How Long Does It Take to Learn Chinese?
It depends on your gift for language learning, as well as the time you are able to dedicate to learning it. If you study a few hours every day you’re going to learn a lot faster than someone who only spends one day a week.
For speaking, the key is to LISTEN and REPEAT. Over and over and over. Every time you learn something new, repeat it to yourself again and again. Work it into a sentence you think would be useful to you in the future. Say that over and over. To learn how to speak there’s no other way than to just do it.
Now, as far as time necessary, if you study on your own it may take upwards of five years to reach a certain level of fluency, while the entire language school system taken in China can be completed in two years (full-immersion).
One big problem with self-study is that you’re more prone to miss things and repeat errors. Whether it’s never really knowing if you’re pronouncing the tones correctly (it’s VERY important that you learn these properly the first time or else you’ll spend the rest of your life making up for it), or spending more time actually gathering information to study and then studying it. It’s a tricky and long process compared to taking a class or getting a tutor.
There are a few things you can do to help yourself and speed up your learning process.
1. Watch a lot of Chinese dramas and listen to a lot of music. The best way to learn to speak is to listen to other people speaking. That’s how kids learn. It’s how you learned your native language. Dramas are more natural than example sentence audio recordings, which means if you copy how drama characters speak, your Chinese will be more natural sounding as well. Plus, you’ll learn a lot of slang that way!
2. Check out online private tutor programs. Most of them offer one-to-one tutoring with native Chinese teachers. You just can’t beat that kind of personalized learning experience.
3. Practice using the four Mandarin tones. Mandarin Chinese is a tonal language, It is absolutely essential to master the four tones if you want to pronounce Mandarin Chinese correctly.
4. Memorize simple vocabulary. No matter what language you are learning, the more words you have at your disposal, the sooner you will become fluent.
5. Learn some basic conversational phrases. Once you have a basic grasp of vocabulary and pronunciation, you can learn basic conversational phrases which are used in everyday Chinese speech.
6. Advance your language skills. Learn basic Chinese grammar and practice your Chinese listening, reading and speaking skills. One of the best ways to improve your new language skills is to practice speaking with a native speaker. Native speakers will easily be able to correct any grammar or pronunciation mistakes you make and can introduce you to more informal or colloquial forms of speech that you won’t find in a textbook.
With the right attitude and right plan, you can learn Chinese efficiently and effectively. Learning alone is a challenge, so having a teacher as well is highly recommended. You can do this though! Many have done it before, so rest assured.