Chinese is a group of language varieties that form the Sinitic branch of the Sino-Tibetan languages, spoken by the ethnic Han Chinese majority and many minority ethnic groups in Greater China. About 1.3 billion people (or approximately 16% of the world’s population) speak a variety of Chinese as their first language. It’s Considered One of the Hardest Languages to Learn.
Learning a language like Chinese is an amazing process, and every stage of it can be very fulfilling, let alone your progress. So how long will it take to learn Chinese? This is one of the first questions anyone interested in language learning asks, and unfortunately, there’s no easy way to answer it. Learning a language is a complex process that is different for each individual based on several different factors
Let's take a look at different factors that affecting while learning Chinese:
1. Your Previous Language Learning Experiences
If you already speak a foreign language or were raised bilingual, you may save yourself some time as you learn Chinese. Bilinguals find it easier to learn a third language, as several linguistic studies have proven. Fluency and skills in one language aid fluency and skills in another.
2. The Language You Are Learning
We can find a lot of interesting characteristics of Chinese. The more you get to know this language, the more fun tips you’ll find, and the better you will be at learning it!
3. How You Are Learning
Your learning methods also play an important role in how fast you learn Chinese. If your language learning is limited to a classroom setting, then it will probably take you a little longer to learn.
If, however, you also are exposed to Chinese outside of classes, then you can cut down the time needed to learn it. Reading, listening to the radio or eBooks, speaking, watching Chinese movies, and traveling to China can all help to speed up your learning process.
4. The Time Dedicated to Learning
Naturally, how long it takes you to learn Chinese also depends on how much time you plan to dedicate to language learning daily, weekly, or monthly. Studies have proven that learners who are willing to dedicate an hour a day to language learning–whether that be by studying grammar, memorizing vocabulary, watching a movie, or reading a book–learn significantly faster than those who just attend a weekly class.
5. Your Attitude
Your attitude also plays a huge role in how fast you learn Chinese. If you approach language learning with a positive attitude and see it as a fun and fascinating opportunity
6. Your Motivation
It’s no secret that staying motivated is key to learning a new language. There have been so many studies proving the importance of motivation in language learning. Staying motivated is the number one reason why many people have language success. Learning a new language requires mastering fresh grammar and different sentence structures, and understanding different cultural meanings and accents.
Now let’s get to the facts.
- According to the U.S. Department of State, there are five levels of language proficiency. Elementary Proficiency, the first level, means the ability to satisfy routine travel needs and the savvy to read most personal and place names, street signs, shop designations, and numbers. This level of proficiency would satisfy basic travel needs to China and Taiwan.
- For business folks, the third level — Minimum Professional Proficiency — means you’re able to speak the language with sufficient structural accuracy and a decent vocabulary. Plus, you are able to read standard newspaper items, routine correspondence and reports. With Full Professional Proficiency (the fourth level) you’re able to speak and read fluently and accurately on all levels pertinent to the needs of your job.
- The top, the fifth level is Native or Bilingual Proficiency, means you’re speaking and reading at a level equal to an educated native speaker.
- But the more the foreign language differs from English, the more time it will take to learn. Mandarin fits the profile, including entirely new sets of sounds and symbols. The U.S. Department of State gives as a guide that Spanish and French will require 600 class hours; German takes 750 class hours: and the languages which are far different from English – specifically Mandarin Chinese, Arabic, Cantonese, Japanese and Korean – will take 2,200 class hours.
While the ideal way to learn a language is the immersion approach in which you live and work in the country where that language is dominant, that’s costly and difficult to nail down.
Another option is an intensive class. If you consider that the typical language class is 3-5 hours a week, that’s between 108 to 180 hours a year plus the time outside of class to prepare for class. But clearly the math doesn’t look so promising here, either. Fluency requires your commitment to years of course study or you need to supplement your classroom learning with other approaches.
There are also tapes, books and MOOCs, but there’s no native speaking instructor to monitor your progress and help with pronunciations.
So it does seem the most efficient way to learn Chinese is in a live, online classroom. Online learning gives you a fully interactive learning environment combining the learning quality of classroom education with the individual flexibility you come to expect as it pertains to your schedule.
Clearly, the key is to start as early as possible and to select an approach to learning Mandarin that matches your availability and learning style. Proficiency can take years, but it will be worth it when you can enjoy speaking the Mandarin language.
The short of it is that there are many, many variables that go into how long it’ll take for you to learn Chinese. However, to become fluent, experts estimate that it’ll take 2,200 class hour