How long does it take to get fluent in Chinese?

To answer this question, I’ll start by quoting from a Quora page, where two heavyweights gave excellent answers:

Mark Rowswell, AKA Dashan/大山:

When I started learning Chinese, I was horrified to hear that it would take me 10 years to become fluent. 27 years later I’m still working at it. Due to my work on television, some Chinese language learners may consider me a role model of sorts, but every day I’m reminded of what I don’t know and how much more there is to learn.

“Fluent” is a relative concept. I would summarize:

2 years to lie on your resume and hope no Chinese speaker interviews you for a job (because 2 years is enough to bullshit your way through a situation in front of non-speakers).

5 years for basic fluency, but with difficulty.

10 years to feel comfortable in the language.

David Moser:

The old saying I heard when I first started learning Chinese was, “Learning Chinese is a five-year lesson in humility”. At the time I assumed that the point of this aphorism was that after five years you will have mastered humility along with Chinese. After I put in my five years, however, I realized the sad truth: I had mastered humility, alright, but my Chinese still had a long way to go. And still does.

As the the above answers indicate, the notion of “fluent” is very vague and goal-dependent. Needless to say, the Chinese writing system does more than any other aspect to hamper mastery, to the extent that adult speakers must address the daunting problems of the script in order to function in the language. As an instructive metric, however, we can turn to the Defense Language Institute in Monterey for some rough estimates of the relative difficulty. They divide languages into different difficulty groups. Group I includes the “usual” languages a student might study, such as French and Italian. They estimate “Hours of instruction required for a student with average language aptitude to reach level-2 proficiency” (never mind what level-2 means) to be 480 hours. A further level is characterized as “Speaking proficiency level expected of a student with superior language aptitude after 720 hours of instruction”, which is “Level 3”, which apparently is their highest level of non-native fluency. Chinese is grouped into Category IV, along with Japanese. The number of hours needed to reach level two is 1320 (about 3 times as much as required for French), and the highest expected level for a superior student after 720 hours is only 1+, i.e. an advanced beginner. These are old statistics, but the proportional differences are bound to be similar today.

My own experience, in a nutshell: French language students after 4 years are hanging out in Paris bistros, reading everything from Voltaire to Le Monde with relative ease, and having arguments about existentialism and debt ceilings. Chinese language students after four years still can’t read novels or newspapers, can have only simple conversations about food, and cannot yet function in the culture as mature adults. And this even goes for many graduate students with 6-7 or 8 years of Chinese. Exceptions abound, of course, but in general the gap between mastery of Chinese vs. the European languages is enormous. To a great extent the stumbling block is simply the non-phonetic and perversely memory-intensive writing system, but other cultural factors are at work as well.

(David Moser is the guy who once explained why learning Chinese is so damn hard.)

My Own Experiences

I’m not going to go into the complex issues already covered above (and I should also note that my Chinese is nowhere near as good as Mark Rowswell’s), but Mark’s numbers seem fairly realistic to me.

Because I began my study of Chinese in the States, then moved to China and started practicing on my own pretty hardcore, I’d say I hit Mark’s “basic fluency” milestone at around 4 years of study. “Feeling comfortable” probably came after about 8 years, but I think my standard for “comfortable” is also lower than Mark’s. (I seriously doubt I am as comfortable now as Mark was after 10 years!)

What’s the deal?

It always pisses some people off when you say that learning Chinese is hard, or that it takes a really long time. In fact, it tends to inspire certain learners to go out of their way to prove that the opposite is true: Chinese is not hard, and doesn’t take long to learn. That’s fine; somewhere between the extreme views the truth can be found. But I’ve always found it important to have a realistic view of what you’re getting into, and getting someone like Mark Rowswell’s take on the question is certainly interesting!

It seems that some people are afraid that many people will be “scared off” if Chinese is too often represented as “difficult,” and that those that attain some mastery and then tell others that it wasn’t easy are simply jealously guarding their own perceived “specialness.” Personally, I started learning Chinese precisely because I viewed it as a serious challenge, and didn’t fall in love with it until much later. I’ve heard many times that Malay is really easy to learn, but that’s never made me want to learn it.

