Alek has a knack for recounting her life so that it's understandable to an outsider. In that regard, the Dinka and the African refugee are familiar rather than foreign. I was unable to finish her book when it first came out some years ago. At the time, Diary of a Lost Girl was one of my favorite books. If you've read Kola Boof's autobiography, then I highly recommend Alek: From Sudanese Refugee to International Supermodel.
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I finished Transparent Language -- specifically, the Essentials Conversations in Chinese (Simplified). It certifies proficiency in 820-plus words and phrases. The curriculum has 11 units comprised each of multiple lessons. Each lesson, in turn, has a list of exercises.
Despite what the certificate says, I started the Course during the last week of December. Except for the days I was out-of-town or moving, I studied an average of 35 minutes a day.
The timestamp on the course certificate wasn't the only glitch. A certificate accompanies each of the 11 units completed, and sometimes I retook an assessment when its completion produced no certificate. Despite my attempts, the certificate for one unit never materialized.
By the time I was halfway through the curriculum, I'd experience a real-time glitch or two almost every session. A simple page refresh would remedy the error or similar message, but it sometimes required me to restart the exercise I was working on. This was especially annoying during one of the 11 end-of-unit assessments. However, I appreciated the challenge of retaking a different version of that assessment.
What I Liked.
My favorite feature was the "Learned" section. It tracks your number of "stale" vocabulary for review via Quizlet-like flashcards. On the other hand, my favorite exercises were "Four Square" (a drill on short-term memory and reading comprehension) and "Pronunciation Practice" (which measures your pronunciation against that of a native speaker). The aforementioned was also true for the Arabic Essentials Course, which I reviewed previously.
Exercises become less redundant as they vary from unit-to-unit. "Conversation Practice (Say)," for example, allows you to recite dialogue for role-play and playback. On the other hand, "Culture Video" and "Cultural Awareness" help to simulate cultural immersion.
What I Disliked.
The last several units was my least-favorite aspect of the Essential Conversations course. The list of lessons becomes at least TWICE as long, so the course becomes evermore the marathon. In addition, there's often no thematic link to the "Cultural Awareness" exercises.
My other least-favorite aspect of the course was the emphasis on phrases over parts of speech or vocabulary. Without a working knowledge of its elements, the phrases were unchangeable and the bare-bone "survival" words unidentifiable. I assume vocabulary was outside the course curriculum, as supplementary vocabulary materials were available.
I do recommend Transparent Language for the independent, motivated Chinese learner. Aside from the personalized curriculum, it provides a mobile app and additional resources (i.e. Pinyin Explorer and Business Vocabulary) to help you gain a foundation in the language. I had free access to the entire platform -- which includes dozens of languages -- through my public library. If not, I'd consider the USD $45.95 monthly subscription for the same (USD $24.95 includes a single language).
I don't, however, recommend the platform as an introduction to Chinese intonation or 汉字. Neither is stressed, despite the auditory- and reading-based instruction. Reading and writing 汉字 may take the most time to master, but the four tones are essential to the Chinese learner's understandability in speech.
A review of Transparent Language - Essential Conversations: Chinese (Simplified).
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