Tone problems continue

So it looks like my big fix for the Pinyin tone marks not displaying properly wasn’t much of a fix after all. Some programs display it while others (such as iTunes) butcher it. One of the solutions I’m considering is switching the front page version of the Pinyin to using numbers rather than tone marks. So Nǐ hǎo would then become Ni3 hao3.

This wouldn’t affect the Premium transcripts version, which would stay as it is (using tone marks). The advantages I see are:

  • This should solve font issues as I’d be using normal characters and numbers without any tone marks
  • I could then integrate search capabilities to search for vocabulary. I had a search feature previously, but removed it since people kept using it without tone marks, so the system wasn’t able to find the results they wanted.

I’ll keep looking for other solutions, but I’m curious to know what you would think above. If I decide to go this route I’ll retype all the earlier lessons on the front page to keep it consistent.

CLO Update

Here are a few updates:

  1. I believe the issue with the Pinyin transcripts not displaying properly before should be resolved now.  You may need time for your feed to update to flush out the old versions.  You’re welcome of course to redownload any files you need that were corrupted before.
  2. The separate feed for Premium subscribers has been expanded to include the dialogue summaries so you no longer have to manually download them from the site – they can now be delivered straight to you via RSS.  If you are using iTunes, choose the Advanced menu and then select the “Subscribe to a Podcast” option.  Enter your username and password when prompted.
  3. For those of you not using RSS, you can also access the files directly from  Use the login window to play and download the files directly.  You can also use the category tags to only view the podcast reviews or dialogues from a particular speaker.
  4. You may notice that the Premium links have now been added to the Course Outline page.  I am in the process of rearranging where information is located within the site to improve access to it so expect some more changes in this area over the next week or so.
  5. I have placed a temporary link to this Site Updates blog just under the login window in the main screen.  I am looking for a better more permanent spot for it.  🙂

Premium feed ready!

I’m proud to say that the Premium feed for Premium podcast reviews is now ready. You can access it from your favorite RSS program:

It will prompt you for your username and password. Please use the same login and password as for the regular ChineseLearnOnline website. From here on, you will be able to access the Premium Review podcasts without having to come directly to the website. Hope this helps!

If there are any technical issues, please let me know.

Level Two Insight

After all the hype regarding Level Two, some of you may be asking what the difference is between Level Two and Level One, other than the tones now being explained in Chinese. Well the truth is that some listeners are hesitant to move up too quickly too fast, so to avoid alienating this market, I’ve toned down (no pun intended) the jump from Level One to Level Two.

Level Two now goes back through the lessons from Level One reviewing and expanding upon each lesson. You will notice that the subject matter for each lesson in Level Two will somewhat resemble the corresponding lesson in Level One.

For those of you who ARE ready to move on though, the Premium review lessons (to be released in podcast format sometime in the future) will represent more of a challenge than the regular lessons. While no new vocabulary will be taught there, they will assume knowledge of all previously taught vocabulary and will try and use it in different ways than taught in the regular lessons. No explanations will be provided either, although translations are provided within the transcript. The idea here is that listeners are likely to learn quickly if they look up the answers themselves. Consider it a fast track of sorts.

So what can you expect in the future of CLO? Expect to hear new Chinese speakers in upcoming lessons and expect to hear the Chinese teacher take over more of the teaching of the lesson. As always, your feedback is what directs this course so keep it coming!

Improved Premium Access

In my never ending quest to improve usability, I’ve added direct links to the Premium pages for each lesson from the main page.  Like in Level One, the first four lessons of Level Two are free for everyone.

Level 2

The Premium content for Level 2 is now available. I will keep the first few lessons free just like I did with Level 1 to give everyone an idea of what format I will be using. Premium subscribers can use the player on the main page of the site to listen to or download the content. I will try and work on a Premium podcast feed so that you don’t have to come to the website to get it.

Update: Since I couldn’t get the Premium feed working, I’ve removed it from the main page and left it in the level 2 page.  I’ve kept it outside the Premium Podcast page to allow you to listen to it first before viewing the transcript.

Site Navigation Work in Progress

Over the next few days you will notice some changes in some of the buttons and the navigational aids being presented within the Premium section.  This upgrade may cause some buttons to seem a little off (cosmetically) while the upgrade is being completed.  Rest assured that when I have finished, the Premium section should be a LOT easier to navigate based on feedback I’ve received from users like yourself.  There will also be some cosmetic changes to improve your Chinese learning.  I’ll specify the details when it’s complete – hopefully sooner rather than later.