The Good News

The good news is that I truly believe that learning Chinese is getting easier, or that students are learning it faster than they used to. I’ve been observing this trend on my own anecdotally over the years as I meet ChinesePod visitors, as I meet new arrivals to China, as I take on new AllSet Learning clients, and as I work with new interns. The “Total Newb on Arrival” is getting rarer, tones are getting better, and some people are even showing up in China for the first time already able to hold a conversation. Nice!

I’ve compared notes with Chinese teachers abroad, and some teachers are making the same observations. One teacher told me that universities are having to restructure their Chinese courses because the original courses were not demanding enough, or didn’t go far enough. What’s going on here?

I think a combination of the following factors are playing a part:

  • Kids are starting to learn Chinese sooner
  • Chinese learning materials are getting better
  • Technology is making learning characters (and pronunciation) less laborious
  • Competition is naturally raising the bar
  • Increased awareness about the Chinese language and culture make the whole prospect less intimidating overall

This is all very good news! And if this is a long-running trend that has been accelerating in recent years, it could also mean that while Mark Rowswell’s and David Moser’s accounts are totally truthful, it won’t be as time-consuming for you as it was for them because the difficulty (or time involved) to learn Chinese is depreciating, without us even having to do anything!

One more thing…

Oh, and let me also quote Charles Laughlin from the Quora thread, who replied:

Who cares how long it takes? Just do it! If you really want to learn Chinese, you will devote yourself to it however long it takes.

Very true.


John Pasden

John is a Shanghai-based linguist and entrepreneur, founder of AllSet Learning.


  1. “2 years is enough to bullshit your way through a situation in front of non-speakers” If it’s a non-speaker, two DAYS is enough to rattle off a few recited sentences with the wrong tones, but trying your best to sound Chinese-y that they won’t understand anyway.

    When people start quoting very specific numbers of years, it’s important to realize that they might mean “learning casually for a few hours a week”. A year for you is not the same as a year for me, is not the same as a year for a very lazy or a ridiculously dedicated learner.

    Years has nothing to do with it, it’s the number of HOURS of efficient learning or practice of 100% of your undivided attention that you put in. With full immersion, and never using your mother tongue, and focusing more on always improving (rather than say, having the TV on in the background and counting that as equally helpful) claiming it takes 10 (say) hours a day all year times 5 years = 18,250 hours for “basic fluency with difficulty” is gross exaggeration.

    I agree with Charles’ summary! Pour yourself into it and you’ll get there. Let’s stop nonsensically counting “years”. They only thing you’ve truly been doing for the last ten years non stop is inhaling and exhaling.

    Great post John! Glad to read your encouraging words and how the future of Chinese learning is looking bright! [BTW I appreciate the link to my blog, but I think you might have meant to link to this post]

    • perhaps we should start nonsensically counting months?

    • “They only thing you’ve truly been doing for the last ten years non stop is inhaling and exhaling.”
      These are words of wisdom. I totally agree with Benny, it’s not the years but the hours (times 60 if you want to convert to minutes, times 3600 if you want to convert to seconds).

  2. The point about technology is definitely important. I started studying Japanese in middle school, and at first I had only a paper dictionary and no online tools (the internet was barely on anyone’s radar). I later got a really crappy electronic dictionary, and that felt like a revolution.

    Now I’ve got Pleco on my iPhone, mouse-over dictionary extensions on my browser, numerous podcasts, and all the free content you could ever hope for online. It truly is a different world.

  3. Great post John!!

    As much as I agree with the idea that technology is probably making language acquisition easier, there is still something to be said about leafing through a paper dictionary- where I feel most of my earlier retention really happened. Although more tedious than opening up pleco on my phone, I feel that the effort involved in looking up words in a dictionary really helps me retain the words much better. Maybe my brain is rewarding me for the effort!! I know you’ve written about this very thing in the past.
    With that being said, I still feel naked without pleco these days.

