CLO User 4's blog

Tom, Manchester, United Kingdom

Anyone considering learning Mandarin should seriously consider signing up for this course and becoming a premium subscriber.

There are many good books, CDs, and websites out there that teach Mandarin but this course beats them all.

The founder of the website, Adam Menon genuinely wants to help people learn Chinese. Since Adam is a non-native Chinese speaker, he has an appreciation of the problems non-native speakers of Chinese have in trying to learn Chinese. I feel his teaching methods are more appropriate that say a Chinese academic who decides to write a book on how to learn Chinese. What may seem obvious to us in our own language may not be so obvious for a foreign person trying to learn our language.

The course is aimed at absolute beginners to intermediate level speakers. As the weeks pass the material of the later lessons on the site will gradually increase in difficulty and eventually it will include material for more advanced speakers.

Structure of the course


At the time of writing, the course consists of 132 lessons divided into 3 levels with 60 lessons in each level. The course is currently on the 12th lesson of level three.

There is over 27 hours of downloadable audio lessons currently available to premium subscribers and around 40 minutes of new audio is added every week! Three new lessons are provided every week with each lesson lasting on average for about 10 minutes. Premium subscribers also get lesson summaries which are the Chinese parts of the lesson without the English explanations. They also get supplementary audio material which consists of further examples of word usage in different context and question and answer sessions which make you actively think more about what you are learning rather than just passively listening to it.

Teaching method.


The teaching methods used in this course are very effective and are superior to learning from books and CDs. One problem with learning from a book and CD is that the lessons are often too long. It is very discouraging to realise you have to get through 20 pages to finish 1 lesson. Books usually provide you with a few short texts which are covered but not explained on the CD. It is very frustrating to try to keep up with the audio while flicking back and forth through pages a book. Books also provide you with a long list of supplementary words that are not covered in the CDs and sometimes these words don’t appear anywhere else in the book. One of the biggest problems with learning from books is that they confuse you with strict grammar rules and technical linguistic terms that require you to have a PhD in linguistics to understand them.

This course gets around these problems brilliantly. Since the lessons are short, learning never becomes a chore. The material is wide and varied and never becomes dull like the predictable stories of students in a university that most books use as their lesson topics. Each lesson will provide you with around 5 new words or phrases, so you are not overburdened with long lists of vocabulary. Words used in earlier lessons are repeatedly used in later lessons. It is this continual usage of words that allows you to memorize them and learn them by heart. Adam gives the translations and explanation in each course and he uses native Mandarin speakers such as Kirin for the Chinese Dialogue. Kirin has one of the clearest voices I have every heard. Since you can clearly hear everything she says this helps enormously. Other native Chinese speakers from various parts of China are also used in the lessons. Some speakers are easier to understand than others, but that is life. Adam is trying to get the listeners to cope with the different dialects that they will hear, so it is a great feature of the course.

The course does cover some grammar where necessary, but the main philosophy of the course is to teach listeners to develop an instinctive feel for when something sounds right or wrong. This can only be done by repetitive listening and using words in context. That is how we learned our own language from being very young. We can all understand, speak and write our own language, but not many of us could write down the grammar rules of our language. The fact is that when speaking and listening in any language, you just don’t have time to apply grammar rules. We need to learn Chinese words to a level where we know their meaning without converting it into our own language. If we find that when we are communicating in Chinese and we are translating what is said in our heads into English, then that is too slow and we would miss most of the conversation.

All the audio lessons and premium lessons are downloadable to an iPod or similar device, so you can listen to them anywhere and anytime you want. If you have a 5th generation iPod, you can also include the pinyin, simplified and traditional characters as the lyrics and you can view them as you listen to them on your iPod. It is considerably better than struggling with a book and CD!

Other material and resources


The course also provides a plethora of material for premium subscribers.

