In order to release the language tools from its upper left hand corner purgatory, I am going to do a three part release of its content.
There are many online and computer resources for learning Chinese and discussing Chinese culture, and you found your first one! The Lotus Educational Foundation has been teaching foreign students Chinese language and culture since 2003. This site expands upon our student and alumni community and opens it to new students interested in the language. Welcome! Join the conversation in our comments sections.
For learning about traditional Chinese culture in modern China, the blog site Useless Tree is unparalleled. The blog centers on the confluence of modern and traditional China in today’s Beijing. I highly recommend taking a peek.
Here are some other resources that you mind find useful in your quest towards learning Chinese and obtaining the unobtainable: fluency in a foreign language. The Chinese forums website, although very ugly, has a lively community of students and professional Chinese teachers sharing their understanding of the language. The community is very active, and your question no matter how simple or complex will get an answer.
The ChinesePod Community Site piggy-backs off of the commercial offering of ChinesePod, but also has a lot of free content, and anyone is allowed to join the forum in order to post questions.
China’s competitor to Google, Baidu, has many resources the are useful for advanced students of Chinese. The website is under Chinese law concerning political material (so don’t expect to get in depth analysis of sensitive topics), but Baidu Baike provides a very good outline for any topic concerning China. Consider it like the Wikipedia of China. Often if a Wikipedia article fails you in China, Baike can pick up the slack. It is all in Chinese. Also Top Baidu gives the top searches in China with definitions and background. It is a good resource if you run across a word or phrase in a news article and have no idea what it means.
That is it for learning communities. Let me know of your favorite hangouts in the comments. More learning tools will follow this week.