  4. Great article/blog. I’m thinking of majoring in Chinese, and after spending some time in China (lets say 3 years – and true to Davis Moser’s observations – still can’t read a novel/newspaper, can only have simple conversations about food and can’t really function as a mature adult) I’m wondering how ‘demanding’ Chinese major would be in an University outside China and what the requirements are. I’d imagine there are mant graduates who have majored in Chinese, but can’t really ‘speak’ it…

  5. Superangel Says: June 29, 2012 at 1:22 pm

    Thanks for writing this! I’m at five years and was feeling woefully inadequate, but reading the above is reassuring. Maybe all is not lost after all 🙂

  6. Michael Says: June 29, 2012 at 2:20 pm

    I learned Chinese 45 years ago at FSI – the Foreign Service Institute. 8 hours a day, 6 people in the class, 4-5 highly trained, native speaker teachers, each to teach his own “specialized area,” no English spoken, + at least 2 hours a night of tape work. It was tough for a while but at some point about 3 months in, my brain did a half-gainer double backflip and things started to flow from then on. This gave me an excellent base (though only about 1,200 characters [traditional]} to polish over the next year or so in the Far East.

    I did a B.A. in Chinese thereafter but essentially left the field fallow and have been trying to resurrect over the last 2 years. Now, under everyman conditions, and recognizing the calcifying grey matter, my progress is far less good than I had hoped it would be.

    A recent trip to Beijing highlighted both sides of the coin; my vocabulary and characters were woefully lacking but my accent/tones, grammar patterns and “feel” for repartee in Chinese were largely intact, having been burned into my brain by rote those many years ago.

    The conditions I originally learned Chinese in were ideal; it seems to me that the only way to really learn Chinese and to have more than a tenuous grip on the language is to totally immerse, in-situ – preferably early-on in the process – pushing forward with discipline while leaving English largely dormant.

    • Michael Says: June 29, 2012 at 5:47 pm

      “Replying” to myself… I didn’t make clear in my post that the FSI course was a year in length.

  7. I found David Moser’s essay a over the top, but much closer to reality than Benny’s “fluent in 3 months” claim.

  8. I prefer realistic goals too. The reason why I ponder over this question of how long it takes to become fluent, is because I want to compare if I’m lagging well behind. I like having some kind of idea where I should be after a certain time of studying Chinese.

  9. My experience was somewhat different. I spent 9 intensive months learning Chinese in Hong Kong, at the Yale in China language school. This meant three hours a day, and a lot of time at home, learning characters, reading (readers with glossaries, all I could find) and listening to tapes. A key text book for me was Intermediate Reader in Modern Chinese by Mills and Li, (Cornell Press because it introduces authentic texts, lots of new words, and plenty of examples of the patterns of Chinese.

    I read my first novel after 6 or 7 months, The Rickshaw Boy by Lao She. Mostly I listened and read a lot, and I mean a lot. I think I put in at least 7 hours a day most days. The only people I could speak Mandarin with in Hong Kong were my teachers. I focused on patterns and ignored explanations of grammar. This was in 1968.

    I visited China a few times in the seventies and early eighties while living in Japan, but have never lived there. I have visited again a few times this century. I have a number of Chinese books and audio books at home that I refer to from time to time to refresh my skills when I need to, (if I am going to be on TV, or give a speech in Mandarin, for example.)

    I do not speak as well as Mark or Dave but I manage, and certainly consider myself fluent enough for most situations, including discussing politics and even philosophy. The last time I was in China I bought a few audio books on Chinese philosophy and history which I enjoy listening to.

  10. While Chinese is certainly difficult to learn any way you look at it, my experience of the difficulties has been different from what most people seem to say in everything that I’ve read. Usually the main things listed are pronunciation, tones, and reading/writing. Personally I’ve found these to be the easier parts of learning the language because they’re the mechanical aspects of it. All they really take is time and practice and once you get them to working level you can prioritize other things and they’ll still gradually improve (with the exception of writing, which if you want to be on par with your speaking is a daily task). The point I want to emphasize is that learning these parts of the language can be lengthy but it’s a relatively non-difficult and non-complex process.

