Studying Chinese

How long does it take to learn Chinese?


Correlation of old and new HSK with my progress

So how long does it actually take to learn Chinese? I’m not going to define what is fluent, I believe I’m still far from that, but how long does it take to pass HK6 for example? The highest Chinese Proficiency Test for foreigners at the moment.


How long did it take me to get to HSK6?

My first Chinese course was a month-long travel Chinese course when I was 16. I was already very interested to learn the language on my own then, even though I never had the courage to use my Chinese with my boyfriend at the time (he was ethnic Chinese).

I only started to get more serious with Chinese when I enrolled to the Chinese course in my university back in 2008. For two semesters I had four hours of Chinese every week. During Summer and Autumn 2009 I had only two hours Chinese lessons a week.

When I came to China this is what I could do: introduce my self, ask for directions, buy things, order in a restaurant. But I often found it hard to understand what the locals were saying. I could write maybe 200 characters by hand when I came.

I enrolled in Guangzhou university and spend two and a half semesters there. Spring 2010 I failed the old Elementary-Intermediate HSK exam, but in December I got to the level 4 of old HSK. And then to old HSK5 during spring 2011.

I changed to Sun Yat-Sen University in September 2011 and passed HSK5 in December.

In April 2013 I passed HSK6, 238 points out of 300.

It took me 1,5 years in Finland and 3 years in China to pass and get a nice score from HSK6. If I could get to this level in 4,5 years, you can do even better if you live in China the whole time or/and work harder than I do!


How fast can you learn Chinese?

Based on my experiences learning Chinese, I would guess that you can get to HSK6 in about 4 years in China.

Of course you can’t learn Chinese simply just by being in China.

  • You have to enroll in a university, language courses or be a very diligent self studying type.
  • You should almost always do your homework and study extra on your own.
  • You should take the HSK every year in order to see your progress.
  • You should make Chinese friends or have a Chinese boyfriend/girlfriend, someone to talk to everyday in Chinese.
  • You should do your best in watching Chinese TV series and movies.
  • You should also do your best in reading Chinese books.


Final words

There are many students who have studied Chinese as long as I am and are much better than me. There are also many who have studied Chinese longer than me, but I’m better than them. Everyone studies a language on their own way and speed.

This post is to give you some kind of idea how many years it might take you to learn Chinese. If you agree or disagree, please share your thoughts on the comments section!


  • blueflavored

    Thanks for this! I took 4 semesters of Chinese in college (not great classes unfortunately, the teachers were poorly qualified so I didn’t learn as much as I could have), then a semester of intensive (13 hrs/week) Chinese while studying abroad at a local university, during which I learned more than I did in the previous two years!

    I’ve been trying to keep up with it for the past year and a half with language partners and self study back home, but I haven’t worked very hard at it. I’m going back to China this summer and I’m afraid I’ve lost quite a bit of reading/writing ability. I’m planning to enroll in a program with a full-time language pledge after college to make up for lost ground and get really comfortable with the language. I’m still really shy about speaking it. What’s most frustrating at the intermediate level is being proficient at survival Chinese but not knowing enough to have a real conversation!

    Sara Jaaksola Reply:

    Hi blueflavored!

    I used to be shy about speaking Chinese and I still am when I need my boyfriend to correct my pronunciation. I also used to be really shy speaking Swedish, right until I forgot it completely and can’t speak it anymore.

    Great that you are coming back to China this summer! Don’t worry about your level dropping down a bit before, I’m sure you will learn a lot when you come. Good luck with your studies!

  • R Zhao

    I read a good post on hackingchinese and I think the writer makes a great point, it’s really not about HOW LONG you study, but about HOW MUCH you study. These sounds so obvious, but yet so many people fail to realize you really need to put on the time. I think this is especially true for most people studying Chinese since it is probably radically different from their mother tongue. It’s really hard to go to Chinese and just ‘pick up’ the language. You really have to put in the time and effort.

