It is now nearing 3 weeks since I moved production of the lessons to Taiwan and I’ve been quite pleased with the results. I have lots of ideas now for further development of this course and what the future holds for CLO. Here are some of my observations during this time:
1. Producing lessons from Taiwan does mean that the conversations and accents of the speakers will have a distinct Taiwanese sound to them. Some of you have commented on the differences in pronunciation you have heard including the mixing up of “l” and “r” sounds. I’ve purposely left these in the lessons for the same reason you may have heard extra “er” sounds being tacked on to syllables by Ray and Heidi or Jen and Bing in earlier lessons. These are distinctive trademarks of the various regions of Mandarin speakers around the world. Now the question that comes about of course is which version should you as a listener follow? Fortunately for us learners using Pinyin, the Pinyin sounds have been designed to follow the “standard Putonghua pronunciation” system out there. So when in doubt about whether to pronounce a word using a “l” sound or a “r” sound, you may find it helpful to look at the Pinyin spelling and use that as your guide. I will continue to let the speakers use their own versions though since one of the challenges for me early on as a learner was understanding why the pronunciation I was taught differed from what I was hearing. Hopefully, having a variety of speakers will help you understand these different dialects.
2. I have become more of a believer in the use of video now after reading some of your comments as well, so there will be an attempt to create a video version of most dialogues in the course. I believe that having more forms of input of the material in this course will greatly aid in the retention. So in addition to the lessons being listened to, you can now have access to the Pinyin transcripts, Chinese character representations and now a video version! This is also a great chance to look at the type of body language used in such dialogues since that makes up such a great percentage of communication in any language.
3. We are in the process of winding up level 2 of our course and are now preparing level 3. Since this course is designed to be progressive, there is a fine balance required in increasing the difficulty level at different stages to provide improvement but yet not increasing it to the point where the user falls behind (indeed I’ve received pressure from both camps to increase / decrease the lesson difficulty levels). Using small, individual dialogues alone to teach the language isn’t enough since they provide only a small sample of how new vocabulary is used. So the solution here again is to find multiple ways to present the information being taught. New vocabulary is first introduced in the main lesson. It is then reviewed in the podcast review and future lessons where applicable. In recent lessons you may have noticed that words are now making their way into the teaching of the lessons outside of the actual dialogue. So whereas in the past, we stuck to distinct Chinese phrases that were constantly reused in the same format in each lesson, we will now start to mix it up in upcoming lessons. The idea here is to build up your vocabulary by adding new words to each new dialogue, while finding ways to use and reuse existing vocabulary in the explanations. The amount of vocabulary that has so far been taught in the course is now large enough for us to experiment more with extra Chinese used within the lesson. Fortunately, for users afraid of falling behind, there is a safety net provided in the form of the Complete word for word transcripts which translate all the extra Chinese used within the lesson.
So what does the future hold for CLO? As mentioned above, the vocabulary that has been taught so far is now reasonably big enough for us to experiment with more options. This could be in the form of side material for you to consume between lessons, for those of you looking for a greater challenge. There are also plans underway to increase the Chinese character materials currently provided.
On a side note, as was mentioned in the last podcast update, the pricing plan is going to increase later this summer to reflect the new improvements and content to the course (current ETA is August 1) so you still have a chance to lock yourself into a subscription at a reduced price before the price increase. Existing users are also welcome to change to a longer term plan (which produces lower monthly rates) while they still have a chance.
Much of the development of this course has come from user feedback, so I encourage you to continue to send me your thoughts and comments, since that is primarily what drives further improvements.
Happy Dragonboat Festival to all of you in Chinese communities!