CLO User 133's blog

Premium Update

I know things have seemed quiet here in the last couple of weeks. However you may be happy to hear that there has been lots of action behind the scenes. I thought I would give you a preview here of what to expect over the next few weeks:

  1. A new word-bank tool will be introduced for Premium subscribers. It will allow you to search for vocabulary introduced in previous lessons. The results will then be displayed on one page with Chinese characters and a playback tool. This should make it easier for you to review vocabulary items that are reintroduced in newer lessons.
  2. The vocabulary page will be reorganized. Currently, each vocabulary page is separated into 3 pages - Pinyin, Simplified and Traditional. These will all be combined into one page. The layout will look pretty similar to how it is currently, but you will be able to switch between the three modes without having to reload a new page each time.

It may take some time to redo older pages to reflect the new format, but I'm hoping to be able to give you a preview of what these changes will look like later this week.

Flashcards and other new tools...

I'm happy to say that the Flashcard program is now up to date with almost all lessons in all 5 modes for Premium subscribers.  Since each quiz has 10 questions and most lessons only introduce a few words at a time, some lessons are combined into one quiz.  Those quizzes with less than ten questions randomly pick questions from earlier lessons to make sure you're up to date.  If you notice any errors or missing sound files or anything, please let me know.

Now that the flashcard program is up to date, I have begun work on another new tool to help access / consolidate all the material you've been learning.  Details will be relieved as they are available.

New speakers

As you may have noticed in our latest lesson, I will be switching to some new native Chinese speakers from hereon - Bing and Jen.  They are a couple in their fifties from central China so I thought it would be interesting to hear a different kind of accent.  I like the contrast with the "younger" voice of Kirin.

I remember while teaching English in Taiwan how I thought I was doing a good job till a new teacher came along from England.  The students had trouble understanding what he was saying because they weren't familiar with his accent.  It's for this reason that I'm trying to change up the voices every now and then so you don't fall into the same trap of only understanding one type of Chinese and being "lost" in the real world.

The other issue I've come across is that all the dialogues so far have been prepared with Kirin's help which means they have a Taiwanese style to them.  This means that certain words and phrases may be used differently in mainland China.  This isn't a big problem in my opinion since there is still no problem being understood.  However, in order to change things up a little I'm going to switch to a mainland China approach as we progress just to provide a different contrast to the program.  This also means (unfortunately) that I will ease out of using Kirin's voice in the next ten lessons or so.

Don't worry though, she'll be back in the future, for future levels of the course.

Drop down menus

You may notice that the menus on top have been slightly reorganized, along with the addition of drop down menus. As the number of lessons and features increases on the site there has been a need to spread these out over a number of pages. Rather than cluttering the front page with more links, I have now added drop down menus to make it easier for you to go directly to the page you want. This way as more pages are added to the site down the road it should still be easy to get where you want to go.

The old Premium section has now been split into a "Premium feed" page and a "Resources" page. The links to the Premium content are now available in the "Course Outline" and in the main page under each lesson.

Tone problems continue

So it looks like my big fix for the Pinyin tone marks not displaying properly wasn't much of a fix after all. Some programs display it while others (such as iTunes) butcher it. One of the solutions I'm considering is switching the front page version of the Pinyin to using numbers rather than tone marks. So Nǐ hǎo would then become Ni3 hao3.

This wouldn't affect the Premium transcripts version, which would stay as it is (using tone marks). The advantages I see are:

  • This should solve font issues as I'd be using normal characters and numbers without any tone marks
  • I could then integrate search capabilities to search for vocabulary. I had a search feature previously, but removed it since people kept using it without tone marks, so the system wasn't able to find the results they wanted.

I'll keep looking for other solutions, but I'm curious to know what you would think above. If I decide to go this route I'll retype all the earlier lessons on the front page to keep it consistent.

CLO Update

Here are a few updates:

  1. I believe the issue with the Pinyin transcripts not displaying properly before should be resolved now.  You may need time for your feed to update to flush out the old versions.  You're welcome of course to redownload any files you need that were corrupted before.
  2. The separate feed for Premium subscribers has been expanded to include the dialogue summaries so you no longer have to manually download them from the site - they can now be delivered straight to you via RSS.  If you are using iTunes, choose the Advanced menu and then select the "Subscribe to a Podcast" option.  Enter your username and password when prompted.
  3. For those of you not using RSS, you can also access the files directly from  Use the login window to play and download the files directly.  You can also use the category tags to only view the podcast reviews or dialogues from a particular speaker.
  4. You may notice that the Premium links have now been added to the Course Outline page.  I am in the process of rearranging where information is located within the site to improve access to it so expect some more changes in this area over the next week or so.
  5. I have placed a temporary link to this Site Updates blog just under the login window in the main screen.  I am looking for a better more permanent spot for it.  :-)

Premium feed ready!

I'm proud to say that the Premium feed for Premium podcast reviews is now ready. You can access it from your favorite RSS program:

It will prompt you for your username and password. Please use the same login and password as for the regular ChineseLearnOnline website. From here on, you will be able to access the Premium Review podcasts without having to come directly to the website. Hope this helps!

If there are any technical issues, please let me know.

Level Two Insight

After all the hype regarding Level Two, some of you may be asking what the difference is between Level Two and Level One, other than the tones now being explained in Chinese. Well the truth is that some listeners are hesitant to move up too quickly too fast, so to avoid alienating this market, I've toned down (no pun intended) the jump from Level One to Level Two.

Level Two now goes back through the lessons from Level One reviewing and expanding upon each lesson. You will notice that the subject matter for each lesson in Level Two will somewhat resemble the corresponding lesson in Level One.

For those of you who ARE ready to move on though, the Premium review lessons (to be released in podcast format sometime in the future) will represent more of a challenge than the regular lessons. While no new vocabulary will be taught there, they will assume knowledge of all previously taught vocabulary and will try and use it in different ways than taught in the regular lessons. No explanations will be provided either, although translations are provided within the transcript. The idea here is that listeners are likely to learn quickly if they look up the answers themselves. Consider it a fast track of sorts.

So what can you expect in the future of CLO? Expect to hear new Chinese speakers in upcoming lessons and expect to hear the Chinese teacher take over more of the teaching of the lesson. As always, your feedback is what directs this course so keep it coming!

Improved Premium Access

In my never ending quest to improve usability, I've added direct links to the Premium pages for each lesson from the main page.  Like in Level One, the first four lessons of Level Two are free for everyone.

Level 2

The Premium content for Level 2 is now available. I will keep the first few lessons free just like I did with Level 1 to give everyone an idea of what format I will be using. Premium subscribers can use the player on the main page of the site to listen to or download the content. I will try and work on a Premium podcast feed so that you don't have to come to the website to get it.

Update: Since I couldn't get the Premium feed working, I've removed it from the main page and left it in the level 2 page.  I've kept it outside the Premium Podcast page to allow you to listen to it first before viewing the transcript.

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