I've also started to learn Chinese thanks to a friend from Singapore, I've learned a few sentences, wrote them in Abiword and printed it so I can learn it offline.
I've learned to write my name in Chinese, it is written 巴湖 which is pronounced Ba-Hu, which is close but not exact, but then most languages won't be able to say my name correctly anyway.
It was a lot of pain to get chinese working, I installed tons of packages, I tried uim first but couldn't get it to work so I switched to scim. It now works pretty well, but sometimes my system gets confused in what input state it is. I can now write English, Hebrew and Chinese on my Linux machine.
I now need to find a program to teach me the alphabet, I found several programs for Gnome but they either don't work, crash or don't compile. I will turn my attention to KDE and otherwise now.