Frequently Asked Questions
About learning Chinese:
My name is Adarsh (Adam) Menon. I am the founder of this website. I spent the past four years in Taiwan teaching English and learning Chinese in the process. I am using that knowledge and experience in learning Chinese on this website - hopefully I can help you out in the process. I’m not doing it by myself though - I’m using native Chinese speakers to help me design the lessons and to help out with some of the pronunciation. That is why you’ll sometimes see references to “I”, and other times you’ll see references to “we” on this site.
As a student of Chinese myself living in Taiwan for three years, I was frustrated by the teaching methods I found – whether books, tapes, CDs, websites, podcasts, classrooms etc. While some of them excelled in some areas they failed miserably in others. A LOT of time and money was spent (much of it wasted) trying to learn this language. The problem I found was that many of the resources available that are created by native Chinese speakers don’t necessarily work well for native English speakers. In the process however, I did learn what methods DID work really well for us non native Chinese speakers and what methods didn’t. I hope to take all this research and experience and put it into this website. By combining my knowledge with that of native Chinese speakers, I hope we can provide you with an invaluable resource for all your Chinese speaking needs.
I am a native English speaker and spent 3 years trying to find the best way to learn Chinese. I’m hoping to put my experiences into a form that you can relate to. I found that sometimes it was hard to relate to the methods that the PhD professors who had learned the language for decades were using. Instead I wanted something simple that anyone could start using regardless of their background. So now I’m relying on YOU, the user. Our website is constantly evolving based on the feedback given by learners just like you. Techniques and resources that work are kept and those that don’t are thrown out. Compare this with textbooks or other systems using decades old techniques that haven’t been updated with the times, that were created by people you couldn’t relate to. Which form of learning would you rather use?
Our first year of production was in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Since then we have relocated to Taichung, Taiwan where we have resumed production. Feel free to contact us if you’re in town. Our office location and map can be found here.
About learning Chinese:
Mandarin Chinese is the language spoken by the most number of people on this earth – more than 874 million native speakers at last count. Compare that to English which is spoken by a mere 309 million. Chinese is also the world’s oldest language - dating back some 3500 years. I assume that by visiting this website you already have your own personal reasons for wanting to learn Chinese. Whatever they are, we hope to help you attain your own personal goals by using our system.
Mandarin is the official language of China and Taiwan and is one of the official languages of Singapore. That is the form of Chinese that we focus on on this website. While there are certainly variations in dialects found between what you might hear in Beijing versus what you might hear in Taiwan or Singapore, what we teach on this site can certainly be used in any of these places. We have taken effort to involve consultants in our dialogue preparation from mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan to make sure that we focus on the universal aspects as opposed to any regional variations. Where these variations exist, we try to note them for you.
Our Premium subscriptions also offers a chance to sample Chinese written scripture. You can see transcripts of our lessons in Pinyin (English alphabet), simplified Chinese (as used in mainland China) and traditional Chinese (as used in Taiwan, Hong Kong and overseas communities). We highly encourage those of you interested in learning how to read Chinese to explore these options as it’s a great way to test your understanding!
I have spent a LOT of time and money trying to learn Chinese these past few years. During that process, I found a few methods of teaching that worked really well for me. I have decided to take the best aspects of each of the systems that I liked and combine them into the ultimate teaching tool for you. Along the way, I hope to gather user feedback to let us know what aspects work and what aspects can be improved.
The How we teach page explains more.
The first 9 lessons of our course teach you the basics you will need to know, such as how to introduce yourself, greet others, how to count, how to use money and how to say dates. This provides you with a proper basic foundation. From lessons 10 on, each lesson begins with a short dialogue that reviews vocabulary taught earlier while only introducing a few new words and concepts. By following this “gradual” format you are constantly reusing high frequency vocabulary in different contexts which allows you to easily remember it. Compare this with other courses that provide you with long lists of vocabulary that you are likely never going to encounter again. Your time is valuable to us and we want to make sure you are being taught in the most efficient manner possible. Lessons from higher levels feature more indepth explanations and conversations almost entirely in Chinese, along with articles, videos and other materials to keep your Chinese progressing.
Yes and no. While some aspects like the various tones that are used or the thousands of characters used in the written language may be a turn off to some, if you get past that, the rest of the language is a LOT simpler than English which makes up for the hard parts. Our course uses a novel approach of combining listening (through the podcasts) with speaking (by giving you opportunities to repeat and respond to what is being said) and viewing (through transcripts of every lesson) to make it much easier to see what tone is being used in each word. As for the written language, those interested in learning reading can also benefit from our Premium transcripts which display Chinese characters next to their English equivalents. By taking the time to view both side by side you may find yourself recognizing written Chinese without even knowing it!
Absolutely. Many people falsely believe that great intelligence is required to learn a new language. That is not true. There are many cases of severely mentally handicapped people being fluent in multiple languages. We use a novel approach to our system that doesn’t involve strenuous memorization of vocabulary lists or studying of grammar rules. All we ask is that you give us less than twenty minutes of your time each day following through the steps in our How to Use section. To get the full benefit of this course be sure to take advantage of the premium lesson notes for level 1 which also include extra language learning steps and motivation hints to maximize your language learning or the Premium podcasts for level 2 onwards.
