Learn Chinese NYC - Where to Start and The Basics
Congratulations on choosing to learn the most prominent Asian language for the new decade in 2010. Learning Chinese has become the new linguistic pursuit in schools throughout NYC. Individually when networking I've also come to find out that businessmen, government employees, parents concerned about their children's future, or just individuals interested in Asian language or culture have all at least discussed the possibility of learning Chinese. The possibilities with the language seem limitless, but where to start learning Chinese? What is the most efficient way of learning about the Chinese language and culture?
Learning Chinese, as with learning any Asian language, will take dedication and the ability to open your mind to a new way of thinking. Although it might seem cheaper at first, it's not recommended to focus your efforts on learning Chinese with computer software. Even if someone thinks they've mastered the pronunciation of "wo" or "I", try speaking to a Chinese person, you could easily get the tone wrong. The basic Chinese learner might know that there are four tones, but Chinese native speakers are the only ones who truly know how to pronounce the tones, and the differences between them. Computers might help with memorization, but only people teach how to actually speak a language and understand a culture.
I learned the importance of people in learning Chinese the hard way. I had studied for a couple months on my own with a computer program, learning key vocabulary for restaurant ordering, bus riding, basic introductions, etc. Also having a background in Japanese helped, as I was able to recognize a bunch of the characters already. I then thought I'd try my Chinese skills at the local restaurant in Beijing. It took about 3 minutes of fumbling around before we switched to English and I said "English menu, please." If I had had maybe a couple hours with a private teacher beforehand, I could have perfected at least how to get a menu, say thank you and please, and maybe even "where's the toilet?"
In short the best way of learning Chinese depends on your timeframe and how effectively you'd like to learn the language. In my mind there's really no argument for effectiveness, whether you're starting out or an advanced speaker the most effective way of bringing your language skills to the next level is having a private teacher or group class (make sure the class size is small enough so you'll get enough attention in class). There are plenty of online resources for learning Chinese however, and if you're just interested in learning the language at your own pace with absolutely no time constraint then I'm sure they'll be of use to you. Hills Learning will also publish some online lessons going forward for learning Chinese, please keep a watch out for future updates.