So what's after listening to so many podcasts? Well, you definitely need to take some assessment and practice using the language!
We are very happy to announce that we are starting an online interactive assessment service that is powered by an awesome tool called "Recap".
This assessment helps check for your understanding and practice your spoken Chinese! For details like why you need to take assessment and how to do it. Please watch the following tutorial videos. And your feedback is always welcomed at Learning Chinese through Stories!
1. Why taking assessment after listening to podcasts?
2. How to get it start?
3. After submitting your response online.
4. Teacher's part: send personalized feedback to you
Start your first interactive assessment with us using the following class pin and instruction for free now and email us if you have any questions or suggestions!
Using authentic material is one of the five pillars in the field of world language teaching in the 21st century, according to American Council of Teaching Foreign Language (ACTFL). If a language school, program and an educator is using authentic materials, instead of artificial textbook to develop the language curriculum and course, has become a critical standard to evaluate the quality of the school, program and the teacher him/herself.
But why authentic? Well, briefly speaking, authentic materials bring a real world and the beauty of the target language to learners. While language itself makes a main part of the real-world adventure, a successful experience in a target country demands more than using the target language. Authentic materials carry more than the talking piece. Cultural phenomenon, culture differences, social issue, nuances and other important background knowledge can all be reflected in authentic materials. And from an experienced language educator's point of view, it is always the contents that are beyond language itself that ignite interest, thoughts, discussions, and help language learners make self-relatedness. Self-relatedness is a great motivator that drives language learners into a further language and culture exploration, which makes a teacher's job easier to do in the long run. Last year, when I was showing my middle school students a Chinese news video about Chinese President Xi Jinping going to a local steamed bun restaurant to eat, all I intended to do was to help my students get a authentic glimpse of that local restaurant called “Qingfeng". It is a popular place that local Beijingers would go for a breakfast or any meals of the day, and I want them to get an exposition of the restaurant setting, food on the menu and what some dishes look like. I had to choose that video because it was the only good qualify video introducing that restaurant that I could find online. To my delight, an intense debate did happen after students watched the video. However, the focus was not on the restaurant or the food. Instead, it was a discussion about why Chinese president going to a local restaurant could even become a news to buzz about. Students argued that President Obama went to local restaurants a lot, and it rarely made any news. So we had to talk about the significance of political power in China, how it is reflected in daily lives and its origins in Chinese history. Yes, it is a nuance that no textbook for middle school kids would ever mention. But it is a crucial multi-culture communication knowledge that every Chinese learner should know before they become a diplomat or a business person in China! And only authentic materials can carry those nuances and inspire a meaningful discussion about multi-culture communication.
Moreover, authentic materials write target language the way it is. A large amount of learning resources for language learners, such as textbooks, graded-level readers, audio files for listening practice, are either made up or highly modified so that they become appropriate for learners of a certain proficiency level. They do help recycle newly-learned vocabulary, grammatical patterns and other language chunks. And students feel more confident and less anxious when they find that they mostly know everything on the material. However, those language learners who learn a language with no exposition to authentic materials will usually experience a shock when they go to the target country. They find people talk really way faster than their textbook tape recording and they barely understand anything. Also, they cannot read a menu. Even though they have been learning Chinese for a long while, they feel frustrated linguistically and culturally.
Using authentic materials as instruction content will get language learners ready for the real-world challenge. Imagine all the target language expositions you receive from a language course are all copied from the real scenarios in China! An authentic materials can be a recorded audio of a conversation between a passenger and a taxi driver, a menu book that has illustrated pictures that clearly shows you what each dish name means, a most recent and popular TV show that describes young people's lives, as well as a video that explains unwritten rules of working, socializing and family relationships. Authentic materials are not made up or deceiving. They are practical and ready to use.
So next time when you get on a language learning website, app or podcast, watch for the citations of their contents or look for the word "authentic". If you are unsure about the authenticity of its contents, then ask a native target language speaker for advice. It should be very easy for them to tell.
Here are the resources we provide on podcast lessons of "听故事学中文(Learning Chinese through Stories)":
In additions to podcasts of storytelling and story explanation, you can also find new words list and story transcript on our website page. Also, the illustrating pictures aim to help our listeners gain a good background information about each story. The keywords on the top left corner are mainly for Chinese teachers who are looking for a story that connects with a lesson or a unit that he/she is teaching.
