I’d like to call attention to some work being done at ChinesePod, not because I work for ChinesePod, but because I think we’re doing good work for a specific learner demographic that is all too often neglected. Still, it seems like ChinesePod Advanced (高级版本) is not well known. For as much work as we’re putting into it, it deserves a little more attention.
ChinesePod Advanced was conceived and launched around the time I started working at ChinesePod. I wasn’t involved with the decision to create it, but I whole-heartedly agree with the idea. The concept was to create a version of ChinesePod all in Chinese so that advanced learners of all nationalities will have equal access. Korean, Japanese, Canadians, French… it doesn’t matter what the language background; if their Chinese is at the appropriate level, they can all use it.
This brings me to the question of what “advanced” means, exactly. It doesn’t mean the same as “HSK Advanced,” that’s for sure. For our purposes, “advanced” means capable of understanding all Chinese input at a natural speed, and of learning Chinese in Chinese. It’s not about chengyu or literary achievement; it’s about understanding. The main goal of ChinesePod Advanced is to bring the user from the level of “competent communication” to the level of being able to understand natural, high-level input. The Advanced Media podcasts are especially valuable in that regard; the hosts take a news story and discuss the difficult aspects of it in the podcast.
As academic director at ChinesePod, I’ve been guiding the topics and difficulty levels of the advanced podcasts. I try to choose current topics that will interest foreigners, and stay away from the trite ones (or at least the same boring angles). For example, rather than do a podcast on just “Mid-Autumn Moon Festival,” we did one on the commercialization of Chinese holidays. We take suggestions as well; Alaric has been especially helpful in that regard.
Another big issue for advanced lessons is chengyu. The typical Chinese approach to “advanced” lessons is to pack as many chengyu into them as possible. I am totally against this approach, as I don’t think it’s especially helpful to the learner. In fact, I think it’s a classic feature of bad Chinese pedagogy. I’m not against the teaching of chengyu, as I agree that they need to be studied, but I am in favor of the limiting of chengyu. So we typically don’t cover more than two (sometimes three) chengyu per podcast.
Basically, I think we have a good thing going, and if you’re at the “advanced” level I describe, I hope you’ll give it a try. The podcasts are free. For business reasons ChinesePod has recently cut down the number of advanced podcasts from three to two per week, but the more people that use ChinesePod Advanced, the more likely that number is to go back up in the near future.
Just to give a feel for some of the topics we cover, here is a short list (with translation):
- 汉语中的外来词 (Foreign Loanwords in Mandarin)
- 理想男人 (The Ideal Man)
- 人口老龄化 (The Aging Population)
- 外商的中国之路 (Foreign Companies’ Road to China)
- 在中国过万圣节 (Celebrating Halloween in China)
- 中国十大最俗名字 (The Ten Commonest Names in China)
- 打击走私 (Tackling Smuggling)
- 崇洋媚外 (Worship of the West)
- 中西方简历的不同 (The Differences between Chinese and Western Resumes)
- 八十年代经典卡通 (Cartoons from the 80s)
- 传媒大战 (Media Wars)
- 太阳系只剩8大行星 (Just 8 Planets in the Solar System Now)
- 节日的商业化 (The Commercialization of Holidays)
- 论坛VS博客 (Forums vs. Blogs)
- 中国的股票市场 (The Chinese Stock Market)
There are way more…