Changes to Course Outline Page

I recently made a couple of small changes to the Course Outline page.

The “Complete” links have been renamed as “Transcript” and have moved to the front of every lesson. I feel “Transcript” is a more descriptive label than “Complete” and moving it to the front better reflects the progression that most users make with the lessons: Start with the lesson, while following along with the transcript, then move to the Vocabulary page, followed by the Activity and other pages that follow.

Hope that makes sense and doesn’t cause too much disruption in your lesson navigation.

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Pleco Flashcards Support for iOS

One feature that many users have asked for, is the ability to export flashcards to Pleco, the popular dictionary app.

This could always be done of course through the Export page. However this required multiple steps.

I’m happy to announce that if you’re using an iOS device (iPhone or iPad), then head on over to the flashcard page and select the lesson range you want.

You’ll now notice a new button at the bottom called “Export to Pleco”.

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Clicking on this will directly open the Pleco app (assuming you have it installed already). After a few seconds, you should see a message like this:

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You’ll now have a list of CLO lessons inside Pleco that you can choose from.

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Inside each lesson is the vocabulary, that you can then use to create your own flashcard lists inside Pleco.

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Hope this is useful for you.

At the moment, Pleco says this function only works on iOS devices. We can add Android support when they do.


New Design

If you haven’t noticed, the entire site has been recently updated with a brand new design.

It was a bit of a rocky start at first, with lots of small features not working.

Most have now been fixed though, and early reviews seem to be good.

The biggest benefit of the new site is that it is completely mobile optimized. Most activities should work on your phone or tablet.

The only thing that doesn’t work on phones / tablets are tools for recording your voice, such as Test your Pronunciation and the ability to record voice responses to exercises. These can be done from the desktop / laptop version however.

Other improvements include:

  • Design improvements to the flashcards and word bank pages.
  • New progress bar that shows up on the Course Outline page for each level. Complete all the activities in each level to reach 100%Progress
  • Persistent audio player and mode switch on the Complete transcript page let you pause the audio and switch between characters, from anywhere on the page.Playback

Please send me feedback on things you like or don’t like about this new design, as it’s an evolving process.


CLO App for Android

Well it took some time, but it’s finally here. The new CLO App for Android has been released on the Google Play store.

Like the iOS version, the Android version comes with the first 3 lessons for free. You can then purchase lesson content for levels 1 and 2 into the app.

These include the lesson audio, transcripts, flashcards and new character animations.

CLO Android

Try it out and let me know what you think.

Now that the Android version is released, I’ll be able to get back to making improvements to both apps, including content for later levels.

Thank you for your patience!


New Progress Page

I have added a new home page for subscribers to measure their progress.

Once logged in, click on the CLO logo on the top left of the page to be taken to this new page. It is a modified version of the current course outline page. It will look something like this:

CLO Progress

On the left, is a new navigation bar, to let you switch between levels.

On the top is your current lesson level. This is based on your score from the level test. I encourage you to take this test often, to measure your progress.

Next, we have the name of each lesson in the current level, along with color coded activity icons. Activities you have started, are colored orange, while completed ones turn to green. Obviously the goal is to complete as many of the activities as possible, so that you have green icons across.

Hopefully you find this page useful in your learning. If not, let me know what I can do to improve it.


New Flashcards

The flashcard page on the site has been updated with a new format.

The old format was quite outdated, requiring Java and not being mobile friendly. The new version should work fine on mobile browsers – both desktop and mobile, without requiring any additional software to be downloaded. It uses a similar format to the level test that was added recently.

Additional modes and options will be added to this page in time, so keep sending me your feedback.

When you first go to the page, you will see a settings page:

CLO Flashcards Options

Lesson Range: You can choose to test yourself on a single lesson, or you may select an entire lesson range. Your previously selected lesson range will be shown here. As you change the lesson range, the number of questions in the test will be updated at the bottom of the screen, above the Start button.

Test: You can choose to test individual characters, all vocabulary and sentences as well.

Mode: Choose between testing pinyin (if you’re not studying characters), simplified or traditional characters.

Question Mode: If you want to test your listening skills, choose listening. If you want to test your reading skills, choose Visual.

Test Definition: If you select this option, then each question will have two parts – one testing your recognition of the Chinese, and another asking you to select its English definition.

When you are ready to begin the test, press Start.

CLO Flashcard Test

If you have chosen Listening mode, you will hear a word and will be asked to type in the pinyin for it. If you have chosen visual mode, you will be shown the characters and will be asked to type it below. Type in the pinyin for the characters, and select the characters that match the question.

CLO Flashcard Test

If you enter an incorrect answer, the correct answer will be shown on screen for you.

CLO Flashcard Test

If you have chosen to test definitions as well, then you will be asked to choose the correct definition, after you typed in the correct pinyin.

Try it out and let me know what you think.


CLO Level Test

As I wrote about recently, the CLO Level Test is now ready for trial. Anyone can try it, even without an account.

To begin, choose your mode.

Choose Mode

If you haven’t learned characters yet, then start with pinyin. You will hear a word being played. Type out what you hear with the tone numbers, then press Enter.

You can press the Play button to repeat the word you hear.
Pinyin Test

If you type out the pinyin correctly, it will then ask you to choose the correct meaning of the word you just heard.

Select Meaning

After selecting the correct meaning, you will be taken to the next question.

The simplified and traditional versions of the test work in a similar manner, but ask you to type out the character that you see on screen. You can use the built in pinyin IME (input method editor) to do so, so there is no need to install a Chinese keyboard on your computer / device, if it doesn’t have one already. Choose the correct Chinese characters from the suggestions given. You can press Space to select the first one, or type the number of the selection you want.