    I have been studying Chinese (mostly on my own) on and off for about 7 years, living in China during most of that time. I’m preparing to take the HSK 5 in August. I imagine it would take me AT LEAST another year (more realistically, two) of diligent studying to take the HSK 6 and pass. I think for the average person, four years (and studying rather hard) in China is a good guesstimation for how long it would take to pass the HSK 6.

    Sara Jaaksola Reply:

    “it’s really not about HOW LONG you study, but about HOW MUCH you study”

    Excellent point, is amazing! I totally agree that you can spend a lot of time “studying” and still don’t learn much. You have to study smart in order to learn a language. Find the best way for you to learn it.

    For me the hardest thing is to keep on studying. I’m in a level where I can live my life in Chinese, but in order to improve I would need to keep up making the effort. Watching movies, reading books, writing in Chinese etc. But I’m that kind of person who gets bored really easily if something isn’t super interesting for me. And so I have difficulties in improving.

    Good luck for your coming HSK5!

  • FrankL 是方

    Hi Sara, I’ve been study mandarin part-time at evening courses for the past 4 years or so. I’m not even close to fluent, but I’d like to comment on the difficulty of the language itself. I’m a born in Canada Chinese and was only taught some cantonese by my parents. My mother’s side speaks manadrin, but i was hardly ever exposed to it.

    Now my wife is from the netherlands and i have somehow learned quite a bit without ever living in Holland. I’m not fluent in Dutch, but I can hold a conversation and can watch TV programs (mostly understand). I think I learned it by talking to my wife and her relatives, but basically we talk in English with each other normally. In the beginning, i studied some books and practiced with audio tapes, but never had to put in too much effort. I can’t really explain it, but I just sort of “picked up” Dutch.

    But mandarin Chinese by comparison is the hardest language, I’ve ever attempted to learn! I can’t so easily just make Sentences up because the grammar is so different, plus there are tones are super important and reading/writing is also completely different. Progress for me is very slow and I do sometimes get frustrated.

    Anyhow, just wanted to comment on how difficult a language I find it and that you must be very hard working and dedicated to have accomplished your test scores.

    Sara Jaaksola Reply:

    Frank, I can totally understand getting frustrated!

    I’m often not happy with my progress and my activity in learning Chinese. “I should be doing much more” is a sentence I often have in my head. I seem to do pretty well with my studies, especially for subjects and homework I find interesting. I’m far from hard working, but I’m trying :)

    I hope that in my blog I can show others, that you don’t need to be a superhuman to learn Chinese. And you don’t need to feel weird if you think Chinese is hard. We’re in this together!

    FrankL 世方 Reply:

    Hi Sara, thanks for the words of encouagement! I hope you gets lots of encouragement from friends and family as well! I really like reading your blog. I don’t always have comments to add, but I enjoy reading about your studies and life in China. Anyhow, all the best to you! 加油!Oh, btw, I typed too fast in my post, my Chinese name is 世方 :-)

    Sara Jaaksola Reply:

    Thank you for leaving your comments Frank! And what you said means a lot to me. The feedback I get on the comment and through email is what keeps me writing this blog :)

  • 武天使

    Hi! Long time that I wanted to comment on this blog…

    I think we already met in few occasions last year because I was studing as an intership at 广州大学 during 2011-2012, but I don’t think we have ever been introduced.
    I’m Michele, a young italian engineer that tried with big efforts to learn chinese while I was there (7 months).

    I don’t want to look a boaster, I just wanted to write this post to give newbies some motivation:
    by using the same method of you (full-immersion, lots of efforts and brain-self-violence using as much chinese as possible), I got impressive results and I have been able to pass HSK 4 exactly 11 months after the first day I started to study chinese :)

    In these days I’m a little upset and happy at the same time, because I failed HSK 5, but it has been such a close miss! Anyway it was quite early, just 15 months from the very beginning of my studies of chinese, while I was also carrying on my major and writing my thesis and, of course, I was back in my country… I hope in November to pass it!

    Anyway, I know I’m kind of gifted about visual memory and this is particularly useful for characters, but I just wanted to tell everyone a big 加油!It’s less difficult than what you think!