    What I find to be the hardest part of the language is that a good deal of the syntax is just plain and simple not the same as it is in English, and this goes beyond grammar; Chinese people say things differently than we do. A lot of times I or someone I know will have a sentence in English that they want to say in Chinese, and they’ll know all of the vocabulary for it and all of the correct grammar, and a Chinese person will hear it and say something like “it doesn’t sound natural, it sounds like you’re using English logic.”

    Another example, I was watching an episode of 快乐汉语 and one of the lines was: 原来他不喜欢相亲的那种形式, which the subtitle translated as “actually he doesn’t like this kind of date.” I doubt that even an intermediate learner of Chinese would be able to hear that sentence (which is relatively simple) in English and translate it back into the original Chinese. Granted the English translation given might not be the best, but even if we change it to something like “actually he doesn’t like blind dates” to fit more with 相亲, I think there are very few Chinese learners who would choose 原来 for “actually,” when we’re taught it means “originally,” and honestly from an English perspective where the hell does 的那种形式 come from? Even just looking at the vocabulary of it the dictionary definition for 形式 is “form,” “shape,” or “format,” none of which would I have put with that sentence in English. Translated using that vocabulary, the sentence could be read in English as “actually/originally he doesn’t like the format of blind dates.” And that doesn’t sound natural for us in an informal conversation.

    Sorry for the long comment, but it does seem to me things really are said differently in Chinese than they are in English. And after my first year of learning Chinese in an American university, which I spent heavily focused on tones and pronunciation, my biggest difficulty has consistently been that I learn vocabulary but have no idea how to use it, and the problem isn’t grammatical. I have the grammar, but I don’t have the feel for the syntax, I don’t know how Chinese people say things. But I will say that in the cases where I’ve started to develop this feel it’s actually really cool, because you get a different mode of expression and a different way of seeing things and making connections between concepts. That’s probably my favorite part of studying the language.

    • lilyklin Says: July 22, 2012 at 11:26 pm

      I like what you said that learning the syntax can be more difficult than the grammar. BTW, 相亲 “arranged marriage” is different than “blind dates” which the latter usually is initiated by friends while the former by parents. Also, the purpose of 相亲 is to get married.

      Not only you, as a non-native Chinese speaker is learning Chinese, but I, as a native Chinese am also learning Chinese. I am a Chinese teacher and teaching Chinese gets me thinking more in depth about the language, especially the subtlety among terms (words & phrases).

    • I absolutely agree with everything you’ve said there! It’s not just about learning vocab – but in some ways you need to get a translation for whole phrases or sentences or WAYS of speaking about a particular topic. It’s not just the grammar it is the way that certain words are using for certain things. For instance just like we might say “What’s up”, to mean something like “how is your day going”, this makes absolutely no sense to a Chinese person – and they’ve got a bajillion of these examples to the opposite effect in Chinese. I’m currently in Shijiazhuang for a month and apart from the talking speed and the accent of my host family, this is perhaps the most difficult thing for me. Everything who I have met has said my accent and tones are the best they’ve heard but in some ways I feel like that’s a hindrance because it makes people assume I can actually understand them at a ridiculously fast pace. The other struggle is that I have the conversational ability of a child between 2 and 3 I reckon, but I have the MIND of a 29 year old, so the English words I feel like using to explain myself are very different to someone of that age, and of course no one thinks to talk to you like a 2 year old or at the pace of a 2 years because you look 29 too! So here we both are attempting to use a variety of way too difficult words to have a meaningful and subtle conversation. Haha – not possible.

  11. There are so many variables, between the person and their nature and their learning environment, that it’s really an impossible question to answer, even if you can nail down a single definition for “fluent”.

  12. I think the time it takes will continue to get shorter as materials and pedagogy improve. On the one hand, yes, characters are hard and French has a lot of similarities to English. But French also has a whole bunch of tenses and moods Chinese doesn’t. I suspect one of the reasons English-speaking people tend to learn French faster (just one of them, mind you) is that culturally speaking, we’ve been teaching French to English speakers for centuries.

