How Long to Learn Mandarin + 5 Ways to Speed Up the Process

A man sits on a chair thinking about how long to learn mandarin

How Long to Learn Mandarin? (Your Guide to Mastering Mandarin Quickly with Effective Speed Boosting Techniques)

Learning languages comes with tons of benefits, from improving your job prospects to being understood more easily on vacation. It can broaden your travel horizons, improve your cultural understanding, and even change your brain at a physical level.

In fact, a meta-analysis found that those who study a second language tend to perform better across academic subjects than those who don’t.

So, with all these benefits, what holds back some people from learning a language? 

Partly, it has to do with time. 

Lots of people want a quick fix – they want the end result of fluency but are concerned about how long it will take.

We think, however, that part of the fun of learning a language is the learning itself! If you learn into the journey of learning a second language and enjoy the little confidence boosts that come with knowing more and more, you’ll take pleasure in the process a lot more. 

If you’re interested in learning Mandarin Chinese and Chinese culture in particular and wondering how long it takes to learn Mandarin, we’ve got you covered with our comprehensive guide to how hard Mandarin is to learn and how long it takes.

Let’s dive in. 

How Long to Learn Mandarin?

So, how long does it take to learn Mandarin?

Unfortunately, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. In reality, how many hours to learn Mandarin depends on a few variables:

Your Time

Naturally, a big part of how quickly you’ll be able to learn Mandarin depends on the time you have available.

If you study Mandarin for a few hours daily, you’ll undoubtedly reach fluency and a better language proficiency much quicker. If you’re studying for an hour per week, then it will, of course, take you much longer to reach an advanced level of Mandarin. 

Your Native Language (And Your Chinese Language Skills)

How similar or dissimilar your native language is to Mandarin Chinese impacts how easy you find it to learn. If you already know a language like Japanese or Korean, you’ll find Chinese much easier to adapt to.

If your native language is something like English or Spanish, Chinese will seem a lot more difficult because of the significant difference in pronunciation and alphabet. 

Even if you don’t speak an Asian language but you have previously learned a foreign language, that can still help you.

Language learners have already tapped into that part of their brain.

Plus, people who have studied languages before are more likely to understand grammatical constructs and rules. Even something as simple as knowing the difference between a verb and a noun can help. 

Your Environment

Where you’re based plays a huge part in how easy you find it to learn Mandarin. If you’re living or traveling in China, for example, you’ll find it much easier to put your language skills to the test and pick up new vocabulary from people around you. 

Likewise, if you’re attending a class to learn Mandarin for beginners or studying in an educational setting where others are also learning the language, you’re more likely to pick up new phrases. 

If you’re in an environment where nobody else speaks Chinese, it will likely take you longer to learn. 

How You Study

When it comes to learning a new language, a lot of the progress you’ll make doesn’t come from what you’re learning or where you’re getting your information but rather from how you’re studying.

For the best results, it’s always best to engage all parts of your brain is crucial, and this means incorporating listening, speaking, reading, writing, and hands-on activities is most effective.

There are several ways you can do this, from watching TV programs with Chinese audio or subtitles, reading, speaking, having a conversation with someone else, writing, and so on.

To ensure you cover all the bases, it’s best to sign up for Chinese classes that encompass these elements, you can accelerate your learning process and enhance your language skills.

While self-studying can be beneficial, relying solely on methods like reading books, watching TV shows, using Chinese apps, or following textbooks may have limitations. It’s too random, and you risk not being focused enough. Any distractions or a lack of direction and you can quickly fall out of your learning habits.

Just like children with their routines, without a systematic approach, it can be challenging to grasp the correct sentence structure and effectively apply vocabulary in practical contexts.

Therefore, when looking for a more comprehensive and structured learning experience, consider enrolling in Chinese classes that provide guidance, practice opportunities, and interactive activities. This approach will enable you to develop a solid foundation, improve your language proficiency, and confidently construct sentences using proper grammar and vocabulary.

Factors That Can Slow Down Language Learning

Here are some common mistakes learners make that can slow down their ability to reach their desired in Mandarin. Avoid making these mistakes yourself to learn Chinese as quickly as possible.

      • Choosing the wrong course. Signs that you’re in the wrong Mandarin class include teachers calling on students to take one at a time, so you barely get to practice, impractical homework, solo reading, and lessons that include just listening without collaborating and speaking. 

      • Not practicing. We get it. Going to China for the first time to practice your skills can be daunting. And if you’re not yet fluent, there’s a fear of making mistakes and feeling embarrassed. But believe it or not, learning a language involves making mistakes so you can learn from them. Practising when you’re out and about is a must for improving your language skills. 

      • Poor Self Study: When you’re learning by yourself, and only by yourself, you may actually be doing more harm than good to your learning ventures, mainly because you lack proper guidance and feedback. For example, without meaningful feedback from teachers, you’re at risk of not knowing when you’re making core mistakes, and this allows bad habits to form. You may also find difficulty applying words appropriately in real-life contexts, reduced motivation, and a lack of a systematic curriculum for learning that can result in your dropping your learning due to lack of structure.

    What’s the Average Time It Take to Learn Chinese?

    On average, you can get to a beginner’s level of Chinese within one year.

    To get to an intermediate learner level, around two to three years of dedicated study and practice can be enough, but you’ll have to be willing to put in the effort and commit your time to study.

    At this point, you’ll have started to really optimize your learning process of the spoken language and should be taking the time to learn the nuances of the official languages. You’ll have what is known as a minimum professional proficiency, where you’re able to use traditional characters and be able to speak with an educated native speaker.

    If you’re aiming for full professional proficiency and complete fluency, this is going to take several years data minimum and would help massively if you live in or visit the place regularly or take an express course. 

