With China's opening to the world, more and more foreigners are learning Chinese. Recently, actor John Cena uploaded a short video saying zao shang hao zhong guo (早上好中国) with ice cream to advertise his movie.
Here is the useful pronunciation for some basic Chinese characters.
Chinese Language Learning Resources
There is a growing international population of students of the Chinese language, many of whom spend time in the country studying at Chinese universities and practicing their Chinese on an appreciative indigenous audience.
There is also a large and growing contingent of businessmen and other entrepreneurs for whom learning Chinese is perceived as a way of enhancing one's business prospects (and for businessmen who live in China, it can simply be a matter of practicality).
Then there are the many tourists for whom learning Chinese is both a rewarding hobby and a means of making the most of a great holiday opportunity. Indeed, many of the tourists who decide to learn Chinese are repeat visitors, given that China is such an immensely large country with a seemingly endless array of fascinating places to visit, from the purely historical to the religious-historical (think: ancient Taoist and Buddhist monasteries, as well as their respective sacred mountains) to the purely nature-endowed – from the arid vastness of the Gobi and Taklamakan Deserts in the west to the stream-fed verdure of south-central China – to the purely gastronomic (think: Chongqing) to the purely hedonistically fun-oriented, such as the coastal resort areas of subtropical southern China.
For tourists, there is an increasing number of online Chinese language learning resources, many of which are entirely free. With the advent of Pinyin, learning Chinese has become easier than ever, since one can always resort to Pinyin in order to better understand the intonation of the traditional Chinese character (though some online resources today also provide pronunciation sound bytes). Below is a very short, very inexhaustive list of Chinese language learning resources that the author of this article can recommend. But there are others – many others (and counting!) – that await your discovery.
For example, most of the sites listed below were found using the simple search phrase "Chinese language learning resources". In general, the better, free resources will have "edu" in their respective web addresses, but be aware that some nasty scammers lure users with an "educational-looking" web address, only to redirect the unsuspecting user who clicks on the link to a product or service that has nothing whatsoever to do with education (the creeps get paid for such baiting, which is why they do it of course).
Here is an excellent site for learning Chinese from scratch (and note that is not a boring site that simply lists other sites, but is what one in web jargon calls "landing pages", or pages where, in this instance, your first click takes you to a page where you begin a Chinese lesson... did I mention that it is provided by the BBC?).
Here is a site that though it offers links to many other Chinese language resource sites, is at least not boring – and it is the creation of a former professor (now Professor Emeritus) at the University of Northern Iowa in the US ).
Here is a very interesting site that offers a wide range of resources for the beginner to the Chinese language. As the website of Professor Emeritus above, it offers links to other resources, but it also offers many resources itself, such as translation dictionaries and flashcards for learning traditional Chinese characters, to name only two - Mandarin Tools.
Below is an interesting site that offers a lot of history about written Chinese (as you will see, I have borrowed a lot of material for the above, most of it modified to suit my purposes, of course, from this site), and it has links to scads of other sites, from online dictionaries to online Chinese radio sites to online Chinese newspapers. And of course, it offers links to Chinese courses (chiefly Mandarin and Cantonese, but Shanghainese and Taiwanese are represented as well).
It also offers links to sites that let you download Chinese fonts (in case you are wondering, this article is written for the most part in the MingLIU font, which can reproduce traditional Chinese characters, while the Pinyin parts here are rendered in a combination of MingLIU and Courier New (MingLIU can't do the accents or diacritical marks, so these individual letters are rendered in Courier New, which sort of complements, stylistically, MingLIU) - Omniglot.
Here is another, very scholarly (German, but rendered in English) site that offers a wealth of articles on the Chinese language and Chinese history - China Knowledge.
Here are two GREAT! sites for quick translations (and note that sometimes you might need to use the one to pick up a clue, plug that into the second, then plug that result back into the first one – I leave it to you to experiment to sort it out!):
A Dutch (from Holland) site run by something called MDBG.
(And I tried – I really did! – to find out what "MDBG" stands for, but ended up clueless here.)
Google's own quick translation site is here. It doesn't always translate (it will not translate Pinyin into Simplified or Traditional Chinese), but it can often provide clues that can be plugged into MDBG, which can then be plugged back into Google Translate. However, it translated the final, or parting, words below quite nicely, though not being a Chinese speaker, I can't really know for sure if what was translated makes sense or not! - Google Translate.)
Finally, for your children, you might want to check out the following online K-12 (from the 1st to the 12th grade, the latter being the highest High School level in the US) resources. They are offered by the University of Minnesota and are available for free to anyone who signs up (it's as easy as signing up for an email account!), though the main intended target audience is of course teachers - CARLA
The above should suggest to you the increasing importance of the Chinese language the world over. My knowledge in this regard, apart from the online resources, stems from the US, but I have no reason to believe that the increasing interest in the Chinese language is not as widespread in Europe as it is in the US; in California, for example, it is now taught in the 1st grade of elementary school.