    Of course, some of advances we’ve made in teaching materials and pedagogy over that time could be applied to improve Chinese teaching as well….but I think it’s pretty obvious that there’s still a big gap there, both in terms of good quality teachers and good quality teaching materials.

    Of course, the most important aspects are personal anyway….In six+ years of instruction in French I never really even reached the intermediate level, whereas I was functional on the street in Chinese within two years. (Granted, I was quite a bit more motivated to learn the Chinese, but it also just came more easily to me for whatever reason.)

    • “.In six+ years of instruction in French I never really even reached the intermediate level, whereas I was functional on the street in Chinese within two years. (Granted, I was quite a bit more motivated to learn the Chinese, but it also just came more easily to me for whatever reason.)”

      I assume for this analogy to be meaningful… you lived in France for 6 years and couldn’t get to an intermediate level?

  13. It’s all about the number of hours you put in, the quality of those hours, and how hard you push yourself to get ahead. Before I came to Taiwan, I had been studying Chinese off and on for a few years, but I didn’t get very far at all. I tested into PAVC Book 2 when I started at MTC, which would essentially be 2nd year level (at the very best) at an average US university program. The class I tested into is the same class that complete zero-level beginners at MTC are able to take after 3 months. So, pretty low indeed.

    Now, I knew a bit more than my placement test showed, so the first term was fairly easy for me compared to some of my classmates. I had already learned a lot of the vocabulary, though using it in a sentence was another matter. But any advantage I had was completely gone by the second term.

    The second term was when I really started to push myself, and now after 10 months of study (I’m in my fourth term because we’re on the quarter system), I’m able to read newspapers, novels (金庸 at that), research papers in my field, you name it. Not without a dictionary, of course, but it’s pretty smooth going. I’m reading 古文觀止 right now with a group of other students, and I’m more or less completely self-taught in 文言文 (much to my teachers’ disbelief). I’m able to talk on a wide variety of things, though I do have to talk around what I mean sometimes. My speech lacks refinement, but that will come. More serious, academic topics come with more difficulty, but I’m focusing on that right now and making progress. Tonal mistakes are few, and I know it as soon as I make them (though this may have something to do with my background as a musician and the ear training that entailed). It has been several months since I’ve had to rely on English whatsoever in interacting with people here. This fall I’ll be auditing university classes in Chinese and next fall I’ll (hopefully) start on my MA at a university here.

    So this “5 years for basic fluency” and “4 years and still can’t read newspapers” is crap. Maybe after that amount of time studying it at a US university as part of a full course load and without spending any time in situ. But after 10 months, starting from a pretty low level, I’m basically fluent, reading newspapers, senior high school-level 文言文, novels, research papers, etc. If you attack the language systematically and as intensively as your brain will allow (and your brain’s tolerance for this will go up over time), you can make dramatic, astounding progress. Is it harder than French (for a native English speaker)? Well of course it is. Reading French feels almost like reading a dialect of English when you compare it to reading Chinese. But it’s not as hard as a lot of people like to drum it up to be.

    • I guess the rest of us are just human. But, that’s good for you – you’re ahead of 99% of us other learners, and I guess you’ll have a competitive advantage over the rest of us in whatever you decide to apply your chinese to. Best of luck to you.

      • You’ve missed my point entirely if that’s what you got out of what I said. The point is that large quantities of hard, smart work, and an obsessive focus on planning my course of study in advance, is what got me to my current level in that amount of time, not any supposed innate ability or talent.

        I get really irritated when people use the excuse “oh well it doesn’t come as easily to most people as it does to you”. There has been nothing easy about it. I’ve busted my ass for the past year, and “most people” haven’t. That is the only difference.

        In fact, I feel like I could have done more, because I went through periods that I felt like I was being too lazy. But when I said that out loud, my friends looked at me like I had two heads. “THAT’S lazy?” And that is exactly why I have made the progress I have. When you study harder at your laziest than most people do at their most productive, then we can talk.

      • Did I miss your point entirely?

        ““4 years and still can’t read newspapers” is crap”…
        1. that’s harsh, and
        “But after 10 months, starting from a pretty low level, I’m basically fluent”
        2. the fluency thing throws me.