The written Chinese language does not use a phonetic alphabet as we do in English, so to make things easier for you, this website uses Pinyin, which is the standard form used to transcribe Chinese sounds into a Latin script. Tone marks are used to show you which tones to use when pronouncing words. Learning and understanding Pinyin is a great way to learn Chinese without having to learn to read the thousands of Chinese characters out there. While the Pinyin pronunciation differs from English in some cases, it can be easily learned by following the dialogues and the Pinyin transcripts included with each one. Pinyin will be used in all transcripts of dialogues and new vocabulary that is introduced in the actual lessons.
While we don’t explicitly teach how to read Chinese, we do include them in the Vocabulary section found under each lesson, as well as in the flashcard and word bank tools. One great way to learn Chinese characters is by seeing them next to their Pinyin counterparts. We hope that by frequently seeing them together you’ll slowly be able to recognize the characters on their own without needing to look at the Pinyin. I learned a lot of my reading doing just that - by looking at street signs in Taiwan while waiting at a red light. The name of the street would be written in Chinese with the Pinyin translation right underneath. What a great way to learn!
We have also included both simplified (used in mainland China) and traditional (used in Taiwan and overseas communities) characters so you can appreciate the differences between the two sets.
Additionally, online review tools introduce the new characters for each lesson, along with their stroke order. You can then practice writing them out using the included PDF writing sheets for each lesson.
As we are based in Taiwan, most of the speakers and accents in the course are Taiwanese. As a regional variation, some of the tones used in Taiwan differ from their mainland China counterparts. In order to highlight this difference, we leave the pinyin tone marks in the mainland China form. This way you can choose whether to use the tone of the speaker, or use the tone indicated in the pinyin.
This link from Wikipedia should answer all the questions you have related to podcasts, how to find them, how to subscribe to them, how to listen to them etc.
You need a computer and an MP3 player (which could be on your computer itself). Having a portable MP3 player allows you to listen to the lessons on the go - on your way to work, at the gym, or wherever it’s most convenient for you. Some of the newer generation MP3 players (such as iPOD Nanos and iPOD Videos) support the viewing of lyrics on their screen. These models will allow you to view the summary transcripts that are included with each lesson.
Each lesson includes a summary transcript of all the new vocabulary for that lesson. You can view it in two ways:
1. The front page of our website shows you the latest lesson along with its summary transcript. Scrolling down the site and using the Previous entries allows you to access archived lessons. Direct links to these lessons are also provided from the Course Outline section.
2. This same summary transcript is also included as part of the MP3 file itself. If your MP3 player supports the viewing of lyrics, you can view it on your MP3 player screen while listening to the lesson. On iPOD Nanos and iPOD Videos, you can do so by clicking the center wheel button a few times while listening to the lesson. On Windows Media Player, you can do so by clicking Ctrl+Shift+C or by selecting “View captions and subtitles” in the Play menu.
The characters don’t display properly on my iPOD screen. How do I fix this?
The easiest way to fix this problem is to download the lessons manually from the site (as opposed to receiving them in podcast format). This will also solve the problem of the transcript screen only appearing for a few seconds at a time on your iPOD. Our new downloads page makes it easy to download several lessons at once.
When listening to a podcast on a newer generation iPOD, you have the option of viewing the description on screen by clicking the center wheel button a few times. For your convenience, we store the lesson transcript in this field. However, after a few seconds you may find that the iPOD reverts back to the default screen, meaning you have to constantly use the scroll button or keep clicking to keep the transcript on screen. If this is a big problem for you, we recommend downloading the MP3 file directly from our website and placing it in a different playlist. By doing so, your iPOD doesn’t treat the file as a podcast. This means that when you now click the center wheel button a few times, the lyrics field is brought up, rather than the description field. For your convenience, the same transcript is also stored in this field. The advantage to you is that when you bring up the lyrics field the iPOD stays on this screen and doesn’t revert back to its default screen making it easier for you to view the transcript. As stated above, the transcripts are placed in both the “lyrics” and “description” fields to allow you your choice of which playback mode is more convenient for you.
Premium subscribers can view the Chinese characters for vocabulary introduced in each lesson by clicking on the “Vocabulary” link of a particular lesson. The new vocabulary for that lesson is first presented in Pinyin format with audio links. At the bottom are links to Simplified and Traditional Chinese characters. Clicking on those links displays the same content in either Simplified Chinese characters (used in mainland China) or Traditional Chinese characters (used in Taiwan and overseas Chinese communities). Moving your mouse pointer over characters gives you the Pinyin translation so this is a great way to learn and test your recognition of Chinese characters. You can also test your knowledge of Chinese characters by using the flashcard and word bank tools.
This website tests to see what characters your system is capable of displaying and provides instructions on how to download the appropriate fonts required to view them.
