Learning Mandarin Chinese is increasingly becoming popular in the Western world. While about ten years back in the West, it was hard to find anyone learning the world's most spoken language, now many schools are teaching Chinese.
In 1991 there were 2,000 people taking China's official Chinese Proficiency Test (comparable to English's Cambridge Certificate), while in 2005 117,660 candidates took it. China's Ministry of Education estimates the worldwide learners to be 30 million people counted in universities, community colleges, training courses and taking tuitions.
The existence of Hanyu Pinyin and the fact that it has become the standard for foreign learners has made it vastly easier for non-Chinese to begin to learn the language.
* The first step in many Chinese classes is to teach students how to use Pinyin (how to read and pronounce it).
* Listening to a native speaker pronouncing Chinese will help a lot. Later, it will not take too much effort, since pronunciation is always regular.
* Characters are generally the most difficult aspect facing new learners, taking most of their time.
* In compensation, Chinese grammar is considerably easier than that of many other languages.