For obvious reasons, I'd like our family to begin learning Chinese. Will we ever be fluent? Who knows, but it is worth trying. I'm constantly looking for online resources to help. To make it easier on me (and you) to go back to the helpful online resources I have found, I'll keep a list here.
Better Chinese is a curriculum for English speaking children who have no other exposure to Mandarin. This course emphasizes learning to read characters rather than pin yin, though pin yin is included to teach correct pronunciation. Although my children already know a few Mandarin phrases, I can tell it will take awhile to get through each lesson. Unless learning to read and write the characters turns out to be easy, but I doubt it. We're just going to take our time. Slow and steady wins the race, right?
I like Rosetta Stone for myself, but it does not work well for my children. They get confused and frustrated because I think the program moves a little too quickly. Maybe other children can use it and be happy. Mine could not.
I really like Live Mocha. It uses several teaching methods, and allows you to submit recordings for native speakers to critique, which I find incredibly helpful. It is also kind of fun to help others learn to speak English.
This is free through most libraries, so check yours to see if you can access this program online. It uses a different method than Rosetta Stone and I think it is a great supplement to the other programs listed above.
Practicing Tones and Pinyin
To read Mandarin, there are two things that must be mastered- tone and pinyin phonics. I guess you could probably learn to read by memorizing characters but characters do not have tonal marks to help with correct pronunciation. In order to do our best to correctly pronounce each word we rely heavily on pinyin and tonal marks.
Pinyin uses the English alphabet to spell out Mandarin words. One thing to note, is that although the letters are the same, the phonics rules are not the same. You cannot simply apply English phonics to a word written in pinyin and assume that it will come out sounding okay.
Once you have learned pinyin phonics, you need to learn how to interpret the tonal marks above letters. I have found a few videos to help with these concepts, but I'm having trouble posting those for some reason. I'll add them soon, sorry!
Printables and Other Miscellaneous
This site has printable flash cards in Pin Yin.
.....will update this as I have time :)