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Chinesepod and Englishpod

Mike Linksvayer, July 13th, 2006

Since last Septmeber Chinesepod has podcast a daily lesson in Mandarin Chinese under a Creative Commons Attribution license. Here’s a recent lesson on ordering vegetarian in China. The site has attracted a large following, with dozens of questions and helpful comments from fellow learners and Mandarin speakers on every post.

Silicon.com recently posted an interview with Chinesepod that reads like a “featured commoner” interview on this site:

silicon.com: Why are you giving away your product for free?

Horkoff: We realised last year that language training is extremely inconvenient – some people here have to travel across town in China for three nights a week to attend a class. There’s a different culture of language learning here.

What we do is on-demand training. We use web-based systems and community platforms. And we also have a subscription-based model.

To be honest we didn’t know how to design or service this. We had no real model to build it on. We put out a daily podcast and then we have a supplementary model too, that you pay for.

We’re seeing the model resemble an open source business, one with a free Creative Commons approach at the heart of the service. Meanwhile we find ways to make money on the edges with additional services and products.

The premium subscription has a scroll-over mouse option – over the Chinese characters. We have exercises, tests and a vocabulary builder. We give a one-week free trial so there’s no real risk to people seeing if they’re interested. The podcasts we give you forever – those are free.

Do you get annoyed that people rip your material off?
No. We encourage people to use our Creative Commons-licensed podcasts as it assists us with our product development and helps push our brand into the community.

We’ve had all kinds of crazy stories about how people are using it. There’s this hypnotist in the UK. He says he can increase memory retention by adding a hypnotic audio layer into the podcast. So he’s mashed up ChinesePod with his own hypnotic stuff to create his own version. There’s one guy in France who just cut out the English intros and put in French ones.

As long as you say it’s ChinesePod, at the end of the day you’re driving people back. We don’t have that much of a problem with it. I’m still waiting for the first thing to come out that violates the rules. We’ve found that people have come up with some really innovative uses.

Read the full interview at Silicon.com.

The people behind Chinesepod recently started Englishpod, a similar site for learning business-oriented English — also CC licensed!

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