Knowing Chinese makes you sexy, rich and happy :)

Two years of learning Chinese

October 20, 2008 – 11:21 pm

Two years ago I started learning Chinese, starting with the omnipresent 你好. Now two years later let’s have a look at how much Mandarin Chinese I learned in two years.

I’m not really sure what triggered my interest in Chinese, but I guess it’s a number of factors. It all began when I was still a kid and my mom forced me to visit China with her. She needed me to translate English to German at that time. While I wasn’t really fluent in English at that time, my trip to Hong Kong 香港 and Guang Dong 广东 left a strong positive impression in me. So I said to myself to come back to China one day. I pretty much forgot about this plan for many years. Then suddenly I decided I needed to learn another foreign language. I checked the evening school program and discovered Chinese again. Unfortunately the Chinese course was really inconvenient timed and located so I started learning Spanish. Soon after that I moved to another city and finally found a chance in another evening school to start learning Mandarin Chinese. The rest is history.

The hard way of improvement

It is hard to tell how much improvement I really made during this time, but I do know I did make improvements. Step by Step. In the beginning I learned really slow. The first year was only evening school once week and very few learning at home. This totally changed when I visited Chengdu 成都 for 2 months in summer 2007. After that I really worked hard to improve, started using Chinesepod which was and still is really helpful and did much more on my own. A full compile of what I do to learn Mandarin Chinese can be found here.

Today, after long fights with electronic dictionaries, paper dictionaries, flash cards and texts written in hanyu hanzi I can finally hold simple conversations. I’m also able to read a few characters, writing on the other hand is extremely hard. Also talking in groups is pretty much impossible, but as long as I only talk with one person it is quite smooth. I had been warned that Chinese takes more time compared to learning Spanish, but I have no real motivation for Spanish so Chinese was a good choice after all. Now it’s time to set a goal.

How much Chinese do I want to learn in the next 12 months?

My goal before Christmas is to work up to the intermediate level on Chinesepod. Also I want to become more secure in random talk until the end of this year. Next year I also want to begin to invest more time into reading and get some more specialized vocabulary. Late next year I also want to go back to Asia, until then I want to have a solid foundation in Chinese. Let’s see how it goes. So far I’m really happy what I achieved.

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  1. 6 Responses to “Two years of learning Chinese”

  2. I notice that Barack Obama wants everyone to learn another language, but which one should it be? The British learn French, the Australians study Japanese, and the Americans prefer Spanish. Why not decide on a common language, taught worldwide, in all nations?

    I think it is relevant that UNESCO will meet in Paris, on 15th December, to acknowlege Esperanto, as a living language, in conjunction with the International Year of Languages

    An interesting video can be seen at A glimpse of the language can be seen at

    By Brian Barker on Oct 21, 2008

  3. Every language also transports a mentality. Apart from my Mandarin Chinese I made quite a few short experiments with other languages, including Japanese and Spanish and I came to a realization. Each language expresses a way of thinking, feeling and inherently has a psychological and sociological footprint of the people who speak it.

    Therefore some people like a language or they don’t like it. While I do think everyone should learn English if it is not their mother tongue, any further language should match the personality of the person who wants to learn it. Telling everyone to learn Esperanto doesn’t make sense, as we already have English as common language. No-one needs two common languages.

    If You like Esperanto, learn it. Anyone else should learn what suits him or her.

    By Hendrik on Oct 21, 2008

  4. How much do you think one can learn in 6 months intensive 20 hour a week language training?
    I myself hope I’m going to be able to hold conversations, but I’m not sure how it’s gonna work out.
    I know some languageschools here in Europe who say that one can reach B1 leven within 16 weeks, B2 within 32. What do you think is possible?

    By Aremonus on Oct 25, 2008

  5. There is a nice wikipedia article telling how difficult it is to learn a certain language for a English native speaker:

    B1 in 16 weeks in Chinese? Unless You are a language genius I don’t think it’s possible really. I heard of people who stayed in China for 1 year, full immersion in a Chinese family and they didn’t do much else besides learning. They were able to do solid daily chit-chat after 1 year.

    Aremonus, You are going to Chengdu soon right? The Sichuan dialect is not that bad as the one You can hear in Kunming. Staying in China while learning is far superior compared to people who have to study Chinese somewhere in the West. Keep it easy, You will make progress.

    By Hendrik on Oct 26, 2008

  6. I don’t really agree with that article:
    I know a lot of English who’ve been studying german for more than 750 weeks and still are far not proficient in it.

    Anyway, I already know some Chinese and I don’t find the language itself particular difficult – it’s rather easy. Only the characters are difficult, haha

    Anyway, I belive that I can reach a B1 within one term – but it’s gonna be hard :P

    By Aremonus on Oct 26, 2008

  7. This line clears it up:

    >> It must be kept in mind that that students at FSI are

    Well the Foreign Service Institute guys are one pack of freaks. You can’t compare them to average humans.

    By Hendrik on Oct 26, 2008

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