Sunday, July 15

Muzzy Review

Early in my quest for good Chinese materials I discovered that I have to go for the kids stuff. I purchased some kids DVD's from the local Chinese mall, picked up a book here and there and researched what I could online. Honestly I was disappointed in what I found. The material was either too easy (can anyone say "dui") or too difficult. Then I came across Muzzy in Mandarin and read glowing reviews but the ridiculous price kept me away. Sure, there's the 30 day "return if you don't like it", but if you do like it, then you have to pay $200.

A month ago I said what the hell and ordered it. After waiting a week or so it finally arrived.

Guess what? It's great. I wish I would have had this when I started learning.

First the good stuff. The package includes 2 DVD's, clocking in at around an hour and a half. I'm sure it would fit on one DVD and I don't know why they didn't do that. There are 6 parts, 3 on each disc but the "episodes" run together so you don't even notice. You have the options of English, Pinyin, Chinese (Traditional or Simplified), and no subtitles (my preference so far). You also get 2 more DVD's with the same lessons in English, a book with the entire transcript in Chinese, English, and Pinyin, a DVD of additional vocab, and an audio CD I haven't even opened.
The quality is top notch. Honestly after watching it I'm completely baffled why others haven't produced something this good. It doesn't seem like it would be that difficult. The animation looks like it's from the late 70's or early 80's. The dialog is simple enough. It builds upon itself and introduces new concepts and words perfectly. The only "problem" is carried over from the English edition I'm guessing because there is a part covering the English alphabet (A-Z) and the Chinese pronunciation of . Completely skips CH-ZH pronunciation.

It's intended for children to sit in front of for hours upon hours upon hours... This is no "I'll watch it a few times and have it!". Repetition is key and they tell you so in the information that comes with the package.
Using the ChinesePod scale I would say the material is at an Elementary level, though if I were at a Newbie level I wouldn't hesitate to pick it up. If you can imagine Elementary material, but instead of a 30 second dialog two 40 minute cartoons with no English.

This is what I'm happy about. I want more and more Chinese input but at the same time I need to understand what is being said too. I can't listen to the Intermediate ChinesePod lessons because there's too much I don't understand. Muzzy provides the perfect solution. First the material is at my level. There is enough that I do understand interspersed with what I do not that I stay motivated and hungry for more. When something comes up that I don't understand I can either put on the subtitles or grab the enclosed book and grab a dictionary. Then the next time I watch it I'll know what is being said. And the next time, etc, etc. And eventually I'll be as familiar with "dong1tian1" as I am with "wo3 bu4 zhi1dao4".

The bad part: the price. $200 is RIDICULOUS for what amounts to 2 40 minute sessions. $200!!!! Even if it came with the 2nd part (which is currently an additional, you heard right, an additional $200 for 2 more 40 minutes sessions) would it be worth $200? Hell no!

OK, that's the only bad thing, but it's very bad. Very, very, bad.

If you forget about how much it costs then I would say this is by far the best learning material I've come across. The dialog is engaging (even for adults) and the visuals are incredibly helpful. I read a review from a parent that complained the material was a little too much for their child (a green, pointy nosed character, unrequited love, sticking a telephone in the bathtub, etc). I'll leave that to those of you who are parents to decide on.

Sunday, July 8

Practice Plan Round 2

I've signed up for another month of Practice Plan with ChinesePod. After speaking with Aggie she determined that the best bet would be for me to have 3 lessons a week and 2 days of review. Last week it was:

Sunday - Pets
Monday - Review
Tuesday - This Room is Too Small
Wednesday - Review
Thursday - Borrowing and Returning

I also started recording the discussions so I could go back and listen. Two things about recording: I sound terrible and it helps tremendously. One of the drawbacks to the lessons the first time around was trying to take notes while simultaneously attempting to pay attention to Vera. Now I don't worry about it. I always listen the next day and can take notes, press pause, etc.

Saturday I visited my old class for possibly the last time. We finished watching "Huozhe".
Great film. See it!

More later...

Sunday, July 1


I visited my old class 星期六。 It was very good to see everyone who was there.

We watched one of my favorite movies. In all honestly my favorite movie since I've seen it.
Zhang Yimou's "To Live", or 或者。

We only made it half way through the film. We stopped and reviewed some of the language in the film and aspects of the history. Kai was about the age of the 儿子 in the movie. Next week when we watch the other half I'm sure he will have more comments because he will be able to relate to even more of it.

As I told Bridgitt the previous week, there were tears. Thankfully she brought tissues. I can't imagine what it will be like next week! I can't recommend this movie enough, and this has nothing to do with it being a Chinese film.

After watching the first half again I was trying to determine whether it is melodramatic or just a reflection of what was happening.

I hope to put some notes on the language up at another time.
Till then, 再见。