I stumbled upon this excellently programmed podcast back in Spring and I am ever so glad that I did, because I think it is one of the major reasons for my improved listening ability. One of the things I believe Stanford’s program doesn’t get right is the listening speed. We learnt grammar properly, vocabulary was good and we spoke about as fast as beginners at our level ought to, but we sucked at listening. This is because the teacher always spoke at a slower-than-normal speed which we could easily understand. In fact, when she sped up just a little bit, most of the class stopped understanding what she was saying. Also, when we heard our teacher talking with other native speakers, it felt so uncomfortably fast that it sounded like a whole other language. Basically, the course did not place enough emphasis on listening exercises.
This is where Chinese Track excels because the best and most useful feature of the podcasts, I believe, is the dialogue at normal speed. The average podcast goes like this: conversation at normal speed (basically, fast), conversation at slowed down speed, conversation explained at slowed down speed. In the average podcast, I tend to grasp all the general meaning and 80-90% of the exact meaning during the normal section, and by the end of the slow speed section, I’ve usually grasped 100% of the exact meaning. Occasionally, I stop listening to the podcast at this point because the explanations are unnecessary. However, this proficiency is something that I have developed since June with Chinese Track’s help. One of the key aspects of the dialogues in the podcasts is that each of them introduces only about three or four new words every lesson and this actually makes it possible for students to understand most of the content. Another is that all the explanation is done, as much as possible, using Chinese, and this has gradually increased as the course has progressed. For one, this makes the student feel better (or, cooler) and just immerses the student in a complete Chinese environment for a few minutes.