Award-winning podcast provides fresh take on Chinese language learning.
According to the U.S. Department of State’s Foreign Service Institute, Chinese falls into the category of hardest languages for native English speakers to master. Considering the complexity of Chinese dialects, Teaching Professor ShuPei Wang (Chinese Media Course and Curriculum Design) recognized the necessity for learners to engage with sources outside the traditional classroom setting in order to become more well-rounded, proficient speakers. She enlisted the help of student Reed Turley (Chinese ’23) and Adjunct Faculty Member Yina Patterson (Chinese Linguistics, Chinese Pedagogy) to develop a language podcast called Learn to Speak the New Chinese that features modern vocabulary and colloquialisms from multiple dialects.
Turley spearheaded the project with a humanities undergraduate mentoring (HUM) grant. Apart from collecting recording equipment, a lot of the podcast preparation involved finding topics that would be interesting to students. Turley says, “We were trying to gear it toward people that are in upper-level Chinese classes but could benefit from topics and teaching styles outside of normal classroom procedures.” Each podcast episode covers a contemporary topic, beginning with the pilot episode about the COVID pandemic and later approaching the Super Bowl, internet slang, global supply chain issues, and more.
Learn to Speak the New Chinese delivers information to listening audiences much quicker than textbooks can. Wang says, “We provide a lot of cultural knowledge and current events happening in Taiwan, mainland China, or Hong Kong. It takes over a year to publish a book . . . but we find out the current situation and can just create a podcast episode really promptly.”
To research the effectiveness of the podcast as a teaching and learning tool, Turley distributed a survey to students who had listened to at least six episodes. Participants responded to questions about how much the podcast helped them learn and what they would change about it. Turley says that participants appreciated listening to Wang and Patterson, who are both native Chinese speakers, “talk in a normal, conversational mode instead of that of a teacher giving a lesson . . . [because] tone kind of changes and fluency is just a little bit different.”
Learn to Speak the New Chinese currently boasts eleven episodes with over 1,100 total downloads. Additionally, it won first place for best advanced-level podcast based on criteria of creativity, clarity, content, and production quality in Queensborough Community College’s 2023 Chinese Podcast Contest for Language Teachers. Given its success, Turley, Wang, and Patterson anticipate that it will continue into the future and reach a broader audience. Patterson says, “I hope students from other universities can also listen to our podcast and more people can benefit from this.”