        Your fluent or your not. If your not, you could be at a host of levels. But you said you’re fluent, and you achieved it in such a short time. If you can have a conversation about anything on the phone and the other person wouldn’t know you’re not a native speaker, or you haven’t stumbled once, then that’s an indication of fluency. If you can write a novel (by hand btw — not just read it), then you’re fluent. If you’re the one who tells people what all the 成语 mean (not the one who has to ask), then your fluent. If you can sit and pass the same National Entrance Exam as all the others, and you pass — including the handwritten essays, then you’re also likely fluent (and those kids spent 12 years developing those skill in their native tongue to be able to achieve such a feat). You basically professed to be fluent within short people, and called anything else “crap”. Perhaps a point wasn’t just lost on me.

        This post, and the work that John has put into his site is to encourage others that their efforts are not “crap”, and I tell anyone that they don’t need to be fluent to feel good about any degree of progress. Some people have a more difficult time because — frankly, for a European language native speaker — Chinese is unlike anything else — and a host of time constraints, lack of material, and lack of structure can lead to a host of different language levels… but any advancement is commendable – so keep at it for any of you who feel discouraged. Don’t let professed labels like achieving “fluency” within, what, 10 months (?) discourage any of you.

      • Your conditions for “fluent” are absurd, IMO. You’re confusing “fluent” with “native-like”. When I say “fluent” I mean just that. My speech flows. I can read smoothly. I understand 99% of what I hear without having to stop the other person. Etc. We have very differing definitions of what fluent means, and I guess that’s where the hangup is.

        My point was not to belittle anyone, and you misread my intention when I said “4 years and still can’t read newspapers is crap”. I wasn’t saying that the person’s efforts were crap (I don’t really see how you read that into it anyway), but that telling people they won’t be able to read a newspaper after 4 years is a load of BS. Here I am, reading newspapers after working hard for (now) a year in Taiwan. It didn’t take me anywhere near 4 years.

        And maybe that’s the difference. I have a feeling that Moser was talking about 4 years in a university language classroom in a non-Chinese speaking country (as I mentioned before). That’s completely different than 4 years in-country, working full-time as hard as you can.

        Anyway, fluent is a terrible word, because so many people have so many different ideas of what it means. You can take what I said in my first post as an indication of what’s achievable after 10 months of hard work in situ. I’m not anywhere near native-like, but my language ability is high enough to be able to read newspapers, research papers in my field, 古文觀止, etc. I have no trouble participating in graduate-level seminars in my field, which I will be doing this semester. My writing ability leaves something to be desired, but that will be one of my main focuses for the next year in order to prepare for graduate school in Taiwan, and I have no doubt I will make a lot of improvement.

        I have no doubt that becoming native-like in the way you mentioned would take any native speaker of a European language a very long time. But that’s not what I was talking about, and it isn’t what Moser and Roswell were talking about, though Roswell has arguably achieved it.

  14. Someone thinks this story is hao-tastic…

    This story was submitted to Hao Hao Report – a collection of China’s best stories and blog posts. If you like this story, be sure to go vote for it….

  15. That is very encouraging to hear people like Mark Rowswell say they still have a lot still to learn after 27 years(on the Quora link).

  16. […] striking how quickly technology is changing the way we learn Chinese. Recently I mused that it doesn’t seem to take as long to get fluent in Chinese as it used to, and one of the […]

  17. Stavros Says: July 17, 2012 at 3:28 pm

    I’ve been studying Chinese for seven years, two years in China while I taught English and five years in my native country. Because I don’t speak Chinese every day, I only judge my ability on my passive vocab and not my speaking. When people talk about fluency, I interpret that to mean production in speaking – the skill which is is the hardest to master but the one we take the most for granted because we do it so easily with our native language. In my experience, learners of languages tend to judge their ability based on their speaking; this is also likewise for native speakers who interact with foreign language learners.

