Rajesh Jain points to a summary of how a marketer or venture-capitalist might regard business in China right now... covers the ideas of multiple markets, the way that connections have outpaced legal structure, cultural awareness, more. Concise, useful. Related: Why Ikea has problems in China.
Now that I've gone through two of their Comprehensive language series, as well as a Quick Start in Hindi, here's the advice I would give myself were I starting again (and could talk to myself as two different people, of course ;-) :
Carry a good pocket dictionary and use it while listening. Seeing helps remove audio amibiguities, and locks in the learning with a secondary sensory modality.
Ignore that "Tomorrow, please start with Lesson 2" business. I still don't know what they intend by that.
Use spaced repetition of lessons. With Japanese and the later Chinese lessons I was able to review yesterday's lesson before starting a new day's lesson, giving two days in a row to each. With Chinese I ran through each lesson from the week a third time. I'd still like to do a quick review of all sessions after finishing, giving me a four or five week review.
During reviews, use a variety of vocal tones to dramatize the repetitions... high voices, low voices, loud, soft... break it up. Imagine speaking in different situations.
During reviews, elaborate the spoken replies. Make longer sentences, tie them in with your own questions, negate assertions, change the tense of speech... use their questions as a trigger for a range of different replies.
This material is great; I would definitely rely on it again. Pimsleur doesn't do everything -- it ignores formal grammar, vocabulary accumulation, and only touches on cultural communication issues -- but for an ability to hear and respond easily, with a range of pattern sentences and assistance in pronunciation, it's definitely, definitely useful.
(And if you came to this blog because a search engine told you that you might be able to find various Pimsleur materials here (I get "free Pimsleur downloads" and "Pimsleur MP3" as frequent incoming referrer terms), then please spend some time looking at the other articles I've written here, which give you the best actual links. It may take some time, but just keep looking.)
Entering the last week before China. Focus over the last week has been on listening, speaking, and reading Chinese, along with travel and culture info. In hearing/speaking I'm a bit behind where I was before leaving for Japan; in reading I may be a bit ahead. Last week and next week I'll be using Penton's VocabuLearn quite a bit. (I had miscalculated dates for Pimsleur III review, and won't get all 30 sessions before leaving.)
I've also been spending additional time in the Peking University and Instant Immersion materials, and feel even more confident that I've reached a good point in a good range of introductory material.
As time goes by, the best study time/modality I get seems to be through audio materials. I can regularly buttress these with written materials throughout the week, but at different times through the week... I haven't yet succeeded in getting an hour each morning just sitting down with a book. I think that when I get back I'll be able to use VocabuLearn material more extensively (now that I've exhausted Pimsleur) and suspect I'll also make my own audio materials, reading written materials into MiniDisc for on-the-go practice. I've also got some materials on reading Japanese, and Hindi grammar, that I really want to get into, but am not sure how these will balance yet. Custom MiniDisc materials seems a sure bet.
Over the next week one additional goal is to shift attention from language details into general trip orientation.
Off-topic -- My guess in June that media/TV coverage would shift from Iraq to social issues was fairly on-track, but I hadn't counted on the tin ear at the DNC and its aftermath... looks like they're coming around now, though. Over the next two months I predict an increase in coverage of Iran's capabilities and intentions, hoping to force public stances before the election. (But then again, while typing I'm watching Joe Lockhart's first appearance on George Stephanopolous as Kerry's "Communications Czar" right now, and he's still emphasizing Iraq, so who knows.)
This article in Nature describes how different areas of the brain handle symbol-to-meaning compared to alphabet-to-sound. Takeaway: reading difficulties in one language may or may not be extrapolated to reading difficulties in another language.
Rajesh Jain highlights a Wall Street Journal article comparing retail trends in China and India. (He provides a link to the WSJ writing, but that's locked behind a remember-the-password wall.) A tentative conclusion is that China's consumer market may grow more quickly than India's, because of the greater flexibility and evolution in distribution channels. (But, assuming that current growth levels continue and that income disparity is not a factor, then what happens to the capital that is not spent on consumer goods...?)