CLO Translated…

You may notice the addition of a new feature on the site – the set of 14 flags on the top of the right sidebar.  As this site seems to be getting an international following with many reviews in non English languages, I thought it may be appropriate to involve some translation aspects into the site.  By clicking on one of the flags you can get a translation into one of these languages.  Since it’s a machine translation, don’t expect it to be perfect, but I thought there may still be some benefit.  Once you click on a flag, the site will continue to be displayed in the translated language until you click back to the English (American) flag.
For the rest of you, you may notice there is also a Chinese flag there which displays the site content in Simplified Chinese characters.   You can try that out for an extra challenge.

Premium update

There has been some minor movement and tweaking in the Premium section.

  1. The Music section now has its own page, since I hope to grow the amount of content there over the next little while.
  2. The links to the Premium content for individual lessons have been graphically enhanced since the feedback I received previously showed that the separation between the individual links for each lesson wasn’t clear enough.  Hopefully this will improve that aspect.

Over the next little while, I will be looking at ways to improve the navigation between the Premium content for individual lessons.  Any other suggestions you provide will also be considered, so please keep them coming.

Beijing Station

Another song for you by request:

Love Sky Love Earth by Leon Lai, from the CD Beijing Station. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a link to purchase the CD. In any case, here it is. Enjoy!

Simplified Traditional


Ok, I’m now ready to unveil our latest tool here. It’s a flashcard program that is integrated with our lessons. Choose a lesson, and test your understanding of it. There are four (updated – now five!) modes to choose from:

  • Pinyin to English
  • Simplified Chinese characters to Pinyin
  • Traditional Chinese characters to Pinyin
  • Audio only to English
  • Updated: English to Pinyin

If you get stuck on a question, you can get an audio prompt by using the “Play” button but be forewarned that that makes some of the questions very easy! The Audio only mode should be a good challenge to make sure you understand everything. Also, some lessons (especially the newer ones where less new vocabulary was taught) may test you with questions from earlier lessons, just to make sure you don’t forget what was already taught. If you get one wrong, you can take a look at which lesson that question is from (noted at the top of the screen) to review it if necessary.

Premium subscribers (who are logged in) will receive personalized log reports of their progress and have access to all lessons. Please be patient with me as I update it with newer lessons. Curently, the first 72 lessons are available (I’ll keep editing this post with the latest number). Non subscribers can try it out for the first four lessons.

Let me know if you have any feedback.

Another song

For those of you interested in hearing male singing, I’ve added a song called Enticing Trick by a Taiwanese boy band called 183 Club. The name 183 comes from the average height size (in cm) of the five members. This particular song comes from the soundtrack of a Taiwanese drama that they acted in called “The Prince who turned into a Frog.” Enjoy!
Simplified Traditional

Background music

I added some background music to the latest lesson (50). I was using music in various forms in the earlier lessons but got away from it since it was taking away from the lesson by either being too long or too distracting. I’m hoping I have the right formula this time. Here’s some background on my new approach:

  1. I’ve stuck the number and title of the lesson at the very beginning to make it easy to navigate through lessons on your MP3 player without having to look at the screen.
  2. The music intro is supposed to whisk you from your Western world into the Chinese world.
  3. Little transition backgrounds have been added to separate the various parts of the lesson.
  4. The outtro music whisks you out of the Chinese world back into your Western world.

As always, your comments and suggestions are greatly appreciated.

Single Line breakdown

You may have noticed that I’ve started offering playback of individual lines of dialogue in the Premium Vocabulary section.  Thanks to those who requested this feature – I think it’s a great idea and I’ll slowly extend it to older lessons.

Happy New Year!

Welcome back everyone.  Hope you all had a good holiday season.  I’m very excited about what the New Year will bring to this website and to this program here.  Heck, I’m extremely excited about the changes you’ll see in the next month so stay tuned…

December 2006 Podcast Update

Podcast Update for December 2006

– Lesson 49 (next lesson) will be released on January 3, 2007
– Blog of updates available at
– Free music videos in Premium section
– Video recap of dialogues available for Premium subscribers
Tone and Pinyin practices let you record yourself and compare with native speakers
– $9.95 US monthly price available until end of Dec, 2006
– Happy Holidays from


CLO Remixes

One of our listeners has taken the time to create remixes of some of our lesson dialogues and made them available on his website.  I especially like his last one where he created a direct comparison between Kirin’s Taiwanese accent and Ray and Heidi’s Northern Chinese version.  Thanks James!  You can take a look at his work here.


