Are Audio-Only Chinese Learning Programs Effective?

There is much debate among linguists about how Chinese language learning programs should be designed. One popular, but hotly contested, method is pure audio learning. This article will explain what these programs do. It will discuss their advantages and disadvantages, and it will give advice in regards to who should use them

By far, the most established audio-based Chinese learning software provider is Pimsleur. This is a program that contains no written dialogues, no vocabulary lists, and no pictures. It is simply a collection of MP3s. It was designed by a man named Dr. Pimsleur. It is his language learning philosophy that all audio-based programs are based on. What is the philosophy? It’s simple. Dr. Pimsleur believed that the best way to learn a foreign language was in the same manner that you learned your native language, by listening and repeating. You start with words. Then you move up to phrases, and finally, you graduate to speaking whole sentences.

Does this method work? Yes and no. Yes, it works if all you want to do is communicate verbally. If you want to read or write Chinese characters you are out of luck. If you want to make connections between Chinese culture and its language, pure audio-based courses are not going to help you much. If, on the hand, you just want to pick up some basic communication skills, this method may work well for you. How do you know if it will work for you?

Current educational research has shown that people learn in very different ways. Some people, for example, are visual learners; they learn best by using pictures and other graphics. Some learn by acting things out physically. Many, though, are audio learners. That is, they learn best when they hear information, like a lecture, or, as is the case here, an audio based Chinese language program.

What’s the bottom line?

The bottom line is that if you are a strong audio learner, and if you are not interested, at the moment, in learning to read and write Chinese characters, then an audio based program will probably be good for you. If, on the other hand, you need visual learning aids and written dialogues, or if you want to read and write Chinese characters, you need to get a Chinese learning software program that is much more comprehensive.

When making a decision about which Chinese learning program you should buy, keep in mind that many of the more comprehensive programs are, essentially, audio-based programs that offer additional learning resources, meaning that, if you buy one, you’ll get the full audio-based learning experience and you’ll all of the additional learning material provided in these packages. If you want see a good “full-service” Chinese language learning software program, I recommend that you check out Tell Me More Chinese.

Best of luck with your studies!




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