    I hope one day to be able to afford a trip to Guangzhou [by the way, being a three-language-engineer doesn’t mean that I have been able after graduation to find a job that makes me have the possibility to afford a long range holiday… -_- ] so maybe we can meet.
    Thanks for all your stories and adventures Sara! Keep on!

    R Zhao Reply:

    I feel a bit differently. I don’t think it’s fair to say Chinese is “easier than you think.” It really depends what people’s expectations are and how how they learn and study. I’m not afraid to say it, I think learning Chinese is difficult! And while in some ways it does get easier (or at least more enjoyable) as I get better at it, in other ways it is overwhelming how much there is to learn! The road to fluency is a long one. But I do think you can make a lot of progress quickly if you work hard and try to immerse yourself in it as much as possible. It also helps if you enjoy it.

    Furthermore, I think that it’s worth pointing out that there is a big difference between the HSK 4 and 6. Each level of the HSK requires you know about twice the amount of characters as the level before (plus the amount of grammar, etc increases in difficulty as well) so going from zero Chinese to HSK 4 in about a year is one thing, but going from HSK 4 to HSK 6 in a similar amount of time would be an unrealistic goal for most. I think there are about 1200 characters one should know for the HSK 4, while level 6 requires about 5000.

    Sara Jaaksola Reply:

    I think some parts of learning Chinese gets easier during time, but some get more difficult. I think grammar is one of those things that gets the more difficult the more you learn Chinese.

    I’ve also noticed that I also get less and less impressed by my own progress every year, which might be a bit frustrating sometimes.

    xun Reply:

    I’m sure yous( apologize for my hillbilly usage of ‘you’ ’cause I really want to use plural form) have great courge to learn Chinese, especially the “Tone” which does not exist in western languages. In fact, many Chinese of our own will always make mistakes when pronounce some word. And this time, I have confidence to tell you that my(and many other well-educated students) writing is not good, I always forget how to write a hanzi (kanji) , After years school time, most of us know the outline of some characters, but forget the details of them. I hate(not really hate) to say everyday I use computer to type the Chinese character, and barely write them…a little worried about my exams in the next year during which I will have to write many words…May I ask which Chinese character are you learning? Simplified in Chinese mainland or Traditional in Taiwan?I think there is a big issue about traditional chinese today. Did you get it? The computer’s monitor has not high enough resolution to display traditional Chinese clearly, too many ”笔画“

    Daniel McDermott Reply:

    Everything you said is true. A couple very close Chinese friends admit to me they forget many of the characters that they don’t use often, or because they no longer write on paper begin to forget how to properly draw some hanzi. Also, they mispronounce words just like people do in any other language, and the more you learn, the more chances you will forget something you only learned once or twice, but never kept in memory. I think everyone learning Chinese will eventually hit a level where it feels like you have learned as much as your mind can handle, and start to slow down progression. Also, Sara being at higher level is starting to learn the more obscure grammar and words that most Chinese probably barely understand themselves or have to look up in a dictionary or another book.

    xun Reply:

    You’re also learning Chinese too? For me, I really hate the grammar, when I was a kid at elementary and middle school, I almost failed every exam in Chinese, strictly speaking, not speaking Chinese, but Chinese literature, such as reciting poetics and ancient Chinese and “成语”,a kind of four-character aphorism. Because I don’t like remembering the humanity things, I think science and technology are more attractive to me, but we have to do well in the final exam in order to enter higher level of academic career. During the last few months at middle school, my teacher forced me to stay at school practicing my exam skills after school while other students went home, that’s why I can sit down in the classroom of university….I’m wondering is learning a language deeply really interesting? I have to say, I also hate English, not the English itself, but the English lessons at school, reading the textbook, doing the exercise, reading again, doing again, round and round forever. maybe that’s why lots of student do not like language courses, the course makes language not a language anymore, but a torture..

    Daniel McDermott Reply:

    Yeah, I am learning the basics now and planning to study and get my bachelors at Zhongshan University just like our blogger Sara is now.