As stated in the previous post, I’m experimenting with other forms of “input” outside of the lessons themselves. While in Taiwan I listened to lots of interesting music that I wouldn’t have heard otherwise. Over the next little while I hope to post some songs along with the video, lyrics and translation in the Premium section.

To begin with, I will keep this in the free portion of the Premium section. A link to purchase the CD is also available at the bottom. I get a small commission for any CDs purchased, so hopefully that will allow me to leave it in the free section. If not, I may have to move it to the Premium (paid) side.

The first song in this format is “Superstar” by a very popular female pop group in Taiwan called S.H.E. The name of the group represents the initials of the English names of the three singers – Selina, Hebe and Ella for those interested. It is available in two formats: Traditional Chinese characters and Pinyin or Simplified Chinese characters and Pinyin. Scan through the Pinyin and see if there are any words or phrases that you recognize. Take a look at the (rough) English translation to gather the context. Enjoy!

Traditional Chinese character version

Simplified Chinese character version

New Videos

Due to popular demand, I have resumed producing the videos of Ray and Heidi. They are not meant to be fancy, but they do provide an alternate input of the material presented in the lessons. 7 new videos have been added.

I’m working on other forms of “input” for you that should be available during the holiday break.  Enjoy and keep the feedback coming!

Sections Updated

The following sections were updated this past week:

  • FAQ – a few new questions were added including “How do I keep the transcript from disappearing off my screen when listening on my iPOD?”  If you think of any other questions for inclusion, please let me know.
  • About Us – you asked for pictures of us plus wanted to know where exactly I was located so I put some new pictures and our address.
  • How to Use – cosmetic touches were added to make it easier to read
  • How we touch – cosmetic touches were added to make it easier to read

Thanks to all who have supported this website and my efforts this year.  This website is built around you and your suggestions so keep them coming.  I have a long list of ideas planned for the New year thanks to all the feedback you have given me so far, so I predict a bright year of Chinese learning for all of you.  Happy Holidays!

Improving your pronunciation

Here’s something cool to try (well I think its cool):

1. Visit the Vocabulary section of Lesson 45 (Premium access)

2. Start the “Test your Pronunciation” recorder.

3.  Scroll down and play Kirin’s version of the lesson summary.

4.  Listen to her read each line of the dialogue then repeat after her.

What you should find is that the recorder records Kirin’s voice then yours repeating after her.  When you play back your recording you should hear Kirin’s voice followed by your voice allowing you to directly compare if the two sound the same or not!

Now wouldn’t it be cool if I extended this feature to all the previous lessons…

Lessons 44 and 45 Traditional Chinese corrections

There are a couple of Traditional Chinese characters in the above lessons that need to be explained.

In traditional form there exist two characters: 隻 (zhī) and 只(zhǐ). The former is the measure word for animals while the latter means “only.” In the simplified form both these meanings are combined into 只 with the meaning and pronunciation derived from context.

Similarly, the traditional form distinguishes between 它 (tā) and 牠 (tā) with the former referring to objects while the latter refers to animals. In the simplified form, both are combined using the character 它.

The traditional Chinese vocabulary for lessons 44 and 45 has since been updated to reflect the above.


(In case you didn’t figure out the title, it’s “Yet Another Tone and Pinyin Practice Update).

Chinese character versions have now been added.  Links can be found at the bottom.  Use the mouse-over function for translations from Pinyin to English or Chinese to Pinyin.  A couple of the English translations are missing for now as I confirm the proper “idiomatic” translation, but they will be added soon.  Enjoy!

Test your Pronunciation

The Test your Pronunciation tool has been added to the Vocabulary section of Lesson 45. The Review audio summary has also been edited to remove the intros to allow you to more easily compare how your voice sounds. As well, Ray and Heidi’s version has been separated from Kirin’s version into two files.  Let me know if you prefer this format, in which case I can extend it to other lessons.

Holiday Special!

With two weeks left in the December holiday season I have decided to renew a previous promotion I had of $9.95 monthly subscriptions.  I’m doing this for two reasons:

1.  Since it’s the holiday season, I’m in a giving mood (yay!).
2.  I’m hoping to have a major feature introduced in time for the New year which would normally warrant a price increase.  However, rather than increase the price I would rather offer a sale till the feature is released.

