I got an email from the founder of FluentU yesterday, Alan Park, asking why I hadn't been on the site lately.  (Perhaps you got a similar email?) He asked if I could give him some tips as to what I think FluentU is missing.  "That's a great question" I thought.  Because as far as I can tell, FluentU isn't "missing" anything.  It's a great site that makes Chinese language media a lot more accessible to Chinese language learners.  It makes entertainment educational.  So why haven't I been back?    

Maybe this has happened to you with FluentU, or perhaps some other site: you get very excited about it at first but then your interest gets shifted somewhere else. So let me ask you:

  • Is this just the way it is for learning language online? 
  • If not, are there any online sites or services that you consistently use or revisit? 
  • What's the difference between sites / tech that hold your attention for just a short period of time and the ones that you ALWAYS seem to find your self going back to?

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I totally agree Mo.  There's something nice about having a book, or just something new all the time to make it interesting.  I think what you said about making progress is really important.  Making progress takes some work - it's not just entertainment.  I think that's where a lot of sites fall short.  If you don't have some feeling of satisfaction in your learning, you're not likely to stick with it.  I think the sites that make learning fun while giving you a sense of accomplishment are more likely to get people coming back over and over again.   

I think for FluentU, the videos are good, but it requires a lot of after work, not people can just study on the website. And youtube can't be accessed in China. Also it kinda force registeration. Before that I don't even know if members can communicate on the website.

I like studying website with full courses, or it requires everyday practise so I can see my progress. The two website I'm using everyday now is duolingo and memrise, sometimes livemocha too. But livemocha doesn't require everyday work, so I could be lazy...

For FluentU I like the site and spend some hours on it in Australia, but in China youtube is blocked (and VPN is really slow) and so it's of limited usefulness.

I keep coming back to ChinesePod because the podcasts are downloadable and usable offline. 

Hey Tyson,  I started with ChinesePod back in 2008 and I still listen to their podcasts a few times a week.  It's funny, because when I first started using ChinesePod I thought it would be great for them to extend into videos as well (which I think they have, to some extent.)  But, as it turns out for me, the audio alone is much more convenient than video would have been because I can do other things while listening.  So I think mobility might be part of what's missing with FluentU.  Are there any other sites / tech that you keep coming back to?   

Fluent U is going through some hefty growing pains right now. Many of the changes they're making to the website radically impact user experience - enforcing pinyin for Newbie users, timers on review questions, altering the lesson formula - and not always in a positive way. The pinyin enforcement and lack of time to review were major influences in the amount of time I spent on the site.

TL;DR: Recent changes made the website a hassle. Once they've fix the bugs, I'll spend more time there.

 

Duolingo has a great formula; if I was learning Spanish and Portuguese from scratch, I would probably start there. But I already speak those languages at a B1/B2 level, which is as far as Duolingo can take you. In short, I'm "ahead" of Duolingo. I *could* use it to learn German and French, since I was really motivated to learn German and French would be useful in advancing my career, but juggling my work and Chinese and *another* language is too much of a time commitment. It wasn't worth it. Once Duolingo adds Chinese to its roster, I'll probably come back to the site.
TL;DR: I don't have enough time to study languages that *aren't* Chinese on Duolingo.

 

Skritter is great. I have it on my iPod Touch and try to use it daily basis. I go to the website maybe once weekly to see my progress, because the charts and stats are more complete on the site than on the app. I use the app to learn HSK1 vocabulary and I intend to use it side by side with New Practical Chinese Reader, so it will probably be the longest-lasting out of all of the websites I use.
TL;DR: I will probably use Skritter for a very long time.

 

Memrise is my go-to resource, since it combines SRS with mnemonic devices for learning Chinese characters. The format is also easy to get into - I go daily to "water my flowers" aka refresh my memory. I currently have three ongoing courses: Read a Chinese menu, Growing Up with Chinese, and HSK1 level one. I expect to finish the first two by the end of February, at which point I'll probably use Memrise much less.
TL;DR: Memrise is probably only useful in the beginning, as it lacks context. I'll use it less as my Chinese improves.