    I believe language is only interesting if it is something relevant to your interests. If you want to travel abroad, marry a foreigner and live in a new country, or simply find an interest in learning languages, learning English or Chinese is very challenging, but can be very fun when you have the motivation to do it. In school, I had no interest in improving my English, and the books we were forced to read and the grammar we were told to learn made me hate reading and writing, and when it came time to learn a 2nd language (I chose Deutsche), I had no interest in it because English was tough enough, and I really had no interest in a 2nd language.

    I could talk endlessly about how bad Chinese schools teach English, and why if I was a student I would have no interest in it as well ,but that is a whole different topic. Honestly, I love learning Chinese, and love the city Guangzhou. I want to meet people here, interact in Chinese and not be like most expats and hang out at American bars and Starbucks and avoid the Chinese culture. I tried learning by myself, using books and study partners, but I get too distracted from learning, so I believe I need the torture of teachers endlessly forcing material into my brain. However, I am motivated and have a purpose to learn, so I’m actually looking forward to that style of learning.

    Sara Jaaksola Reply:

    ” I tried learning by myself, using books and study partners, but I get too distracted from learning, so I believe I need the torture of teachers endlessly forcing material into my brain. However, I am motivated and have a purpose to learn, so I’m actually looking forward to that style of learning.”

    I think it’s great how you have noticed which learning method works the best for you! I’m super interested in Chinese, but I’m lazy, and wouldn’t have learned this much without my teachers “torturing” me :)

    xun Reply:

    Are you from an English speaking country? Looks like European guys need to learn at least more than one foreign languages besides English. Will you come here before the next semester(2013-9-1)? I believe you’d better learn some cultural phenomenon in China, in high probability will you be ’关心‘(taken care of)by some seniors, if you are from Anglo Saxon or other Germanic background, you may find it is annoy you, feel like the privacy been interfered. So, be patient with that, you are coming here to learn language, you can throw what they say into dumpster, just keep the sentence and grammar in your mind. In fact in other cultures, women like grannies also like to ‘teach’ youngsters this or that which seems like out of date and unhip. Sometimes this kind of culture makes people feel warm in heart, sometimes feel angry, like today in an exam discussing group on QQ, I made a little mistake(just confused virus with Trojan) when help one guy dealing with his tainted computer, I don’t know what is the big deal with that, there is no need to make that concept extremely clear in non-academic situation, but a guy came out to argue with me, and criticized me, Ok, I’m wrong, I admitted but he didn’t stop, and acted like he was some big shot, and I’m his little brother, and taught me the so-called “correct attitude” in life, Oh, GZ, Is he capable enough to teach me what is right in my life? Even if he told me peer to peer will I not get so angry(He said those crap in front of 99 people in the chatting group). That’s some kind of Chinese guys(not much but a few ), most of them are just make you feel welcomed, not really want to make meddling(You know, wisenheimers are really stupid and keep offending other people ceaselessly). Godspeed pal, hope you enjoy yourself in China.

    Crayzee Reply:

    Living in China surrounded by Asians usually helps you learn. A year speaking only Chinese left me pretty much fluent in common topics. Mind you, I am Asian so the pronunciation is much easier to pick up seeing as I heard a lot of it during my childhood.

    Eileen Ann Reply:

    R. Zhao is right. My husband admitted that he had to learn Chinese characters at a very early age in elementary school and it jumps to Chinese proverbs (and beyond) in high school. It is such a huge leap from elementary school learning when it comes to the language.

    I am hearing impaired and can’t really hear tone. I can honestly say that Mandarin is very hard for me. :) I misunderstand all the time!

    Sara Jaaksola Reply:

    Hi, it’s really amazing that you get to HSK4 in 11 monhts! Gongrats!

    I have never done new HSK4 my self, so can’t really comment that well what is the step from 0 to 4 and then from 4 to 6. But from 5 to 6 there is a big difference in the writing section and also the famously difficult “find the wrong sentence” in the beginning of reading section.

