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Linguaholic

How long to become fluent?


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I know of course that it takes a long time and varies between individuals, but I am a fast learner. I already know the basics, and I am going to be taking weekly classes, so do you think I could become fluent enough to live in China after 3 years of classes?

Also does it matter if you cannot read Chinese characters very well when living over in China? I read that a large % of the Chinese can't read the characters so it doesn't matter as much.

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It honestly depends on how much you are forced to use it. I know there are some summer programs where they you live in a house that only uses a particular language. Just to be able to communicate with anyone you are forced to use the language constantly and learn it quickly due to this.

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Living abroad is such a great way to learn a language, at first it seems impossible , but because you are constantly around and it and its all you hear, you pick up on it very quickly, however if you are learning strictly based off books and a teacher, I would a say a solid 2 years of learning will do you good and have you very well off if you put a lot of effort into it. Chinese although it is easier than English there is no alphabet to write a character that's only for pinyin which doesn't help if you can' read or write a character. Every stroke must be memorized which is no easy task.

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  • 4 weeks later...

3 years of classes should definitely prepare you quite well for living overseas, especially since you already know the basics. I personall

Moving to China will definitely improve your Chinese significantly and I'm sure once moving there you will help you improve even more!

I do think that being able to read Chinese characters is an important part of the language, it would be like just learning how to speak English without being able to write. I don't think it's true that a large percentage of the Chinese population can't read characters, through school and through reading and the internet it would definitely be something that the majority of the population could do.

I'm sure that living in China though and being surrounded by the language at all times, you'll definitely be able to pick it up quickly.

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For me I think 3 years of classes is more than enough. 1 year will do since you already know the basics.  Actually knowing the basics is already enough if you're going to live in China. 

My bestfriend doesn't even know a single Chinese word when she left to work in Taiwan and after two years she's already speaking Chinese fluently. She told me that she was able to converse confidently in Chinese after a year only.  I agree with Melanie, you'll be able to pick it up quickly if you're surrounded by the language at all times.  I think that's what happened to my bestfriend. :smile:

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I remember when I learned English in elementary school, it took me 3 to 4 years before I felt comfortable to talk with people in English. Since English is my second language, it took me about 4 years to become fluent, which I considered it was not too long because I have learned all the rules and grammars and everything in English. Almost all my English skills come from reading books.

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For me I think 3 years of classes is more than enough. 1 year will do since you already know the basics.  Actually knowing the basics is already enough if you're going to live in China. 

My bestfriend doesn't even know a single Chinese word when she left to work in Taiwan and after two years she's already speaking Chinese fluently. She told me that she was able to converse confidently in Chinese after a year only.  I agree with Melanie, you'll be able to pick it up quickly if you're surrounded by the language at all times.  I think that's what happened to my bestfriend. :smile:

It really depends on the person and on the time you are actually investing to learn the language. I have seen a lot of foreigners in China and some of them have been living there for years and their Chinese was still awful. On the other hand I have also met foreigners that were almost fluent in Chinese after one year, as you pointed out. However, from my experience I can tell, that Taiwan is not the best environment to learn/study Chinese, as most of the people there are eager to talk/respond to you in English, rather than in Chinese. This is not (yet) the case in most of the places in Mainland China, mainly due to the fact that most people there still do not speak English (at all).

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  • 1 month later...

You become more proficient in a language when you hear them a lot, read them a lot, write them a lot, or use speak them a lot. It's the same with any other language, and especially Chinese. I think it helps if there's chinese people around you. Try to befriend them, speaking chinese with them, ask them to teach you the basics or correct your mistakes. If there's nobody who is fluent in chinese nearby, perhaps you can try some youtube channels that teach people how to speak well in Chinese.

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  • 2 weeks later...

It depends how much you use it. I've been studying for about 6 years and I'm not fluent but if I spent that 6 year period in China I'd be fluent for sure. I lived in Taiwan for about 10 months and when I left I was very confident in my ability but now that I'm back in the states I don't have many opportunities to practice Chinese so I've gotten worse.

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