How long does it take to learn Chinese?

This is a great and scary question to ask. Great because it puts some accountability to the learning process and scary because it puts accountability to the learning process.

The following answer comes from Wikibooks about language learning difficulty for English speakers. They first preface the answer by stating:

“Many people wonder how long it will take them to become proficient in a certain language. This question, of course, is impossible to answer because a lot depends on a person’s language learning ability, motivation, learning environment, intensity of instruction, and prior experience in learning foreign languages. Last, but not least, it depends on the level of proficiency the person wishes to attain.”

Chinese follows under the following category:

“Category III: Languages which are quite difficult for native English speakers 88 weeks (2200 class hours) (about half that time preferably spent studying in-country)”

Also note that the following ranking is by the The Foreign Service Institute (FSI) of the US Department of State and these students usually have the following characteristics:

“…are almost 40 years old, are native speakers of English and have a good aptitude for formal language study, plus knowledge of several other foreign languages. They study in small classes of no more than six. Their schedule calls for 25 hours of class per week with three or four hours per day of directed self-study.”

I think the amount of time for each person is going to be different but it is good to have a standard that we can measure our progress by and stay accountable as we learn. This seems to be a good place to start or at-least reference.

If you have learned or are learning Chinese, how long do you think it takes to learn? Do you agree with this categorization?

5 thoughts on “How long does it take to learn Chinese?

  1. David Gates

    Brother, you never cease to amaze me and challenge me! Your hard work is paying off and it seems that your Chinese is enhancing. Praise the LORD for your added vocabulary, message preparation, and preaching!Keep up the hard work! We are praying for you all!!

    1. Mark (China Ramblings!) Post author

      David, thanks for the encouraging words. I still have a loooong way to go. We are making progress, especially when we look where we started, but the road ahead is still long! You are doing great as well! God bless! God is good!

  2. Stephen

    I am a member of a Chinese Church but have little exposure to the language other than weekends. Praise God that you are progressing and it would take me more than 88 weeks even in country.

    1. Mark (China Ramblings!) Post author

      Hey Stephen, I have lived in country for my entire learning process and I am not sure that I will make it in 88 weeks! (I think I am half way there.) I just thought the numbers were interesting!

  3. Jonnelle Hayden

    I have been studying Chinese for over 20 years. I took the equivalent of 4 semesters during an intensive summer program one time but otherwise have studied independently or with a tutor when time permitted. I can communicate at a basic level. I can read the Gospel of John with only occasionally looking up words but I am no where near fluent. I have some Chinese friends that I practice with but I have never been to China and the nearest fundamental Chinese church from my home is over two hours away. I don’t think you can really become fluent without living in a Chinese speaking country or some other immersion environment.


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