I started learning Mandarin (again!) 4 weeks ago. The question you ask, is why? A couple of reasons:
The first reason is purely utilitarian. I’ve worked on a couple of projects in Shanghai recently, and have been to China a few times over the past 3 years. The enterprise learning and communications market in China continues to boom, so learning Mandarin is a good business decision.
The second and more important reason is this: As a Learning Guy I spend most of my days recommending blended learning solutions to my clients. Recently, the learning solutions I have recommended have included the use of cutting edge social media and collaboration tools (podcasts, blogging, webinars, wikis and others to name a few).
My clients are always wowed when I show them something like a corporate video presentation delivered via iPod. Or when I show how to set up a blog as a companion to a classroom based training session. Once clients get over the “cool” factor, they always ask a valid question- “Are people going to learn anything? ”
The daily lesson is approximately 10 to 14 minutes in length, and consists of vocabulary building and dialogue practice combined with language and cultural insights. This is the real stuff! Not classroom based language, but practical everyday language that you can use on the streets of China.
Here’s where the blended learning part comes in: When you visit the website (and sign up as a premium user) you have access to companion learning activities, a community forum, blogs, a wiki, flashcards that you can download to your mobile phone, and other seriously cool learning stuff.
But here is the best part: I receive a daily 10 minute phone call (via Skype) from my teacher in Shanghai! I have a chance to practice speaking each day. And this is the missing link in many learning programs isn’t it. You need to take what you have learned and put it into action.
And the results: I am speaking Mandarin, and am progessing very quickly. I have tried to learn Mandarin in a classroom based setting on a couple of occasions, but with only limited success. The ChinesePod approach to blended learning is working for me.
And I am certain it will work with my clients. So I have promised each and every one of them that I will continue to use myself as a guinea pig for blended learning. Over the next few months I will document my progress in this blog. I am interested is discovering what works and what doesn’t work, and then applying the lessons I have learned to the unique needs of my clients.
As always, the Learning Guy keeps on learning!