Here is what we recommend you to do for each podcast lesson:
This chart describes learning steps in details and it does take a lot of time to complete the whole learning process. But guess what? A successful learning takes time! If it is hard to find the time commitment to do them all, you may skip one or two steps and spend the time focusing on your weakness areas. And it is extremely important to always remember that how fast you learn does not matter, what matters the most is how well you learn! So take your time! Feel proud to spend 5 to 10 hours, or even more than that, focusing on one lesson only. As long as you will take the ownership of the story in the end, that is what really counts, isn't it?
What do you do with podcast lessons that teach you a foreign language? I mean, except for the fact that you listen to it while doing other daily activities. Do you do anything else with them? In other words, what other language skills can podcast lesson help you improve, except for listening skill? If you have not thought about it yet, then keep reading.
When four language skills are integrated into one learning task, a language learner can benefit the most and learn the most effectively. That is because recycling of words, grammatical structures and others language chunks takes place in an integrated learning process. At the same time, language learners' sensations of seeing and hearing also get highly stimulated. Other than that, the thinking process for producing language output, which is to speak and write things down in this case also make this whole learning experience even more significant.
With one podcast story lesson, you can do so many things beyond listening to it, understanding it and feeling great, and learning a few new words or sayings from it. Let's dive in to it now.
1. Before you click on "play": think, speak and write
To get a better understanding out of any audios of a foreign language, the first think you need to do is to activate your schema about this audio you are going to hear. Having a correct background knowledge helps one develop a good sense of what could be described and discussed in the audio, and inferring an unknown words from the context also becomes a lot easier. For instance, before you listen to the podcast lesson of "Amazing stones on the Yellow Mountain", you should read the English intro and the illustrating pictures of the story and ask yourself "what is this story about?". Then you can either talk to yourself in Chinese about thoughts you have, or you can write your thoughts down in Chinese. And for those thoughts you have trouble expressing, write a big mark there because you may find it in the story. You may say or write something like this: 这是黄山，黄山上有很多石头。这些石头很大，不一样。一个石头 looks like 一个人，一个石头looks like 一只鸡。这些石头很漂亮。黄山上有多少石头，这些石头 how much is the weight? How 这些石头 are formed？……
You can definitely look up those English words online and learn them before the podcast broadcasting, so that you will make connections and get more exposures later. But it is also fine if you just underline them and try to look for answers in the story.
2. Get a glimpse of the story: use new words to re-edit your speaking and writing piece
Now, you have an initial thought, but you may found your language piece is kinda of dry and you look for something vivid and rich to help you express your thoughts. The new word list would be the best reference at this moment. Open it, get a preview, and find those words you were searching for at the first step and integrate them into your previous thinking piece. And go ahead talking about your thoughts with new words you just learned or read out loud the piece you just edited, paying attention to those newly-learned words. The paragraph above could become something like this: 这是黄山，黄山上有很多奇石。这些石头很大，奇形怪状。一个石头看起来像一个仙人，一个石头看起来像一只鸡。这些石头很秀丽。黄山上有多少石头？这些石头多重？这些石头是怎么形成的？
3. Preview new words: read, connect
Reading a word out loud help one get familiar with the sound combination of the word and it help learners get exposures and build the memory. It also helps one compare his/her pronunciation with a native speaker's pronunciation and fix any potential mistakes.
When you read those words out loud, remember to put the meaning of each word together and see if the definition of the whole word makes sense to you. It is always a fun part of learning new words in Chinese since Chinese is a "meaning combination"（意合）language. And this process usually helps you connect old knowledge with new information. For instance, for the word “闻名中外”, if you know the word “名”(name), ”中"（中国， China) and ”外“(老外，foreigners), then you will make a good inference about the word ”闻“， which means "to hear about".
4. Listen: for as many times as you can
Do not get frustrated when you found that you only understand 10% of the story. Think about it this way, "Hey, I am good! I am proud of myself! I can understand 10% of an authentic Chinese story told by a native speaker who is talking at a normal speed!" And then work on it so that you will understand more and more!