    As for some of John’s comments about technology, I will concede that I will not have been able to maintain my Chinese in my native country, learning characters (writing as well recognizing) or improving my accent and tones without the aid of computers. We have certainly entered a new phase in language learning (perhaps all learning), and perhaps some of the old methods and ideas are outdated.

  18. […] How long does it take to get fluent in Chinese? (from Sinosplice – quoting none other than Da Shan himself) […]

  19. Putonghua is Hard Says: December 28, 2012 at 11:14 pm

    I wanted to write a 1,000 word post about why you young men and women don’t realize your bias and myopia about learning Chinese, but I can sum it up thusly:

    Chinese is brutally difficult to learn and will take 10 years if you begin at 23-25 of age.
    If you are older than 40, give yourself 20 years to attain fluency as one would to learn French, English or Italian in 6 months.

    Your best hope is to be illiterate, that you can speak at the level of a 12 year old but you cannot read nor write.

    I you are young, under 25, and you live in China for 10 years (must immerse to learn it or your tones will be wrong and thus unintelligible noise to the locals), then you will learn it by your early 30’s. If you studied it in HS or Uni, you can do it in 5 years.

    If you are over 40, give yourself 15 or 20 years and if you are over 50 you won’t live long enough.

    If you learned it in less time, you have a gift for learning Chinese that you do not admit to. The other 70% of us cannot do what you did.

    • What are you basing those numbers on?

    • nonsense… never went to China, and I sound like a native speaker when it comes to imitating the tones and sound. Don’t assume that all readers are coming from the same cultural background. We have English in common (since we are all reading this post) but it stops there. We all have different strengths and weaknesses…

      I had to reply to this post simply because to those that really want to start learning Chinese, this post is definitely the kind of BS that will discourage anybody. Technology has changed! We can use Skype to learn Mandarin…the world is more connected. PLEASE, if you want to learn go ahead and do it. The key is consistency and discipline.

      Give yourself a gift by learning Mandarin. (I am 30 now) but I took so long to decide whether or not to learn Chinese. I wanted to when I was 16. It’s when my best friend died, that I asked myself, what would I regret the most if I were to die tomorrow? The answer was learning Chinese. So instead of planning to force my future children to learn Mandarin, I’d rather learn it first and maybe share my love for the language with them.

      I just want to learn the damn language, the culture, the music and in the long run it might stave off dementia.

      I urge all that are discouraged, to take the plunge and treat yourself by learning chinese or any other language of your choice.


      P.S. I still have not started learning it, I have given myself a couple of targets to meet. and I am applying the concept? of SMART objectives to my Chinese learning plan.

      SMART objectives stand for Specific, Measurable, Action-oriented, Relevant and Time based objectives. I’d encourage language learners to use this approach for learning a language in order to stay consistent and never give up.

      I hope I have motivated a couple of you.

  20. I’m planning on studying language studies one semester in China.
    My level is HSK 2-3.
    I am not fluent in speaking. My goal is to be able to speak with ease.

    My question is does one sem (6months) would help me to be able to speak straight basic chinese?
    I know it wouldn’t be in fluent level.

  21. Maybe within just a year you will already learn the basics of Mandarin. But if you are just trying to improve your knowledge about it and if possible, do not mind the time. Feeling pressured will only make the learning process hard for you. Just enjoy learning.


  22. Mukama Chris. Says: September 11, 2014 at 10:59 pm

    Well welleople learn differently well,av read thru all your comments.Its good your at the levels your at and improving…different people learn differently.Now,Am 30 living in uganda.I started learning mandarin 3 months ago.we are being taught by a native speaker.and I can recognise 150 characters.Am wondering ,with a two hour,three day class in a country with barely any chinese,let alone those speaking Mandarin,how much can I atleast have known in a years time? Please help…meanwhile we are only three chaps in the university doing Chinese language

  23. […] John Pasden’s Sinosplice post “How long does it take to get fluent in Chinese?” quotes two Chinese experts. First, Da Shan aka Mark Rowswell aka the most famous foreigner in […]

  24. […] to taking up this beautifully silly language, I read an article by a man named Mark Rowswell just to try to gauge how hard Mandarin really is. Mark offers some […]

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