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!