Chinese as opposed to Japanese is not only spoken in it’s native country. It is good, because you don’t have to travel to the country if you want to start learning the language. These days flying to China can cost up to 1000$, and it is quite difficult to sort out the visa issues. Furthermore if you only have a couple of weeks there, you cannot really consider learning the language. You will soon realize that you will have to handle completely different problems then studying.
As such, my suggestion is the following. After you have decided that you want to study Chinese, get familiar with the so called „pinyin“ writing system, and learn how to pronounce the characters based on their pinyin equivalents. These are a couple of simple rules that you will need to memorize, but it is important that you master them, since this will be the starting point. I think you can easily to this by only reading the respective wikipedia article and watching some YouTube videos. As soon as you are done with this step, you won’t need anything else, just learn the characters and you are pretty much done with Chinese.
Education in Chinese ( 教育 －jiàoyù )
Alright, this is obviously partly true, but not far from the truth. Many people say that Chinese language doesn’t have grammar, you just need to pronounce the characters one by one and it will make sense. This is somewhat true, but the thing is that if there are more characters that mean the same, it does matter which one you use in the given context.
The future in Chinese ( 未来－wèilái)
If you have understood and accepted the previous sentence, let’s move on to the next one. So if you are familiar with the constants of pinyin, try to master the tones. This might bet he most difficult thing in Chinese, since most of the European languages don’t have this characteristic. On the other hand if you have listened to enough Chinese speech, you ears will automatically adjust to the tones and you will feel if something is wrong. It is something like listening to music. Thus listen to Chinese radio, watch Chinese TV and movies a lot. I can recommend the yoku.com website, obviously YouTube and my own videos. So far the total cost is 0.