I have decided to stop listening to any more of the Chinesepod Newbie podcasts, I wish to expend a little more effort on the Elementary podcasts but focus most effort in nailing the Intermediate level.
The newbie podcasts have been a good friend and springboard but despite the fact that I get a warm fuzzy feeling when I can understand a new one straight off or at least get it very quickly, I think this time can always be better spent straining against something harder.
Whilst at work I made a concerted effort to listen or half listen to around 20 or so from the middle (I had missed a few of these) and although there are still some gems of information in there, at some point you have to move out of a comfort zone to make progress. The Elementary level is going the same way.
It is a huge testement to Chinesepod that I can identify this progress and have new levels to move on to. I think when I can eventually feel the same level of ease at the Intermediate level I will have achieved a very significant milestone.
I have never been too obsessive about analysing these things to death anyway, I think the famous 80/20 rule might apply here too (80% of the gain for 20% of the effort in this case) As I posted somewhere else I feel I gain much more from absorbing 70% of 50 podcasts than 100% of 10 podcasts.
A concrete and very illustrative example of how the podcasts have helped came when I met my real-life language exchange buddy for the first time. He gave me a namecard and I quickly said "sorry I don't have a namecard" in Chinese. He understood straight away.
I was surprised so I thought about where that sentance came from. Well the name/business card came from an early basic podcast that I listened to a couple of times (ming pian). At the time I remembered the ming bit becasue of name, I may have forgotten the pian, however Jenny mentioned that pian was often applied to small flat things. Much much later I picked up the word (zhao pian) for photograph and another connection was made (aha another flat card like thing that has pian). This connection ensures that the pian in both mingpian and zhaopian is unforgettable.
The last part of the process is the true icing on the cake though. I had never studied that podcast in detail as it came fairly easy to me. When I said ming pian I said it as I thought it should be said, keying off the audio memory of Jenny saying it. I said it again in my head and guessed the tones were ming2pian4, when I checked that was correct. I said zhao pian in my head and guessed at zhao4pian4, again correct. Although most of words I know come from expicitly remembered tones there are a few now that are just absorbed. The most encouraging thing is that when I ask my Chinese friend the tone of something he just said, his eyes roll up slightly for a second as he says it in his head and then he tells me.