CLO User 133's blog



New PDFs, New Colors!

Our PDF pages have been updated with a new set of PDFs for most lessons. The PDFs allow our premium offline users to practice writing the new characters for each lesson on paper. There are two versions for each lesson, one featuring just the new characters for the lesson and another featuring all the characters for that lesson. As many characters will be repeated in future lessons, use the latter to practice writing characters that may have shown up in earlier lessons. Doing things this way will automatically give you more practice writing characters that show up more often, than those that don't.

Take a look at the following samples:

New Simplified characters for lesson 4
All Simplified characters for lesson 4

Traditional character versions of the above will be added in the future.

Update: Traditional character versions of the above pages have now been added!

As well, since our PDF list seems to be growing daily, we have begun to color code them to make it easier to find what you are looking for.

Blue - Simplified character version
Green - Traditional character version
Yellow - Spanish translation of complete transcript
Purple - Italian translation of complete transcript
Brown - French translation of complete transcript

Flashcard Update

The Flashcard program has been updated to load a lot faster than before. Previously it took a few minutes to load up, whereas this should now be reduced to a few seconds.

Site Issues

It seems that the site has been up and down for much of this weekend. Lately, we've been the victim of some massive spam attacks on our Contact Us page, and this weekend it seems that hackers have been trying to wreck havoc with the site in general.

The good thing is that we will be using this opportunity to improve the infrastructure that holds this site together. Please bear with us the next few days as we there may be some more ups and downs. In the end however, I hope to have a faster site with better performance.

Update: The site will be down for an hour on February 20, 2008 from 9:45 to 10:45 a.m. GMT for some hardware updates that will hopefully improve the recent sluggishness.

Recording and other Updates

It seems that this since we moved the site to a new server, the recording tool wasn't working for the Pronunciation and Exercises. Well I'm happy to say that after some lengthy testing and reinstalling, everything seems to be working again! I'm also happy to say that the user experience should be better than in the past, thanks to the better equipment it is now running on.

We will continue to look for ways to update the site and improve your user experience. Next on the list is to improve our actual course content. We have added a new consultant with over a decade of teaching experience to our team who will be overseeing the material in new lessons. Her work will begin from lesson 195 onwards. Some of our staff are also upgrading their credentials in teaching by taking courses in Mandarin teaching.

I hope to use the added experience from all of us (including me) to edit and / or redo some of the earlier lessons in our course later this year. When we get to that, I will release a separate set of updates so you can see what changes were made.

In the meantime, please continue to send us your ideas and suggestions in all areas. Some of our newer lessons feature content and material suggested by users like yourself, so keep them coming.

All the best to everyone this Chinese New Year - welcoming the year of the rat!

Export Page

As mentioned in the latest podcast update, a new export page has been added. Previously, an export function was added to the flashcard page. However, since this seems to be a popular feature, it has now earned its own separate page. It has also been improved to support multiple formats.

If you have other requests, do let me know.

Cosmetic Touch ups

There is some cosmetic work being done to the site right now, which means some of the menus may be missing for the next day, while we update some aspects. There will be an update here when everything is good to go. (Incidentally, the old menus work from this blog, just not from the main site). Sorry for any inconvenience!

Update: Menus are now working again. There will continue to be some tweaks here and there, but everything should be working. If you notice any disruptions, please let me know.

Character Introductions

I'm proud to finally unveil our latest feature - New Character Introductions! For each lesson now, in addition to the new words being highlighted in the vocabulary page, there will also be a section in there on new characters. This way, we can distinguish between characters that have already been taught before, and new characters that are features in the new word being taught. All the new characters in a lesson will be highlighted in a separate section (found along the Test Your Pronunciation, Sentence Builder and Exercise tools) with animated stroke order pictures. If you click on a character, it will perform a search in our word bank for all the words and examples that it has been used in in our entire course to give you a better feel for it. Obviously it is in your interest to learn the most commonly used characters first.

Want to practice your writing skills? Use this worksheet for practice. It uses the same box background as in the pictures to keep things consistent. It is also interesting to note how the computer font differs from the more traditional font used in the animated stroke pictures.

It will take us some time to introduce this feature for all lessons, so we will be doing it in phases. Phase one will be adding the characters that have already been introduced as new words. We will then be separating new characters from existing words and introducing them separately.

As expected, earlier lessons feature a lot more newer characters. New words from later lessons frequently use characters that have already been introduced earlier, which should help you better remember them (that is the rationale behind this being a progressive course). In working on this project, it was interesting for me to find that after the first 10 lessons (not including lesson one, since that was just an introduction to tones), more than 100 new characters were taught. However the next 90 lessons taught less than 400 new characters, which means a lot of the initial ones are repeated often.

Please send me feedback on how you use this (and any other features on the site), as well as any suggestions you may have to improve it further. You can try out the first batch of characters here. Click on "New Characters" in the middle of the page. Enjoy!

Update: We have also added a new "Character" type to the word bank. All characters will be classified with this type. This means you can study all the characters introduced lesson by lesson from one main area just by searching for (or clicking on) the "character" type. To see the stroke order, simply click on the lesson a character was introduced and then open the "New Characters" area. Hope this helps!

Vocabulary Page: Update 2

Feedback was given to me that the vocabulary pages for the last few review lessons were taking a long time to load due to all the lines of text and audio that had to be loaded. Since I expect longer dialogues in level 4 and beyond, the vocabulary page for all lessons has now been reorganized to only show 10 lines of dialogue or vocabulary at a time. You can navigate back and forth using the "Previous" and "Next" buttons that have been added where appropriate.

Hopefully this change along with the reorganizing of other elements in the vocabulary page will result in a more effective learning experience for you. Again, please continue to provide me with usability feedback since that is what drives development around here.

A new feature focused around teaching character recognition should be ready for launch in the next week or so. It's required a lot of work on our side, but I'm sure the results will be well worth it, so stay tuned...

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