Review of Chinesepod
Rated as /5 on May 18 2007 by Brendan Lawlor
I came across this website early on in my (now 18 month old) efforts to learn Chinese. These guys are perfecting the practice of teaching language online, and having established themselves as the leaders in the business, they've started to use the same technology and techniques to teach Spanish (through the parent company Praxis Language).
I used the free service for the first 6 months - which allows access to their daily lesson podcasts. The next subscriber (US$60 per year) level adds PDFs and online dialog transcripts. I used this for another 8 months or so before finally moving to the premium subscription (US$150 for six months). At this level, you get to use all the great features and toys that come with the site - build up your own vocabulary and test yourself on it, listen to expansions of the dialog that build organically on the grammar and vocabulary that, do tests at the end of each lesson. You can set up your own schedule of lessons, and create an RSS feed of those lessons that iTunes or Google Reader can consume. And other new features are on the way all the time.
There is one further level which I will be trying out over the Summer, which involves daily 10 minute conversations (phone or Skype) with dedicated teachers based in the Chinesepod Shanghai 'factory'.
The teaching techniques used by Chinesepod are well thought out and allow students to concentrate on the topics and techniques that are right for them. The default philosophy of the group is grammar-light, but for grammar nerds like me, their is a grammar section on the way.
This is how online teaching should be done - an excellent combination of pedagogy and web engineering, that I can recommend wholeheartedly to anyone wishing to study Chinese or Spanish on their own terms. Two weeks of free premium membership are given to all new users - no strings attached - so it couldn't be easier to find out for yourself whether or not I'm telling the truth.