    Remember, to be fully fluent to a native or bilingual proficiency, you’ll need to learn all the Chinese characters and be able to speak with native speakers in everyday conversations. Perhaps even reading Chinese newspapers and using the full writing system.

    Don’t be put off by how hard that may seem. It simply takes dedication and practice to pull off.

    How Long Does It Take to Learn Mandarin For a Trip?

    Are you traveling to China soon and keen to learn some of the language for your trip? Don’t worry – it won’t take as long as you’d think!

    In fact, you can learn basic phrases in a matter of minutes if you use a list of basic Mandarin phrases! The basics of elementary proficiency are enough to help you get around and have a basic conversation with native Mandarin speakers and Chinese people. 

    Some courses, like those offered by us at NewConcept Education, can get you to speak proficient Chinese like a native in as little as three to six months, especially if you dedicate significant time to the practice.

    Courses at NewConcept Education are especially useful when you’re prepping for a trip or a move to China within a few months.

    How Hard Is It To Learn Mandarin?

    If you’ve considered learning Chinese before, you’ve probably asked one key question before getting started. Is Mandarin Chinese hard to learn?

    For native English speakers, Mandarin is definitely one of the harder languages to learn. This is because rather than using the same alphabet as English, Chinese is made up of characters and doesn’t have an alphabet in the traditional sense of the word. 

    You can’t break a word down by its letters like you can with English, so learning Mandarin Chinese really is a game of memory.

    Plus, intonation counts for a lot. A word can look precisely the same but change meaning depending on how it’s pronounced, so you need to learn exactly how each word sounds, not just a general idea. 

    Luckily, Chinese linguists developed a way for English speakers and speakers of other languages derived from Latin to learn Chinese more easily.

    It’s called pinyin.

    In Pinyin, Chinese characters are transformed into the traditional English alphabet to make understanding for people speaking Western European languages easier. 

    Pinyin also makes pronunciation clearer, and you can use the accents on the words to show you where the emphasis should go. After all, intonation is everything!

    Don’t be put off by hearing that Mandarin Chinese is difficult – it’s certainly not as possible, and, in fact, you might find it’s not as challenging as you initially thought. 

    It’s certainly true that there are thousands of characters in the Chinese language, and the idea of learning each one individually can seem incredibly daunting. It is, however, probably easier than you imagine. 

    This is because the elements used to make up the characters have common meanings you can see across various characters. These elements are known as radicals. As you become familiar with these Chinese character radicals, you’ll start to see them across different characters and recognize what each word has in common. 

    And if you’re not ready to start learning characters yet, you can opt for pinyin to begin with for a basic understanding of meanings and pronunciation.

    How to Learn Mandarin Fast? + 5 Ways to learn Chinese Quickly

    The good news is that although Mandarin can take a long time to learn, there are plenty of simple ways to speed up the process. Want to know how to start learning Mandarin and improve quickly? Here are our top tips. 

    1. Immerse Yourself in Chinese Pop Culture

    To learn Mandarin as quickly as possible, you’ll need to immerse yourself in the language outside of just classes. One way to do so is by replacing some of your regular TV shows, music, podcasts, and books with ones in Mandarin Chinese. 

    The more you read and listen to Chinese, the quicker you’ll pick it up and be able to recognize and differentiate sounds.

    Some popular TV shows in Mandarin Chinese include Nirvana in Fire, Ode to Joy, and The Brightest Star in the Sky. Later down the line, when you’re an expert, try Chinese TV shows with subtitles in Chinese instead of English. 

    2. Be Prepared to Make Mistakes

    One of the worst things a language learner can do is avoid making mistakes. We know that sounds counterintuitive.

    But if you’re afraid of making mistakes, you’ll avoid practising your Chinese in speaking scenarios, which means you won’t get the valuable experience you need to progress your language study. 

    Likewise, making mistakes in lessons isn’t something to feel ashamed of – it’s necessary so your teacher can correct you and help you improve. Don’t think of mistakes as failures – think of them as opportunities for growth and learning.

    Just a simple mindset change can work wonders for your confidence and allow your Chinese skills to flourish. 

    3. Think in Chinese

    One of the most effective ways to learn a language? Think in your target language. When you’re wondering what to make for dinner that night, instead of reeling off the options in English in your head, try listing the dishes in Chinese. 

    Likewise, when you’re walking around your home, take time to notice the items in it and translate the vocabulary into Chinese.

    Before you know it, noticing and naming items in Chinese will become just as second nature to you as naming them in English. 

    4. Practice Daily

    If learning Chinese quickly is a priority for you, consistent daily study is key to honing your skills.

    The good news is you don’t have to sacrifice hours of your time each day and risk burnout or boredom. Studies show that even dedicating just 10 minutes every day to practice can help you stay on top of your language skills.

    But, of course, the more time you spend on your learning, the faster you’ll learn. We recommend signing up for a class 1-3 times a week and then practicing at home daily for however long you can spare.

    At our language school, we offer a variety of classes tailored to different schedules with exactly this in mind. Now matter how much time to have to dedicate to your studies, our flexible class options allow you to find a suitable time slot that fits your daily routine.

    5. Learn With the Pros

    The program you follow has a significant impact on how quickly you’re able to learn Mandarin. Join the wrong course, and it will take you years just to master the basics. 

    At NewConcept Education, we take an innovative approach to learning, which allows our students to master Mandarin in a matter of months.

    If you’re on the hunt for Chinese online classes that promise genuine results, join Fortune 500 companies and thousands of other Mandarin learners by choosing NewConcept Education. You’ll learn Chinese three times more quickly than you would elsewhere.   

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