Chinese is one of the most widely use language today. Individuals are convinced to study the language for professional and personal reasons, thus more people are drawn to learn Chinese language especially Mandarin Chinese. To study any foreign language is hard at the beginning but as you progress in your study you will find it less difficult and getting interesting.
For someone who wants to start their journey of learning the language, it is recommended that you should begin with the basic foundation of the language that is phonetics. The best thing is for you to master all 60 sounds. It is advised that you spend more of your time with the phonetics until you get the taste of it and you get it all mastered. It is important for you to master this phonetics even before you start learning how to say words like "welcome" or "hello" or anything else for that matter. It might bore you for a time but just go on and you will find how useful it will be in the near future.
Correct pronunciation of the letter right from the start is very important. Polish it everyday for any flaws that you find. Always seek for the proper way to pronounce a word. Finding a good CD where you can listen to those sounds will be a great help for you. To get it right from the start will bear you much fruit in your learning in the future. After you have mastered the sound then you can go on a step a higher with your learning. Just be sure to focus on one thing at a time so you don't get confuse.
Also when you learn Mandarin Chinese just try to focus on the speaking and listening skill. Do not attempt on how to read or write Chinese characters yet. Maybe in the future when you get to mastered your speaking skills with the language then you can always move on further to reading and writing Chinese characters. But for now that you just started, do not confuse your self more other than learning to speak Mandarin Chinese. You can stick first in what they refer as "PinYin" which means "Spell Sound & Pronounce."
So to summarize everything, if you want to learn Chinese Mandarin then always start with the very basic that is the phonetics or 60 letters which is known as there "initials/consonants" and "finals/vowels". Do not learn words yet but stick to the phonetics until you have mastered it. When you mastered your phonetics then everything will come easy for you. In fact there is not much to learn for all that comes after depends solely on your study of the basic thing.
So be positive in your outlook. Don't get discourage by all those crop talks about how difficult it is to learn Mandarin Chinese language. It is always hard if you don't know the right method to study the language but if you do then you will surely begin to appreciate the beauty of other languages. Being able to converse fluently with Chinese native speakers is a great accomplishment for you.