I seem to have quite a crowd of people that asks me how I'm going with learning Chinese whenever they see me. I promised that I would put together some posts on what has/hasn't worked for me.
Over the last few years I had spent quite a bit of time trying to get my Mandarin fluency up. I had finished the 5 levels of Rosetta Stone which helped a lot with vocab but I really don't like what they've done with their online "Rosetta Studio" options. They aren't good value any more and you don't get enough practice to be worthwhile. What I wanted to do was to get a better vocab and to gain a lot more practice in conversation, as that's where the real learning happens.
I've tried a wide variety of options. My current top recommendation is:
eChineseLearning – No idea where I first came across them (probably an online search) but this has been wonderful. This is providing me with a structured 1 on 1 conversational learning environment. Each week, I spend 3 separate sessions of just under an hour, one on one with a teacher from Wuhan (north of Beijing). They have a booking site where available timeslots are shown, both for my primary teacher (Amy) and for alternates if I need to have a class at a time that Amy isn't available. I was quite wary about signing up for a service like this but I'm so happy I did. Amy is both interesting and interested in my learning, and provides a good structured approach to work towards proficiency.
I think this is the quickest way to a good level of proficiency. Each lesson, we spend some time in general conversation, then spend a while working on some new words, then spend some time on grammatical issues, and finally spend some time with listening practice. I like the way it is organised and I like the flexibility of the booking. Most other sites I looked at needed you to commit to the same time each week. With my schedule, that wouldn't work. eChineseLearning allows me to pick times in each week that will work for me. So if I'm travelling, or have family engagements, I can just work around it. You can change it up to 24 hours before each session.
I could imagine this site being good for anyone that wants to start learning the language (ie: beginner), or who is keen to become more proficient.
Like all these types of sites, they love referrals. They'd love you to tell them that you heard of them from me. If you do that, both you and I get free extra time. But that's up to you.
Either way, if you've wondered about learning another language like Mandarin or you have already tried and stalled, you might want to get a feel for it. They have a free trial lesson. You can sign up here: http://www.echineselearning.com/free-trial/index.html