I have always been a believer that travelers should know at least the very basics of any language of the country they travel to. It is common courtesy, and even if I can't get beyond "I'm sorry, I don't speak Mandarin very well" at least I have tried and don't just scream English louder and louder at the locals hoping that volume will get my point across. Even though I'll be with a small tour group, I think at the very least, I should get the basics down. I'll feel a more responsible traveler at the very least.
So for the lack of better things to do while I wait 5 months for my trip, I downloaded the first set of podcasts on iTunes to try to learn some Mandarin. Radio Lingua Network is usually my go-to source for their language podcasts. I think I've been through One Minute Russian, Coffee Break French, My Daily Phrase Italian and Coffee Break Spanish. These podcasts are good to at least get my feet wait and get the basics down.
In the case of Mandarin, though, "basics" is really, really basic. And scary difficult. This morning I went through the first three lessons of One Minute Mandarin. Man, this language is not easy to pick up. There are sounds and intonations that are not easy for a native English speaker to pick up. Apparently there are no subjects or verb tenses, and a lot depends on tone of voice, which is sort of interesting.
This morning, I attempted to conquer hello, goodbye, please, thank you and "I speak a little Mandarin". But ask me to say any of that now, and I'll probably botch it all up. I've got 5 months to perfect it.