1. Premium subscribers can view and print the full lesson transcripts, lesson dialogue and lesson summaries in English, Pinyin, Simplified characters and Traditional characters! This is brilliant. I don’t know any other course that provides this amount of supplementary material in all four formats.

2. A searchable word bank containing all the words and phrases from all the lessons. Again this can be viewed in English, pinyin, simplified and traditional characters. The databank can be searched in many ways including type, so if you search for hotel, you will get all the words and phrases related to hotels, such as booking a room etc.

3. A very useful on-line flash card system so you can test your pinyin, Chinese character recognition and listening skills.

4. Some lessons are accompanied with short videos

5. Pong Audio forum which allows you to record your voice and improve you Chinese pronunciation.



You can spend a lot more money than it would cost to subscribe to this course on a much inferior course. The premium subscription is worth it for the pinyin and Chinese character lesson transcripts alone. When you include the many other resources such as the word bank, flashcard system and premium pod casts then it is an absolute bargain. If you are not sure whether to subscribe or not, then you can tryout all the premium content for the first 4 lessons of each level for free.

This is a progressive course in many ways. There is an increase of difficulty from one level to the next, as each level uses more Chinese. However at no time do you ever feel lost. Every single new word is explained and reused in later lessons. Since the lessons are of good quality, short and varied, you will want to listen to them again and again.

The course is also progressive as hardly a week goes by without a tweak, to an existing feature or an addition of a new feature which make the course even better.

Marc H., Belgium

Your website is not my only source for learning Chinese, but I find it very, very useful. I like the structured approach because it is reassuring and my progress sn more or less measurable. And I am confident that by sticking with your program my Chinese will get better all the time. You do a great job and I am learning a lot with your lessons.

Christopher A., Teacher, Nanjing, China

I'm sure you're a busy guy so I don't want to take up too much of your time... but I did want to say how impressed I am as I explore your website. I am a recent arrivee in Nanjing, where I hope to spend the rest of my life!! I've been here six weeks, will be in Nanjing teaching for at least this coming school year, and I love the Chinese people... but I don't know more than two or three words of Chinese! So I've been looking for a self-teaching program and have explored Pimsleur, Interactive Chinese from Sinolingua, New Approaches to Learning Chinese, etc. and just didn't find them practical as primary resource. I really like your approach and I'm looking forward to taking advantage of all your resources and "gettin' with the program!"

Thanks for your efforts... I can tell you're working hard at this!

Graham A., Queensland, Australia

Hi guys. I'm subscribed to your course and making good progress. I congratulate you highly on this course. I've studied many languages in many ways, and I think you have a very effective product here. I can learn Chinese from this!!

I've been working onwards in your course, and I studied up to about lesson 90 in detail. Not that I remember all of the
content of course, but I found that by pushing on forwards, things that had come up before that I didn't remember too well at first came up again, and so were easier to remember.

As I said before, I think it is an excellent course, and I saw that you made it better and better as you went along. Thanks again for your great work on the course.

Bryan H., Software Engineer, United States

I decided to start learning Chinese about 11 months ago. I'm doing it mostly for fun and personal satisfaction. I find the culture and language very interesting and would love to be able to take a trip some day. I would like to eventually be fluent, so I will keep on truckin'. Until the last few weeks, I have mostly concentrated on listening and speaking but now have the bug to start working on the characters and have started learning them.

I have noticed that you're often quick to implement nice changes in functionality on your site and also that you seem to be methodically keeping a database of what words are used in what lessons so as to point out to the user where to go for earlier lessons. I've been quite busy lately, so mostly I've just been listening to your podcasts (both regular and review/premium) on my commute. It will be interesting to see how far you can take this progression. Will I someday be hearing you say, "Welcome to Lesson 987"?

It's nice to see all of the improvements you keep making to the site and the course itself. I hope you'll keep up the good work and I look forward to trying out some of the newer features.

Viravadee C., Management Consultant, Business Owner, Bangkok, Thailand

Wow� such a great way to learn mandarin.

