I've gone through almost all contents in this huge site. The homepage layout is a little bit confusing, like a house with too may doors. Actually, there are three major sections in this site, namely E-Class, Webcast and Library, but after entering into any of those three sections, you will find another hidden subcategory called "Guide", including a chatroom and a collection of interesting compositions by CSL students.
Now, let me tell you what I've found here and how.
Specially designed for the beginning-level Chinese learners, the conversational course consists of 5 series including 20 units and each unit has 3 lessons. The whole course aims to develop your practical communication skills in daily life, such as greetings and introduction, asking the way, shopping, dating and so on. Vocabulary, sentence structure, grammar, exercises, all presented with pinyin, English translation and audible pronunciation. But only one unit is available every week.
The reading course is also for beginners, divided into 5 series including 24 units. In each unit you can learn 30 Chinese characters with a relatively long text. Similar structure like the conversational course, but without the one week one lesson limitation.
Learning Chinese Through KARAOKE
Sounds great and fun. Try and see what's in it if you have a high-speed Internet connection. I reluctantly gave up, for the real player file seemed to be buffering forever.
You can learn about tones, initials, finals, etc in the brief pinyin tutorial.
Interesting and informative online broadcasting, including multiple programs like Easy Chinese Lessons, Chinese Pop Songs, etc, but doesn't keep updated like the real radio.
Here you can listen to and learn fifty "pop" Chinese songs (call them pop if dating back to five to ten years ago).
Enjoy traditional Chinese music presented by unique Chinese musical instruments, such as Erhu, Dizi, Guqin, etc.
In this section, intermediate and advanced learners can appreciate ancient Chinese poetry, learn about stories behind Chinese idioms, and read many an online Chinese learning magazine.
Suggestions for Learners
The site suggests suitable contents for Chinese learners of different levels on the homepage including beginners, intermediate and advanced learners. A very useful tip, worth a first glance for new visitors.
You are supposed to register first, for lots of the contents are blocked to non-members and some multimedia functions are also disabled. For example, you can neither enter into E-Class to learn nor listen to the music or songs in the Webcast section.
The registration form is short and easy to follow, but you need to wait for the site confirming your registration before browsing the site freely. In the FAQ, it's provided that to enter into "E-Class" channel to learn, you must have a student number when your registration is confirmed, but I was blocked from the online courses for about half an hour, and then, strangely, without receiving any student number or other messages, I was able to access the conversation lessons in the E-Class section.
You can either let the online teachers suggest a lesson fro you, or decide by yourself which one to learn, but in any case you can only access one lesson every week. I was blocked again when I tried to learn more.
You have to log in again if your mouse is dead for more than 3 three minutes. Really annoying.
All pinyin transcription cannot display correctly. I tried many encoding modes on my explorer, but none worked. So have a try yourself, maybe it just doesn't work on my computer.
All sound files, both Chinese and English, are presented by native speakers with a clear and standard pronunciation, but don't except the sound quality as good as your hi-fi stereo.