How Long Does It Take To Learn Chinese?

“How many years does it take to learn Chinese?” 

“Is it hard to learn Chinese?”

According to the Foreign Service Institute (FSI) scale, it will take you 88 Weeks (2,200 hours of active learning) to reach native/bilingual Chinese proficiency. Chinese is one of the 5 languages which is challenging to learn for native English speakers.

But the good news is, you don’t have to achieve native/bilingual proficiency to speak conversational Chinese. You can learn a specific number of words and start a conversation with your Chinese friend!

How many Chinese words do I need to start speaking Chinese?

Learning Chinese is different from person to person. There are people who are naturally inclined to learn foreign languages faster than others.

The Hanyu Shuiping Kaoshi (HSK) or Chinese Proficiency Test provides a bases on how long it takes for you to learn Chinese.

HSK is an international standardized test of Chinese language proficiency. It assess non-native Chinese speakers’ abilities in using the Chinese language in their daily, academic and professional lives. HSK consists of six levels. Here’s an overview of each level.

HSK Level Chinese characters known Chinese words known Ability upon completion
1 178 150 Uses familiar Chinese everyday expressions and basic phrases. Can introduce oneself and answer personal questions.
2 349 300 Understands sentences and relevant topics such as local geography and employment. Can speak Chinese while doing simple and routine tasks.
3 623 600 Can speak on topics used in school, work and leisure. Can answer in Chinese during unexpected situations during travels and can connect topics of personal interest.
4 1071 1200 Able to comprehend advanced Chinese text on both concrete and abstract topics. Can hold conversations in technical topics. Regular interaction with native speakers is highly possible.
5 1709 2500 Able to understand difficult and long Mandarin texts. Can express him/herself fluently and spontaneously in social, academic and professional purposes.
6 2633 5000 Proficient in reading, writing and understanding Chinese. Can create summaries of information from different spoken and written sources of Chinese language in relevant form.

Usually, students who study Chinese language after one year can reach HSK 4 level certificate. On the other hand, students who go to Chinese classes every day and spend 4 to 5 hours studying can reach HSK 5 level certificate. It usually takes students one year and a half to reach HSK 6 because the gap between HSK 5 and 6 is pretty big.

Highly recommended online Chinese language programs!

Beijing Language and Culture University (BLCU) is one of the top Chinese language universities in China. BLCU offers some of the best Online Chinese Programs in China.

BLCU makes learning Chinese easy and fun. Here are three three distinct features that BLCU offers:

  • High quality classes – structured classes with professional BLCU teachers with over 7 years of training
  • Affordable – classes are just $210 USD per student for 12 weeks (get up to 20% off if you enroll until 6th June!)
  • Flexibility – take Chinese classes wherever suits you, all you need is an internet connection

BLCU is currently having a summer sale (limited time offer) and you can get up to 20% discount for the 12 weeks online Chinese group class. Enroll now here!

Check out other Chinese language programs from BLCU!

Content crafter at China Admissions with nine years of professional writing experience. Fil-Chinese who honors my heritage every day. On a fascinating journey exploring China and tracing my ancestry. See China through my lens.
Christine Chiu
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