If you only listen to the story for once, you are upsetting us because when we record those stories, we expect you to listen it for many times. It could be 10 times and it can be 20 times, and it can be more than that! The more you listen to it, the more comprehensible input you are getting. And according to the "input hypothesis" raised by the most renowned SLA (second language acquisition) professor Dr. Stephan Krashen, that is how a native-speaker acquire his/her mother tongue. It was not through a boring grammar lesson or a textbook. It is after tons of comprehensible input which is a little bit difficult than the learner's current proficiency level. A few months ago, we received a letter from one of our listeners. This gentleman told us it was only his 4th month learning Mandarin and he already knew how to tell the story "the boy who cried wolf" in Chinese. Yes, a large amount of input does help that well. And some people name it "input flood".
And while you are listening to the story, take notes on those sounds which do not mean a thing to you. Also, write down all the confusion and questions you have.
5. Get involved: talk, talk and talk!
The storytelling part is basically a one-way communication. Information goes from the host to the listeners. But when it comes to the story explanation part, it is a much more interactive session. To nail this part, you got to have the story transcript ready. For learners who mainly use Pinyin, get the passage converted into Pinyin with Google translation and other tools.
When you are going through the story with our lesson, in addition to take notes on meaning and usage of new words and grammatical structures, it is very important to listen carefully to the host's CFU (check for understanding) questions and respond to it. The host usually rephrase one whole sentence with simple language to help you understand the content. And the way he/she asks is often yes/no questions and multiple choice questions. After a 3-second wait time, the host lets you know the right answer and it explains the part you do not understand. It is also equally crucial to answer each "who, what, when, where, why and how” question, because those questions aim to give you as much comprehensible input as possible and you will be ready to recap it after listening to the same language chunk for so many times! And don't just listen, answer those questions actively! You have the transcript with you and that is the best visual aid for visual learners. If you cannot answer the question with a complete sentence, start with reading the whole sentence out loud. And you will make progress gradually!
An important tip is if you found yourself not understand certain words in a sentence, then rewind the recording and listen to it as many times as you can. Write down the Pinyin for it and mark down where it is in the context. You can go to your teacher, language partner or even email us afterwards!
If you found yourself not understanding every single words we used in the podcast, do not panic! Remember that you goal for now is to get a good understanding of the story and a single word beyond that would all be bonus! Of course you can study the story explanation part as another valuable lesson and that would be more beneficial, but we do not want you to feel overwhelmed. If you have found a certain lesson is way beyond your knowledge, you may want to check the recommended level for that lesson and choose stories that target on your proficiency.
6. Go back to the story: read, assess
When you are done with the story explanation session, go back and listen to the story again. This time, assess your understanding and see how much more you have comprehended. In the meanwhile, read after the story. You can start with being choppy, and that's totally fine. What did I say? 熟能生巧(shúnéngshēngqiǎo, "practice makes perfect")! Also, underline the parts that you still need to practice. That will be your homework for today! Read it, read it in a sentence, ask yourself questions about it and close your eyes to see if you can recap it. Rote learning can be helpful!
7. Assessment: how well did I learn? Think, speak, write and read
Have you wondered how much you could take out of one story lesson? I mean, not how many new words you learned, but what more you can do with this language you are learning? Can you retell the story with spoken and written language? How many new words, sayings and grammatical structures can you use when you try to put together those fragments you just learned and listened?
So here is a required assessment you can work on at the end of each learning process: retell the story with your own words and use as many newly-learned words as you can, and make a recording so you can go back and listen to yourself. If you do not feel comfortable doing this, then skip this part for now. After the retelling part, write the story down on computer or on a piece of paper (if you enjoy writing characters and also have a lot of free time). When you are done with writing, do a proof reading and then read your version of the story out loud. Again, you can send your speaking and writing piece to your teacher, tutor, language partner and even us! We would love to see what you have got from each lesson and share the joy you have about learning Chinese through stories!
8. The end
Now count how many times the words "speak", "talk", "read" and "write" were mentioned? A lot, right? What did I say? This is not simply a listening lesson. It is an integration of four basic language skills and if you follow the steps, your leap will come along!
In the next blog post, we are attaching a flow chart that describes this whole learning process. Stay in tune! Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions or feedback about this blog article. Or leave a comment below!