Wednesday, October 11, 2006

More media

An overdue follow-up to the previous post about streaming Chinese media. And I think I will need another follow up to this one (hopefully not so delayed).

Chinese media is really, really important to my learning strategy, as I am not in a Chinese speaking country and have to work hard to find Mandarin speakers to practice conversation with.

First things first, if you are anything like me then listening to as much real Chinese radio etc. and watching as much Chinese TV, films etc. is going to be a huge part of your learning. I learn and have learned so much from exposure to the language. Sometimes I get something right, just from a gut feeling, not because of any rule I learnt from a book.

Assuming you want to watch/listen then where to start. Well you can read the previous post to this one first but in my opinion a super tool is the Videolan player. This will play most any sound or video file you chuck at it, as well as Windows media streams and Realmedia streams. Videolan will also work on many operating systems and best of all (something I didn't realise for too long) you can record media streams with it.

Videolan player is a bit tricky to get the hang of but worth the effort you have to remember that it does a lot of stuff (like distributing streams over your own network if you wish) that you probably don't need so the real art is learning which bits to ignore. Learning to use videolan (google for help) is time well spent though. Explaining the intricacies of recording is a little beyond my time allowance but here is a link. This link is for mac osx however you can extrapolate. I found it best to save as an asf file with an asf extension, I can play the resultant file in media player or Videolan (and why bother with media player). The Videolan software is written for techies and tells you how to do stuff from the command line, everything you need is available from the menus though. So now you can record media streams or media files that are delivered as a stream. Both the previous links were mentioned in my last post in more detail. I think you are going to have to do some digging though to dig up the resources that you can connect to and that you like.

In my opinion Videolan is a better option than the SDP recorder mentioned in the last post. Although SPD's recorder may have some useful timeing features. Techies can use scripts and cron to manage timed recordings on Linux or similar though :)

Now the Tv and the media streams you will find will be variable in quality. Many will also be hidden in webpages that that use media-plugins to play them (often inaccessable to non-windows users). This is why I highly recommend that you ditch your current web-browser and use Firefox (if you are not useing it already). Firefox is a valuable aid to learning Chinese, the first reason being the whole host of excellent extensions you can get for it. The one you want now is called Unplug, learn how to use this one, it will help you track down media links. Also even if the links you want are not concealed but on a page of Chinese that you cannot read this is an excellent tool to track them down.

Listen to Chinese, watch Chinese, at all levels of undertanding. More than most languages Mandarin is a stream of syallables. Each syallable has meaning even if coloured by those around them. However much you can understand, aquiring the ability to hear those syallables in normal Chinese seems to be a no-brainer to me. Without this you will never understand even if you have enough vocabulary.

The next post will be very soon and focus on the Streaming peer to peer TV channels (thanks to Mashood) and more media via bittorent and e-mule (straight to the desktop this time). Enjoy!