Chinese Mandarin is infact one of the most difficult language to learn. That was why I never had the patience to study it till recently. Something must have clicked in my mind on how to tackle the multitude of characters with all its technical jargons of "Radicals", "Strokes" etc etc!
My spoken skill is bearable but I surely need to kick it up another notch. It frustrates me when I had to stop half way during a conversation in Chinese to recollect a word or two, not mentioning embarrassing when I had to answer in English instead to a Chinese question.
At my age with my limited brain power, continuously practising the writings of the Chinese characters is the best method. Kind of a memorizing game. I have mastered 60 characters so far and will attempt another 60 this year.