I have many students who claim to have learned English through watching movies with (English) subtitles, so I thought “why shouldn’t the reading-route work with Chinese too?" On my trip to Shanghai, I bought a big bunch of books and comics. In fact, I bought so many that my girlfriend complained that she didn't have enough space in her luggage to take home what she herself bought. Well fuck that bitch; I told her to throw her stuff out to make room for my comics. Well, at the airport, we maxed out our allowed weight and had to pay extra. I tried to explain that I shouldn't have to pay because I was still working on my basic Chinese vocabulary, but I ended up paying.
While learning Pinyin certainly won’t help you learn to pronounce Chinese, it’s used a primary way to input Chinese on computers. You would be depriving yourself of an easy way to write Chinese if you were to completely forgo learning Pinyin. Additionally, learning to pronounce Chinese in Pinyin can also help to learn pronouncing English the Chinese way (aka the wrong way). English-imported words prevail in Chinese. Nearly all new vocab since WW2 are from English. So Pinyin will also help you get a fundamental understanding of how the Chinese import English words in their language.
You have to learn to identify things and speak about things by thinking in Chinese. This is why reading is also so important in order to learn Chinese. With the Chinese character system, you have to memorize the sounds they represent, and not the English. By learning chinese online, you can learn both the Pinyin for a character and the character itself. Reading this way will force you to do so because their is no other way to enhance your reading speed. You might read like a child at first, but regular practice will solidify your memory of these phonetics. The same goes for Chinese characters and their meanings.
First of all, I agree that watching Chinese movies with English subtitles is next door to useless if you actually want to learn Chinese entirely through movies. You can pick up an odd word that way, if you are very disciplined. At the very beginning of attempting to learn Chinese through movies I went extremely slowly through a few with English subbies trying to catch the Chinese, looking up words I thought I heard. I was still usually mystified as to why that weird noise ended up as a logical English subtitle. That method was somewhat helpful, but still not all that useful in my view.
Learning the characters is enough. You should keep yourself immersed and try reading as much stuff as you can. This doesn't have to start when you've mastered Pinyin and the character set. It can start now. Just by watching Chinese dubbed movies and cartoons, you can get a bit of a head start. If you want to learn chinese mandarin, once you learn how to read (even with just a few characters), though, the flood gates start to open. This is also a good time to learn more about grammar.
Try not to be overwhelmed by all the material available on our site. The Chinese language will seem very different at first from your native language, but it is not as hard to learn as many people think. It is quite a logically laid out language and once you learn basic reading, learning Chinese mandarin skills it will be easy. You'll be able to pronounce virtually any word you can read. Unlike English, for example, how a word is written in Chinese is almost always connected to how it is pronounced. For example, there are no 'spelling bees' in China because there is rarely confusion as to what characters to used to "spell" a word.