Listening is the most important part when first learning and should be emphasized as much as possible. For those interested in listening to the right sentences and words from the beginning and then building from that, this is the best tool I have found. Each level builds upon the one before and constant review is built right in.
ChinesePod is a series of audio episodes teaching Chinese. The background information is valuable for anyone traveling to China who wants to learn about the Chinese culture, business practices, and what daily life in China is like. There are also great forums and a great community, as well as teachers availability to help you with your studies. Enter the code “CLIFE” to get $50 off an Annual Premium subscription.
Video Lessons taught by the Chinese teacher and TV host, Yang Yang. The videos are great for a beginner.
The Pimsleur method is based on timed repetition of phrases, spaced out just right to increase memory connections. Each phrase is repeated right around the time you are likely to forget it so that you will remember a particular phrase for longer and longer. There is a lot of repetition of similar phrases so that you remember. It’s thanks to Pimsluer that I still know how to say “I can speak a little _______” in close to ten languages, even though all I have done is listen to one Pimsleur CD with some of them. I can’t emphasize the importance of listening enough when learning a new language. This one might be a bit expensive so you should either visit a library or Bit Torrent.
If you are lucky enough to land a job with the US Foreign Service and get paid to use this material, that’s awesome. You can use this if you don’t have such a job.
Chinese phrasebooks are a great source for learning grammar and relevant Chinese words. Many of them have a dictionary that includes the most common words. Some names include Lonely Planet, Berlitz, and At A Glance. At A Glance was my first ‘textbook’ and I got a lot of milage out if it. This is especially good for learning pinyin and basic grammar.
This textbook is used by universities all over the United States and makes a great beginning textbook. There is also an accompanying workbook for each level.
This textbook is used by Chinese universities for teaching foreigners Chinese and while it is a good resource for advanced learners, it might not be the most intuitive book, which can make learning slow when first starting. There are more than a dozen books/levels. This is the series I have used recently.
If you could only have one resource listed here, this would be it. This electronic dictionary, which is compatible with most smart phones will be a valuable asset when in China as you navigate business and social living. I use it daily no matter where I am in the world.
Although I really stress listening, actually using the language would be a close second when first starting and quickly becomes the most important once you get better. Messaging apps and texting are one of the best ways. Combo this with a love interest and it is deadly for learning languages. It is not always deadly for impressing your quarry.
This is the most popular phone messaging app in China. I never next with friends in China anymore and only use this. It’s like Facebook on your phone and everyone has it. While speaking with people is good practice when first starting out, it can be difficult to understand what the other person is saying and you won’t have much time to react unless they are very patient and you don’t get nervous or embarrassed easily. Texting back and forth is valuable because it gives you time to figure out what the other person is saying and time to craft the perfect, witty response.
Momo is like WeChat but it is geared towards meeting members of the opposite sex. You can use this to meet and message new friends.
The most popular instant messaging app in China. Many people in China do not have email and some companies just use QQ to communicate. This was a problem at the last company I worked at in China. You can get this on your computer and phone.