    I believe I could never work on my major (if a completely different field) and get my Chinese to progress as fast as you have done. I do admire people who have impressive self determination and self control, but unfortunately I’m not one of those myself.

    Thank you for sharing your experience! And how interesting we might have actually met before :)

    武天使 Reply:

    Yes, I know… I hope I’ll check this gap next year :)

    Thanks to you

  • R Zhao

    My name is Chinese, yes, but I am not. My husband is. I am a white American whose first language is English. I said I think Chinese is difficult because, in all honesty (with no ulterior motives) think it is challenging. I’m not afraid you will steal my job! However, perhaps there are some Chinese people who are worried about this (is is a huge fear in my home country. . . foreigners ‘stealing’ jobs). I don’t know if that’s why they say their language is hard though.

    I understand your point. It’s too bad more people don’t study Chinese more seriously or even attempt to study it because they assume it will be too difficult. I guess what bothers me is when people claim it is easy (I understand you are not saying that, just saying it isn’t THAT difficult). I’ve never met a native Chinese speaker, nor a foreigner who has studied Chinese to an advanced level who will claim it as easy.

    武天使 Reply:

    Maybe you never met before a workaholic engineer that studies languages in his free time… (me neither) :D

  • Alva

    I am a very slow learner, to say that, I did not come as a student, but as an employee. And as an employee that does a lot of over time, deals with customers and partners overseas and needs to attend meetings outside.
    This means, to me (not to other people because there is still people out there that think the timeline to learn chinese is the same for those in the career path as for younger students..), this means to me that is gonna take me forever.
    Afet spending a long day at work, get home, cook dinner, check emails, some calls overseas, …”maybe you can study..”, “really? at 12am? I wake up at 6am…
    I think is great when you move to China as a student, you can learn faster and get some financial support in the meantime.

    Sara Jaaksola Reply:

    I can totally understand being so busy and tired with work, that it’s hard to fit in any learning. But if you want to learn, do you spend time in the metro or bus on your way to work? Perhaps you could fit in some ChinesePod podcasts?

    I think as a working person, you shouldn’t take any stress about learning Chinese, but if you find some time, it will help your daily life a lot and also get you more closer to the local culture.

    Everyone has their own timeline.

    Alva Reply:

    Sure I use the time I commute, but I need 3 different subway lines to get to i need to stop quite often, thats the issue.
    Usually I bring some recordings or music. If its not too noisy it works.
    Also living with Tony helps, but we both arrive home quite late.

    Sara Jaaksola Reply:

    Oh, that sounds like a long commute to work! With podcasts the grate thing is that you can just listen, when your sittting, waiting in line or walking. Of course sometimes it can be quite noisy in the metro, have to turn the volume up :)

  • nobu

    Hi Sarra, I gave been a silent reader of your blog since last year. But this news, is so great, I really appreciate it. And it is also a great motivation that you have passed HSK6. I have the same target for next year. This year I am preparing for HSK5.
    I have been studying Putonghua by self-study, language exchange and private tutors since 2007, while I am fulltime working in HKG. I love this language so much, that I cannot just give up, although it is sometimes difficult, frustating and demotivating.But every time I travel to China, met nice people, make new friends, I know its worth and I need to keep it up. It tooks me nearly 2 years to talk, as I was very shy at the beginning, but I told myself “Go out, make mistakes and learn from it!” For me as a German I struggle a lot from the pronounciation. But I think it takes some time :)
    Thank you for sharing your story!

    Sara Jaaksola Reply:

    Thank you so much Nobu for sending your message, it means a lot to me :)

    Good luck with your HSK goals, I’m sure that with your determination you can pass it! It’s not easy to self study a language so I have huge respect for you. Great that you’ve got the help of tutors and other learngs beside you.

