Iv'e ordered a bunch of Chinese language programs and texts. Wow, things have gotten wayt better than the old days of just learning from a book. Here are some of the tools and an early review:
* Rosetta Stone. This is the most expensive package at $300+ for Level 1 and 2. The program is really nice. Basically, it is a huge Flash applciation that drills you. Takes quite a while and the main issue is retention. Although I love playing a computer game for hours, I do think that the act of actually writing things down helps. So I've done two lessons so far and I think that it is really great for conversational, but not really for writing. Also, I can't for the life of me figure out how writing input works. No documentation at all since the manual and help appears to be generic. It is not clear how to enter pinyin or how to enter simplified Chinese. It is also heavily copy protected, so I can only imagine what happens if the disk gets corrupted. I think you are out $300. Reminds me of the old days of Lotus 1-2-3 key disks.
* Schamers Vocabulary. Recommended on Amazon, I got all the top rated texts. This vocabularly thing is very valuable since it is practical. I do wish Rosetta started with more than here is a cat and here is a dog and here is an elephant. If you are going to teach the basics, we might as well be in the 21st century. Schamers does this, but is just a text, so back to the old school
* Yong Ho's Intermediate Chinese. His Beginners Chinese is 2-3 week backorder on Amazon. This like Schamers is more useful in vocabulary. It also has an audio CD, so you can listen to it in your car or if you rip it on your iPod.
* Clavis Sinica