The benefit to those who subscribe now is that they can maintain their pricing plan for as long as they maintain their subscription, regardless of future price increases so I highly encourage you to take advantage of this promotion while it’s available.

Happy Holidays!


Tone and Pinyin Practice Update

There have been requests for downloadable versions of the Tone and Pinyin practices as well as Chinese character versions.  The former wish has been granted – download links can now been viewed at the bottom if you’re logged in.  The latter wish is on its way.

Be careful what you wish for these days, as it just might come true…

Happy Holidays!

Lesson 044 Updated

There’s been a minor update to Lesson 044. Thanks to Anthony for pointing it out to me. I had originally translated “Yǒu, yīgè érzi háiyǒu liǎnggè nǚér” (from Lesson 11) as “I have one son and one daughter” when it should in fact have been “I have a son and two daughters.” This has since been updated in the audio and the word for word transcript.

As well, thanks to Andrea (yet again) for pointing out the rules for the pronunciation of yī. When it precedes a falling tone, the tone changes to yì. So all the “yīzhī” references in the transcripts have since been changed to “yìzhī.” It’s a very fine difference between the two if you listen to the speakers, but it’s worth noting nonetheless.

Thanks again for all those who send comments as it really helps me fine tune this program for you.

Premium notes reorganized

I’m happy to say that the shift from PDF to web content is now complete.  The notes and questions that were formerly available in PDF format have now been separated into the Vocabulary and Notes links.  There have been a few questions as to why this shift was necessary so I’ll address them briefly here.  As always, I welcome your comments!

  1. The main attraction to the PDF format was being able to print the notes and take them with you.  This can now be accomplished by the “Print this Page” link at the bottom of every page.
  2. The PDF notes were regarded as being too “busy” since they included Simplified and Traditional Characters.  However, research from you the users has indicated that most of you are either interested in on or the other (or neither!) as far as Chinese characters go, so this content has now been separated in the Vocabulary section into Pinyin, Simplified and Traditional versions.
  3. Since these notes were meant to help you review the material, I am now making extensive use of the “Mouse-over” feature to allow you to test your retention before moving the mouse pointer over the words to reveal the answer.

It’s very important for me that as I move forward, I don’t take any steps back, so if there’s something I’m missing here, please let me know.  As well, since this site now contains well over 350 pages of content that were mostly individually typed, please let me know if you spot any typos or mistakes.

The video links have been moved into the Vocabulary sections of each lesson (where applicable) to allow you to follow along with the transcript while watching the video.

If you have any other suggestions on what I can do to improve your learning experience, please continue to send in your comments and feedback as it’s been extremely useful so far.

There are more goodies planned for December so stay tuned to this blog for all the latest site developments.

Test your Pronunciation tool

I’ve added a “Test your Pronunciation” box to the Tone and Pinyin Practices 2 to 4.  You can record yourself reading the text, then compare your pronunciation with the speakers.  Please test it out for me and let me know if you find it useful.  If so, I can add it next to the Review audio summaries for all lessons.

Lessons 3 to 22 Pinyin notes updated

I am constantly reevaluating the teaching style being used in the course and what best meets the needs of our listeners.  Many of the techniques I am employing here are different from that used in other courses.  However at some point, some consistency has to be used to make it easier for people to combine this course with other forms of study they may have.

When a new word is introduced, I try to break down the parts and the meaning to help you understand and remember it.  To go along with this, when I first started creating Pinyin notes, I purposely separated each character to make it easier to distinguish the separate tones that created each word.  However, this style differs from standard Pinyin which combines characters to create words with multiple syllables just like in English.  I have since been convinced from feedback that it is better to stick with the standards used in other courses, so I’ve updated the dialogue transcripts from Lessons 3 to 22 by rearranging the Pinyin into words that are easier to read.  The lessons after that have already been doing this, so hopefully this keeps things more consistent.

On a similar note, there are many instances where when characters are combined, their tones change.  Many second syllables often adopt a neutral tone in daily usage.  However, I have been keeping their original tone marks to help you understand the breakdown of each word.  Here too though, I have since been convinced by listeners (Thanks Andrea!) that it is better to keep the style employed by others and mark neutral tones as being such if that’s how they are generally pronounced.  I won’t change earlier transcripts for this part, but will try and employ this new style from hereon.

None of this should matter if you follow our recommendation of listening to the speakers and repeating after them exactly as they do.  The transcripts, Pinyin, tone marks etc. should supplement this method of learning and not replace it.

I hope you can see that your comments are very valuable to me, so keep them coming.