Your Mandarin Learning Experience

So, 2011 is in full force.

I'm back at University, however it is a bit different this time around. I'm doing a Master's degree in Hypermedia for Language Learning. For info on my degree you can go read this page.

The interesting thing is, I have no classes. All my assignments are done online. However, I got a nice bursary and am working at this lab. It is filled with awesome people and awesome opportunities.

Now, my time is filled with ideas. My head is packed with possible thesis topics. I've got many ideas, but I need your help!

Just to widen my net a bit, I would like to hear from other Mandarin learners, on their experience in learning Mandarin, but especially on what you found the most frustrating and hardest. Perhaps give one or two elements of Mandarin that you wish you had a solution for or wish you had help with.

Here is mine:

One the biggest hurdles is just the vast amount of time that is invested in learning Chinese characters. I wish their was an easier way, or at least a way that motivates learners better.

Another one, is relevant vocabulary. Although our textbooks during University was good to some degree, I still felt some words were terribly irrelevant. In the back of mind, I had a sense that there were more important high frequency words to learn. We also seemed to have learned lots of synonyms. This confused me as I tried to figure out the "exact" difference in concepts. Where did you find your vocabulary that you learned?

Let's get a discussion going here. I would love to hear some problems that you faced while studying and learning Mandarin. Please comment below!