I am French, and French people are known to be poor English speakers. However, I am not so bad at it and people I meet are often surprised and ask me why I speak English so well.
Sponsored by the Office of the Chinese Language Council International and the Michigan State University, Zon is a browser based “multiplayer, online learning environment designed to teach Chinese language and culture through gameplay”.
I personally don’t like very much this kind of educational games, I always find difficult to engage and loose interest after a few minutes. However, it looks like Zon has some interesting features, like the fact that almost everything can be spoken out.
The player can interact with almost anything, people (players and non-players) and objects, chat, get definitions and cultural or practical information. There are mini-games where you can earn cash. You can trade (and I hope can exercise the fine art of bargaining).
All in all it looks like a good idea but I am not into it, and it is sluggish…
By the way, I started learning Chinese some months ago, bought some books, took some lessons and finally had the idea to look on the Internet for some resources.
And I found an absolutely fantastic podcast called ChinesePod.com, there you can download free daily podcasts and, if you want to go further, pay your subscription to get access to other resources like transcripts or exercises.
They have 4 different difficulty levels (newbie, elementary, intermediate, and advanced) and the podcasts are meant to address everyday life and business in China in a very practical way.
If you are learning Chinese or have ever planned to do so, just give it a try: ChinesePod.com