    Learning a language, especially Chinese, takes a life time. It can’t be all fun all the time :) I have my own frustrations as well, as do every learner. But by sharing own unique stories we can relate to each other and keep on studying :)

  • Andy Beales

    Moi Sara, I’m British myself but live in China and my wife is Finnish! I came across you blog keep up the good work! I have a question on education in Guangzhou. My knowledge is really about second level cities in Guangxi and wonder if what occurs here is typical even in a big city and famous university in a big city. Firstly can I ask why you changed university and if you found the university made difference or was it just a teacher that made the difference. I am also interested in if your uni experience used a course with books that were actually complimentary. It seems many have a situation where they constantly change a series of text books or publisher, or each teacher picks their own flavor. In this way you end up needing to learn 30 words for each of your books, often unrelated, reading, writing, speaking, etc… rather than having a series all designed to reinforce and compliment each other. What was your experience of university? Thanks! Andy

    Sara Jaaksola Reply:

    Hi Andy!

    I changed from Guangzhou University to Sun Yat-Sen University because GU didn’t have the major I wanted to study. My major is Chinese as a second language and my classmates are all foreigners.

    At SYSU we buy our own books which is about 200RMB per semester. We also use the same book the whole semester, but the books aren’t usually from the same author/publisher/series. I haven’t considered this as a problem as different courses work in a different way.

    At Comprehensive Chinese course 综合 you have to study the words and grammar more carefully as it’s the most important course. In other courses you often don’t have to memorize the vocab.

  • Grim

    Being in a Cantonese-speaking area it took you about 4 years to reach HSK6 230, I can imagine how fast a person could progress if happened in a mandarin-dominated city.

    Sara Jaaksola Reply:

    This would be an interesting experiment! To send too learners on the same level to different parts of China and follow their progress.

    Also it would be interesting to know how my Chinese would have improved if I’d come here straight away. Now it took 1,5 years of one class per week in China and then 3 years and 2 months in China to get to HSK6 238 points.

  • Laowai

    I would strongly disagree with this, I have been studying in China for 6 months with no prior knowledge. I could pass the HSK 3 if I took it now. I also have a friend who has been studying about 15 months. I would say he is probably pretty close to fluent. However he put in an insane amount of time, lived with a host family for 2.5 months and worked at a tea shop in China. I also just started class at a University in Xi’an I would argue that classes at a University in China are not as helpful as being surrounded by Chinese people who speak minimal English.

    Just a thought.

    R Zhao Reply:

    Unless you are a native speaker or near fluent yourself, I think it can be hard to judge another person’s fluency. I always here these stories of “I know someone who passed the HSK 6 with just a year of studying” or “My friend is fluent in Chinese after 6 months in China,” but I’m always a bit suspicious. I never hear anyone make a claim like this of themselves. Not to mention, there are people who are great conversationalists in Chinese, but can’t read a book to save their life. I know a Korean guy who passed the HSK 5 recently (after 1.5 years of study) who can hardly speak Chinese, though his ability to recognize and read characters is quite good.

    I don’t doubt your friend has made great progress in Chinese, but I think Sara’s calculation is based on her own experience and is a pretty good guess of how long it would take for an “average” person in a somewhat similar situation to hers. I also feel like Sara represents someone who is pretty well-rounded in Chinese ability, know both formal and informal aspects and who can speak, write, and read. I think is a really great thing, though not everyone’s goal.

    I’d also like to add, just because someone can pass the HSK 3 or even HSK 4 today, doesn’t prove much. It could still take a couple more years of studying to pass the HSK 6 and perhaps much longer to be truly fluent. Or the person may never get beyond an intermediate level.

    bejarano Reply:

    Excellent point – a lot of people overestimate their own language abilities.

    Sara Jaaksola Reply:

    Of course you can learn Chinese much faster than I did. I know a Swedish student who got to HSK5 level in less than a year.

    I think I represent more of an average student that doesn’t have that much self dicipline, sometimes is a bit lazy and so on. For me it took four plus years to get a good grade on HSK6. I don’t know if I’m fluent or not, I have kind of high expectations for my self before I dare to call my self fluent.

