Chinese learning software has only just begun to reach its full potential as a language learning system. While it is commonly believed that language learning software is simply an extension of the same formula used by self-study books and CDs, nothing could be further from the truth.
There are some established problems with books and CDs as a language learning system. The main difficulties are that these systems do not engage language learners in the most efficient way Chinese learning games. While reading and listening to a foreign language has some benefits, the brain only begins to absorb language when it is forced to use it. Chinese learning software recognizes the problem inherent in the systems of the past. Although there are text-based lessons and audio files, they are complemented by games, tools, and self-assessment.
The brain works in ways that most people greatly misunderstand. Although it seems that all language learning happens in the same way, this is really not true. If you spend all your time reading pinyin, even if you are able to recognize the meaning of Chinese conversations on paper, you may not be able to translate an English sentence into Chinese pinyin, even if those two sentences contain all the same words. This is because the parts of the brain responsible for language processing do not necessarily produce language. You need to find as many ways as possible to interact with a language, in order to strengthen all those neurological pathways.
Chinese learning software bypasses the problems associated with language learning with books and CDs by allowing you to participate in all the forms of the language you are learning. He also anticipates the problems that arise when he learns from a book and a CD. The best Chinese learning software offers support for your questions and opportunities to converse with a native speaker of Mandarin Chinese. This makes a difference in language learning. In any language learning project, eventually problems will arise and a book and CD will not help you overcome these obstacles.
Justin White lives in Jhubei Taiwan and works desperately to learn Chinese.