Learning Chinese

How long does it take to learn Chinese?

Mandarin Chinese is ranked among the most difficult languages for native English speakers to learn. It takes an estimated 2,200 class hours to learn the language. At 25 hours a week of class, it will take approximately 88 weeks to gain a general proficiency in the language. Obtaining an advanced vocabulary and becoming fully fluent will probably take an even longer time.

Other languages that are more similar to English such as Spanish or French take native English speakers an approximate 600 class hours to learn the language. This is almost one-fourth of the time that it takes to learn Chinese. Chinese is a tonal language meaning that the tone of a word is used to differentiate it from other words with the same sound. Also Chinese does not use an alphabet, but rather uses characters for reading and writing. There is a different character for each word meaning that in order to read or write the word you have to memorize it. Since there are thousands of words that means you have to remember thousands of characters which takes much time.

What is the best way to learn Chinese?

It is absolutely necessary to learn how to pronounce the tones correctly in Chinese. Speaking with correct tones requires much practice and correction. The best way to learn this is to read sentences to a teacher and have him or her constantly correct you when you say words with the wrong tone. To do this, you will need to use pinyin which is a transliteration of the Chinese characters. The pinyin sentences have tone marks that show you what tone to pronounce with each word.

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Pinyin language lesson

It is helpful when learning the Chinese grammar to memorize sentences. When you memorize a sentence, you are naturally learning the grammar patterns. You are not just memorizing the words, but also the grammar.

Many people say that the hardest part of Chinese for them is listening skills. It is hard to pick out what other people are saying because so many words have such similar sounds. It can be very hard to distinguish what people are trying to tell you. Therefore, you need to practice listening constantly. You need to use whatever means are available; TV, radio, visiting people, etc.

Learning to read and write characters takes tons and tons of time. It is not necessarily difficult, as it is just using your memory skills, but it requires many hours of work. It is probably a good idea to start as soon as you can putting in the hours you need to learn the characters.

What language schools are available in Dalian?

There are two types of schools available in Dalian. Pubilc universities and private schools both offer Chinese language learning courses.


West Gate of Dalian University of Technology

Most of the universities in Dalian offer a Chinese language program for foreigners. These programs are non-degree programs that teach foreigners how to speak Chinese. They will offer different levels of classes depending on your Chinese ability and will give you approximately 25 hours of class time each week. You will have two semesters in a year starting in March and September. Classes will teach you listening, speaking, reading, and writing and your class size will usually be about ten to fifteen people. You can start at the beginning of either semester, but need to make sure you apply by the application deadline for that semester. You will not need anything other than a high-school diploma to enroll in these courses. The approximate tuition fees will be from 16,000 to 18,000 RMB per year. This comes out to about $2,600 to $2,900 a year. The schools will enable you to get a student visa for the duration of your study time. There will be a few additional fees that must be paid for the visa. A recommended university to do this type of language program at in Dalian is the Dalian University of Technology. For more information about their Chinese courses, you can check out the following link: DUT


Local Private Chinese School

The other kind of schools to study the Chinese at in Dalian are private Chinese language schools. There are many of them located in Dalian. You can attend these schools full-time instead of a university school, or you can study at them to supplement your university language school program. Many of these schools specialize in oral Chinese or preparation for the Chinese HSK test. These schools are unable to get you an actual student visa (type X), but they may be able to get you another type of visa (type M) that allows you to stay in the country from 120 to 180 days. Their classes can be designed to fit your schedule. They offer a smaller class size or one on one tutoring. You pay for these classes per class segment (Example 45 Minutes), and the price will depend on the size of your class. One on one tutoring is more expensive than attending a small class. I visited a local, private school to get a general idea of what prices cost.  I found out that for a class size of three to four people the approximate price is 40RMB ($6.60) per hour. For a one on one class, the approximate price is 73RMB ($12) per hour.


Local Private Language School Prices For 45min Classes

You can also hire a local college student or someone looking for part-time work to help you learn the language. This is often a good opportunity to help you practice additional hours of language study. Usually, you would pay someone like this a wage of 20RMB ($3.30) an hour.

I would recommend doing a combination of these different schools. I think it is important to do the university language program, but I also think it is important to do more than just what the university requires if you are going to learn the language quickly. You could do university classes in the morning then go to a private school tutor or hire a local college student to give you additional language instruction in the afternoon.



Beginner Chinese Book


Resources used in writing this article:

  • https://voxy.com/blog/index.php/2011/03/hardest-languages-infographic/
  • http://school.cucas.edu.cn