There are 20 questions in total. As you answer correctly, the questions will become more difficult, as it selects questions from more advanced lessons. If you answer incorrectly, then the questions will become easier, as they are chosen from earlier lessons.

At the end of the 20 questions, you will be assessed a lesson score.


If you are logged in, your results will be saved in your member page. Future tests will continue where you left off, so you can try to raise your score from there.

If you are not logged in, you can register for a free account, which also gives you access to 10 demo lessons.

Let me know what you think, and if you find this test helpful!


What’s New

Some have wondered what I have been up to behind the scenes at CLO. We stopped creating new course material sometime back as so few people had made it all the way to the end of level 7. Instead I focused on tools to improve the current site and look for more tools to take users to level 7 quicker. Here are some of the things I’ve been doing:

1. Better signs of progress.

The main feature of CLO is that it’s progressive. The lessons get more difficult as Chinese that was taught earlier is reused. So how do you track this progress?

Each lesson has various activities assigned to it, that test your vocabulary, grammar, typing and character recognition skills. A good way to make sure you’re keeping up is to complete the activities after listening to each lesson. I’ve now made it easier to show you what lesson activities you have completed from the Course Outline page.

CLO Progress

I continue to look for ways to enhance the current feature set, so if you have any other ideas for improvements do let me know in the comments below.

2. CLO Test

One question that many users who have already studied some Chinese before starting CLO is “What is my current level?”. In the past, the answer was to go through the Course Outline pages and look at the vocabulary taught in each lesson, until you come across a lesson with a word you didn’t know. Then start there.

In the coming weeks, I hope to offer a better solution in the form of a 20 question test that anyone can take. Your answers will then place you at an approximate CLO lesson number (anywhere from 1 to 420).

This is also a good way to test your progress through the course. More details will be made available shortly, when this test is ready.

3. Learning Insights

I’ve recently started adding more articles to the Learning Insights blog. While some topics pertain to maximizing the benefits from CLO, others are also related to learning outside of CLO and even a new cartoon series that I hope to expand, if there is demand. Take a look, and keep sending me feedback.

4. Updated CLO app

The CLO iPhone app has been updated with a new look to match iOS7. An Android version is currently being worked on. And yes more level content will be added over the next few months.

5. Read Type Chinese

I am currently working on a new online course that will be sold separately called Read Type Chinese. The focus on this course will be on reading characters and being able to type them out. I actually began the original version a few years ago, but went through a few different models before settling on the current model, which uses similar lessons to CLO, but using a more interactive format.

The sequence of words and characters taught is purposely different from CLO, and instead follows the HSK character and word list. This way there is less overlap between CLO and RTC.

Level 1 (around 30 lessons) has been posted, which matches Level 1 of HSK. Level 2 lessons will be begin being posted in the next few weeks.

You can signup for a free account to try out the first 10 lessons of the course, to see what you think. Here are some frequently asked questions about the new site.


CLO vs Pimsleur Review

Pimsleur Chinese (Mandarin) (affiliate link) is one of the most popular tools available for learning Mandarin Chinese. When I first began learning Chinese, I went through Pimsleur programs 1 to 3 and found it to be a great primer for learning the language. The features I liked about it included:

  • It was audio based, which meant I could listen to it on my iPod or while on the go
  • The lessons got harder as Chinese from earlier lessons was reused, which meant real progress
  • It forced me to constantly review earlier material as this material was reused in later lessons

There were a few issues about it that I didn’t like though:

  • The Chinese being used was very Beijing centric, which wasn’t how the locals where I was (Taiwan) spoke
  • The program only had 3 levels (now 4), and I wanted more beyond that
  • It was mainly an audio program, so I didn’t have any pinyin or character sheets to follow along with
  • While there was a lot of learning done within the lesson, there wasn’t much I could do outside of the lessons to help review the material

CLO was actually created to address these issues. I tried to incorporate the features I liked about Pimsleur (audio based, progressive, constant review) while adding more to it, namely:

  • Use speakers from Taiwan, whose accents I find are easier for beginners to follow (due to tones being emphasized more)
  • Expand the course to 7 levels of difficulty
  • Provide transcripts in pinyin or characters to follow along
  • Provide review tools to let students review the vocabulary, grammar and characters taught in each lesson

The course has gotten great feedback over the years, but we are not done yet. Expect to see more tools added in coming months to improve your learning experience. Stay tuned!


Download CLO Lessons Directly into iTunes

If you have purchased a CLO lessons download (or a level download) and want to import the lessons directly into iTunes, you can follow the instructions given below.

1. Make sure you are running the latest version of iTunes. The instructions given below are for version 11. If you have a different version of iTunes that you would like instructions for, then please contact us.
2. Take a look and see if you have a menu showing on the top left. If not, click the little image with a down arrow on the top left, and select “Show Menu Bar” from the drop down options that will show.
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3. You should now see a new menu on top.

4. Click on the File menu and select “Subscribe to Podcast”. A new popup window should show. Enter http://www.chineselearnonline.com/feed1 (you can substitute the last number for the level number (1 to 7) that you have purchased access to. Press Ok.

5. You will now be asked to login to your CLO account. Use your email address as your username, and then enter your CLO password. (Make sure that both the email address and password match the ones you use on CLO).

6. If you do so correctly, then a new album for the selected level should be created for you, with the latest lesson downloaded.

7. Look for a button in the top right that says “Old Episodes” and click that to view all the lessons in the level. Then click on the “Add All” button that shows to download all the lessons at once.