There are lots and lots of Chinese materials out there. I’ve personally bought tons of them. But there are just a few items that stand out far above EVERYTHING else.
3) Boot Camp style class using the Berlitz Method to get started
There are lots and lots of items that I felt were valuable, but not necessarily extremely so. However, if you are learning Chinese, I can’t imagine 3 more valuable resources.
There are lots of features of Pleco that will appeal to you regardless of your current proficiency in Chinese. Be it a beginner, intermediate, advanced – unless you attended K-12 in China and got your masters in Chinese Literature, then Pleco has something useful for you.
As for “Easy Way to Learn Chinese Characters”, it’s just that. Chinese is actually really easy. Characters aren’t scary. They’re totally logical and easy to remember. They are just taught as badly as Calculus is taught in most universities. Personally, I couldn’t imagine trying to learn Chinese if I didn’t learn to read and write. That is basically saying that you’re goal is to be illiterate. Next time you meat an American who is illiterate, ask yourself if your goal is to speak Chinese as badly as an illiterate american speaks english.
Berlitz Immersion courses are very good to get the basics down. Enough to have very basic conversation and accomplish very basic tasks. Once you’re done with your Berlitz class, you’ll be a long, long way from language mastery, but you may already be fluent in the sense that you can begin to think in Chinese rather than translating ideas from your native language. Once you can think in the target language, you’re just a lot of rules, vocabulary, time and practice away from mastery – but the course is already set. You just need to persist.