Rosetta Stone. This is a very interactive visual & audio course – which throws you straight into learning Chinese. No English is used to explain things – as you learn intuitively through trial and error. You start by learning nouns, then pronouns…then short sentences…then longer sentences. And there is revision throughout. It’s a well structured course but it doesn’t come for free 🙂 Also you need to be pretty self-disciplined as it means sitting at your computer….instead of having a coffee with your friends! From the official Rosetta Stone site – the first set (No.1) costs US$179 + plus postage, with a box set (No.1,2,&3) for US$399. Alternatively you can sign up for 12 months of access for US$299. You can also pick up slightly cheaper sets from Amazon.com.
Pimsleur. This is an audio course. It’s perfect for those on the go as you can just pop it onto your portable sound machine (iPod, mp3 player or the like) and listen to it when walking, busing, or in a taxi – very practical. Unlike Rosetta Stone, the first lesson takes you straight into basic sentences. You start with a dialogue at each 30 minute lesson, and the rest of the lesson is based around dissecting the dialogue – new words, new sentence structures etc. The dialogues are pretty useful too. You can purchase Pimsleur courses from their official site http://www.pimsleur.com/ (where you can also try a free lesson) or from Amazon.com. From the website you can only purchase the MP3 versions – $119.95 (30 x 30min lessons), unless posting to the US where you can purchase the CD set for US$345.
ChinesePod. This is an interesting series of conversational bite-sized podcasts (around 12-14 mins each) which teaches you both Mandarin and about Chinese culture. Complimentary to any Chinese studies, especially for pronunciation and listening practice. The speakers are chatty and interesting and the topics relevant to everyday situations. Some podcasts are for beginners and others for intermediates. Their official webiste is http://chinesepod.com where you can sign up for their Basic study option = $124/12 months (downloadable pdf’s and thousands of lessons), Premium study option = $249/12 months (above+extras) or their Online Class option = $1068/3 months (5×20 mins per week). However, you could also just download their 30 free lessons from http://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/chinesepod-free-question-culture/. …to get a gist 🙂