Learn Mandarin (or just about anything else) for free on this fun, crowdsourced and gamified learning web site
Just spent an hour on Memrise. I learned (and reviewed a few times) 18 Chinese symbols, while listening to pronunciation. I have memorized all 18 symbols. I've considered for years that I should learn Mandarin, but I've never started. Whenever I have time for language study I usually read books in Russian or listen to Russian radio on my iPhone or Android phone. (I have a degree in Russian but am very rusty.) But tonight, I actually jumped into the Introductory Mandarin lesson and LOVED IT! Memrise is way cool.
In addition to the Mandarin I also reviewed about 40 Spanish vocabulary words, mainly so I could get more points and rank higher on the leaderboard. (Yes, leaderboards work their magic on me! That's the main type of gamification tactic that I fall for.) I took 3 1/2 years of Spanish when I was younger, so this came pretty easily.
Memrise announced $1 million in funding earlier this month. I love startups with a mission. This one is definitely going places. You should check it out, and share the news. I'm definitely going to encourage my kids who are studying French, German and Mandarin to play with this site as much as they can.
Here's a link to Memrise.com so you can check it out: http://bit.ly/xpWWcE
_Update: I'm ranked #17 for people who just joined today -- having a leaderboard for each new "cohort" of users is an awesome idea!