You must be wondering how long it takes to learn Mandarin and if you will ever be able to grasp the language. Well, why not? Chinese may be considered one of the most difficult languages to learn. Do not hesitate. Of course, it takes time, effort, practice, and consistency to learn the language. You might have a hard time learning it if you are a native speaker of English or any of the Romance languages. However, if you have a knack for Mandarin, you can focus on learning basic Mandarin first. If you already speak any other Asian languages, such as Japanese or Korean, it becomes easy to decipher the levels of Mandarin. However, if you want to achieve your learning goal and figure out how long it takes to be fluent in Chinese, scroll down and learn more about the basics, levels, and ways of mastering Mandarin.
Mandarin Basics (Different Levels) – Who can learn?
Considered the new generation’s language, Mandarin is gaining a reputation as a popularly learned language worldwide. However, it is not easy to champion the language without learning the basics effectively. Learning the basics of Mandarin helps you understand where you stand as a learner among the one billion Mandarin speakers all around the globe. It will also immediately push you towards mastering Mandarin level by level. This language has three major levels: Beginner, Intermediate and Advanced.
Prerequisites to Learn Mandarin
Mandarin is a fairly difficult language, and after a time, you might feel demotivated or lack interest in it. So it would be better to know about the prerequisites before learning the language:
- You should be committed to your interest so that when it gets difficult, you still get going.
- Daily practice can keep your interest and learn intact.
- Follow textbooks and workbooks at your own pace.
- Mandarin for beginners could be difficult, so practice using the tonal language (four Mandarin tones: High/Flat, Rising, Dipping, and Lowering) because different tones can change the meaning of a word.
- Learning the Pinyin or phonetic system is important to learning Mandarin.
- Memorize common words and phrases related to everyday use, such as time, color, name of places and food, etc.
- Use the Chinese characters and words daily with your Mandarin friends online or offline.
- Accuracy of tone is important, so practice pronunciation on a daily basis.
Purpose/ Benefits of Learning Mandarin
- Chinese is the most widely spoken language, comprising 14% of the speakers in the world. It is also spoken in other Asian countries such as Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Tibet, Singapore, and so on. Therefore, in order to do business with them or to study at their university, you need to know how to communicate with their ideas, requirements, cultures, and emotions. Learning Mandarin can be beneficial to express in their language.
- Learning Mandarin also lets you know about China’s culture, ideologies, and history. You will have access to the world’s great novels, poetry, films, and biographies in Chinese.
- You can communicate with Chinese people online or offline, build good communication and connect on a deeper level.
- Many top CEOs like the Facebook King, Mark Zuckerberg, who speak Chinese, strategize their business towards China. If you are willing to do international business, learning basic Mandarin will be beneficial.
- You can also establish a career as a Chinese teacher, Interpreter, Translator, or Content Writer in Chinese.
Levels of Mandarin Language Explained
There are two written forms of Mandarin, Simplified and Traditional. Over 95 percent of the population can identify with Simplified Chinese. Let’s learn the basic levels of Mandarin:
- Beginner Level:
The foundations of learning mandarin should be strong. It is always a difficult level of learning as you get acquainted with many new sets of rules, grammar, ideas, and pronunciations, for language acquisition. Here are some of the tenets of mandarin for beginners:
- Start with the Pinyin System: Mandarin is a tonal language, so as a beginner, you must learn the Pinyin system and pronunciation before moving to learn basic everyday Mandarin phrases and vocabulary. Try to get the cliff of the tone first.
- Give time to your learning: Learning the basics of Mandarin might require consistent time. It should require at least 30-50 hours to learn basic Chinese for beginners.
- Intermediate Level:
Once you have learned the beginner level, you will proceed to the intermediate level. At this level, you should be able to talk and express yourself in Mandarin, understand tonality, and read and write common Chinese characters with the help of Pinyin.
- Spend time with the language: You must give at least two hours a day at this level, focussing on vocabulary, phrases, and grammar. This will ensure you achieve an intermediate level in at least three years.
- Learn effectively: You should ensure that the hours spent learning the language are spent effectively, covering all aspects of the language, such as reading, writing, speaking, and listening.
- Advanced Level:
To become fully fluent in Chinese, you need to excel at this level of learning called Advanced Level. At this level of Mandarin, you should be able to express and explain things and ideas in depth. To be able to speak, write, read and understand clearly without translation to your own language is the goal of advanced level.
- Spend an hour a day: It takes about 4-7 years to be fluent in Chinese. For that, at least spend one hour every day on the language.
- Develop your skills and abilities: Along with developing speaking and writing skills, you also need to develop the ability to read, listen, understand the structure of sentences, tone and grammar in Mandarin and take action.
Time Required for Each Level
The normal time frame for attaining each level varies depending upon certain factors like your nationality, language, interest, and dedication. Mandarin doesn’t have any alphabet; it has characters. Mandarin for beginners may depend upon your grasp of the language, training, practice, and consistency. However, as per the HSK norms, it can take an estimated three years to master the intermediate level and 4-7 years for the advanced level. The overall time required to learn Mandarin maybe 88 weeks of active learning, depending on the learner. You might also have to appear for the Chinese language proficiency test called HSK Level 6 if you are willing to enroll yourself in any Chinese University.
Best Ways to Learn Mandarin from Home
There are no set ways to learn Mandarin as it differs from person to person. However, these tips might help you learn basic Mandarin from the comfort and convenience of your home. There are many apps and platforms to learn Chinese for beginners from your home:
- Use an online platform such as Duolingo or enroll yourself at http://curiotory.com/ to experience the digital classroom with the best language faculty at your fingertips.
- Put sticky notes of Chinese words in your room so that the word gets highlighted repeatedly.
- Use Google Translate for virtual assistance and translation.
- Follow the language learning textbook and practice.
- Join a virtual community of Mandarin speakers on Instagram, Facebook, or other social media platforms.
- Make friends with Mandarin speakers around the globe, both online and offline and interact with them daily.
- Listen to native speakers speaking Chinese and observe their tonality.
- Knowing another Asian language before learning Mandarin can be helpful.
- Watch Chinese movies and series with English subtitles and try to understand the meaning of words.
- Read about Chinese culture and history to understand more about people, language, and culture. It will make your Mandarin not only fluent but also native.
So, if you are still thinking about how long it takes to be fluent in Chinese, you should start learning basic Mandarin first because Mandarin for beginners can be challenging. However, with time, consistency, and effort, you can overcome any challenge, including mastering Mandarin. You need to have patience and be required to follow your natural learning pace in order to achieve fluency; the more you dedicate yourself, the easier and faster the process becomes.