I found an old CD when searching through the garage the other day, it is the first 8 lessons of Pimsleurs Mandarin Chinese.
Now I have been trying to learn for years and haven’t really sustained any effort but revisiting this CD it turns out to be really useful. If you haven’t heard of it this is a very simple system of repeating words and phrases, adding in new words along the way and then revisiting old words again as the “teacher” asks you things like, “Say you are English” or “Ask her if she is American” etc.
What I find where this system is better is that you have to think and remember words in a more natural way and in context – much like a child just starting to speak. The growth is more organic rather than individual phrases and word lists. Saying out loud is obviously important and this is emphasised in the course.. you need to train your voice to say the words – not just think them.
The full set costs about £225 – which is a total of 90 (30 min) lessons. You can try a quick start which is the first 8 lesson of most of the languages they do (for about £10) which I would certainly recommend you try – quite a few libraries have the quick start cd’s too.
I also cannot stand the written English Pin-yin. If I learn to write I think I would rather try the Chinese pin-yin and characters..at least it would be more use when I Taiwan.. the only bad side is that Taiwan uses the tradition characters, not the simplified – so it makes that job a little harder still.