Yes, you can change your default preference from pinyin to simplified or traditional Chinese characters at the bottom of your member page.
In addition to the regular lessons, premium subscribers also have access to the premium review feed, where dialogue summaries and review podcasts are released. Instructions on how to set up the premium feed are available here.
Since our course has more lessons than the iTunes feed can handle, we have placed the latest twenty lessons, plus the first four lessons in the main feed. The remaining lessons are available on our downloads page.
Yes, older lessons have been categorized by level with each level having 60 lessons. Each of these levels has its own feed. Access to these feeds needs to be purchased. You can find more information on our downloads page.
Yes. Login from this page and check the “Remember password” option.
The podcasts are free, while a Premium online subscription gives you:
1. Complete word for word transcripts.
2. Chinese characters (simplified and traditional).
3. Review tools.
4. Access to the Review podcast feed.
You also have the option to purchase older lessons in bulk, bulk PDF transcripts and review audio for older lessons by purchasing access to a particular level.
Please visit our pricing chart page to see the various plans available.
From time to time, we may tweak the pricing options available to subscribers. However, to reward members who have supported us from the beginning we will maintain the pricing rate you start off at till the end of your subscription regardless of any future price increases that may occur.
Individual downloads of older lessons, either from our main feed or from the main pages of our site are available for free. Access to older lessons via feed has to be purchased. Bulk downloads of older lessons include embedded transcripts of the entire lesson in pinyin, Chinese characters or English translations.
The Premium Online plan offers access to:
a. Online review tools such as flashcards, videos, interactive transcripts and exercises
b. PDF and review audio for individual lessons from all levels.
The Level Download Access plan offers access to:
a. PDFs and review audio in bulk for a particular level.
b. Bulk lesson downloads of older lessons.
More information about both plans is available here.
Premium online subscribers can earn free download credits that can be used to download portions of older lessons. You can find more information here.
Your access will last for 30 days. During that time, if we update the level with new content, you are welcome to redownload it again. After 30 days, your access will automatically expire.
Yes, purchasing all sections of a level entitle you to a discount, as does purchasing multiple levels. You can purchase an All Access package that gives you access to all areas of the site for much less than it would to purchase the sections individually. As well, premium online subscribers are entitled to free download credits for maintaining their subscription.
Free credits allow users access to level downloads or older bulk lesson downloads without having to pay for them. For every 3 months you remain an online subscriber, you are entitled to 1 free download credit. You can find out how many download credits you have by checking your member page.
Contact us to redeem a download credit.
Listeners in Taiwan who don’t want to use credit cards, may also make payments in local NT dollars directly to us at our office in Taichung. Our location map and address can be found on this page.
You also have the option to wire transfer funds to our bank accounts in Canada or Taiwan. For more information on this, or if you prefer a different payment option, please Contact Us.
Premium online subscribers have access to individual lesson content for all past lessons. Bulk downloads and lesson downloads by level are available for purchase separately. Note that this access only lasts for 30 days.
If you paid using Paypal, you can cancel your subscription from the “My Account” option that appears under the login window after you have logged in. If you used 2Checkout, then please Contact Us and we will cancel your subscription for you.
Easy. If you would like to try out our online tools, anytime after you create your subscription, you can cancel your subscription, which will cancel the recurring portion of your membership. You will still have complete access to your membership for the duration of your membership period. Your account will automatically expire at the end of this period.
In addition you can purchase bulk download access for a single level which lets you download all the PDF files and review audio for that level for a single price.
In addition to Paypal and credit card, you can also purchase a subscription via bank transfer, or in person, for those living in or visiting Taichung, Taiwan. Map and location details are available here.
For your convenience, we have bank accounts in Canada and Taiwan. Please contact us for more details.
The first time you purchase a subscription or product from us, you will be asked to create an account. After that, if you would like to purchase additional products, such as level download access or Skype one on one session times, please purchase these from your member account page found on the right sidebar.
Our resources page summarizes the current tools available to you. The full Flashcard, Word Bank and Tone and Pinyin Practices are only available to Premium subscribers with samples for you to try out, while the remaining resources are available for all to use.
Individual downloads of lessons themselves are free, as are the summary transcripts that come with them. As well, we encourage all users to read and send in comments on each lesson. The pinyin course outlines for each level are also available for everyone to use. The first four lessons of each level offer free premium features so take a look at them.
Start by going through the steps in our How to Use section. They should walk you through how to use the resources we’ve put together for you on our website.
Absolutely. You can really help us by rating our podcast using the buttons on the right sidebar of our main page. iTunes and Podcast Alley all allow you to submit votes, ratings and reviews on our podcasts. Receiving many votes allows our site to climb in popularity which helps promote it to new users so please take the time to do by using the links to the above two websites on the right.
In addition, we also have a Facebook fan page, where you can post reviews, see behind the scenes pictures and videos of our staff, as well as interact with other users. Please drop by and say hi!
If you still have questions that we haven’t been able to answer for you here, please Contact Us with them. Thank you!2226