AdsoTrans, ChinesePod Alliance

I mentioned last week that David Lancashire of AdsoTrans came to Shanghai on a visit. The “big secret” was that he was here on a mission. He was checking out ChinesePod HQ before considering a job offer. But all that is old news; as David has already revealed on his blog, he will be working for ChinesePod starting in January.

This is cool for many reasons. David has done a lot of amazing work on AdsoTrans (and News in Chinese), all as a hobby. He’s only one guy, but he’s one really smart guy, and he’s managed to put together a very impressive web app, as well as lots of other learning materials, all under the guise of “hobby.” He’s been translating in Beijing to pay the bills, but it’s clear where his passions lie.

Now he can get paid to do the same “fun stuff” at ChinesePod, but on a larger scale. At the same time, ChinesePod’s rather unimpressive “glossary” component is about to do a lot of growing up.

There are so many possibilities that I can’t go into, but let me just say that it’s really an exciting time to be doing what we’re doing. To the rest of the world we might appear to be just geeks into Chinese, but I think that a year from now we’re going to be able to look back and see that in 2007 online Chinese study got a whole lot better.


John Pasden

John is a Shanghai-based linguist and entrepreneur, founder of AllSet Learning.


  1. John, you don’t know how happy it make me to see the great things you and others have been doing. When I first moved to China permanently in 2001, resources to help in learning Chinese were scarce and out-dated.

    After 5 frustrating months of using western-produced stidy guides, I made a decision to do somthing different.

    I bought the flashcards that are usually for Chinese infants, as well as the pre-school posters and books. I put the mopobofonegelede poster on the back of my bathroom door so I could reference it during my ‘study time’.
    I set a goal to advance myself one ‘school grade’ per 3 months. This coupled with my full-time job as an engineer for a JV gave me both an elementary level and college level vocabulary inside of 2 years.

    The problem I have, and I hope you and your readers can help, is this.Do you think that the Chinese parables are crucial? I mean beyond the qiqibabadongxi and the qishangbaxia level stuff?

    Your immersion/study method to me seems to be the most practical way for one to learn the language and the culture of China.

    Job well done. I just hope you don’t go back to Florida and become a professor. The laowai world would be at a loss.

  2. LaoLao,


    Wow, that sounds like an ambitious study program you gave yourself. It worked, huh?

    I’m not quite sure what you mean by “parable.” You mean chengyu? Suyu? I think they’re no more important than any other word (unless you’re learning Chinese just to show off, which is kind of sad). So you should memorize a high-frequency chengyu like 乱七八糟 (because it’s high frequency), but don’t learn a bunch of low frequency words unless you know all the other higher frequency vocabulary up to that point. I hope that makes sense. (I wrote more on my views on chengyu here: My Chengyu Top Ten and Audio Resources for Advanced Chinese)

    No, I have no intention of going back to the States anytime soon, and I certainly have no dreams of becoming a professor.

  3. I guess I’m talking about both chengyu and suyu. I am working as an interpreter/translator now, and I constantly use phrases like meibanfa,bukenengba!, busanbusi and I find that it is reassuring to the Chinese parties when I do so.
    I learned a new one from my fiancé this afternoon. Meiyou mianfeide wucan! TANSTASFL. pronounced can-si-ta-fu-le.

  4. TANSTAFL not TANSTSFL.. sorry

  5. Congrats! Some adso-powered Cpod is just the way to start the day!

  6. That’s great news! I’m addicted to Adsotrans… such an useful tool. It will be great to see the results of this project (and good luck for David in his new life in Shanghai).

  7. but I think that a year from now we’re going to be able to look back and see that in 2007 online Chinese study got a whole lot better.

    Yeah. It’s going to be great.

    On an unrelated note, I expect to be able to definitively settle the ongoing Beijing-Shanghai debate in a year or so.

  8. Adsotrans is perhaps the most excellent site on the internet. Chinesepod is a close third, after I’m very excited. You guys are doing Chinese learners like me a huge service, and deserve lots of thanks.

  9. Yeah, just wanted to say “thanks” too John. And please pass it on to the crew at ChinesePod…. I hype it up everywhere I go as the premier stop for any Chinese learning. I don’t use it near enough (if intentions were characters, I’d be fluent), but every time I do, I am inspired.

  10. I don’t know if you guys have figured this out yet, but FireFox with a couple add-ons is a great learning tool for Chinese. One of things I have been seeking for years is a program that will show me the Chinese characters plus pinyin when I mouse over english words on my computer screen. I also want the mouseover display of pinyin and english definition for chinese characters on my screen. I couldn’t find anything except for tools that first displayed the chinese character but then required a separate click to another link to display the pinyin and/or english. Very annoying.

    Well, now my wish has been granted with the Firefox browser combined with the BackWord and ChinesePara-Kun addins. The ChinesePara-Kun addin shows the pinyin and english translation on mouseovers of Chinese characters. The Backword addin shows the possible chinese character words on mouseovers of english words. But what is doubly cool is that after Backword shows the chinese characters, you can mouseover those and ChinesePara-Kun shows the pinyin and english back translation of the Chinese words. With these tools all is good in the world. Best of all, they are all free.

    The main drawback of course is that this only works on webpages. But if you have some document in some application that can save the document in html format, then you are all set.

  11. hmm, john, he sounds a lot like you…!
    lucky chinesepod, to have you both!
    seeing as chinesepod made TIME magazine’s top 10 list for podcasts in 2006, imagine how great you’ll be this time next year!

  12. Pleco – Can you guys get the guy that makes the Pleco dictionary? I think it’s the only electronic dictionary out there that allows one to write hanzi ….slowly, and have it recognized. I think he’s a one-guy shop too, and I have to tell you — his tech support is GREAT.

    If you can’t hire him, maybe Cpod can take a hint from some art collectives and invite him for a stint at the Cpod factory. Who could resist a sabattical in Shanghai! The collective brain there then could really blow away the online Chinese learning world!

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