test your recognition of 2700 of the most frequently used characters in simplified or traditional character formats. Begin by choosing which character set (simplified or traditional) you would like to focus your learning on.

Characters are displayed on screen one at a time. Decide how well you recognize the character, then click on the “Show Answer” window at the bottom of the screen.

The pinyin pronunciation and English definition are then revealed to you. If you feel confident in your recognition of this character answer Yes, otherwise answer No to have it shown to you again later. If you prefer to remove this character altogether from your learning list, choose Skip.

At the end of each session, you will be shown how many characters you memorized in that session, plus how many characters you have memorized overall. A rating is given to you based on the number of characters you have memorized overall.

Frequently Asked Questions:

What do I need to run this application?

Why did you choose to create this application?

Who is this application design for?

Does this application teach Chinese?

Does this application follow the CLO course structure?

How do I use this application?

What does the skip feature do?

What order are the characters displayed in?

Why are some common characters not showing up until later?

Why do some traditional characters seem to be missing?

Why do some definitions seem to be incomplete?

I answered Yes by mistake to a character, when I wanted to select No. Is there a way to change my answer?

I have suggestions for improvements, or new ideas for new apps. How do I reach you?

What do I need to run this application?

You need an Apple iPhone or iPod Touch with version 2.0 or higher of the OS installed.

Why did you choose to create this application?

This application was created to take advantage of the iPhone’s extensive mobile features to continue CLO’s goal of providing the best combination of resources to allow users to learn Chinese.

Who is this application design for?

This application is designed for users who already have a background in Chinese, and who would now like to practice their character recognition skills to help in reading.

Does this application teach Chinese?

No, for that we recommend you stick to the existing CLO course.

Does this application follow the CLO course structure?

No, in order to broaden the appeal for this application, it has been designed to be used independently from the CLO course. However, it can also be used very effectively in combination with CLO course.

How do I use this application?

There are multiple ways to use this application. One is to try and learn all 2700 characters by following the procedure outlined above. You could also use it to count how many characters you do know, by marking the ones you already know as memorized, while skipping the ones that you don’t.

What does the skip feature do?

Skipped characters will not be tested again, but will not be counted as memorized. This feature allows you to focus your learning on characters you are familiar with already, by skipping characters you have never heard of before. You can also use it count how many characters you recognize, by skipping characters you don’t know and selecting Yes for characters you do know.

What order are the characters displayed in?

The characters are displayed in order of most common usage in the Chinese language. Bear in mind, this usage varies greatly from situation to situation. Literature tends to feature a lot of different characters that are not used in everyday conversation and vice versa.

Why are some common characters not showing up until later?

As mentioned in the last point, characters that are used often in daily speech, may not necessarily be used as often in written materials. Similarly, there are a lot of characters used in written material that aren’t used as often in daily speech. Depending on where your strengths are, you may find new characters appearing early on, that you aren’t familiar with, while characters that you are familiar with appear later on.

Why do some traditional characters seem to be missing?

In daily life, there is a lot of overlapping that takes place between simplified and traditional characters. There are some simplified characters that are often used in place of traditional characters, and there are also cases of traditional characters sometimes being used in areas that normally use simplified characters. Since both lists are offered in this application, you may find some characters appearing in one list and not the other. Standard numerals are included in the simplified list, whereas the formal versions (used by banks) is included in the traditional list. You can use the skip function if you come across characters that you choose not to study.

Why do some definitions seem to be incomplete?

Since this application is not meant to teach you Chinese, the definitions are included only as a guidance, and in some cases further meanings are left out. It is recommended that you use this application in conjunction with a standard course like CLO to help you determine which words the characters found in this application are used in, and what their meaning is in context.

I answered Yes by mistake to a character, when I wanted to select No. Is there a way to change my answer?

Yes. After each session, you can choose to restart the session if you want to change any of your answers. You can also restart a session by first clicking on the Menu option at the bottom of the screen during a test. This is also useful if you changed your mind about skipping a character.

I have suggestions for improvements, or new ideas for new apps. How do I reach you?

You may either contact us directly or leave a comment below.

Back to our apps list.

Remembering Login

There was a bug that we had in the past, where the site said that you weren’t logged in, even though you were. I believe it’s fixed now, so hopefully that will enhance your user experience.

Wordbank Sidebar

You may have noticed a new “Wordbank” item on the sidebar after you login. It is not functional at the moment, but we are working on having it up as a quick way to access the word bank. I’ll post an update when it is ready.

Update: The Quick access bar on the right is now functional and includes an option to search the word bank directly. Enjoy!

Course Outline Problems

Due to an internal glitch, the course outline pages for levels 3 and 4 became corrupted, so I have taken them down for the time being. Rather than rebuilding them manually as was done in the past, I’m going to use this opportunity to create an automated version that should hopefully speed up the loading of pages as well. Please bear with me as we work on this.

Update: Ok, the pages are up again. The level 2 page needs some formatting, but all the content is all there. Thank you for patience!

More Updates

We have made a few updates to the site design.

– You may have noticed a new landing page greeting you when you first get on to the site. Users who are logged in won’t see this page. The idea is to introduce new users to our site with this page, rather than throwing them right in the midst of the latest lessons like before.
– Related to this is a (long due) “Remember password” option that has been added under the main login window.
– A “Vocabulary” option has been added to the Wordbank. This way you don’t have to specify whether you’re searching for Pinyin, Simplified, Traditional or English – all should work from that field. If not required, the other options may be removed.

You will start to see other additions to the site over the next few weeks. More information will be provided here as they are released. As always, please continue to send me feedback on what you like and / or what can be improved.