How Long Does it Take to Learn
Chinese is a unique and useful language for westerners to learn, though many shy away from it due to its rumored difficulty. It is different from Germanic and romance languages because it does not use Latin script. Many westerners believe that it will be very challenging to learn the language because of this, but they are surprised to find out that it is actually not as hard as they think. On the positive side, Chinese has a similar sentence structure to English, and many of the characters make a lot of sense once you understand their origins.
Learning Chinese Full Time or Part Time
Whether you study Mandarin Chinese full time or part time, according to the US State Department it will take you 2,200 classroom hours to learn Mandarin. If you treat learning Chinese as your full-time job, learning for 40 hours each week, it would take 55 consecutive weeks with no breaks. That is over one full year of learning.
Part-time learners could spend double that, or more. Either way, if you really want to become fluent in Chinese, expect to spend at least a year dedicated to learning the language.
However, if your goal is to just be able to get around as a tourist, you may be able to do that after just 6 months of part-time study. This will allow you to do things like taking public transit, asking for directions, buying things in stores and restaurants and perhaps even having light conversations with locals.
Challenges of Learning Mandarin For Native English Speakers
The English language only has 26 characters. Mandarin has thousands of characters to learn. As previously mentioned, some of them do make sense when you understand where they come from or what they represent, but when you have thousands to recall, it is certainly a challenge.
The other major challenge of Mandarin is that each word has four possible tones that completely change the meaning of the word. For native English speakers who are used to tone conveying emotion instead of meaning, the tones can be indistinguishable for the first few months of learning.
Overcoming Challenges of Learning Mandarin
Overcoming the challenges of Mandarin depends on your method of learning. If learning on your own, you may have trouble getting enough listening or speaking practice. It may sound silly, but watching Chinese videos and repeating what you hear is a great way to get around that hardship.
Another great tool to help you with your Mandarin learning troubles is Pandanese. The program, which is based on SRS(spaced repetition system) to optimize learning, teaches you more than 6,000 important Chinese vocabulary terms and radicals. It’s a great companion program to another Chinese learning option like a classroom setting.
The best way to learn a language is full immersion, but that is not possible for everyone. Try to put yourself in situations where you will be surrounded by the language – even if that means reading the characters on the buildings in your local Chinatown district.
Learning Mandarin is a good idea. It is the most widely spoken language in the world with about one billion speakers. Whether you want to do business with a global superpower or you simply want to be able to communicate with people, learning Mandarin is a good way to become a global citizen.