Phil's written up a bunch of tips for approaching Chinese language instruction, which is an admittedly daunting prospect for a lot of westerners, with its trifecta of unfamiliar tones, non-Roman script, and absence of Latinate/Germanic cognates.
Fast forward almost a decade, and I'm living in NYC and talking, reading, or emailing with someone in China. If you make anything, eventually you'll find that there isn't a supply chain that beats what China has; while a lot of people will claim goods are made in China only because of lower costs, that's not 100% true. The supply chain of components to assembly are almost impossible to find elsewhere. If you look at once-booming industrial cities in the USA, you'll see a lot of the work, from parts to assembly, happened in big chunks of locations -- this is efficient and allows manufacturing to flourish...Why Every Maker Should Learn Chinese
You're going to see and hear about more and more open source hardware and maker businesses visiting China, and we'll likely even see and hear some familiar faces in the maker community spending extended time living/working in China. Makers are smart, nimble, and efficient. Being on-site and on the assembly line is usually how we think; we don't mind getting our hands dirty and participating in all parts of the process. It's only going to make sense that more and more of the most prolific makers will consider learning a new language the more time they spend in China.
I write books. My latest is a YA science fiction novel called Homeland (it's the sequel to Little Brother). More books: Rapture of the Nerds (a novel, with Charlie Stross); With a Little Help (short stories); and The Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow (novella and nonfic). I speak all over the place and I tweet and tumble, too.