 

I don't currently have a subscription to ChinesePod. I do have a bunch of previously downloaded podcasts, but haven't even listened to those in a while, because you have to be actively listening to get the most out of them. I spend all of my active learning time with Skritter, Memrise, Anki (tone pairs), and FluentU (Newbie lvl videos), and I don't think I'm ready to replace any of those with ChinesePod podcast right now - although I'm open to arguments.
TL;DR: I don't want to split my time between two many Chinese-learning resources. Once I've exhausted some of the others, I'll explore ChinesePod.

Hey Jericho Jak,

FluentU: I had no clue about the changes  - that's great info.  It'll be interesting to see how it all shakes out.

Duolingo:  Looks cool and has a great back story.  I haven't used it much but some of my Spanish students have - they told me some of the translation sentences are bizarre, e.g. The bear washes the dishes. Have you come across anything like that?

Skritter: Definitely makes learning hanzi easier and much more convenient.  I'll be using this for a long time as well.

Memrise: I've got to spend some more time.  Everyone I talk to loves it.  Do you use their mems? make up your own? both? 

I feel the same way as you about exhausting a resource: I find myself sticking to one thing I like and then moving on once something better comes along or my goals shift.  That's probably why I'm using Skritter and not Memrise.  So you think that Memrise pairs well with Skritter and doesn't divide your time too much?

BTW: I didn't think it was too long: I read it all ; )

Thanks, sikora.

RE: Duolingo - yes, they have many nonsensical sentences. According to this study, however, Duolingo is more effective than Rosetta Stone and a college course. I'd take that with a grain of salt, as a self-proclaimed educator/mathematician/participant [fuonk] in that same study brought up some very good skeptical points (you have to scroll down a bit to find his comment) about the scientific value of the study.

RE: Memrise - I've used many of their mems. The ones I like the most are the transforming gifs (I saw one for niu2/cow that I still see everytime I look at the character).  I've made up some of my own, but not often. Now, though, I more often just ignore the mems and use the SRS algorithm.

Actually, just by having this exchange with you, I've realised that - for the most part - Skritter is superior to Memrise for learning characters. We're apparently not the only ones who thinks so.

Hey Jericho Jak, you've definitely saved me a ton of time with your insight and links, so thanks.  Like I said before, I haven't used Memrise very much, but I imagine it's great for languages that use the Roman alphabet (as an English speaker).  But, in my experience with Mandarin, I've really needed to write the characters in order recognize them elsewhere, so flashcards alone (Anki in my case) could only get me to a certain level. So I think I'm going to just keep me nose to the 磨 stone with Skritter for now.  Thanks again.

I now and then check fluentU just to check videos but I don't wan't to use their 'vocab' part, I just wan't to watch movies. Then I'm not sure I'm too impressed with the movies, some are funny but mostly they are to simple or the just speak too fast which makes me annoyed. ;)

Plus the ones I find are too short and the site is slow now and then.

So I'm not to frequent watcher but check in once a week or once every second week.

Maybe there is more interesting movies if you are at intermediate/advanced level.

I daily use Skritter, awesome, sometimes I check out Mike Laoshi on youtube (http://www.chinesewithmike.com/) and sometimes this site. Sometimes I try to write or comment something on italki etc. A little here and there.. :)

Mats,

I just checked out Mike Laoshi's videos on youtube again the other day.  He's got a ton! I think he might have to most complete set of free Chinese grammar videos out there. He's pretty entertaining as well. 

What do you think of italki?  Do you use it just to comment or do you spend time using some of its other services?  

Yes Mike Laoshi is cool, he could use more viewers :)

italki is quite slow from here, takes time to load things..

No I have not tried the other services, just written a few notes and got feedback on that. Also find myself looking at helping some people learning swedish so a bit distracting from my chinese studies, but you got to encourage thoose trying to learn our 'little' language  ;)

 This is a little off topic, but since you mentioned Swedish, it seems to me that it is becoming a pretty hip language to learn.  Do you find more people interested in Swedish now than before?  Are there any sites that do a good job of teaching ALL languages (or at least many language)? 

Side note: I had a friend from Sweden many years ago and I always regret not learning more of the language while I knew him.  He just taught me how to say "cheers" and "eenie meenie minie mo" (Skål and "ole dole dof... kinki lani kof... or something like that)

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