  • Adriano Delfino

    I’ve just put up a schedule for self learning Mandarin. My first outlook is that it isn’t as scary as I thought. The writing part maybe tricky (both simplified and traditional altogether). Perhaps I’m confident after spending 7 years learning suomea outside Finland ;)

    Sara Jaaksola Reply:

    Absolutely! If you have been learning Finnish, then learning Chinese is a piece of cake ;)

    Really, learning Chinese isn’t anything scary, just a language that has the most native speakers in the world. Of course mastering it is hard work, but then again many things require lots of effort in order to be good at them.

    I would really like to hear what kind of schedule you came up with Adriano. Would you like to share?

  • Peter Hu China

    but it costs me more than 10 years to learn English

    Janina Santos Reply:

    that’s the thing about having English as our second language. English language learning should be forever so that we will be able to improve our proficiency when it comes to using it.

  • Peter Hu China

    HSK(六级)考查考生的汉语应用能力,它对应于《国际汉语能力标准》五级、《欧洲语言共同参考框架(CEF)》C2级。通过HSK(六级)的考生可以轻松地理解听到或读到的汉语信息,以口头或书面的形式用汉语流利地表达自己的见解。考生对象:HSK(六级)主要面向掌握5000及5000以上常用词语的考生。WOW,after I saw the criteria of HSK 6 LEVEL, I think you have done a great job! Maybe now your Chinese is better than my English! I did the IELTS before,I got Band 6.5. My aim is Band 7,which means a good user.

  • Kaiser


    Sara Jaaksola Reply:


  • Tanya

    Hi Sara! Nice to meet you. Came across your blog recently. This post has given me some insight into how difficult it might be to master Mandarin if not given enough effort and time into it. Well I have some questions that I hope you would be willing to throw some light upon. I am a recent graduate in Master of Science in mass communications. I have been wanting to learn mandarin for years now. I love China as i used to visit Guangzhou every alternate summer as my brother was studying there and did end up getting married to a beautiful Chinese girl – My sister in law:)
    I plan to shift Guangzhou this September and planning to apply in SCUT for a mandarin course. I need to know if I manage to get fluent enough in Mandarin, will it be possible to find work in media related field especially Public Relations?

    Sara Jaaksola Reply:

    Hi Tanya!

    Nice to meet you too and welcome to Guangzhou!

    Unfortunately I’m not expert on the PR field in China, but have you read this blog post yet? According to what I read and the comments, it seemed quite useful and interesting even though it’s written four years ago.

  • Colleen Redmond

    Hi Sara! I recently came across your blog while looking for other materials such as a blog to help me learn Chinese and give me more motivation. I found your blog and I’m glad I did! I was learning German for about 7 months before picking Mandarin Chinese. I’m half German and wanted to get in touch with my background yet was interested in the challenge of learning Chinese and knew that it would be more useful. I have been studying since January and have felt that I have been learning pretty rapidly mostly through videos on You tube. I am just teaching myself and although it can be difficult, I think the key thing is to think outside the box and find out ways that you can progress what you know and learn more. I have a medium size white board in my room that I use to practice characters and write down my notes that I wrote down in my notebook. I’ve listened to some Chinese songs that helps me memorize the lyrics , and speak a little around the house even though my family doesn’t know what I’m saying lol But that’s okay because it still helps me practice the vocab and pronunciation. I plan to take a course in fall at my college. I agree that Chinese will take a long time to learn but I feel that’s common with other foreign languages too but maybe not as much because with Chinese comes tones and characters.
    What you said helps to weigh how much time it will take to get to certain levels in the language. I really admire and enjoy reading your blog Sara. You’re a great writer! Keep up the posts!
    Greetings from California!

    Sara Jaaksola Reply:

    Thank you for your comment Colleen! I loved reading about how you started learning Chinese and I’m glad you did. You are right that no matter what the language, it always takes a long time to get fluent and above, but perhaps that’s one of the things that fascinates us too. There is always something new to learn. Keep up the good work with Chinese!

  • Victor Hart

    Nice blog and post. I’ve been considering this specific question myself recently, but I think of how long it takes to learn a language in terms of hours, not years. I’m going to write about this specifically in the next post on my blog at