VocabuLearn Mandarin Chinese
April 28, 2013
Publisher Penton Overseas
Price Varies; $27.99-35.99 per level on iTunes
Skill Level Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced
VocabuLearn Mandarin Chinese comes in three different levels, for a total of nine hours of vocabulary instruction. I tried only the first level for Mandarin, but I have logged many VocabuLearn hours across a number of languages and would say I know its inner workings pretty well by now.
Each level of this product, originally published by Penton Overseas, used to consist of four CDs organized by parts of speech: nouns, adjectives and adverbs, expressions, and verbs. At a slow, steady pace, a native speaker would pronounce a word in English, you would give the word in Mandarin, then you would be told the answer, then you would be given a new word, and so on.
At some point it would flip so that you were going from Mandarin to English.
Unfortunately, Penton went under during the global financial debacle, and the VocabuLearn Chinese CDs ceased to be made, although I still see copies of them for sale online (usually for too much money).
Fortunately, VocabuLearn is now getting new life in electronic format. As of this writing, all three levels of VocabuLearn Mandarin Chinese are available through iTunes; the cost is $27.99 for the first level and $35.99 for each of the additional levels. They are also available for much less money through Audible, but I consider the sound quality of the Mandarin samples there unacceptable.
If you dislike classical music, this is not the product for you, because Mozart lurks in the background. I do not find the music distracting in the slightest, but some people do. Music or no music, I just appreciate hearing Chinese words pronounced so slowly and clearly.
Keep in mind, though, that VocabuLearn is linear in format. No matter what the language, I tend to learn the beginning of each VocabuLearn segment much better than the end. But that’s kind of how it goes with a lot of things.
I also did much better with VocabuLearn in Italian—a more familiar language—than I did in Chinese. These Mandarin vocabulary lessons can be a helpful supplement to other materials, but you will find them more helpful, in my opinion, if you already have some vocabulary going for you when you buy them. Unlike with Italian, or Spanish, or various other Western languages, Chinese words sound nothing like English, so VocabuLearn for Mandarin offers an endless stream of unfamiliar sounds and is hard to memorize unless basically you have already memorized some of it through some other means.
I enjoyed VocabuLearn Mandarin Chinese much more after I had completed most of Pimsleur, for example, than I did earlier in my Chinese studies.
I like VocabuLearn as accompaniment while folding laundry, washing dishes, running errands, etc. I used to like VocabuLearn for jogging, but I have decided some activities are sacred and do not lend themselves to multitasking. Running is one of them.