I have been taking a formal Mandarin class for a few months, and I am currently using your course as an add-on to my formal Mandarin class. And I have found that your program really helps me a great deal.� I am learning faster than ever!

1. I have found that the best way to learn a new language fast is to focus on listening and speaking. While my formal class focuses on speaking and writing, your podcast program really helps me with my listening skills. It�s a really great combination.

2. Your being very systematic and organized really makes it easy to follow through the lessons.
* The way you structure your class is excellent!�� I really like the way you gradually build up the dialogue from class to class. (This is infact, the main reason I subscribe to your site.) As such, listening to a phrase or a conversation (over and over and over again) makes me remember a new vocab better than remembering a word without a context or just reading the books. I usually listen to each class more than once just to get the phrases into my head.
* Also I appreciate you trying to show us different accents and phrases from each region. (e.g�Taiwan..vs.. mainland.). Its very useful.
* Also, your website is easy to navigate and very simple and clean. (There is no need to fancy it up. Simplicity sells.)
* SO Please continue to be simple, organized�. and effective!

Thank you again for such a wonderful job. I really appreciate your efforts. You really make my learning experience a lot nicer. Keep up the good work!

Chinese Learn Online ROCKS!

Wendy L., United Kingdom

I am really enjoying the course and find it very helpful.

It's a great idea. Here in the UK, it's difficult to hear Mandarin Chinese spoken if you don't know Chinese people personally. I am currently enrolled on a Mandarin Chinese course but find it is very book-centred. Writing and reading (pinyin and characters) is not too hard for 'visual' learners like myself but if you need practice in hearing the language, Chinese Learn Online is just ideal. Thank you very much for your efforts.

Lina G, Artist, Israel

I am back from China! It was a very surprising and intensive experience. Thanks to you I was able to chat with chinese people, and also and very important, to bargain in the beautiful and colorful markets. No doubt I will renovate my Premium subscription to your site so I will be able to freely talk in my next visit to China.

Scott C., United Kingdom

I first sampled this site by listening and learning through the non-premium feeds, and i learnt so much just through that, now i am premium subscriber, my learning has now rocketed. Your user friendly and cheerful mid lesson banter adds a more approachable feeling to learning, making a difficult language not such daunting task to do.

After checking out the first 2-3 lessons, i developed an instant interest in what your site has to offer, i then sampled more of the non-premium lessons, then finally decided to apply for the premium package, so i consider myself lucky that i found a perfect learning site without having to wade through any other sites that could knock my interest back a few steps with excessively difficult high tier business level learning.

In terms of directing the course better, i have no issues at all with your lessons, you come across as easy going and friendly towards the listener, and add different speakers to the courses, while covering topics are easily applicable to everyday friendly chit chat to friends or even strangers, thus giving us listeners more confidence, because if you was to ever to get me to speak a word in chinese to anyone, chances where id make you wait about 2 hours so i can overcome my embaressment before muttering a few words under my breath, now after your course, i feel more confident and have shown my competence thus far to my chinese friends, and they all seem pretty impressed, i also showed your site to them, and they also believe your site could render an opposite course effect by helping chinese speakers learn english also, maybe thats another intention you have, maybe not, but either way, its very clever of you. My kindest gratitude to all on the team for this superb course.

Owen J., Web Designer, Port Macquarie, Australia

I think your course is well organised and is great for beginners as well as more advanced. I've only listened to about 30 lessons so far. I like that at any time I can review lessons. It's also great to be listening to native speakers. Unfortunately there is no short cut to learning a new language especially when it comes to tonal Asian languages. Conversation context is great.

Seeing the pinyin makes a big difference. I like to picture it in my head when composing sentences and having the tones works helps a lot. Your product is great! Especially now I can visualise the tones. Your voice is pleasant, calm and relaxed so that it doesn't get annoying if its playing in the background.

Thanks for making this available. You guys are doing a great job. I hardly use my iPod for music anymore :-)

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